The Story of North Yorkshire’s Road Verges by Margaret Atherden and Nan Sykes.
- The paperback is only 88 pages long. The first half reveals fascinating insights into the history, geography, ecology and management of the county’s linear wildlife habitats. The second part of the book is a beautifully illustrated compendium of nearly a thousand plants.
- It’s a book difficult to classify. It has the beauty of a coffee table book, but not it’s thick glossy girth or shallow content. It’s not a dry flora, but is an accurate source of information when you want to identify a plant. It’s a wonderful book to just dip into. If, like me, you like to curl up in an armchair and dream about beautiful plants, you will want this book on your lap.
- As a means for a non-expert to quickly identify a wild flower it is second to none. As a flora, it’s text is unencumbered by latin names which can instead be found in the detailed index. If, as a gardener, you have a basic plant knowledge, enough to know whether a plant is a clover, buttercup, St John’s-wort, cranes-bill or speedwell, you can go straight to the right page where you will find a clear photograph, exact common name and a simple pen-picture. The illustrations are very good. I love the helpful page titles that aid plant identification. Headings like ‘small white look-a-likes’, ‘yellow daisies’, ‘white umbrellas’, ‘down in the ditch’, ‘hedge row trees and shrubs’.
- It’s much more than a flora. The authors share their great knowledge of professional management of roadside vegetation. They explain how, by enlightened procedures, such as method, frequency and timing of grass cutting, rich habitats can be created. Every theme is supported by clear illustrations.They record good and bad examples of roadside management and rejoice in the fact that the use of herbicide is out of fashion. Although in general they are not censorious of poor management practice, they are rather scathing about men with ride-on-mowers who closely mow grass verges way beyond their own property.
- The book describes how roadside flora reflects local ecologies such as land use, soil, rainfall, drainage and much more. In addition, roads have their own ecological drivers, such as salt. The book describes how salt-marsh and coastal plants have colonized roadsides for many miles.
- I have many of the wild flowers, such as wild strawberries, arums and violets etc that are mentioned in the book, in my own garden, along with many of the weeds! On verges there are no weeds and all plants have their place!
- Because the book does not group plants by latin name, each plant is identified by its traditional country name. We have a rich linguistic heritage: dewberry, hemp-agrimony, sneezewort, cuckoo-flower and lady’s smock, I could fill the page with evocative names. Not sure about Brook-lime though!
Brooklime, a plant for boggy places, sprawls over my small pond. I prefer its common name, Veronica beccabunga!