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Brown Hares of the Derbyshire Dales - A Superb Book!,
This review is from: Brown Hares in the Derbyshire Dales: The Story of One of the Peak District's Most Enigmatic Mammals (Paperback)
Brown Hares in the Derbyshire Dales is documented by Christine Gregory on location in the place closest to my heart, my home county of Derbyshire. This is in essence two books, with much of the first part covering the brown hare and their cultural and physical make-up. From their inception in ancient Britain to the mythical and spiritual references of this once sacred creature to their breeding patterns and courtships. We find out that they like a good scrap and are quite adept in the green boxing arena often causing serious injuries; that they have tremendous speed and can turn sharply to throw off most pursuing predators regardless of their agility with some getting up to speeds of 45 mph.
Part two widens the story to where the hare fits in within modern farming and life. With much of Britain's hedgerows and wild pastures now gone, replaced by modern intensive farming practices we find out how this has affected the hare and in turn brought about a large reduction in their numbers. To supplement all of this evidence there are some interesting monologues by local farmers who cite a collection of issues that have brought us to where we are as they try to meet demands from modern society alongside financial pressure brought on by huge supermarkets. One interview features Lord Edward Manners of Haddon Hall, interviewed especially for the book by the author. Much of what is captured paints a potentially bleak picture for many involved in agriculture today which in turn is bleak for the creatures that habitat this landscape.
I cannot help but feel that the real work comes from the pictures in this book, and goes back to my own experiences of `not' seeing hares out and about. Given it takes knowledge to know where they are and how to avoid disturbing them, this is no small task. It takes a lot of patience and personal sacrifice by having to get up at the crack of dawn with the final ingredient of optimism that you are actually going to see one nether mind capture it on film. This alone is a testament to the work Christine has put into the project and have resulted in this most excellent of artefacts. There are also tips on where and how to see hares in the wild, and I will certainly view molehills in a nearby field as potentially a low-lying hare from now on. There are dozens of beautiful photos that not only capture the many facets of the hare, but the Derbyshire landscape.
We find out about the personality of a hare and much to my own ignorance that it is considerably different from a rabbit. Beyond the sleeker body, longer legs and bigger ears, the hare has very different personality traits, almost coming across as the oddity of the British countryside. With an ease for loud noise, yet a desire for silence, and an acceptance of solitude and one for company, the hare seems to have more in common with us than it does with rabbits. That they can gather in groups for fleeting instances and then go on their own way and that they have been known to travel the same paths for generations.
Christine Gregory has done a brilliant job of bringing together the beauty of the Derbyshire Dales with the little known character of the brown hare. The images are themselves worth obtaining a copy of the book, but the text allows you a nice insight into these creatures and their lives in this most special place.