From its earliest origins to the present day, this award-winning, beautifully written book, originally published in 1986, describes the endlessly changing character of Britain’s countryside.
Exploring the natural and man-made features of the land – fields, highways, hedgerows, fens, marshes, rivers, heaths, coasts, woods and wood pastures – he shows conclusively and unforgettably how they have developed over the centuries. In doing so, he covers a wealth of related subjects to provide a fascinating account of the sometimes subtle and sometimes radical ways in which people, fauna, flora, climate, soils and other physical conditions have played their part in the shaping of the countryside.
An acknowledged authority on the countryside and its history, the late Dr Oliver Rackham carried out research in the Botany Department at Cambridge University, where he was a Fellow of Corpus Christi College.
"A classic, written with humanity, dignity, concern and a great deal of humour"
– Richard Mabey, TES
"One thing is certain: no one would be wise to write further on our natural history, or to make films about it, without thinking very hard about what is contained in these authoritative pages"
– Country Life
"As quirky and rewarding as the English countryside itself [...] it is full of answers to questions that others have not had the wit to ask"
– The Economist
"A classic of scholarship and imagination [...] A monumental work, but it is written with humanity, dignity, concern and a great deal of humour"
– Times Educational Supplement
"He opened readers' eyes to regional differences in patterns of land settlement, the original meaning of the term forest (countryside beyond the common law), the timing of key changes in human management of the landscape, new ways of looking at hedges, ponds and marshes, and, through it all, the balance between the natural world and human activities"