A Year in the Life of an English Meadow

Polly Devlin and Andy Garnett (Frances Lincoln, £20)

There have been a number of new books about meadow-making in recent years most notably Making a Wildflower Meadow by Pam Lewis, and Meadows by Christopher Lloyd. A Year in the Life of An English Meadow joins these excellent titles as a significant and engaging addition to the genre, delivering exactly what its title promises. And more.

This is not a prescriptive ‘how to’ guide, but is instead the story of one piece of ancient Somerset pasture that was saved, just in time, from certain destruction. Over the past half century, 98% of Britain’s wildflower meadows have been destroyed in favour of more intensive farming methods, or demands for development land. The few original meadows that remain are, therefore, incalculably precious, and it makes one want to cheer out loud that the small acreage illustrated in this most appealing book has been the subject of emotion, as well as scientific scrutiny.

The meadow’s soil and climate, its hugely varied flora and surprisingly diverse fauna are described and presented with a photographic aidememoire, and a catalogue of pressed flower samples which will serve as useful identification for the novice meadow enthusiast. These last are particularly valuable where grasses are concerned; they’re such tricky plants to name with accuracy, but are clearly shown and described here.

‘With this book, we hope to bring to a wider audience the very rich hours, days and seasons of an English Field,’ explain the authors. This they endearingly achieve, weaving in a few short essays the last of which, ‘A Night in the Meadow’, will make you laugh and yet long to try it yourself.