A Good Parcel of English Soil : The Metropolitan Line, Paperback

A Good Parcel of English Soil : The Metropolitan Line Paperback

Part of the Penguin Underground Lines series

3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Richard Mabey, one of Britain's leading nature writers, looks in A Good Parcel of English Soil at the relationship between city and country, and how this brings out the power of nature - part of a series of twelve books tied to the twelve lines of the London Underground, as Tfl celebrates 150 years of the Tube with Penguin.

It is also available in a boxset. "Richard Mabey's A Good Parcel of English Soil, his essay on the Metropolitan line, is one of the most compelling segments of Penguin's Underground Lines ...eclectic and broad-minded ...elegantly written". (Observer). "Authors include the masterly John Lanchester, the children of Kids Company, comic John O'Farrell and social geographer Danny Dorling.

Ranging from the polemical to the fantastical, the personal to the societal, they offer something for every taste.

All experience the city as a cultural phenomenon and notice its nature and its people.

Read individually they're delightful small reads, pulled together they offer a particular portrait of a global city". (Evening Standard). "Exquisitely diverse". (The Times). "Eclectic and broad-minded ...beautifully designed". (Tom Cox, Observer). "A fascinating collection with a wide range of styles and themes.

The design qualities are excellent, as you might expect from Penguin with a consistent look and feel while allowing distinctive covers for each book.

This is a very pleasing set of books". (A Common Reader blog). "The contrasts and transitions between books are as stirring as the books themselves...A multidimensional literary jigsaw". (Londonist). "A series of short, sharp, city-based vignettes - some personal, some political and some pictorial ...each inimitable author finds that our city is complicated but ultimately connected, full of wit, and just the right amount of grit". (Fabric Magazine). "A collection of beautiful books". (Grazia). Praise for Richard Mabey: "Radiant, tingle-making prose has earned Mabey literary prizes and a multitude of fans". (Daily Mail). "Richard Mabey is a man for all seasons, most regions and every kind of landscape". (Andrew Motion Financial Times). "Refreshing, droll, politically alert, occasionally self-mocking, he has the enviable ability both to write historical overview and also to slip into the woods like a dryad, bringing us back to the trees themselves, their colours and lights and textures". (Guardian). Richard Mabey has been described as 'Britain's greatest living nature writer' and is a frequent contributor to the BBC.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary essays
  • ISBN: 9781846146169



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

All about Metroland and how the Metropolitan Line destroyed countryside to enable Londoners to live in the country. Many references to John Betjeman's Metroland film and really interesting about the space which borders the town and the country - that in-between space. Pity some of the text was regurgitated in the April 2013 issue of BBC Wildlife.

Review by

This charming and informative little book is another in the Penguin series issued to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the London Underground. This particular volume covers the Metropolitan Line (the purplish/claretish one – I’m a simple country boy and am not very strong on my intermediates shades!) which stretches out from the city centre out into Buckinghamshire and the Chilterns.Like a few others in the series, it does not confine itself to simple regurgitation of basic facts about the line. Indeed, the line itself plays a relatively small part in the book. Instead Mabey concentrates on the impact that the development of the line had on the area that was to become known as Metroland: after all, Mabey has made a notable career out of writing and broadcasting about the symbiotic relationship between society and nature. He offers and informed, though never overwhelming, depiction of the changes that settlement brought, and an intriguing insight into the consequences of encroachment by residential and industrial estates into scrubland.I first encountered the term “Metroland” when reading Julian Barnes’s marvellous novel of that name, and was naïve enough to imagine that he had coined the term. Then I discovered the television programme that Sir John Betjeman made under that title for the BBC back in the early 1970s (coming shortly after his appointment as Poet Laureate). However, the term predates even that, and was used by the railway company itself to conjure up an Elysian image that awaited would-be dwellers in the hinterlands that the line would open up for commuters who chose to move to the outer reaches of Middlesex and beyond.Mabey describes his own boyhood in those suburban areas, and his forays into the unkempt lands just beyond the newly settled areas. Surprisingly, when revisiting them several decades later, there is much that remained unchanged, though one positive development is the resurgence in the area of the red kite, reintroduced into the area by the RSPB and now soundly re-established as a regular part of the local fauna.I have never really used the metropolitan line much apart from the occasional jaunt to a concert at Wembley, but I now feel tempted to strike out to Amersham or Rickmansworth (“Ricky” as Metrolanders apparently call it) over the weekend.

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