This group of relatively large, colourful and familiar insects are a very popular subject of study because their behaviour can be observed without the use of elaborate equipment.
The unique complex of eastern English wetlands known as the Norfolk Broads is an outstanding example of Man’s exploitation of nature: the Broads are almost entirely artificial, waterlogged pits left by medieval turf-cutters. Largely owing to their origin they are astonishingly varied. Some contain fresh water, some salt, others are brackish. Some have sharply-defined banks, heavily wooded; others are set in mud-banks, covered in reeds and bulrushes. A few are deep, more are shallow, some are almost entirely overgrown, no longer open water but swamp. A few are part of river courses, most are included in drainage systems, a number are completely land-locked. Some are private, but many more are open to the public. This variety of shape, size and setting is reflected in the fantastic richness of their natural history. they provide a setting for multitudinous species of birds, of insects, of flowers and of grasses; some of these, like the swallowtail butterfly, can be seen nowhere else in this country.
Mr Ellis, a leading authority on the region, owns and lives on Wheatfen Broad. Over many years he has compiled, with the help of other experts, this general guide to the natural history of the Broads. For the tourist there is a lively account of the history and nature of the Broads, what they are and what they contain, which will both help to identify the obvious and suggest things worth looking for. For the naturalist there are also detailed lists of broadland species, both flora and fauna, including a unique long appendix on broadland insects. As with all New Naturalist regional volumes, the book is fully illustrated with maps, diagrams and photographs.
Dr Ford, the author of this fascinating volume on butterflies, was an enthusiastic butterfly collector in his youth. He was not only a professional biologist of great distinction but also brought his wide knowledge of genetics and evolution to bear on the problems arising out of his collecting. Thus he was able to see butterflies both as an absorbing hobby and as part of the great panorama of biology.
The resultant book is an outstanding contribution to Natural History in the best sense of the term. Natural History is not something inferior to science – it is part of science, inviting an approach by way of field study. While, therefore, Dr Ford’s book contains a somewhat higher proportion of scientific history and technical ideas than most books on Natural History, this for the great majority of amateurs will be a stimulus rather than an obstacle, and throughout the author has kept in mind the needs of butterfly collectors and of all those who love the country in the hope that it may increase their pleasure by widening the scope of their interests.
The New Naturalist series has already covered many facets of the interrelationship between man and nature, but the grass family is probably the most important man in the whole plant kingdom - just how important is shown in this book. Dr. Moore, the Principal of Seale Hayne Agricultural College in Devon, is our leading authority on grasses and their utilization. His special interest is the use of natural and seeded grass pastures for the feeding of livestock. Striking advances have been made in recent years in the improvement of such pastures and Dr. Moore deals very fully with this vital link in the feeding of the human race; but he also covers that other equally important role of the grass family in our economy, the cultivation of cereal crops for the production of grain. Grass lawns and playing fields form a centre-piece in most British gardens and public parks and there is a chapter on these, but the horticultural value of grasses as ornamental plants in herbaceous borders and woodland gardens is less well known.
These and many other unfamiliar uses for the ubiquitous grass family are described in this succinct work.