Mountains and Moorlands

Tuesday, 7th March 2006

Mountains and MoorlandsI've wanted to read Professor Pearsall's book for years and my current Peak project gives me a suitable excuse to indulge myself. Thirty years ago, when I was an art student in London, I bought a secondhand copy of the Fontana paperback of Mountains and Moorlands and started reading it, with the intention that on my free weekends I would set off for the Welsh mountains to experience the real thing.

I never got as far Wales and my most adventurous weekend trips were to Box Hill in Surrey or the Buckinghamshire section of the Chiltern Hills, both an easy train or tube journey from London.

I never finished reading the book. The subject matter seemed so far away. Now that I've spent so many days drawing and trekking around the Peak District, it seems more familiar, relevant and understandable.

The New Naturalist

Mountains and Moorlands was originally published in 1950 as one of the titles in the Collins' New Naturalist series. This hardback is a reprint of the 1971 edition, revised by Pearsall's friend and former pupil, Winifred Pennington. The series was remarkable at the time for its use of colour photography and, like others in the series, Mountains and Moorlands benefits from the landscape and habitat photographs of John Markham. The jacket design, in a limited range of flat colours, is by Clifford and Rosemary Ellis.

I like the thoroughness of the New Naturalists; they bring together observations without fudging over the gaps in our knowledge and draw conclusions while pointing out the further questions that are raised.

You don't feel as if you are being talked down to; it makes you feel as if you could go out there and set about trying to answer some of the questions yourself.

I greatly enjoyed the first programme in the new Planet Earth series at the weekend, with shots of penguins in the depths of the Antarctic winter, polar bears emerging from a snow cave in the Arctic spring and wild dogs hunting in the Okavango swamp, as filmed by a Hollywood expert using a helicopter-mounted high definition camera. Wow! But the programme didn't give me the feeling that I could ever have the opportunity to add to the sum of our knowledge of natural history, so I'm grateful to the rather old-fashioned approach of the New Naturalists. I'm looking forward to getting out in hill country again. Next Page

Richard Bell,