on 9 May 2001
John Mitchell's book, the fruit of a 30-year love affair with Loch Lomond and its surroundings, seems certain to be THE standard work on the natural history of the area for the foreseeable future. He conveys a powerful sense of authority and intense local knowledge across a very wide spectrum of subject matter; unusually, for such a comprehensive account, it's difficult to identify any thin patches either of information or of understanding. The approach by biogeographic units seems highly appropriate to the general readership at whom the series aims; the role of past and current human activity in modifying the environment is nicely woven into the account.
John Mitchell's writing is always lucid, but restrained; if anything he has perhaps been too careful to suppress his own personality and enthusiasm.
Regrettably he hasn't been particularly well served by the publishers. Perhaps his text was unusually long, but the combination of small fairly dense print, narrow margins and tight binding (at least in the paperback version) makes for a slightly uncomfortable reading package. However there are a good number of valuable photographs, mostly in black and white.
This book is a must for anyone who wants to look beyond the hackneyed "Bonnie Banks" image of Loch Lomond to understand the processes that have shaped and clothed this superb landscape.
This has to be considered one of the best New Naturalist books as it gives a broad yet incisive description of one of the most beautiful, spectacular and well known areas of Britain. Even though a goodly time has passed since publication most of the information is still relevant and as a history of the area it is unparalleled. As well as history we have chapters on land use, the geological formation of the area, the people who live, work and play there and general descriptions of the flora and fauna to be found on the remarkable variety of landscapes in such a small area. Since the book was published, the area (and the adjoining trossachs) has become a national park and this book shows you why this is totally justified.