The following review was also posted on Goodreads, Amazon US & UK
Publisher BLACK SWAN
I doubt if I have enough words in my vocabulary to give this book the full praise it deserves but here goes:
I found this beautifully descriptive book such a joy to read. I’ve learned so much about nature and wildlife from it.
The author John Lewis-Stempel is such a master of poetic prose, that at times I was brought to tears by the sheer beauty of his descriptions and observations of the flora and fauna during a year in the life of a meadow on his farm on the Herefordshire border.
The book is interspersed with poetry, folk lore and historical snippets of country living and farm life, I suspect that quite a bit of research has gone into producing such a masterpiece but the author is obviously a very well-read chap and much is drawn from his own love of the land, memories and considerable knowledge and experience.
We have birds – their mating, feeding and migratory habits and patterns; wildflowers beloved and necessary to all different types of butterflies and bees. Foxes, with whom the writer appears to have mixed relationship and a grudging admiration for, but if they mess with his chickens ‘I am an Old Testament poultry-keeper. I say a life for a life, and have a gun that speaks death’
Voles and other types of small mammals including hedgehogs and anything living that inhabits the meadow throughout the year. Mouldywarps, which are moles by another name. All have a role, a part to play as an occasionally anthromorphic character in this life and death meadow saga.
I could quote huge sections of this book to illustrate the beauty of it but will just include one
21 MARCH Heavy rain. The horses in House Field stand back to the rain, the sheep and their lambs are either under the hedges or tight against the bales. The red-tailed bumblebee must be glad of the house that it has taken from the mouse. In Lower Meadow I see a small flock of forlorn redwings, the thrush with the fetching cream eye-stripe and orange flanks, in the hazel. At my approach, up into the air they go, slipping left, slipping right, drunkenly unsteady. They loiter for a day. On the 23rd I hear redwings ‘zeeping’ in the starred night when I’m checking the sheep. Next day there are no redwings on the farm. They have gone north, to home in Scandinavia.