Oliver Rackham

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Oliver Rackham
Oliver Rackham.JPG
Born(1939-10-17)17 October 1939
Norwich, England
Died12 February 2015(2015-02-12) (aged 75)
Cambridge, England
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Known for woodlands, historical ecology
Awards Order of the British Empire (1998)
Scientific career
Fields Botany
Institutions University of Cambridge

Oliver Rackham, OBE , FBA (17 October 1939 – 12 February 2015) was an academic at the University of Cambridge who studied the ecology, management and development of the British countryside, especially trees, woodlands and wood pasture. His books included Ancient Woodland (1980) and The History of the Countryside (1986).

Contents

Life and academic career

Rackham was born in Bungay and attended King Edward VI School, and then Norwich City College. In 1958 he won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, graduating in Natural Sciences in 1961 and subsequently gaining a PhD. [1] He began his academic career studying physics, [2] but moved between several Cambridge departments. He conducted research in the Department of Botany from 1964 to 1968 and 1972 to 1990, and the Plant Breeding Institute of Cambridge from 1968 to 1972. He transferred to the Department of Geography from 1988 to 2000, latterly as Professor, and was appointed Honorary Professor of Historical ecology in the Department of Plant Sciences in 2006 and Honorary Director of the Cambridge Centre for Landscape and People in 2010. Rackham also worked as a tutor in the Kingcombe Centre in Dorset, teaching about the history of woodlands.

He was associated with Corpus Christi College from his student days. [3] He briefly served as Master of the College from 2007 to 2008, and was made a Life Fellow in 2010. [1]

Contributions

Rackham was a prolific historical ecologist whose prime interest was the function, history, and management of British woodlands. He kept a series of notebooks, which he began during his youth and continued until his death, in which he recorded observations on plants seen in his home surroundings and on his travels, in addition to information about the weather and his college duties. [2] Arising from his research on Hayley Wood in Cambridgeshire, he developed the concept of ancient woodland, rich in plant diversity and managed through traditional practices. His 1980 book Ancient Woodland, its History, Vegetation and Uses in England led to the recognition of such areas by the Forestry Commission and in planning legislation. It also helped to alter forestry industry views about woodland conservation. The Woodland Trust became a larger woodland owner to ensure conservation. [4] He argued for the preservation of traditional management techniques like coppicing, to let light in to increase in the diversity of the herb layer.

In 1986 he published The History of the Countryside, regarded as his greatest achievement and described as "a magisterial 400-page account of the British landscape from prehistory to the present day, with chapters on aspects ranging from woodland and hedgerows to marshes and the sea." The book won several awards for literature. [1] His other books include Woodlands (2006), in the Collins New Naturalist series, and he also wrote on Hatfield Forest.

As well as working in England, he studied and published extensively on the ecology and landscape of Crete, co-writing The Making of the Cretan Landscape with Jenny Moody in 1998, [1] and latterly leading a (failed) protest against the granting of planning permission for the Cavo Sidero golf and hotel project on the island's eastern tip. [5]

Personal life

Rackham was an only child, and was unmarried. [1] He died on 12 February 2015 at the age of 75 after a short illness. [6]

Awards

Selected works

Related Research Articles

Woodland low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade

A woodland or wood is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of primary or secondary succession. Higher density areas of trees with a largely closed canopy that provides extensive and nearly continuous shade are referred to as forests.

Coppicing method of tree management

Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management which exploits the capacity of many species of trees to put out new shoots from their stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, which is called a copse, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level, resulting in a stool. New growth emerges and after a number of years, the coppiced tree is harvested and the cycle begins anew. Pollarding is a similar process carried out at a higher level on the tree.

Heath shrubland habitat

A heath is a shrubland habitat found mainly on free-draining infertile, acidic soils and is characterised by open, low-growing woody vegetation. Moorland is generally related to high-ground heaths with—especially in Great Britain—a cooler and damper climate.

<i>Ulmus minor <span style="font-style:normal;">subsp.</span> minor</i> subspecies of plant

Ulmus minor subsp. minor, the smooth-leaved elm, narrow-leaved elm or East Anglian elm, is a subspecies of the field elm native to southern Europe and Asia Minor including Iran.

Ancient woodland term used in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, an ancient woodland is a woodland that has existed continuously since 1600 or before in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Planting of woodland was uncommon before those dates, so a wood present in 1600 is likely to have developed naturally.

<i>Carpinus betulus</i> species of plant

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Purlieu is a term used of the outlying parts of a place or district. It was a term of the old Forest law, and meant, as defined by John Manwood, Treatise of the Lawes of the Forest,

a certain territory of ground adjoining unto the forest [which] was once forest-land and afterwards disafforested by the perambulations made for the severing of the new forests from the old

Wychwood

The Wychwood, or Wychwood Forest, is an area now covering a small part of rural Oxfordshire. In past centuries the forest covered a much larger area, since cleared in favour of agriculture, villages and towns. However, the forest's area has fluctuated. Parts cleared for agriculture during Britain's centuries under Roman rule later reverted to forest. The existence of the ancient Wychwood is recognised by the authoritative Victoria County History, but the planned Volume XIX has yet to be completed.

Savernake Forest 4500 acre forest in Wiltshire, England

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Shredding is a traditional European method of tree pruning by which all side branches are removed repeatedly leaving the main trunk and top growth. In the Middle Ages the practice was common throughout Europe, but it is now rare, found mainly in central and Eastern Europe.

Hatfield Forest biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Essex, three miles east of Bishops Stortford, England

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Ashdown House, Oxfordshire 17th-century country house in Oxfordshire, UK

Ashdown House is a 17th-century country house in the civil parish of Ashbury in the English county of Oxfordshire. Until 1974 the house was in the county of Berkshire, and the nearby village of Lambourn remains in that county.

English Lowlands beech forests

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The Forest of Middlesex was an ancient woodland covering much of the county of Middlesex, England, that was north of the City of London and now forms the northern part of Greater London. A path was cut through the forest for the creation of Watling Street. At its ancient extent the forest stretched twenty miles north from the city walls at Houndsditch. Following the Norman Conquest it became the royal forest of Middlesex, where citizens of the City of London enjoyed the right of free chase by charters granted by Henry I and Henry II.

Deer park (England)

In medieval and Early Modern England, a deer park was an enclosed area containing deer. It was bounded by a ditch and bank with a wooden park pale on top of the bank, or by a stone or brick wall. The ditch was on the inside increasing the effective height. Some parks had deer "leaps", where there was an external ramp and the inner ditch was constructed on a grander scale, thus allowing deer to enter the park but preventing them from leaving.

Hayley Wood nature reserve in the United Kingdom

Hayley Wood is a 51.7 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest south-east of Great Gransden in Cambridgeshire. It is a Nature Conservation Review site, Grade 1, and it is managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.

Sir Paul Anthony Mellars, FBA is a British academic, archaeologist and pre-historian. He is Professor Emeritus of Prehistory and Human Evolution in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge.

Stuart Laing is a former British diplomat and Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Frithy and Chadacre Woods

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References


Academic offices
Preceded by
Alan Wilson
Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
2007–2008
Succeeded by
Stuart Laing