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Ghost Trees

Nature and People in a London Parish

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Even in the brick and concrete heart of our cities, nature finds a way. Birds and mammals, insects, plants and trees – they all manage to thrive in the urban jungle, and Bob Gilbert is their champion and their chronicler.

He explores the hidden wildlife of the inner city and its edgelands, finding unexpected beauty in the cracks and crannies, and uncovering the deep and essential relationship that exists between people and nature when they are bound together in such close proximity.

Beginning from Poplar, the East End area in which he lives, Bob explores, in particular, our relationship with the trees that have helped shape London; from the original wildwood through to the street trees of today. He draws from history and natural history, poetry and painting, myth and magic, and a great deal of walking, observing and listening.

Beautifully written, passionate and defiant, Ghost Trees tells the secrets and stories of the urban wildscape, of glorious nature resilient and resurgent on our very doorsteps. 

REVIEWS OF Ghost Trees

“Informative, enjoyable, enchanting. A book that, in the best sense, educates. It is well written with the occasional alliterative poetic cast. It is a book full of delights which makes one look again, achieving the mystic’s gift of seeing the ordinary as anything but.” Kevin Scully, Church Times

“Ghost Trees will awaken any Londoner to the plants that cling on in the city’s cracks.” Guardian: Books of the Year

“One of the best non-fiction books about London. Bob Gilbert’s gifted style of writing [and] simple, clear but hilarious storytelling helps to make this secret life of trees an unlikely page-turner.” The Londonist

“Warm, rich and fascinating… [Gilbert] is a generous guide, with a deep knowledge of plant life and a fine turn of phrase.” Jon Day, Guardian

'Profoundly uplifting: Gilbert’s keen eye reveals the wealth of wild – and weird – species that cling on against the odds in a global city, and enrich its residents’ lives in unheralded ways.' Guardian

'Absorbing.' The Bookseller

'Its tone warm and its content wide-ranging, Ghost Trees spans history and social history, folklore, religion and walking as well as nature – but Gilbert wears his vast knowledge lightly and shares it engagingly and entertainingly.' Clare Wadd, Caught by the River

'Ghost Trees is a reflective book, about personal reaction and engagement. Reading it is like spending time with a knowledgeable uncle who is keen to share his enthusiasms.' Jeremy Crump, Living Maps

'Fascinating.' Joe Shute, Sunday Telegraph

'Full of deep truths and improbable marvels, this beautifully observed book is a joyous hymn to the urban wild and a clarion call for better – greener, wilder – cities.' Patrick Barkham, natural history writer


Trade information

  • Rights: World
  • BIC code(s): WN
  • BISAC code(s): NAT034000

Ghost Trees

About the author

Bob Gilbert

Bob Gilbert is the author of The Green London Way (Lawrence & Wishart, 2012) and has written a column for Ham & High on urban wildlife for the last twenty years. A regular contributor to TV and radio, including Natural World and BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme, Bob has also been a stand-up comedian, a long-standing campaigner for inner city conservation and chair of ‘The Garden Classroom’, a charity that promotes environmental education in London.

Praise for Bob Gilbert’s The Green London Way:

“More than ever now, as edgeland becomes a value to be fought over, we need the sanity and the calm informative voice of walkers like Bob Gilbert. This is more than an elegy, it’s an inspiration: open your eyes, see what is there and not what you are told is there.” Iain Sinclair