A meadow in captivity

Excerpts from a book I have read recently and loved – Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field by John Lewis-Stempel (Penguin Random House, 2014). Just the thing to while away a pleasant summer’s afternoon or to curl up with beside the fire. The book ambles its way through a calendar year in a meadow on the England-Wales border, however the quotes I’ve chosen are not in chronological order.

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I fell in love when I was fourteen with a flower meadow, perfectly set off by a wooden field gate beside the Wye … John Clare found his poems in a field. Sometimes I find words. There is nothing like working the land for growing and reaping lines of prose.

Stepping into the field is to step on to a vast square stage in which I am the last person on earth. There is not a house or person or car to be seen. It is the sort of field where, as you step in, you breathe out.

To stand alone in a field in England and listen to the morning chorus of the birds is to remember why life is precious.

There are days in desolate November when you still hear the hollering of fighting men, of horses’ hooves pounding on the shingle of the Ecsley. And where are the dead men buried? In this brookside field, probably, where the clay is relatively easy to dig into … The gentle pasture of England is tomb after tomb of animals and men, roofed with green.

A lawn, when you come to think of it, is nothing but a meadow in captivity … Alas, modern lawns have little wildlife value. Most are green deserts, marinated in chemicals comprised of only a couple of grass species and shorn stupid once a week in summer. But in the Middle Ages a lawn was more like a meadow; it was a ‘flowery mead’; and bursting with perfumed wildflowers and herbs and grasses.