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Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,470 ratings  ·  197 reviews
‘To stand alone in a field in England and listen to the morning chorus of the birds is to remember why life is precious.’

In exquisite prose John Lewis-Stempel records the passing seasons in an ancient meadow on his farm. His unique and intimate account of the birth, life, and death of the flora and fauna—from the pair of ravens who have lived there longer than he has to th
Paperback, 293 pages
Published March 26th 2015 by Black Swan (first published March 13th 2014)
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  1,470 ratings  ·  197 reviews

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Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A few months ago, a GR friend reviewed this book and it sounded like just the sort of thing I'd love. Sadly, when trying to locate a copy I found out it isn't readily available in the U.S. (I'm still baffled as to why an e-book isn't available, but I also know nothing about copyright and publishing laws and business arrangements). When I traveled to the U.K. a few weeks ago this book (and a few others) were top on the list of souvenirs to bring home.

This book was a pure joy to read. John Lewis-
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
(4.5)John Clare found his poems in a field. Sometimes I find words. There is nothing like working land for growing and reaping lines of prose.” Lewis-Stempel is a proper third-generation Herefordshire farmer, but also a naturalist with a poet’s eye. His day job might involve shooting rabbits, cutting hay and delivering lambs, but he still finds the time to notice and appreciate wildlife. He knows his field’s flowers, insects and birds as well as he knows his cows; he gets quiet and close enoug ...more
It just looks like a regular field. It has a hedge around it, and it is full of grass with some muddy patches near the feeding troughs and the gate.

And you would think that is it. But it isn’t, trust me on this, it really isn’t. This field is teeming with life.

There are the red kites feasting on wild and domesticated animals, the badgers that patrol the field, the playful fox cubs, the hidden moles, visible only from their mounds, that try and consume the thousands of earthworms that populate th
T.D. Whittle
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a gorgeous homage to the traditional English meadow. I was trying to read this book slowly and follow Lewis-Stempel through his year on the Lower Meadow of his home in Herefordshire. However, I could only stretch it out two months because it's such a pleasure to read. Lewis-Stempel is a man of the land and a poet at heart. He spends so much time walking the night meadow that I half expected him to turn into a werewolf by the end of the year. (I'm a romantic at heart!)

I learnt so much ab
Diane Barnes
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bedtime-books
Beautiful, beautiful nature writing, and lovely illustrations.
ash c
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intimate look into an English farmer's life - a world I'll never be privy to in real life, but now I have experienced a whole season in a meadow in Herfordshire thanks to Lewis-Stempel. He peppers his daily observations about the birds, insects, flowers, and vegetation in his field with poetry, history, little scraps of notes he made while out working, and the current situation with farming in England and climate change. I imagine him sitting down every other day at the end of the day to jot ...more
Cathrine ☯️
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cathrine ☯️ by: Jennifer
A lovely twelve month journal any nature lover would appreciate.
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All back-cover blurbs be damned, this really is one of those rare and precious things, a remarkable book.

Herefordshire farmer and historian John Lewis-Stempel gives us a year in the life of an ancient hedge-ringed meadow on his family farm with all its flora, fauna, and meteorological visitations. If this sounds to you like a dull sort of story, you’re mistaken. All the dramas and wonders of human and animal life play themselves out in this space. Lewis-Stempel writes like an adult, with prose
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
If you want to read a book about a piece of land where the writer is truly in love with that piece of land then this is the book for you. So many people will probably come across a meadow and see only a field, so few are going to see things through the eyes of John Lewis-Stempel. His knowledge of all the types of animals, flowers, bugs and even grasses is incredible. Whenever I read a nature book I try to remember one thing and then go and identify it in the wild, this time around I am focusing ...more
Apr 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
I really love good nature writing like this.
Maybe you'd think nothing really happens in a meadow during a year that could ever fill a book - you'd be so wrong.
Lewis Stempel is a farmer (with all the practicalities that role brings) and a nature lover. The two don't always go hand in hand.
He fully admits that he has a 'spiritual connection' with his land that has nothing to do with religion. On a beautiful summer's evening, as he walks in his meadow, he says that there couldn't be enough eveni
Barbara Copperthwaite
Some writing is so beautiful that I am gripped with an urge to read sections out loud, just so that I can hear the jewel-like words as well as see them, somehow maximizing the pleasure and sharing the joy with others. This is one such book. Vividly described, and wonderfully written, Meadowland gives a unique and intimate account of an English meadow’s life from January to December.
John Lewis-Stempel’s passionate love for his land comes through as he describes the passage of the seasons from co
Michael Dodsworth
A lovely book. I think the idea of a 'micro' approach to nature, concentrating on a single field is a really effective way of revealing through the seasons the different wildlife responses to a changing environment. What we learn is just how adaptable nature is despite the genuine fears that we have for the planet in the face of climate change deniers like Trump and his ilk and the morons in the 'Atlantic Bridge' wing of the UK Conservative Party.

Stempel has written a number of high quality natu
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"The old ways do not seem so mad in an ancient landscape where I can barely see one electric light,and I can hold in my cupped hand the eternal peace of night."
This book is so beautifully written that I know I will be tracking down his other books.
Alex Sarll
"Eternity would not be long enough if it was composed of English summer eves like this."
A year in the life of one unremarkable, magical Herefordshire field, as told by the man who farms it. There's a fashionable hot take which decries modern nature writing as the recreation of jaded urbanites, but his family have been on this land for generations, and here he combines that deep relationship with the more usual miscellany of quotes, folklore, history and observations. From ire at the cruelties o
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I heard that this book was chosen over Helen MacDonald's H is for Hawk for the Thwaites Wainwright prize, I had to read it. This cannot be a rational review, as the neurons in several parts of this nature lover's brain kept triggering the release of pleasure-neurotransmitters sentence after sentence. John Lewis-Stempel uses farmer's tales, poetry, Middle English words, folklore and history to describe birds, mammals, insects, plants and the night sky observed in a year in a Herefordshire me ...more
Phil James
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, nature
Wonderful nature writing that brought me back to all the books I loved as a child: Gerald Durrell, James Herriot, Richard Adams and Joy Adamson.
He writes about the year, from month to month, of the intimate life of one meadow on the border of Wales and England, not far from where I grew up and rambled around in the countryside.
He has the eyes of a child, the inclinations of a farmer and the patience of a old-time naturalist.
This isn't at all fluffy; sometimes nature "is red in tooth and claw"
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite simply, this is some of the most gorgeous prose I have read for a long time.

Just when the British have been castigated for their parochial reading habits, what could be more parochial than an entire book about a single field? But by concentrating on such a small area John Lewis-Stempel gives us so much - not just the flora and fauna, but also the seasons, weather, the farming year and nature in all its muddy visceral fragile breathtaking beauty. From the worms in the soil to the birds soar
Andrew Cox
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely wonderful. I spent a month on a farm in Wales a few years back & I was taken back to that time when I wandered around the fields there. I am immensely jealous of the writer spending his time observing the changing seasons. Very clear that the poet John Clare has a big influence & the writing is so poetic. A very simple idea but so beautifully executed. I love nature, the birds, animals & plants & this book was totally me. Seeing the wonderful in the ordinary. Making jewels out of ever ...more
Bethwyn Badger
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. I am adoring nature writing and excited to explore more of it. This was amazing to dip into and I felt a part of me come alive whilst reading it.
I loved this look at the flora and fauna of an English meadow, so much so that I would put it down for long stretches before picking it up again, just to draw out and savor author John Lewis-Stempel's observations of life as a farmer in a field whose summer hay he cut by hand. The book is set up as a diary, month-to-month, so the reader observes the seasonal changes of the meadow and the animals and birds and insects that inhabit it. There is also a lot of fascinating history, myth, and folklore ...more
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the kind of nature writing I like. It is simply observation from a farmer’s hill farm and it was a joy. I have friends who farm in Devon, whose farm is very similar to the one described in this book. It makes it very easy to visualise the setting.

We read the author’s observations in chronological order as he takes us through the months from January to December. I loved the way he talks about nature. It is full of wonder and awe without being overly flowery. He does not skim the more ugly
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, favorites
This will be on my favourites list for a while. If you like reading about nature and have a soft spot for the English countryside and traditional pastoral literature, this should be on your radar.
At first I thought it might be too verbose, but the author settles into a rhythm that is really prose poetry and I loved every minute.
Leslie Smith
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t have enough superlatives to describe this extraordinary book. It is a work of great beauty which immerses you in the vibrant life of the countryside in a magnificent, rhythmic prose. It has been many years since I have read a book which spoke to me more profoundly.
G. Lawrence
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, in general. Slightly marred by a few scathing and unpleasant comments laced here and there. A shame because otherwise it would have been a book of pure poetry. Well worth a read, however. A love letter to the countryside.
I learnt so much more about the huge range of nature that is part of a single field. The descriptions were so poetic and lovely to read.
Marcel Patrick
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature, wainwright
This was a real joy to read and the last two weeks I have found myself swimming effortlessly through the pages of meadowland's succint & lyrical prose. Ive never been one for reading diary format but John Lewis-Stemples meadowland works to give a reasonably detailed & poetic seasonal account of his herefordshire meadow, haymaking, and all its inhabitants that cross its path from the gentleman in velvet blacksuits (moles) to the old boar badgers that trample the meadow at night...

'the high stars
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature-travel
A gorgeously quiet book that immerses you in the wonderful day to day life of a single meadow. It is amazing how much goes on at all levels of flora and fauna - things that you only notice when you take the time to sit silently and patiently watch. Lewis-Stempel demonstrates his deep love and feeling of connection with his bit of English earth in a very unobtrusive and reverent manner. It did jar me to read his thoughts on hunting/shooting and that did bring me out of my revere, hence it not get ...more
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Walker's Book of the Year 2014

An unexpected slice of brilliance, Lewis-Semple's chronicle of one year in the life of a meadow on his farm in the Welsh Marches is a tour-de-force. Weaving nature, folklore, geography, history and meteorology into a consistent and balanced whole is a considerable achievement in itself. But the sheer poetry of the writing, combined with the author's élan and zest for life, turns what is a great book into an instant classic. Nature red in tooth and claw, framed by a
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was a difficult book for me to review.

From an objective standpoint, this was beautifully written, and really paints a descriptive picture of nature. However unfortunately the book just didn’t hold my attention and I struggled to get through it.

I’d recommend trying this out if you have a particular interest in nature writing, but it probably wouldn’t be as appealing to the “lay” reader.
David Santiuste
A superb book - a perfectly judged blend of learning, memoir and personal observation. John Lewis-Stempel is a terrific writer. He's perhaps at his most eloquent when describing the month of November, with its 'faded afternoons of cemetery eeriness', but this is a fascinating read throughout. ...more
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Nature Literature: Meadowland discussion 4 22 May 03, 2015 03:28PM  

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“you rise at dawn in May you can savour the world before the pandemonium din of the Industrial Revolution and 24/7 shopping.” 2 likes
“To stand alone in a field in England and listen to the morning chorus of the birds is to remember why life is precious.” 2 likes
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