A friend bought me ‘A Year in the Woods: The Diary of a Forest Ranger‘, by Colin Elford. I picked up the book with a certain apprehension – the second-hand bookshops’ natural history shelves are stuffed with glossy tomes under that kind of title; giving accounts either uncomfortably twee or tediously focussed on shooting, fishing, horses or birds. The cover gave me some hope, being a gentle New Naturalist-style linocut rather than a breathless photo of some generic deer in the leaves.
Once I began to read, my concerns evaporated within a few paragraphs. For this is a direct book. Colin Elford writes succinctly, writing as much as he needs to and no more. The reader can almost feel and smell the forest and its hidden life as Elford’s measured voice describes it with the kind of understated eloquence that one might be more accustomed to hearing from David Attenborough. Continue reading
In 2010, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species produced Britainâ€™s Mammals â€“ a concise guide, which I said was “aÂ rich delight to read”. So when I heard that another book in the same series was on its way, I was naturally interested. That book is Urban Mammals – a concise guide. Unlike its predecessor, the cover credits the author, former biochemist and erstwhile Edinburgh FringeÂ performer David Wembridge, who works asÂ Surveys Coordinator for PTES.
Urban Mammals is an interesting and well-presentedÂ tour through a selection of mammals that might be found inÂ Britain’sÂ urbanÂ environments.Â In the introduction, it gives the striking example of Jennifer Owen of Leicester, who in 30 years managed to identify over 2,500 species of plants and animals in her own suburban garden, including four that were new to science. This leads on to an interesting discourse on the extent and value of urbanÂ habitats, and the inevitable difficulty in defining them. Then it is onto the guide, which forms the main body of the book. In this, a selection of mammal species are given a page or more of description. Interspersed amongst these guide pages are various boxes and case studies which add background – for example, two pages on bats inÂ buildingsÂ by another author. These are valuable but sporadic, and do make it difficult to know whether the book is best used as a guide that one should browse, or a reference book to read through systematically and enjoy. Continue reading