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Members may be interested in a new book by Hadrian Cook on the landscape of Wessex Wessex: A Landscape History

Wessex is famous for its coasts, heaths, woodlands, chalk downland, limestone hills and gorges, settlements and farmed vales. This book provides an account of the physical form, development and operation of its landscape as it was shaped by our ancestors. Constituting no modern political entity, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom and archaeological province of ‘Wessex’ may be defined by its natural resources and connectivity by both land and sea, for its borders include the English Channel and Severn Estuary.

Following the tundra environments that dominated south of the ice sheets during the past two million years, the Wessex area experienced dramatic changes in climate, something reflected in its soils and vegetation cover. Humans hunted in the ‘wildwood’ established after the Ice Age, then cleared the land for agriculture and settlement in a 6,000 year old process. In more recent times, areas of cultural importance and nature conservation have been established as well as a thriving economy based largely on natural resources, trade and manufactures.

The region comprises the counties of Hampshire (including the Isle of Wight), Dorset, Wiltshire, historic Somerset, and Berkshire. Whether through Thomas Hardy, a water company service area, or a royal title, Wessex has lingered in the imagination and secured its place in the construction of English history. The reader is taken through not only the physical landscape, but also the human institutions that have affected its evolution, including manors, great estates, monasteries and hunting forests; major themes include the development of agriculture, settlements, industry and transport.

Hadrian Cook started out as a geologist and soil scientist, and now teaches and writes on landscape-based subjects including environmental policy and history. Hadrian currently works in adult and community education and is on the committee of the Society for Landscape Studies. As Trustee for the Harnham Water Meadows Trust, Salisbury, he works as the ‘drowner’ of these famous water meadows.