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Meadowland: the private life of an English field Hardcover – 22 May 2014

134 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (22 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857521454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857521453
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.9 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Lewis-Stempel is an award-winning writer predominantly known for his books on nature and history. He lives in Herefordshire, on the very edge of England before it runs into Wales, and within a stone's throw (with a decent gust of wind) from where his family were farming in the 1300s. His many books include the best-selling Six Weeks, Fatherhood: The Anthology, England: The Autobiography, The Autobiography of the British Soldier (Sunday Express '5 stars') and The Wild Life (Sunday Telegraph 'Timely and Compelling') and Foraging: The Essential Guide to Free Wild Food. His books have been published in languages as diverse as Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese, are available on all continents apart from Antarctica, and have sold more than a million copies. He has two degrees in history, writes books under the pen name Jon E. Lewis, is married with two children, and also farms. The Guardian's video interview with him about The Wild Life can be seen at
Six Weeks, his book about British frontline officers in the First World War, published in November 2010 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson was described by The Literary Review as 'the most moving book I have ever read on the First World War' and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey) said it was 'the best research resource ever.' The book became a number 1 bestseller in WW1 category on Amazon.His 'The War Behind the Wire', about the life, death and glory of British PoWs in WW1 was published in January 2014, and his Sunday Times Top 30 hardback non-fiction bestseller Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field was released in May 2014. The book was featured on Radio 4's Start the Week, and won the 2015 Thwaites Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing; it was also shortlisted for BBC Countryfile Book of the Year 2014. He is currently writing 'Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, and the Great War', which is due for publication in November 2015

Product Description


"My book of the year. Meadowland is a seasonal journey of discovery, a pilgrimage that nurtures the soul and gives meaning to life; all life. Each beautifully crafted sentence provides a stepping-stone to absorb and understand the land, with the writer’s lyrical voice acting as guide and trusty staff as well as illuminating the mind’s eye with wonderful imagery and perceptive literary devices." (Stuart Winter Sunday Express)

"Fascinating ... Books have been written about entire countries that contain a less interesting cast of characters than Lewis-Stempel's account of one field on the edge of Wales. Foxes, red kites and voles become as intricately shaded as characters in an HBO drama, the readers' sympathies swinging between them and their adversaries. Not every English meadow contains such a vast variety of wildlife as Lewis-Stempel's, and he's lucky to live somewhere so unspoilt, but his immense, patient powers of observation – along with a flair for the anthropomorphic – mean he is able to offer a portrait of animal life that's rare in its colour and drama.

Lewis-Stempel's eye for detail and the poetic imagery of sentences such as "Behind me the river shouts with the abandon of a football crowd" or "Someone has stirred the clouds into milk pudding" are reminiscent of the late, brilliant Roger Deakin...

There is barely a creature in Meadowland that I didn't learn at least one interesting new fact about (the occasional tendency of badgers to hold funerals for one another is a particular favourite)." (Tom Cox Observer)

"Engaging, closely-observed and beautiful ... this author’s deep love of the world around him is as inspiring as it is entertaining. This wonderful book ... is most of all, a moving hymn of gratitude from a man so rooted, so full of joy that he likens his land to a cathedral and knows that: ‘To stand alone in a field in England and listen to the morning chorus of the birds is to remember why life is precious'." (Bel Mooney Daily Mail)

"[JLS] has a sharp eye, a fluent pen and that omnivorous, innocently English curiosity about wild creatures... There are lyrical moments aplenty but this is not the cloying 'regardez-moi maman' nature writing. JLS's tone is level, involved, humorous and even self-deprecating... This is a rich, interesting book, generously studded with raisins of curious information." (Angus Clarke The Times)

"My holiday reading: [John Lewis-Stempel] knows not only all about the different kinds of life in such a place and how they all fit together, but can also write so vividly." (Philip Pullman The Guardian)

Book Description

A love song to the land. A magical month by month observation through parted grass of the flora and fauna of a meadow.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Barley London on 9 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The structure is simple - a 12 month diary of a 40acre English meadowland, starting in a bitter January. After the 12 months are pondered and described, there are itemised lists of all the flora and fauna described, storied and mused on. Read it alone to find out about bugles, bush vetch, quaking grass and stichwort. And odd little stories of curlews, gall wasps, red kites and springtails. Nature is leaned into, respected, even loved at moments, but Lewis-Stempel stays cool and well-read throughout, balancing the force and severity of the natural beats with his English detachment. It is a calm yet emotional read, and should make us all stop for a moment, or longer, to ponder how much we are removed from the vital world around us. Lewis-Stempel would never say so, but I sense he believes this is an important book. He has certainly put soul and much heart into this arresting and melancholic work.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kiwi on 18 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Marvellous. Lewis-Stempel writes of his month-by-month observations of nature at work in a few acres of his Hereford farm.

I'm left in awe of the following: firstly, the quite astonishing range of flora and fauna thus seemngly-simple exercise encompasses (the list of same at the book's end runs to five pages), all under our eyes but largely never seen (or more accurately, never noticed). Second, the amazing powers of Lewis-Stempel's observation; his, compared to most of us, is x-ray vision - he can even find interesting things to see in the digging of a post-hole. A man to be envied, totally engaged with an intricate eco-system by the simple expedient of using his eyes.

A simple concept, an absorbing read.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Rachael Barber on 30 May 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The most beautifully written book I have read in a long time. I could not put it down. If you love the countryside and wildlife you will love this book. I was so wrapped up in reading the winter chapters on the train last night that the warmth of the air as I got off the train took me completely by surprise - totally transported to cold, but beautiful Herefordshire fields and hedgerows. And to reassure vegetarians - this is a love affair with nature, not all about shooting things - if it was I wouldn't have got past the first few pages either.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Calbion on 9 Feb. 2015
Format: Hardcover
At a time when nature writing is reaching new heights of contemporary interest and variety of works, it takes a special piece of work to truly stand out from the range of books out there: Meadowland achieves this feat with aplomb.

Meadowland chronicles the story of a meadow on John Lewis-Stempel’s Herefordshire farm, told through the eyes of the farmer and writer himself. A yearlong entry of observations, thoughts and feelings, Lewis-Stempel brings this wonderful natural environment to life not only through the wonderful array of wildlife that frequent the fields, hedgerows and skies, but through an astute keenness of observation that also reaches new heights for nature writing.

There is a wonderful elegance, pace and poetry to Lewis-Stempel’s work, which make this a wonderfully absorbing read, but also one of remarkable intimacy. Where many authors simply record and share their observations, Lewis-Stempel pulls the reader in and empowers them to walk the fields with him, by his side, such is the intimacy and craft of his work.

His chapters on haymaking are a personal highlight, exploring old ways of farming and our connection to the land in an age of automated machinery and ease of work.

For me, Meadowland sits up there alongside Deakin and Macfarlane as an essential bastion of modern nature writing. Assured, intimate, observant, engaging and poetic, this is nature writing of the highest order and deserves a place on every nature-lover’s bookshelf.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Twiggy44 on 9 Sept. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By Karen Blyth

A beautifully written book, with so much detail, it was a pleasure to read. So interesting and informative, I loved every minute of it, and found it a very relaxing bedtime read! It makes one appreciate the countryside and see it in a new, wonderful light!

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with a love of the country and those who are city lovers will no longer be after reading this book!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Tigercat on 1 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This may be stating the obvious but we are surrounded by fields and, probably, never even notice them. They are taken totally for granted. We look at buildings and immediately there are clues to their age. But a field? A field is just a field isn't it? Well, no it isn't and in this bookJoun Lewis-Stempel draws you, almost seductively into his world. A world of beauty and casual violence, but a world that is teeming with life.
His love for the land, and it's citizens, shines out from every page, as does a genuine understanding of nature's annual cycle. The book is written as a diary but whether your interest is in ornithology, botany, biology, agriculture or just a desire to learn more about your surroundings, this book is a page turner. If you enjoy walking, and wish to know more about the land you are walking through, this book is a 'must read'.
Meadowland is true to its title, it isn't about impressive scenery, it is about a meadow. But the author succeeds in making that simple field, simply, impressive. By the end of the book, the reader is left with the feeling that this has been a really worthwhile journey to have taken.A journey through the, apparently, but far from, ordinary. A thoroughly recommended read.
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