Sunday, 1 September 2013

A few literary recommendations

I wandered into a second-hand book shop at Lyme Regis (near to the Cobb) and came across a gem of a book - The Oxford Book of Flowerless Plants by Nicholson and Brightman - first published in 1966. It concentrates on ferns, mosses, lichens and fungi and, although it could never be used as a field guide, the plates are simply charming.


Here are three examples. The artist has grouped these lichens and mosses into 'habitat' groupings which is a good aid to helping such a novice as myself get close to making an identification. The species illustrated are the common and most likely to be found, so further reference from the 'big boys field guides' should help confirmation. I used the word 'charming' to describe the artwork - it is used as a compliment as these illustrations give off a real warmth and obvious love of the subject matter. Barbara Nicholson is the talented artist.

Whilst on holiday I read The Fossil Hunter by Shelley Emling. It is, for all intents and purposes, a biography of Mary Anning, who made several important discoveries at Lyme Regis during her career as a fossil hunter. Her story is quite remarkable as being a lower-class woman at the turn of the 19th century generally meant one of servitude. Not only did she hold her own, she made a name for herself world wide and met (or corresponded) with all of the great scientific minds of the time. The author is American so you can forgive a few Americanisms that creep into the dialogue.

I'm currently reading a most captivating book - Feral by George Monbiot - in which the author puts forward the case for the rewilding of certain parts of the United Kingdom. He forcefully suggests that our uplands (particularly those of Wales) that have been dominated by sheep grazing, are bereft of any natural worthiness at all, and should be allowed to naturally revert to what nature intended it to be. By this he most certainly doesn't mean human management, but a re-establishment of our 'missing' large mammals - species such as wolf, boar, beaver, elk and lynx - that have been rendered extinct by our own hand. This is a beautifully written book, using his own communing with nature to better explain his burning passions. I'm only half-way through it, but his reasoning comes across as sound, and he seems to have practical answers to all of those who may rally against such ideas. The rest of Europe seems to be up for this sort of 'wilderness' management (or to be more accurate, non-management), with the dear old UK limping behind. Might have something to do with the land being owned by very few, all with vested interests.

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