The landscapes of the various Regions of Southern England are described in a "geologically-lite" way, but this is where the emphasis is, as opposed to say the Hoskins landscape books where the human dimension is more to the fore. A geologist would not find it particularly useful, but it would be very interesting for the natural historian/interested layman who wants to understand more about why the lie of the land is as it is. My main "complaint" is that it takes a huge and very diverse (geologically) swath of the country and so each landscape Region is dealt with in not as much detail as one might like, although there are locally focused books for this - e.g. Dreghorn's "Geology explained in the Severn Vale and Cotswolds". The book is sumptuously produced with superb colour aerial photographs and is a worthy addition to the New Naturalist library.
Peter Friend deserves much credit for producing this book - there's been nothing like it since my fondly remembered copy of A E Trueman's (I may have mis-spelt this!) 'Pelican' -" The Geology & Scenery of England and Wales", and L Dudley Stamp's (much) earlier New Naturalist volume. I have read it thoroughly with interest, and found that it has given me many new insights into understanding the structure and scenery of this area, and this is as a keen naturalist who is also a graduate Geographer and a Geography teacher of many years' experience. The remit of the book is pretty effectively fulfilled, albeit that this is a tough job within the limitations of a volume of this size. The quality of the aerial photography used is excellent, as noted by other reviewers, and adds significantly to the ability of the reader to comprehend the geology and its effects on landscape.
The problems that I do find are, firstly, that the maps used, whilst often colourful and pleasing aesthetically, are not always easy to understand. Readers will find a considerable amount of turning back and forth of pages is necessary to ensure that what is referred to in the text is fully grasped. Secondly, I don't always find the chosen method of division of the area of 'Southern England' (which actually extends from Lands End up through the Severn & Avon valleys and diagonally across to The Wash , including all areas SE of this) works particularly well. The area is subdivided into rectangular blocks (based on large OS grid squares?), and this of course rarely matches well to the natural features of the landscape and the geological 'grain' of the countryside. It means that there is inevitably some repetition when zones which are geologically homogenous cut across these sub-divisions - as they frequently do. Even when there might only be a tiny area of, say, Jurassic rock outcropping in the far corner of one of these sub-divisions, then the author finds it necessary to describe and explain this also. Personally, I would prefer sub-divisions based on more obvious natural breaks in the landscape.
There is also the opportunity, I feel, for a future author to develop further the influence of geology beyond just basic physical landscape, to demonstrate how geology is also a key determinant of different types of habitat and ecosystem, and species distribution (biogeography). It would also be interesting to see a collaboration between someone like Oliver Rackham (historical landscapes and woodland history) and a geologist such as Peter Friend (hey - aren't they both at Cambridge University!).
I would recommend anyone with an interest in our landscape and scenery to purchase this book.
In this book the scenery comes alive partly because of the excellent photos illustrating the text. The millions of years in geology puts our life scale in context, and here the graphs of past periodic ice ages with their peaks and troughs seem to put our present hysteria over climate change in context too. The maps are not always that helpful (and in one case just plain wrong, where what must be Salisbury is tagged Winchester.)
It's well written, explaining the dates and various layers of bedrock beneath the surface, and the earth's heaving hot central cauldron. Never dumbed down, it is accessible to the amateur. However what I would have liked is a glossary, so various terms like Flandrian sea rise and Variscan mountain ranges, and syncline and anticline, which occur - and are explained at their initial mention - could be quickly looked up and the reader's (= my!) memory refreshed.