By JC Jeremy Hobson | Whittles Publishing | Paperback | August 2016 | 160 Pages | 70 Colour Photos | ISBN: 9781849951647

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The Publisher’s View: Rivers, canals and Britain’s glorious waterways are championed and admired at every opportunity. They are the subject of countless photos, television programmes and books and are places to visit and enjoy whenever considering a walk in the countryside. Sadly, not so the humble ditch; yet they are the all-important capillaries supplying the veins of our far more visual watercourses. Sometimes straight, sometimes meandering, they are essential in ensuring that water passes from its source and eventually to the sea with the minimum of disruption and damage to the surrounding land.

As well as having a practical farming purpose and being important in preventing flooding, ditches are an essential habitat for many species of flora and fauna. Along their banks grow many native grasses and flowers and, in the water itself, there are likely to be an inordinate number of oxygenating plants plus threatened invertebrates.

In no way a dry riverbed of hard facts, A Year in a Ditch is informative and a source of knowledge to anyone interested in exploring the delights of this vital habitat. Whilst discussing the role of the ditch past, present and future particularly with regard to the flooding of recent winters A Year in a Ditch is full of relevant quirky notes and obscure snippets, the fanciful and factual; old wives’ tales; quotations and snippets of poetry. Ditches are an integral part of some very bizarre sports and pastimes indeed and there are even suggestions as to how one can actually dine out in a ditch!

The Author: Jeremy Hobson is a writer and author and a member of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists. He is well-known for his numerous magazine articles and has over 30 books published.

Fatbirder View: The publisher also says… A Year in a Ditch will be a wonderful read for anyone wishing to know more about the 500,000 kilometres of these often-neglected waterways that have threaded their way through the British countryside for millennia… and I heartily agree. Do you remember, a decade or two ago someone writing a history of the WC (water closet)? For the lay reader A Year in a Ditch will have a similar appeal… loaded with history facts and cultural references it’s just downright interesting. For example, the first thing it taught me was that I’ve spent my life thinking things were as dull as dish-water… and it turns out that they are in fact as dull as ditch-water! This book is, of course, anything but. The half-hidden palimpsest of course is how the history of the ditch perfectly reflects our changing land use. Thousands of miles of ditches were dug to bring wetlands into ‘productive use’. More recently thousands of miles were buried into underground pipes to scrape more profit from the regained acreage. Now neglect has added to our disastrous flooding. For many of us ditch restoration is almost synonymous with conservation. We need ditches as habitat and as a way of directing water where we need it to turn agribusiness units back into rich wildlife habitat.There are heaps of facts and charm in equal measure in this fascinating slim volume.

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