Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The times, they are a-changing - or are they? (Signs of the times)

I am embarking here on a year-long series of blog posts in the core territory of what this blog is really meant to be about - Scotland's nature. When I was a very small boy, I began to accumulate a collection of Ladybird books, mostly on wildlife topics. I now know from browsing collectors' websites that I was collecting books in the Ladybird series 536, on Nature, illustrated by wildlife artist Charles Tunnicliffe and written by biologist E.L. Grant Watson, but as a small child, all I knew was that Ladybird books were a treasure trove of knowledge about wildlife and I was encouraged by my parents to read them. My favourite books from the beginning were definitely the set of four shown above, the "What To Look For In ..." series covering the four seasons. Together, these paint a fascinating documentary in words and pictures of the great annual cycle of life in Britain's countryside through a year. My Dad worked as Scotland's first Countryside Ranger, a new profession in Scotland in 1970, and I grew up from the earliest age very conscious of the flow of the seasons and the predictable patterns of seasonal change as bird species came and went, flowers appeared, fruit grew, etc. And then, opening these wonderful books, there were all these patterns, and more, in word and picture. As well as wildlife, they also portray the seasonal changes in farming and land management practices, perhaps more than a little romanticised!

But these books, which had a huge influence on my young self, were first written and published between 1959 and 1961, some 50 years ago and I was reading them maybe 10 years later. It occurred to me that there is a great opportunity to use these books, and their marvellous illustrations as the basis for a comparison between then and now, looking at the changes that have taken place in these characteristic illustrations of the British countryside over the last 50 years, a period that more than encompasses my whole lifespan.

Hopefully, therefore, over the next 12 months, I will manage to track the progression through the seasons using these books and, through their pictures and words, try to undertake a comparison with the current state of rural Scotland and its wildlife (and the farming practices it portrays too! At first glance, farming may be the area of greatest change compared to the books!). So, please stick with me for the duration, the posts following this, several per season, will hopefully be more interesting than this one!


  1. What a good idea! I shall enjoy following this. I didn't have this collection, but I did have some pocket guides (Collins?) and also the I-spy series for just about everything.

  2. Remembered - Observer books.

  3. Well, I shall try to keep it interesting! Oh, I really loved my Observers books too (surprise, surprise...) - something blog-wise may emerge along those lines at some point... Never really had any I-Spy books, which is strange as we always played I-Spy in the car as kids!

  4. What would the Ladybird and Observers books be writing about for kids if they were publishing them these days.

    Suggestions on a blog to........

    Nice post and a great memory jogger - loved them too.


  5. Ladybird books were great because they distilled often complex issues into something children could absorb. The illustrations were great too.

  6. Great post Scot, just catching up...


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