4 April 1997

Preaching to converted?

IT IS hard to know what to make of a pint-sized coffee table book*, packed with idyllic colour pictures of the British countryside, and containing chapters from such diverse celebrities as Jack Charlton and Frederick Forsyth.

But on closer examination, the book carries a strong and convincing warning of the threat to our countryside from a largley urban population and an uncaring and ignorant legislature.

The thread running through all the chapters – including an excellent presentation of the farmers view by columnist and TV dogman Robin Page – is the need to educate the public and politicians on why our countryside is so unique and beautiful. Because country people and farmers have worked to make it so.

It also continually points out that shooting and country sports are an incentive to wildlife not the opposite, although how one could ever explain the subtleties of the argument to a strident anti-blood sports saboteur is too brain-numbing to contemplate.

Admire his football philosophy or not, Big Jack Charlton hits the net full on in his chapter on shooting. "Its extraordinary how illogical people can be. Theyre quite happy to eat meat and fish but they think its wrong to kill animals."

Simon Everetts cracking photographs would have benefited from a larger book format but one shudders to think what the cost would have been.

A worthy and creditable exercise from writers and editor although one wonders whether the crusading is worth the effort. The type of person likely to buy the book would probably be sympathetic to the prevailing opinions in the first place. JE

*Our Countryside edited by Barney White-Spunner (£19.95). Bailys, Cambridge (01223-350555).