This is a bit like an i-Spy book for grown-ups, or semi-grown-ups. It’s an anthology of interesting things to look out for in the countryside, grouped in three sections; field, wood and seashore. The seashore section is short and felt a bit like a refreshing dessert after a sizeable starter in the fields and a main course of woods.
If you wander around in the countryside, as I do, then I suspect that you’ll go through this book with a mixture of reactions in your head which will include ‘seen that – knew that’ and ‘seen that – didn’t know that’ to ‘never even heard of that – would really quite like to see it’. Included in the last category, for me, were Choke and Pillow Mounds but there were lots in the other two categories.
There are 47 mystery features of the countryside discussed and explained here from slime moulds to dew ponds and from cramp balls (you’ve seen them, you just didn’t know that’s what they were) to fairy rings. The writing is clear and engaging, and sometimes amusing. It’s a good read.
I recommend the section, one of the longest in the book, on ridge and furrow. Now I see quite a lot of ridge and furrow in Northamptonshire and I have read about it and wondered about it. I’ve even written about it a little in a book that probably won’t ever be finished, but I found the words here very clear and very helpful. The author asks and then largely answers a question that has always been worrying me about ridge and furrow, but it probably won’t worry you if you get this book because the worry is explained away.
The author’s introduction sets the tone of the book very well and engaged me right from the start. I remained engaged right to the end.
The cover? I like it – 8/10.
A Spotter’s Guide to Countryside Mysteries by John Wright is published by Profile Books.
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