He was beginning to think that his relationship with Alice was the one, but all too soon it unravelled. Left alone, the thoughts in his head that had affected him since childhood began to return. Depression, guilt, religious confusion, abuse and the conflicts of his bisexuality; they were back again. This time he had a place of refuge where he could go to, Epping Forest. It was a place that would draw him back time after time.

It didn’t provide all the solace and comfort he needed though, some of that he would find in the arms of men and women after his relationship finished. Epping Forest is a place of secrets,however, rather than finding demons in the woods, Turner used that time spent in the natural world to exorcise his own and it gives him the inspiration to begin to investigate a family secret from a few generations ago.

The ancient timbers of Greensted know no hypocrisy or bigotry, but are prayers carved from nature, as sacred as hymns.

The blurb describes this as an original book, and throughout a lot of the book, I’d be tempted to agree. Turner writes with a wonderful eye for detail and this is a very raw, honest and open memoir. He asks searching questions of himself about his sexuality and how society treats those that do not fit conventional stereotypes. But the understory of his memoir is the forest, how it lifts his mood when he visits, so much so that he ends up volunteering there. It is a great companion to Strange Labyrinth, which is Will Ashon’s take on the same place and shows how people can have a deep attachment in a very different way to a place.

Paul Cheney 4*

Out of the Woods by Luke Turner
W&N 9781474607155 hbk Jan 2019