Behind the story of the growth and success of conservation since the heady days of post-war reconstruction lies another tale. Its plot is rather different, for it is a story of loss and retreat. While conservation, as a movement and as a series of institutions, was being constructed, the countryside and the natural features that the new conservationists cared about were being dismantled. However fast conservation advanced, figuratively in terms of public opinion or literally in terms of site designation, it seemed that nature retreated in the face of massive economic and social forces. The conservation value of places became increasingly welldocumented and widely recognised; they were inscribed on lists of special places and drawn on maps that should have diverted development elsewhere, and yet when push came to shove it was repeatedly shown that none of this weighed very heavily in the balance of official decision-making.