Pippa Johns relearns old skills from Patrick Whitefield's
The Living Landscape
This new book by renowned permaculturist Patrick Whitefield
is already the catalyst to a huge leap in my observation skills and my understanding of the landscape around me.
It is a truly fascinating book, the result of Patrick's many years of looking and listening, taking notes, making sketches and asking questions on his
walks, train journeys and travels from the Scottish Highlands to the South Downs.
The book takes the reader on a journey around the British landscape, telling all you need to know to understand how that landscape may have been formed; from rocks, through soil to vegetation and the intricate web of interactions between plants, animals, climate and people that makes a landscape what it is today: "The eternal dance between human and natural factors which goes to make up the landscape".
Learning to read the landscape
The book opens with a chapter on how to go about reading the land-scape and Patrick
is clear that we can never be absolutely sure that we know exactly what is going on, there are too many factors at work over too long a period of time.
However by developing our skills of observation and understanding we can make a well informed guess.
The following chapters then go on to look in detail at rocks, soil and climate, people's historical impact, animals and plants, woodlands, grasslands and moors.
There are also chapters on succession or how changes in the landscape happen over time, water and roads and boundaries.
There is a huge amount of information here, but the text is always accessible and easy to read and it certainly held my interest.
Each chapter is interspersed with diagrams, sketches and notes that Patrick
has taken on walks and train rides over the years.
Whilst Patrick never shies away from mentioning permaculture and his work as a designer and teacher, the book is in no way limited to being a permaculture text.
It will appeal to a very wide audience of people who feel some connection to the British landscape and who are interested to learn more about it; how they can read it and how they, historically and in the present, interact with it.
My neighbour is a tree warden and active on the South Downs joint committee and I have it in mind to give him a copy.
I am convinced he will enjoy it and that it will also serve as a gentle introduction to lots of key permaculture concepts.
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