Tuesday, 22 June 2010
The Unofficial Countryside
By the early 70s and fresh out of the Oxford Anarchist Group, Richard Mabey had decided to try and make a living as a natural history writer. In '72 Food For Free was published and I don't think that it has ever been out of print since. The following year saw the publication of Mabey's second book The Unofficial Countryside, a wonderful narrative of wildlife in the margins. No picture postcard rural idylls here but the authors recollections of mooching about abandoned gravel working, bomb sites, semi-derelict canals and the hidden world under the motorway flyover. Like a lot of other books, my copy did not survive the transient lifestyle I was living at the time and I never found another copy to replace it. I had more or less given up hope of reading it again when Little Toller Books republished it last month. It's just as good as I remember it and with an introduction by that other wanderer around the margins of life, Iain Sinclair, is well worth the tenner cover price.