The Good Archive

Professor Ronald Good

Professor Ronald Good

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The Good Archive is based upon the work of Professor Ronald Good, an eminent Dorset botanist and author of A Geographical Handbook of the Dorset Flora (1948). The Flora was the result of an extensive botanical survey carried out between the years 1931 and 1939. Professor Good collected plant lists from over 7,500 stands and recorded over a quarter million plant records. From these he mapped the distribution of some 600 of the 1,300 flowering plants in Dorset. His book was heralded in Nature (No. 4152, May 28, 1949) as an original and valuable contribution to plant geography, and a signpost to new pastures for the field botanist.

In an account given at the time (extracted from the Proceedings of Linnean Society of London, Session 149, 1936-37.Pt 3, 23 September 1937) Good summarised the main aims of the survey. The immediate and primary aim of the survey is the production of a large number of maps, all of the same area, and each showing the distribution within that area, of a single plant species, the maps being designed and compiled in such a way that they can be directly and accurately contrasted. The ultimate aim of the Survey is to make these comparisons and contrasts, and to study the evidence which they afford as to the reasons which cause them. It is anticipated that when this is done considerable light will be thrown on the nature of the factors controlling the range of species, and their presence and absence.

Good adopted a stand method for carrying out his comprehensive survey. This identified plant associations within a particular area and was a reversal of the usual botanical foray to seek out particular plants and later make notes about its geographical location. In collecting such a large list of stands, with an average of 5-6 stands per square mile, Good managed to collate enough stands to afford a comprehensive list of the vegetation of Dorset.

The Good Archive has long been recognized as a valuable account of the county's flora from the earlier part of this century - a time in which the agriculture of the day and general land management before World War II would undoubtedly differ from those methods used today.

Dorset Environmental Records Centre secured a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the computerisation for all of Ronald Good's archive material relating to the botanical survey of Dorset. This involved the computerisation of all site and species information from the original diaries which are now kept by the Centre For Ecology and Hydrology. In addition, a complete set of maps, which identify each stand's shape by means of a cross or line, have been scanned into the computer and rectified according to the current Ordnance Survey projection enabling each stand to be marked on to the present OS map.

As a result of the work carried out by DERC, individual species can be mapped and compared with more recent data showing changes in plant distribution over time. Good's site information, including habitat information, will similarly be an invaluable source for comparison.

Use of the archive

After two and a half years of data input, all of the 285,864 records collected by Professor Good have been entered on to our database system and the 7575 stands have been digitised on to GIS. The result of his work and the subsequent computerisation of the data enables DERC to make the data-set available to individuals and organisations for further work.

Professor Good’s stands can be viewed online using Dorset Explorer by selecting Environmental Records, Good Stands from the Layer Control. For a species list contact DERC with the stand number (eg G 0339 Dorchester).

What is available