Friday, 23 January 2009

Review - Andy GARNETT and Polly DEVLIN - A Year in the Life of an English Meadow

Publ: 2007 Frances Lincoln
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978-0-7112-2722-4
Genre: Non-fiction Natural History
Pages: 128p Large format.
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** *****

What led you to pick up this book?
I saw it on display as a ‘new’ book in Pensby Library and immediately jumped on it as a result of the title and cover. This is the book I wish I had been able to write and illustrate. I would have done it differently but that doesn’t distract from the excellence of this book.

This is the book I wish I had been able to write and illustrate. I would have done it differently but that doesn’t distract from the excellence of this book.

Andy Garnett and his wife, writer Polly Devlin, bought Cannwood Meadow in Somerset in 1983. They realized that the meadow had benefited from benign husbandry over many years and contained an amazing variety of wild flowers, grasses and rushes that provided food for moths, butterflies and other insects. They asked English Nature if they would be interested in making a survey of the field. As a result of this survey Cannwood Meadow was nominated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by the Nature Conservancy Council. This book presents an illustrated record of Cannwood Meadow through the seasons, an account of its ecology and a review of its plants, animal life and husbandry, compiled by the Garnetts with the assistance of Dr Chris Smith. It includes reproductions of pressings of 108 plants which thanks to the large format can be examined in minute detail.

What did you think about the style?
Professionally written and photographed (primarily by Dr Chris Smith)

What did you like most about the book?
I loved the whole concept and the way it was executed. Any comments are merely an indication of how I would have done it differently rather than a criticism of the book itself.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
I would have liked a more personal approach to how the plant and animal life changed during the year; a bit more of the old-fashioned, Victorian approach to natural history writing. I would also have included some sketches and paintings.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
A beautiful picture of a meadow. The large format really lends itself to these photos.

Would I recommend it?
I would not only recommend it but, if I could afford to, I would buy it for all my natural history oriented family and friends.


  1. Thank you, an interesting review. I think I would like this type of book; I've recently read W G Hoskis''The Making of the English Landscape', which contains a wealth of research about the loss of forests over a long period of Human occupation. A former school friend retired as Professor of Geography at the University of Western Australia, specialising in land degradation -- of which the former colonies have done much to accelerate in some cases. It's very diverse subject, but it's always sad to see good land given up the "Golf Estate' type of developer. This is not very well put, and as a former civil engineer I've done my share of wrecking landscapes! However most of it has been to the benefit of mankind in the long run, and the engineering profession has, over the years, become much more conscious of the problems.

  2. Thanks Ian,
    If I ever get around to listing my top non-fiction books Hoskis's Making of the English Landscape will be on it. It's an excellent book. Glad you enjoyed it.


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