Since deciding to pursue nature writing as a career, I’ve been collecting and reading delicious works of naturalist and environmental writing to help influence my own! After spotting a review of John Lewis-Stempel’s Meadowland online it seemed just my cup of tea, and a few days later I was kindly sent a copy by Doubleday.
The book explores a life in the year of a farmer’s meadow on the border of England and Wales. Through the author’s careful, quiet prose, we watch badgers, foxes, rabbits, woodland birds and livestock as they survive the British seasons, and witness first hand the ruthless process of natural selection.
Yet, it is not the gritty reality of the life cycle that overpowers this book; it is an incredibly pleasant read and left me with a feeling of peaceful tranquility after every visit. Yes, the rabbits were pursued by hungry foxes and tiny songbirds froze in the deep winter, but the warmer months were brimming with life and rebirth. The final effect was one of contented acceptance of nature’s magnificent state of flux.
Meadowland also provided a fantastic insight into the relationship between farming and the natural world. I’m very interested in farming from a consumer point of view, and I take particular care to source my food ethically and organically when possible. Lewis-Stempel doesn’t appear to be a mass-producing farmer on a large scale, but the intimacy he has with his crops, livestock and the wildlife on his land is something I admire him for, not only as a farmer, but as a man wholly connected with the food he eats. Too many modern consumers are completely disinterested in how groceries end up in their fridge.
This is a lovely book for anyone interested in the secrets of our vulnerable hay meadows, something Iolo Williams spoke passionately about in his speech at the State of Nature conference in Wales last year – absolutely worth watching. I recommend Meadowland to anyone who cherishes our countryside and the wild things within it.