BOOK REVIEW

Front cover - 11k The Wildlife Trusts' Nature Reserves Guide
Ed. Geoffrey Young
pub. The Wildlife Trusts, 1999
Paperback, 256 pages, 6.99
ISBN 0902484699

A glitsy and glamorously illustrated book the 'Nature Reserves Guides' is not. Rather, this publication has a more utilitarian look and feel, yet doesn't suffer from being so.

The Wildlife Trusts have taken 200 of the best of their 2300+ reserves around the regions and devoted a page to a 'hands on' review of what's available at each of these sites. A boxout provides information on the nearest town, OS map reference, details on the location and access, plus a simple nutshell overview of the reserve. For example, Clunton Coppice is described as: ' 56 acres (23 ha) of broadleaved coppice woodland on the steep south flank of the Clun valley. It is a scheduled SSSI. '

Each page then goes on to feature a simple but clear map of the Reserve with a 'key' to its terrain and footpaths; one or more 'at a glance' icons depicting the special features - meadow flowers and butterflies, wild flowers and songbirds to mention but a few; and then a fuller description of the location's flora and fauna.

These main descriptions are factual rather than flowery, in terms of language, and often contain historical information about the work carried out by the local Trust: 'There was a problem with rampaging rhododendron, planted last century, but much has been removed to allow native flowers to grow.' [Mere Sands Wood]

At other times the text is more species specific: ' The kingfisher is seen here and the wet is also a magnet for frog, toad and newt - and grass snake which hunts them. Dragonflies and damselflies are common.' [Dry Sandford Pit]

While the bulk of the book is devoted to these single page guides to each nature reserve, the front section of the Guide includes a few pages on 'Conservation in Action'; looking at some of the types of action being taken in different types of habitat - woodland, grassland, wetlands, heaths and moors, and coastal areas. Also included is a list of the individual Trusts along with snail-mail and e-mail addresses, plus phone numbers. And there are pages on Trust visitor centres and shops, volunteering to help, and a useful section on what you can expect from a Trust reserve, and some common-sense expectations of visitors (following paths, controlling dogs, and so on). Also provided are a place name index, and a species index for those who may want to follow a particular line of interest.

Excellently clear and concise, this is a publication well recommended to foot-slogging nature lovers who like to get out there and see the countryside and nature for themselves. It's not a 'read', but the sort of book you'd want to keep in the car when touring around Britain, or handy at home when planning what to do with those forthcoming holiday breaks and spare weekends.

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