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The Hidden Landscape: A Journey into the Geological Past [Paperback]

Dr Richard Fortey
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Feb 2010

'I travelled to Haverfordwest to get to the past. From Paddington Station a Great Western locomotive took me on a journey westwards from London further and further back into geological time, from the age of mammals to the age of trilobites... Under the River Severn and into Wales, I was back before the time of the dinosaurs, to a time when Wales steamed and sweated with the humid heat of moss-laden and boggy forests in coal-swamps, where dragonflies the size of hawks flitted in the mist; and then on back still further in time, so far back that life had not yet slithered or crawled upon the land from its aqueous nursery.'

So begins this enthralling exploration of time and place in which Richard Fortey peels away the top layer of the land to reveal the hidden landscape - the rocks which contain the story of distant events, which dictate not only the personality of the landscape, but the nature of the soil, the plants that grow in it and the regional characteristics of the buildings. We travel with him as our guide throughout the British Isles and as the rocks change so we learn to read the clues they contain: that Britain was once divided into two parts separated by an ocean, that Scottish malt whisky, Harris tweed, slate roofs and thatched cottages can be traced back to tumultuous events which took place many millions of years ago. The Hidden Landscape has become a classic in popular geology since its first publication in 1993. This new edition is fully updated and beautifully illustrated.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (4 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847920713
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847920713
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 69,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Fortey retired from his position as senior palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in 2006. He is the author of several books, including 'Fossils: A Key to the Past', 'The Hidden Landscape' which won The Natural World Book of the Year in 1993, 'Life: An Unauthorised Biography', 'Trilobite!', 'The Earth: An Intimate History', and most recently 'Dry Store Room No.1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum'. He was elected to be President of the Geological Society of London for its bicentennial year of 2007, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Product Description

Review

"A superbly exciting work of popular scientific writing" (AN Wilson The Financial Times)

"A very well written book about geology and geological history" (Sir David Attenborough, The Times)

"We have a new classic... this is popular science at its best; it's beautifully written, constantly witty and excellently illustrated." (Financial Times)

"Imbued with its author's deep sensitivity to shifting atmospheres, his overwhelming passion for England, Wales and Scotland as living bodies pulsing, breathing, twitching beneath our feet, and his contagiously personal view of his subject." (Jonathan Keates Observer)

Book Description

An updated edition of the classic book about Britain's geology, by the bestselling author of Life: An Unauthorised Biography and Dry Store Room No. 1.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 23 Jun 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is quite simply one of the best books I've ever read. The book explains why the landscape of Britain is the way it is, and also talks a bit about the different sorts of plants that grow in different areas. The book relates scenery to the underlying geology, and explains how Britain has evolved. I'd have liked more colour photographs, but that presumably would have made the price soar. It is accessible to anyone; background in geology isn't necessary to enjoy this wonderful book.
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54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read 25 Mar 2004
By J. Charlesworth VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Quite simply one of the most engaging books on geology I've read. Fortey's prose is memorable and scattered with analogies & anecdotes which make the science memorable, and accessible. I've always been interested in geology, but never made an effort to pursue it, other than picking up rocks, and learning the very basics. The Hidden Landscape takes the reader into the field, and clearly describes what the rocks are and why they matter. It contains enough science not to be boring to those with some knowledge [I did a paleontology course at university that covered basic geology], but is clear enough not to baffle those with none.
While this book is enjoyable to read all the way through, it's also useful to return to as a reference.
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fortey brings the landscape of Britain to life. 19 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Once again Richard Fortey has managed to bring to the public one of the best and most easily read books of this type. His way of relating the geology to his own experiences is unsurpassed. It is one of those few books on geology and geomorphology which can you can go back to time and time again without it becoming stale. Novices and experts alike will learn something of the British landscape from this book. A must for any one interested in the make up of Britain.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but needs more diagrams 5 Aug 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating book and a joy to read BUT it needs a knowledge of geology to follow it as there are almost no diagrams. Many of the photos are beautiful but did not explain the geology to me. For the student of geology it must be an exciting and interesting read explaining geology and landscape of Britain. However, for the beginner it needs to be complemented by a book such as Peter Toghill's "The Geology of Britain"The Geology of Britain. With the diagrams Fortey's book would be 5+ stars. For the amateur it's worth the effort to read both books together.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've ever read 9 Jan 2006
By Adam
Format:Paperback
Whether or not you have a background in geology this book will add a new dimension to your appreciation of the British countryside and the English Language. In one passage he describes Knockan Cliff, an unassuming crag in the lonely wilderness of Assynt, where the collision of two ancient continents 400 million years ago is recorded along a single rock surface which you can put your hand on if you know where to look :
"there is something about the Moine Thrust that is almost poetry. What could be more dramatic than the grind of rock against rock beneath the terrible grip of a vanished mountain range? And who could doubt that to see upon the ground the vestiges of a distant past adds to the richness of our experience of the present? There is an exquisite irony that sheep, the most nervous of animals, now peacefully graze slopes where continents came to rest. We may see only the ooze of a small, rush-rimmed spring to mark where rocks of unlike type came to lie one upon the other. The subtle differences in (drainage) of the rocks recognise the truth, where the ignorant walker could pass by enlightened, and the wind blows in the cotton grass as if none of this had ever been."
Thomas Hardy would have been proud.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fortey's Hidden Landscape 8 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback
Another great book by Richard Fortey. It was published in 1993, but this edition adds photos and other illustrations. A classic when first published, and a classic now
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Mark Shackelford TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Having also got Peter Toghill's superb The Geology of Britain, there is an interesting contrast between the two books.

"The Hidden Landscape" is a wonderful, poetic journey through the time and place (Geology and Geography) of Britain, from the earliest rocks in the far north-west, down to the youngest rocks - rather conveniently located in the south-east. Along the way we are treated to the author's gentle humour, and many vignettes of places he has visited (with a curious emphasis on pubs?). I learnt a lot from this book (which I read first) but was a bit frustrated by descriptions of places (and interesting rock formations) that were left to my imagination. This is OK for poetry or fiction - but perhaps not for a science book.

I then found "The Geology of Britain" - which may not be as poetic or redolent of the glories of Britain, but does have lots (and LOTS) of photographs. Pretty much everywhere that frustrated me in The Hidden Landscape with its invisibility is pictured in this second book.

So I recommend this book (The Hidden Landscape) but also suggest you try The Geology of Britain - more science and more photographs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hidden Landscape 4 Dec 2012
By elcee
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Richard Fortey's writing style is excellent. Easy to read and follow. When travelling I now view the countryside very differently from my previous casual manner Journeys are now so full of interest
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous! Beautifully written, fascinating and engaging.
A fabulous book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's beautifully written, manages to clearly distill the essence of what is a very complex subject and I now have a picture... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Patricia
3.0 out of 5 stars Slogging the footpaths
I'm amazed this book got such good reviews - in my opinion it is far from Fortey's best. He does give the impression of having slogged up and down every footpath in the remotest... Read more
Published 22 months ago by John Priestley
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be better
I bought this with a great deal of anticipation, having read previous reviewss.

I've finished it, mostly enjoyed it and I now know a great deal more about the geology of... Read more
Published on 5 Jun 2011 by Capstone55
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful companion
Part a guide to the geology of the British Isles (including Ireland), part travel guide and part muse on the architecture of the past (and the inadequacies of the architecture of... Read more
Published on 2 Aug 2010 by Byron Geoffrey Farrow
5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey in time
Beautifully written account of the formation of the British landscape, although possibly running out of steam a bit in the last chapter or two. Read more
Published on 20 July 2010 by Dr. Alan Green
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book but with some glaring errors
Rather like Mr Fortey's book "The Earth" it would appear that he doesn't know his East from his West, which suggests he is looking at the map upside down or the proof reading is... Read more
Published on 8 April 2010 by Big Jim
4.0 out of 5 stars Looks very interesting
I've not had time to get far into this book, but can say from the first chapter that it looks very interesting.
Published on 3 Mar 2010 by Mysteries13
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of The Hidden Landscape: A Journey into the Geological Past by...
For me this is a delicious book which I read with enjoyment.

This book, focusing on England, Scotland, and Wales with a bit of Ireland, is a little like a Historical... Read more
Published on 9 Dec 2009 by Walter H. Pierce
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