Books  General Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel 

Nature's Conscience: The Life and Legacy of Derek Ratcliffe

Biography / Memoir

Series: Wildlife and People (formerly Birds and People) Volume: 6

By: Des Thompson(Editor), Hilary H Birks(Editor), John Birks(Editor), Sir John Lawton(Foreword By)

571 pages, colour & b/w photos, colour & b/w illustrations, colour tables

Langford Press

Paperback | Apr 2015 | #216703 | ISBN-13: 9781904078593
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £22.99 $30/€26 approx
Hardback | Apr 2015 | #216702 | ISBN-13: 9781904078609
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £29.99 $39/€34 approx

About this book

Derek Ratcliffe (1929–2005) was one of Britain's greatest naturalists. Nature's Conscience is written by friends and colleagues and explores the breadth, qualities, and legacy of Derek's work. It is far more than a tribute, however, and we hope many people will be inspired to search out nature for themselves and strive to care for it.

Derek was passionate about nature and used his huge knowledge of nature to good effect. He possessed an intense curiosity which drove him to understand and protect nature. His interests ranged from birds, butterflies and dragonflies, and mountain flora and vegetation to the ecology and biogeography of peatlands and of mosses, liverworts, and ferns. He documented birds, plants, and insects in their habitats and maintained long-term population studies on several birds of prey as well as Raven, Golden Plover, Greenshank, and Dotterel. He documented the decline of the Peregrine Falcon and famously established the role of pesticides as its cause. He led the fight that saved the wild and remote Flow Country of northern Scotland from extensive afforestation. As the Nature Conservancy's Chief Scientist, he masterminded A Nature Conservation Review, which still underpins so much conservation policy and practice in Britain. His books The Peregrine; The Raven; Bird Life of Mountain and Upland; Lapland; In Search of Nature; and Highland Flora, and the New Naturalist volumes Lakeland and Galloway and the Borders have become classics of natural history writing at its very best. Through his employment as a conservationist and his books and articles, he massively influenced our awareness of nature – and its vulnerability.

As Chief Scientist of the Nature Conservancy Council, Derek led defining environmental struggles to secure protection for the best of our habitats and wildlife. He was versatile, judicious, unorthodox, stubborn, brave, deeply loyal to his friends and colleagues, and indefatigable. He has emerged as one of the most talented and effective British naturalists since Darwin. He was, in a phrase first used for Linnaeus, 'the complete naturalist'.

Nature's Conscience is written as much for people new to Derek's work as for the many who have enjoyed seeing his status as a legend grow. Derek became passionate about nature as a schoolboy and student and we hope that this will inspire young people to follow his example. Nature's Conscience makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the importance of nature, the development of nature conservation in Britain, and how we should study and safeguard nature.

Naturalists, conservationists, academics, painters, photographers, and friends have contributed 25 chapters that are organised in five parts dealing with different aspects of Derek and his legacy:
- young naturalist – in search of nature;
- botanist – understanding vegetation in mountain landscapes and discovering rarities in remote areas;
- ornithologist – searching for and saving birds in wild places;
- conservationist – protecting nature; and
- communicator – through writing and photography

Each part ends with an article written by Derek. Many of the key figures in British ecology, nature conservation, and natural history feature. Nature's Conscience is profusely illustrated, including many photographs taken by Derek. In addition there is a bibliography of Derek's publications.

"[...] not a biography in the traditional sense, but rather a history of some of nature conservation's great battles, with Derek at their centre, as well as a celebration of the life of an outstanding field naturalist. [...]"
– James Robertson, British Wildlife 27(1), October 2015

"I hope this book will bring his life and many achievements to the attention of a much wider audience – he was, indeed, nature's conscience [...] In a world where too often nature struggles to survive, the Peregrine is emblematic of recovery and improving fortunes – and we have Derek Ratcliffe to thank for that."
– From the Foreword, by Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS


Contributors   viii
Preface, acknowledgements, and nomenclature   xx
Foreword by Sir John Lawton   xxv

The young naturalist – early days and influences
1. Derek Ratcliffe - early days in pursuit of nature / John Birks, Des Thompson, and Hilary Birks   3
2. National Service and beyond / John Mitchell   21
3. Personal observations on some local birds (1947) / The Carliol 22: 428-437. Derek A. Ratcliffe   27

The botanist – a quest for rarities and understanding plants in the landscape
4. Derek Ratcliffe - botanist and plant ecologist / John Birks and Hilary Birks   39
5. Derek Ratcliffe and plant-hunting in southern Scotland and northern England / Rod Corner   91
6. Bryology in the Highlands and Island of Scotland / David Long and Gordon Rothero   101
7. Derek Ratcliffe and the Atlantic bryophytes of Britain and Ireland / Chris Preston   123
8. In the field with Derek Ratcliffe: long days and driving at speed / Lynne Farrell   149
9. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and caring for Scotland’s flora / David Rae   155
10. The mountain flora of Britain and Ireland (1991) British Wildlife 3: 10-21. / Derek A. Ratcliffe   175

The ornithologist – searching for and saving birds in wild places
11. Contributions to field ornithology – in search of nesting birds / Des Thompson   191
12. North-West Highland reminiscences / Dick Balharry   231
13. In Galloway and the Borders – in search of an enduring youth / Chris Rollie   239
14. “lt seemed like a dream come true” – Derek Ratcliffe and the Peregrine surveys / Jeremy Greenwood and Humphrey Crick   255
15. Pesticides and birds of prey – the breakthrough / Ian Newton   281
16. Fouling our nest (1964) Punch November 25: 806-807 / Elspeth Huxley   301
17. A thousand nest cards – from Derek Ratcliffe to the University Museum of Bergen / lngvar Byrkjedal   305
18. Upland birds and their conservation (1990) British Wildlife 2: 1-12 / Derek A. Ratcliffe   315

The conservationist – protecting nature
19. Nature conservation and the Nature Conservation Review – a novel philosophical framework / Des Thompson, William J. Sutherland, and John Birks   331
20. Fighting for wildlife - from the inside / Stuart Housden   359
21. Battling forestry and building consensus: woodland conservation post-1949 / Keith Kirby   371
22. Forestry, ‘acid rain’, and the acidification of lakes / Rick Battarbee   385
23. The Flow Country: battles fought, war won, organisation lost / David Stroud, Tim Reed, Mike Pienkowski, and Richard Lindsay   401
24. A letter to Derek Ratcliffe / Richard Lindsay   441
25. National and global biodiversity politics and legalities – some reflections / Peter Bridgewater   453
26. Thoughts towards a philosophy of nature conservation (1976) Biological Conservation 9: 45-53 / Derek A. Ratcliffe   465

The communicator – landscape art and correspondence
27. Derek and l: a correspondence / Peter Marren   477
28. Landscape art and nature / Will Williams and David Bellamy   491
29. Lapland images / Derek Ratcliffe   501
30. A reminiscence – from the introduction to The Peregrine Falcon (1980) / Derek A. Ratcliffe   517

Bibliography of Derek Ratcliffe / Cathy Jenks   522
Index / Cathy Jenks and John Birks   533

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The editors, Des Thompson and Hilary and John Birks, shared a close friendship with Derek, and have worked together for more than twenty years. Des is Principal Adviser on Biodiversity with Scottish Natural Heritage, and has particular interests in upland ecology and birds. John and Hilary are botanists at the University of Bergen.

The Foreword is written by Sir John Lawton. Other contributors are:
- Dick Balharry
- Rick Battarbee
- David Bellamy
- John and Hilary Birks
- Peter Bridgewater
- Ingvar Byrkjedal
- Rod Corner
- Humphrey Crick
- Lynne Farrell
- Jeremy Greenwood
- Stuart Housden
- Cathy Jenks
- Keith Kirby
- Richard Lindsay
- David Long
- Peter Marren
- John Mitchell
- Ian Newton
- Mike Pienkowski
- Chris Preston
- David Rae
- Tim Reed
- Chris Rollie
- Gordon Rothero
- David Stroud
- Bill Sutherland
- Des Thompson
- Will Williams

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