John Lewis-Stempel 2014. Meadowland. Penguin: London, 293 pp.

A year of natural history vignettes from the farm of John Lewis-Stempel. Although he knows his natural history and writes wonderfully well, still he doesn’t allow me to engage fully, both because he is too enamoured with what seems like gratuitous use of his shotgun, and also because he confesses while discussing his bookshelf that “I distrust science”. He seems to have acquired the bizarre notion that distrust of science was required to love poetry. Yet throughout he freely quotes the results of so much research that makes his account of natural history so rich. Where does he think all this came from? Keats?

Despite these pathologies a rewarding read. I didn’t know that burning elder releases cyanide, and that this used to kill people in medieval times. Also glad to learn of Hooper’s rule for dating hedges (various formulations, eg age in years = number of woody plant species in 30 yards x 110).