taking our culture forward

Books to get you out and about

Tue, 16 Aug 2022

This was one article in a series by Breesha Maddrell, Director of Culture Vannin, looking at the journey of Manx culture and its importance to our sense of identity and belonging. It was first published in the Manx Independent:

August is a great month to get out and about and enjoy the Manx countryside – from the beautiful glens and hills to the myriad of beaches. When I’m thinking about what to pack in my rucksack or beach bag for a more determined outing, a real adventure, I turn to two great books and one handy leaflet which help me understand the natural world and our rich archaeological landscapes.

Featuring stunning watercolours by the author, Dr Stella Thrower, Manx Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies is a beautiful book to have on your shelf but small enough to take out and about. A guide to the habitats and life cycles of some of the most colourful and interesting insects to be found in the Isle of Man, it’s ideal for everyone, as the illustrations and drawings show you exactly what to look out for. I particularly like the butterflies, as we have lots of butterfly-friendly flowers in our garden and on the walks around us. There are some amazing buddleias in central Douglas which have been mobbed by red admirals in recent years.

Rucksack-ready is the cleverly designed A Guide to the Archaeological Sites of the Isle of Man by Andrew Johnson and Allison Fox. The Isle of Man has one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the British and Irish Isles, with sites both big and small accessible on public land. The book tells you precisely how to reach each one, how accessible it will be, and what to look out for when you are there. Written by experts in their field (no pun intended!), MNH archaeological curators Andrew and Allison tell you about the findings of excavations, and point you to further reading if you want to delve deeper. No matter where you live, there will be a site that has always intrigued you but which you’ve never fully understood – this guide will help you connect with the amazing 10,000 years that the Isle of Man has been inhabited.

For those of us who would rather dip our toes in the sea, then the Isle of Man Rocky Shore Name Trail is a great way to see what can be found, and to learn the Manx names for everything. Published by the Field Studies Council, it’s a handy fold-out leaflet which tells you what sorts of seaweeds, sponges, lichens and tube worms you might hope to spot. The intuitive flowchart guides you to identify what you’re looking at. Perfect for rockpool gazers!

Now you may be wondering what all this has to do with Culture Vannin – well the archaeology may be a more obvious fit, but ecology and natural history are also listed in our founding legislation under a broad definition of culture and cultural heritage. One of the key ways identified at that time was to publish books and leaflets. Over the decades, we have produced a whole host of books in conjunction with amazing historians, artists, musicians, linguists and writers to ensure that the story of Manx culture is accessible to all.

More information about the Culture Vannin 40 anniversary celebrations can be found here: Culture Vannin 40