With a foreword by Chris Packham, Jewels Beyond the Plough is a celebration of Britain's wildflower grasslands. The illustrations capture the beauty of grassland landscapes with their rich flora and fauna. A quick glance shows the remarkable range of plants and animals associated with wildflower grasslands. Orchids, cowslips, buttercups, fritillaries, pasque flowers, curlews, lapwings, butterflies, grasshoppers, waxcap fungi, mosses and lichens all feature prominently.
It is hoped that Jewels Beyond the Plough will provide an inspiration and raise awareness of the beauty and value to society of our wildflower-rich grasslands.
Jewels Beyond the Plough concentrates on and celebrates Britain's semi-natural or wildflower grasslands which are made up of unsown, wild native plants. Two other types of grassland that are semi improved have been included in the book as they have significant wildlife or heritage value. These are coastal and flood plain grazing marsh, and water meadows.
"This is a book about our semi-natural grasslands, illustrated with copious paintings by John Davis, one of our leading wildlife artists. It is part of Langford Press's Wildlife Art Series, and as such the paintings are at the heart of the publication. The book certainly fulfils its brief as a celebration. John Davis's paintings fill almost every spread, with sumptuous landscapes from the machair of the Outer Hebrides to the rolling South Downs of his home county of Sussex. His great talent is for capturing the texture, colour and solidity of landscapes. His grasslands are ones that you feel you can walk through. His skies are full of birds and insects, creating a great sense of joie de vivre. Unfortunately, some of the paintings have been reproduced at a size larger than surely they were meant to be, which has resulted in a rather unfocused look to some of the pages.
Richard Jefferson's succinct text provides an excellent introduction to our wildlife-rich grasslands, describing the various types and their origins. At the back of the book is a useful section with a map, listing a selection of nature reserves which contain areas of semi-natural grassland, together with their type. One can't help but think that 50 years ago the listing would have been to regions, rather than isolated nature reserves. An intriguing glossary of grassland names and terms completes the book. Did you know, for example, that a "pightie" is a small field, or that a "pleck" is a local name in the Wyre Forest for a very small meadow?
Jefferson points out in his introduction how difficult it is to conserve these landscapes as, to many people, unless you start to look more closely, most agriculturally improved grasslands appear little different to a species-rich hay meadow or pasture. Let us hope the bustling scenes, full of colour and life, which John Davis has portrayed will help to change people's perceptions about this most British of habitats."
- Andrew Branson, British Wildlife 24(1), October 2012