OUR PLACE: CAN WE SAVE BRI­TAIN’S WILDLIFE BE­FORE IT IS TOO LATE?

MARK COCKER , JONATHAN CAPE, £16.99

Countryfile Magazine - - Lazy Days -

Mark Cocker’s per­sonal jour­ney through land­scapes he knows well forms the back­bone of this in­ten­sively re­searched ex­am­i­na­tion of our treat­ment of the Bri­tish coun­try­side and its wildlife.

He be­gins on the highly pro­tected North Nor­folk coast to out­line the birth of what he calls the “en­vi­ron­ment age” and the foun­da­tion of the three largest con­ser­va­tion NGOs: the Na­tional Trust, the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts. De­spite a com­bined mem­ber­ship of mil­lions for these and other con­ser­va­tion groups, our wildlife has de­clined re­morse­lessly and the pace is gath­er­ing. He de­liv­ers some sledge­ham­mer blows: 44 mil­lion birds were lost to our coun­try­side, mainly be­tween 1975 and 1987, while farm­ers and landown­ers re­ceived huge sums in agri­cul­tural sub­si­dies from pub­lic taxes.

He writes about the drain­ing of the Fens, the af­foresta­tion of the Flow Coun­try in north­ern Scot­land and the vast bat­tle be­tween in­dus­try and con­ser­va­tion­ists that drowned rare plants un­der a reser­voir at Cow Green in Up­per Tees­dale.

The most pow­er­ful sec­tion of the book com­prises his 10 ‘truths’ fun­da­men­tal to our re­la­tion­ship with Bri­tish na­ture. These should be re­quired read­ing for any­one who cares for our nat­u­ral his­tory. Our coun­try­side, he ar­gues, has been stripped of much of its wildlife and yet we still sup­port sys­tems that am­plify the losses. If we Bri­tish, with our his­tory of cam­paign­ing for our land­scape and wildlife, can’t stop the de­cline, then who can? Brett West­wood, BBC nat­u­ral­ist

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