Fencing Paradise: Reflections on the Myths of Eden by Richard Mabey - review by Michael Fishwick

Michael Fishwick

Whither The Wilderness?

Fencing Paradise: Reflections on the Myths of Eden

By

Eden Project Books 229pp £15.99 order from our bookshop
 

This is a curious book. Its subtitle suggests that we are in for a bit of rumination, and we get plenty, but as I read I found myself increasingly perplexed, wondering if Richard Mabey had quite decided what the book was supposed to be.

The facts are simple enough: visionary Dutchman Tim Smit, who reclaimed the skeletal remains of the gardens at Heligan in Cornwall from decades of neglect and brought a horticultural past to life, created transparent biomes, seemingly made out of giant sheets of bubble wrap, in a disused quarry not far away to house collections of plants and trees from around the globe, and made it into one of the must-see attractions of south-west England; 1.4 million people visit it each year.

Richard Mabey is a distinguished and much-loved nature writer. But Fencing Paradise is frustrating for its peripatetic approach to its subject, as if the book were a sort of potted ‘Further Reading’ for those who have viewed the site and want to cogitate a little more deeply on its meaning.

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