“Scotland rocks!” – a customer review of New Naturalist Volume 119: Scotland

Scotland jacket imageNew Naturalist Volume 119: Scotland

Peter Friend

Reviewer: S.W. Mott from the United Kingdom

One-word summary: “Readable”

“The latest volume in this series has been written by Peter Friend and is a review of the rocks and landscapes of Scotland. Collins make it clear that the book is about the rocks, earth history and landscapes of Scotland. The book does not set out to be a comprehensive, all-inclusive survey of Scotland’s natural history – an impossible task to achieve in a single volume. Indeed, for fuller accounts of Scotland’s flora and fauna, weather, environments and habitats, one must refer to earlier volumes in the series – such as Vol 76 The Hebrides, Vol 88 Loch Lomondside, Vol 101 Galloway and the Borders [ed: all unfortunately out of print] and the earlier, now out of date, volumes on Shetland and Orkney. New Naturalist Vol 119 provides a more than adequate overview of the landscapes that shape Scotland and its natural history.

For the geologist there are more detailed and scientific texts available, including the British Geological Survey (BGS) Regional Guides and material from the Geological Society and Scottish Museums. However, where this New Naturalist volume scores is in its organisation, presentation, and collation of material from a variety of sources in a fresh and compelling way. It has been thoroughly researched and meticulously brought together. Peter Friend uses the same format and scaffolding for this new volume as he used in his earlier New Naturalist, Vol 108 Southern England. He makes good use of modern computerised technology to provide effective diagrams, sections and maps to explain the geology and geomorphological processes. No diagram or text figure is too small to read; the aerial photos are carefully selected and add substantially to the understanding of the features described.

The first five chapters are about geological processes and landform development. Chapters 2 and 3 borrow heavily from Vol 108 Southern England. And why not? Processes don’t change north of the border, and Peter Friend applies them to the Scottish setting. The remainder of the book divides Scotland into regions and each chapter follows the same pattern with the sub-headings ‘Stories from the Bedrock’ and ‘Making the Landscape’. This chapter structure works well and is consistently applied, making the book stand out among others by presenting the current state of knowledge and understanding in a logical, approachable and co-ordinated way. The photographs are excellent throughout, add greatly to understanding and their reproduction seems accurate and sharp.

Some assumptions are made – such as of the reader’s familiarity with earth science terminology, although much is explained in the text and the diagrams help enormously. However, I do wonder if a small glossary of earth science terms could have been provided. I also found Dr Friend’s use of the geological stratigraphic term “tertiary ” in its volcanic province context both inconsistent and slightly dated: the Tertiary Volcanic Province is now known as the Palaeogene Volcanic District. Confusingly for the non-geologist reader, Dr Friend refers in “Further Reading” to the BGS Regional Guide “Palaeogene Volcanic Districts of Scotland” by Henry Emeleus; yet in the text, he more often refers to these districts as “Tertiary”. Anyone unaware that these terms are almost synonymous and that Palaeogene is the preferred term, will be at a loss. Indeed, in the Foreword to the BGS Regional Guide, published in 2005, it states “The term ‘tertiary’ is no longer approved”.

As a geologist wanting an overview and a compilation of both geological and geomorphological material, I shall be using this New Naturalist whenever I need to obtain a wider view of Scotland’s complicated earth history or an idea of the surface landscape features of a particular region within the country.

Dr Friend has provided us with a sound piece of writing, imaginatively produced and thoughfully presented. Vol 119 Scotland is a worthy addition to the this long running series.”

Available now from NHBS

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