I’m extremely happy to announce a new series we’ll be featuring here on the UW website- “For The Love of Trees” is a column written by my good friend from across the pond, Stephen Melhuish. As woodworkers, I think we all have a passion and connection to the materials we use in our work, and this series will showcase and share the fundamental beauty of trees.
Steve is both a woodworker and a real tree man…after spending some time in his home, workshop and garden last summer, I asked if he’d consider writing a series for us. He agreed!
Here is his first instalment; and as you’ll see, Steve is both a talented writer and photographer.
Travels through Italy
by Stephen Melhuish
Gold, reds, electric orange and all the nuances of fading greens light up the garden and larger landscape in autumn.
I feel that a place without trees is a place with little soul.
I’ve just returned from two weeks travelling through the Italian landscape, from the leaning tower of Pisa through Florence,
a visit to the vast tree nurseries of Pistoia
and then off and down through Tuscany, resting for a day in Chianti and a tasting at the beautiful small vineyard of Riecine. The wine making process here is still very much by hand and indeed by foot. Everything is on a quieter and smaller scale, from the treading of the grapes until the skins split underfoot, to the application of labels and the turning of each and every bottleneck to seal the cork in a container of hot liquid wax.
I was invited to move through to the tasting room beside a beautiful panoramic terrace, to take in and contemplate the flavours on the palette.
You’re very much surrounded by the folding valleys and medieval field systems dotted with Evergreen Oaks, Stone Pines and Tuscan Cypresses.
All this travelling and meeting people in their own environments allows the mind to take in the culture through the story of food, drink and laughter, and wherever I travelled I met working people that shared a direct link with the land, trees and plants….here was the heartbeat of living Italy.
Call me romantic, but there’s something hugely reassuring about this element of travel. By the time I’d reached the borders of this region and crossed into Umbria, I’d built up a whole new stockpile of photographs and experiences. What was becoming clear was the degree which trees play a central part in the everyday life of this country. This was reaffirmed during a day in the hill town of Cortona.
Standing high up on the town’s ancient walls the sky was filling with the ink of a brewing storm, the broad flat valley below peppered with sun-rays.
I watched and followed the landscape in its design, every tree planted to add character to the patterns of the farms and churchyards, they edged tracks and dusty fields, taking your eye far off in massive linear avenues to the distance.
Trees add balance to our lives, they’re like marker pins on an unfolded colossal map, giving its expanse a three dimensional vigour. They add shade on a hot day; we rest under them, dream and make plans below their canopies.
While under such a tree; at a café table eating with locals in another hill town, Spello, I thought of England and its own tapestry of deciduous woodlands and hundred upon hundreds of miles of hedging, a different land but one that also links its history with its trees.
In these written personal notes of my time with trees, I’ll hopefully share the rich depth that they add to our lives. Woodworking being one of the many end results and whether you make a shelf, build a box, sit at a wooden table on a fashioned chair, or warm your house and home with a log on an open fire or wood-burner, embrace the idea that trees are integral to our existence. If you have space enough to plant a tree in your garden, then do so – you won’t regret it.
In the coming months I’ll share species and varieties to bring beauty to your life in the garden.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear about your own favourite trees and why they’re important to you.