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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
This is as close to an essential text as you get if you are interested in the development of the English Countryside and current state of the Environment in the UK. Written with the clear authority of excellent research, but presented in a way which is highly accessible, this is a model of both scholarship and style. After introducing the research methods used by the book it book addresses aspects of the landscape such as fields, woodlands and moorlands on a chapter by chapter basis. However, the book always manages to maintain a coherent picture of these aspects within the wider landscape. The origin and nature of the British Countryside is swathed in many myths and factoids - this book goes a very long way to addressing these. As the other reviews have said - it comes highly recommended.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 1999
The Norfolk Broads are artificial, not natural. Forests traditionally could exist without a tree in sight. Oliver Rackham has a few surprises up his sleeve but what really makes this book great is that for all its 500 or so pages, its a total page turner!
The British countryside was made: barely an acre of our land is in its prehistoric state. This book shows how woods, fields ponds and heath grew up alongside mankind; how they were used, and how historical documents as well as the land itself takes us far back into history.
The land changes slowly, and despite the damage of the last 100 years there is much of historical interest to be found, and the guided walks of the illustrated edition take you there.
A beautiful example of how a lifelong academic can remain passionate about his subject and totally readable. I read the non-illustrated version, but I checked the illustrated one in the local bookshop and it looks fantastic.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 26 May 2009
This informative book is a must for anyone interested in the development and evolution of our countryside. It covers everything around us from ancient pollarding techniques and forestry; designer parks; celtic field systems; historical hedges and highways; heaths and moorland; to anything water. It helps us to look at familiar local landmarks around us with a new understanding. It also includes eight illustrated and well-described walks that explain exactly how to decipher what we are looking at.

Oliver Rackham's highly respected knowledge ensures this is a valuable reference book on the subject, and his clear writing skills make it an easy and fascinating read in its own right. It is beautifully illustrated with numerous maps and plans, some diagrams and a wealth of high quality photographs.

I initially borrowed this book from the library, but decided it was a must to own a copy. I now constantly dip into it for information, or just curl up and read it for pleasure.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2000
In addition to reviewer 1's comments, you will also find that this is a very well-written, enjoyable book, even if you don't have an academic interest in the countryside, like me. I thoroughly enjoyed it for it's illumination of th truth and disposal of complete myths that I had always accepted as given truths about woodland. I have since noticed, for example, that planted trees (apart from farmed forestry) nearly always fail. I enjoyed the book, and my rambles around the UK have been much enriched.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 June 2011
I bought Oliver Rackham's original History of the Countryside, lent it to a close relative and never saw it again; expensive mistake! Someone, probably fed up with my long face, bought me the illustrated edition as a consolation prize, so I've read and owned both. It's hard to be objective choosing between the two in the circumstances, but I think I marginally preferred the original with its greater detail. Certainly the big, colour illustrations in this edition are a real pleasure, and ease one gently through a description and analysis which is far from trivial. However the abridged text sometimes comes across as rather terse, some of the richness of the writing in the original edition having been sacrificed for brevity. And the original edition isn't without illustrations; its just that here there is more colour, they are larger, and inset in the text.

Rackham arranges his book thematically. Chapter headings are:
Rural Detection; Animals and Plants; Woodland; Wood Pasture; Boundaries and Fields; Trees of Hedgerow and Farmland; Highways; Grassland and Heath; Moorland; Ponds, Dells and Pits; Marshes, Fens, Rivers and the Sea. Here the text broadly follows the original edition, and there is a bibliography of suggested further reading, and a detailed index at the back.

There are, in addition 8 annotated walks, which are like mini-field-trips, designed to let you see many of the features described in the book out there in the landscape. Unfortunately the book is rather too large and heavy to take with you, so you'd presumably photocopy the relevant pages before setting out. As the walks are all over Great Britain, it is unlikely that any but the most dedicated would do more than a couple of them.

I would suggest this is the best version to buy as a gift, or if you are a general reader seeking to understand more about what you see around you, especially if you are a keen walker. For more depth, and for anyone studying geography or environmental science, go for the original. This is clearly what Rackham himself intends. Collins New Naturalist Library (100) - Woodlands by Rackham is a serious, detailed study which is packed with fascinating reading too; well worth a look.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2006
Rackham, a senior fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, outdoes himself with this stunning exposition of the English countryside. He displays a grasp of his material both wide and deep, saturated with intuitive understanding and ecological consciousness. Rackham really outdoes himself with this one! Highly recommended. The treatment of Essex marshland represents a particular contribution to the literautre.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2009
Oliver Rackham is an excellent writer. He keeps you interested and your mind active throughout the book, stimulating thought and opinion.

The book is a must for all naturalists, ecologists, historians and anyone who has ever wondered why the British countryside is like it is or wishes to know more about our past or our way of life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2012
As a keen walker and very amateur naturalist I have more than a passing interest in the countryside. I'm into trees, birding, dragonflies, botany to mention just a few. Beyond that though, as I walk through the countryside, I'd like to understand how it has been formed. I've spent a lot of time wondering why things are like they are. Why does my local wood have large holes in the ground? why are some trees pollarded? why is that large nettle bed where it is and what is this ridge and furrow all about? It's all very well being able to identify birds and dragonflies and grasses and sedges, but there are far bigger mysteries out there to struggle with. Then I found this book. It goes some considerable way in explaining how the countryside has formed. Reading it has given me the considerable pleasure of being able to go out and solve a few mysteries.

I've owned this book for ages, in fact as a collector of books I have both paper and hardback editions. This is simply the finest book I've read on the subject by some considerable margin and Oliver Rackham is undoubtedly an absolute legend. Not only is this book a joy to read, it is an absolute mine of information. You will not find a better book. The very fact that Oliver Rackham books are so eminently collectable is testament to the genius of the author. Don't mess around, if you're interested in our fantastic countryside, then you have to own this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2011
It is easy to enjoy the countryside, but this book does a lot to extend & deepen our understanding of what we are looking at. It explains the features in a landscape - the interaction of geology, plants, animal habitats & human interaction with the natural environment.

I think the illustrated edition is particularly attractive - not just because the pictures are beautiful, but because they supply examples of landscapes and features & so help us to recognise similar things when we find them. We've noticed things we wouldn't have noticed before reading this, and now they mean something to us. That's a pleasure in itself.

It's very enjoyable, and valuable, to look around, and, thanks to this book, notice things, & begin to understand what has made the place look as it does.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I was loaned a copy of this book by a friend, and could not wait to own a copy. The delivery was excellent and I would use this seller again.
I own a copy of the Doomsday Book, and a copy of all the county maps of England over the centuries.
This unlocked parts that no other book could.(for instance a plough in Doomsday meant 120 acres. More knowledge than you could ever hope for.
I live opposite a 45 acre wood, and now know who put it there. my garden trees have all been pollarded this year, I used to lop them. And the way this author as explained all that came before I am now even more proud of my heritage. And to think the Fox was indigenous to Britain every other animal was imported.
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