Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Flora of Derbyshire

Everyone has a book inside them”, someone once said. Well, if that’s so, mine has seen an 18 year gestation - with birth now very imminent!

For the last 12 months, quite literally, every spare waking hour when not at work has been spent at home, feverishly putting the finishing touches to my book, The Flora of Derbyshire. I did manage a two week summer holiday away from the computer, but that was all. After nearly 20 years of recording and data manipulation, it took a solid year to get to the point of posting off a CD to our publishers (Nature Bureau) last October, and now being on the verge of publication.

The pre-publication offer period ends on May 13th 2015, and our launch event and book signing will be held at the University of Derby the following day. Last week I received the first batch of books from the printers, and how weird it was to see multiple copies of a book I and my co-author at oe time wondered whether we would ever get to print. Over the years I have written a large number of papers, journal articles, booklets, trail leaflets, newsletters, press releases and even some award-winning calendars, but this was my first ever book. And what a book - all 464 pages of it! It was an amazing experience to see the results of half a lifetime's efforts there in front of me; copy after copy, smelling of crisp, clean print and looking amazing. Peter Creed, the botanical expert and designer from Nature Bureau had done an amazing job.

We lost the race with the Derbyshire Ornithological Society who for years were also working simultaneously on their own amazing “Birds of Derbyshire”, published in 2014. But births, death, redundancy and some intensive local environmental campaigning added to delays on my part, in what now seems to have become almost a lifetime’s work, along with that of my co-author and BSBI county plant recorder, Dr Alan Willmot.

Ours will be the first new Flora to be produced for Derbyshire since 1969, and will describe and map the occurrence and distribution of all the 1,919 wild flowers, trees, conifers, ferns and horsetails ever known to have grown in the county. It is illustrated throughout in full colour, and spans the last 400 years of Derbyshire plant recording, with over 850,000 individual records analysed and mapped.

Leadwort (Noccaea caerulescens) Rose End May 2005 Photo N Moyes

An Introductory chapter describes the 'Landscapes and Vegetation of Derbyshire', with further sections on the 'History of Local Plant Recording', the 'Conservation of Derbyshire’s Flora', and 'Where to See Plants in Derbyshire'. We aim to give the reader a useful and practical background to botanising here, so we have listed 70 sites scattered right across the county that are worth visiting and are all publicly accessible. We also provide a slightly corrected copy of our Derbyshire Red Data List of the most threatened plants in the county which should be a valuable resource for naturalists and conservationists. Just two weeks before being sent for type-setting, we learnt of the newly published England Red Data List of plants, and spent a frantic fortnight incorporating these important new IUCN threat codes befoer finally sending off the text..

As with the Birds of Derbyshire, we have taken a landscape approach to describing our county, and were aided in this by the detailed work of the County Council’s ‘Landscape Character of Derbyshire’, which was also revised and published online last year.

You can find out all about the publication of our new book on our Flora of Derbyshire website, and keep up to date with development on both our Twitter page and on Facebook.

For anyone contemplating producing a similar book for their own county, I would offer this advice:
a) Do not have children! 
b) Do not “Get a life!” 
c) Press 'Save' every 10 mins! 

This article is based on a piece written by the author in the Autumn 2014 edition of Derbyshire Biodiversity News

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