From Snake Stones to Stag Beetles -- a Quirky New Look at the English Countryside

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Ruth Binney’s new book is an entertaining celebration of the flora and fauna, landscape and customs that give the English countryside its unique charm and special identity.

Ruth Binney's latest book celebrates the flora and fauna, landscape and customs of the English countryside

Amazing and Extraordinary Facts: The English Countryside

In making my choices for this book I have taken my cues from the features of the landscape, and the plants and animals within it, that have mysteries to unravel, stories to tell or which live or behave in an unusual way.

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The English countryside is a truly remarkable place. Its secrets include hoards of treasure buried beneath farmers’ fields, carnivorous plants, beetles that fight each other for a mate, strange big cats that prowl the fields and moors, and mysterious ley lines connecting ancient sites. And among its wonders are the spectacles of thousands of starlings wheeling at dusk, the glow-worm’s green sex signals, wild plants with healing powers and immense figures chalked on hillsides.

  • What is a ‘Snake Stone’ and does it have special healing powers?
  • How would you date an English hedge?
  • Who is the Witch of Wookey Hole?
  • How did the yew tree become sacred?
  • Can the hedgehog forecast cold weather?

Bestselling author Ruth Binney has called on her vast knowledge of English nature and the countryside to create a charming and quirky little book that is full of surprises.
“In making my choices for this book I have taken my cues from the features of the landscape, and the plants and animals within it, that have mysteries to unravel, stories to tell or which live or behave in an unusual way” – from Ruth Binney’s introduction

The author:
Ruth Binney has been studying the countryside and nature for most of her life. She holds a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University. Her work has appeared in many magazines and publications and she is an experienced and respected broadcaster on rural matters. She is the author of the Wise Words and Country Ways books published by David & Charles. She lives in West Stafford, a village near Dorchester in Dorset.
Amazing and Extraordinary Facts: The English Countryside
by Ruth Binney
144 pages    line illustrations throughout
ISBN: 978-0-7153-3901-5     £9.99 hardback
Published 14 April 2011

For media enquiries, requests for interviews with the author or a reader offer, please contact:
Susie Hallam Marketing & PR
07761 836782 susiehallam1(at)gmail(dot)com
More Amazing and Extraordinary Facts books coming soon:
Amazing and Extraordinary Facts about Great Britain, British Prime Ministers and Kings & Queens

Sample extracts from Amazing and Extraordinary Facts about the English Countryside:

All Human Life is Here
The legends of England’s standing stones
“.... Smaller but equally impressive circles can be found at Castlerigg in the Lake District and at Merry Maidens in Cornwall where legend has it that the 19 stones are girls punished by being turned into stone for dancing on the Sabbath. North of Penrith in the Eden Valley is Long Meg, a slab of sandstone some 3.5m (12ft) tall, supposedly a witch transmogrified for similar misdeeds”.

Hidden Treasure
The countryside’s buried riches
“Run a metal detector over an English field and something truly extraordinary may come to light! That is what happened on 5 July 2009 when Terry Herbert was metal detecting in a field in southern Staffordshire. What he found was the first of a collection consisting of more than 1,500 complete items and fragments. Immediately dubbed the Staffordshire Hoard, the find includes magnificent sword fittings, part of a helmet and other military items. Most of the complete objects are made of gold....”

Teeming Dung
The ecology of the cowpat
“Within hours of being deposited, the cowpat begins to form a crust through which dor and dung beetles will burrow to lay their eggs. Working in pairs, and at night, the beetles seek out a suitable cowpat into which the female digs a deep hole... the male assisting her by helping to remove the excess soil and dung. As they work the beetles keep themselves fastidiously clean by grooming themselves, constantly brushing pieces of dirt from the bristles on their legs and heads...”

Thief in the Night
Saving the nightjar’s reputation
“The nightjar was once believed to enter goat stalls at night, suck milk from the udders of nanny goats and make them blind... This nocturnal bird also has the reputation of passing deadly infections to calves during the weaning period, although in fact this bird’s bad press may stem from nothing more sinister than the fact that it feeds on the insects that are abundant where cattle and other domestic animals are kept.”

Not from a Bird
“Cuckoo spit – the white ‘froth’ that appears on grass and other stems in early summer – is not produced by the bird... In fact it is made by the larva of the froghopper (a small insect, technically a bug) which, after it hatches, sucks the sap of the plant which is then mostly extruded from its rear end, along with air bubbles and a sticky liquid, so providing it with a protective covering while it develops....”
Amazing and Extraordinary Facts: The English Countryside by
Ruth Binney is published by David & Charles on 14 April 2011, £9.99, hb.

For media enquiries, requests for interviews with the author or a reader offer, please contact:
Susie Hallam Marketing & PR
07761 836782
susiehallam1(at)gmail(dot)com

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