Ghost Trees: Nature and People in a London Parish by Bob Gilbert was on a display of books shortlisted for this year’s Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize. Having returned a book about woods, I picked one about trees!
The author had moved to the East London parish of Poplar as his wife was appointed rector there. He conducted research both on the ground and from written records in order to write this very readable and informative book. There is information about the time of writing, the past, people with connections to the area, people with connections to the flora of the area, traditions and beliefs both past and present. The language is poetic without being pretentious.
I do not know the area around Poplar. It was only when I had read all but three chapters that I decided to look at online maps (including satellite images) of the area. There are no maps included in the book, but with so much information readily available, that is not a great loss. Maps would have increased the production costs. The hardback volume is relatively light to hold and well set out. Chapters are divided into sections. The seasons of the year, the local people, wildlife, plants, waterways and much more have been carefully observed.
I learned a lot about the history of urban tree-planting, how some plants were named and more besides. This is a fascinating book with an index and bibliography.