Virginia Barton

Much fancied alphabet of nature

Catholic Herald, 5 February 1988      


Review:  A Country Alphabet by Heather and Robin Tanner (Impact Books £4.95) and Woodland Plants by Heather and Robin Tanner (Impact Books £6.95)


DSC_0061A Country Alphabet was first published by the Old Stile Press in a hand-printed limited edition, but now this fancy alphabet will be more widely available. Robin Tanner’s drawings are quite stunning; full-page black and white designs incorporating the individual capital letters.

A country theme is used throughout – though Z for Zither might seem a little farfetched! The text is rather longwinded and pretentious in style. But if you can cope with mouthfuls such as “. . . unravaged fields and hedges, embowered in creamy umbels of hogweed. . . “ etc, you’ll find plenty of solid rustic information buried beneath the verbiage. A handsome hardback that is easy on the eye if not the ear.

The same team combined to produce Woodland Plants, a book in paper covers also published by Impact. Once again it is the drawings that immediately catch the eye, 82 of them. Apparently begun in 1940 the book was not completed until 1981.
Such dedication deserves rich reward and I’m sure any serious gardener, rambler or naturalist will find this invaluable.


The drawings represent the plants’ actual size and some of them show the fruit and seeds as weIl, thereby making identification much easier.


Really excellent value at £6.95, it’s crammed with information – the origin of the plants’ name, the history of folklore attached to it, its medicinal properties, its likely habitat, plus many amusing incidents and even recipes.

Hours of painstaking research have gone info this labour of love. The authors deserve a wide audience for this book which is not only a pleasure to browse through but very much the sort to tuck into your pocket when out for a walk.

If more people read books like this we might learn to take more care of the world we share with animals and plants – in the words of the Russian cosmonaut quoted in the Epilogue: “It’s a world that is – ‘small and fragile’”.




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