on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Uncommon Ground by Dominick Tyler

Book Review

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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This is a bit of a departure for my usual book purchasing, it's more in line with a dictionary or encyclopedia than a photography book but I think it's definitely of interest to those with a passion for the landscape.


The basic premise of the book is a journey through some of the less well known words for the landscape features of the British Isles. Dominick grew tired of describing his journey's as "The was a hill, then a dip, then some lumpy bits and then it got stony" and so he went on a journey of discovery - finding the words that describe the details of our land and accompanying them with appropriate photos.

The result is an easy and entertaining read that you can dip in and out of at leisure (or peruse from to back if you need to review it). Dominick name checks Barry Lopez's "Home Ground" (another wonderful 'word' book about the US landscape) and has previously written the book "Wild Swim" and this books sits in between these two in tone and content.

Some of the words you'll probably know but the definitions are not the dry dictionary sort but more of a description of Dominick's journey in finding them. You'll find "Tor" which we all know but did you realise the word used to mean "Irksome" and "tedious" and later  "hard to conquer"? As a photographer I can definitely relate to that.

It's the evocative rare words that I enjoyed most though:



A circular hole that gets drilled into a rock in a river - often erected vertically in pagan rituals.



The column of moonlight reflected in the sea or lake. "Glad" meaning shiny. You can also use the word "Moonwake" and for the sun, "Sunglade" or "Sunwake".



The sharp fragments of slate that pile under slate cliffs. Shivver meaning splintering (hence "Shivver me timbers!")



The layer of warm water that forms on top of a still lake in summer



A waterlogged, boggy woodland

and how many words for Fenland mud! "Stabble"- mud churned by footfall; "Clart" - Mud that sticks to your boots; "Blash" - transition point from mud to water; "Cutcha" - dried flaky mud as opposed to "Pukka" - solid, building mud; and finally "Loblolly" - a mudhole or thick stew.

A wonderful coffee table (or restroom) read.. recommended..

Uncommon Ground is published by Guardian Faber and you can buy the book here


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