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on 4 January 2011
I am afraid I was disappointed with this book. Setting aside the need for a good edit to take out much of the repetitive detail, I must start with some pedantry. The book has a large number of minor, factual errors which should have been spotted before publication. Thus, and for example only, Wroxeter Roman City is in Shropshire and not Warwickshire as stated towards the end of the book; Telford's suspension bridge at Conwy is not on the Shrewsbury to Holyhead Road or anywhere near it; and the Stadium of Light is in Sunderland not Middlesbrough. On a similar, relatively minor note, the black and white photographs are not at all clear and left me struggling to pick out the features mentioned in their explanatory notes. Some of the maps selected hardly add to understanding either.
But my main issues were threefold. Firstly, there was the self-indulgent trait of the author constantly mentioning his own circumstances, including at least two photographs of his own garden to illustrate relatively trivial points. I do not believe readers need to see a picture of the author's vegetable plot. And we got the message that he is a sheep farmer. Secondly, much of his last few chapters seemed to loose their way and become something of a polemic. They became an excuse for the author to express his personal likes and dislikes rather than to continue his explanation of how the British landscape developed. So windfarms and motorways seem to be good; and multi-storey car parks bad. Finally, the book seemed very unbalanced in emphasis throughout. So we had a section on domestic greenhouses and later on topiary, lots about individual buildings, a very heavy emphasis on East Anglia and the Fens (where the author farms), yet only thin mentions, for example, of Wales (and no, I am not Welsh!), National Parks (except the Lake District, and surprisingly little on the Common Agricultural Policy, and its impact on the farmed landscape and rural areas or of the de-industrialisation of Britain from the 1960's and its impact on the landscape. And the recent population growth of the UK of c10 million since the mid 1970's and the impact of this on housing is not mentioned at all.