Wild Hares and Hummingbirds: The Natural History of an English Village by Stephen Moss - review by Ronald Blythe

Ronald Blythe

A Year in the Life

Wild Hares and Hummingbirds: The Natural History of an English Village


Vintage 305pp £8.99

John Clare and Gilbert White set patterns which will always be copied, and rightly so. The Shepherd’s Calendar and The Natural History of Selborne describe the rural year of great numbers of people in these islands, a kind of cycle that only faded from sight within living memory.

The village of Stephen Moss’s title is Mark in Somerset, ‘a misty marshy place’ with small fields, set in what was once mythically identified as Avalon. And although Moss doesn’t mention it, the village is within walking distance of the countryside of Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads. It is a landscape steeped in stories and poetry. You can see Cheddar Gorge and Glastonbury from the church tower. Moss, a Londoner and nature journalist of distinction, settled there with his wife and five children quite recently, and this book sees him getting to know his new home. He walks and bikes around the course of a year, watching and listening. Today’s routines of shopping, school and parish activity are fitted into Clare’s and White’s experience of the seasons. 

As a celebrated member of the BBC’s Natural History Unit, Stephen Moss felt the need to look at the ordinariness of the contemporary annual rural round. But creature and plant life anywhere and at any time is never ordinary:

The shower acts like a photographer’s reflector, making the birds glow with

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