Book review: Meadow, the intimate bond between people, place and plants

Cover of teh book Meadow: the intimate bond between people, place and plants

Author: Iain Parkinson. Photography: Jim Holden
Kew Publishing (5 May 2022)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1842467476, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1842467473

This book is truly a delight – and I’m not just saying that as I have the privilege of being included in it’s pages, perched atop a bale of sweet meadow hay!

I was just a few months into my PhD research into the role of floodplain meadow hay in sustainable agriculture when Iain contacted me about this project. Of course I jumped at the chance to be involved and, later that summer, spent some happy hours with Iain and photographer Jim in a July meadow, watching the hay being made, chatting about my research and hopping up on hay bales. That wonderfully sweet smelling hay bale was part of a regenerative farming system at FAI Farms and played it’s part in maintaining this richly biodiverse meadow whilst also raising sustainable cattle, spreading valuable wildflower seeds to other parts of the farm, supporting biodiversity and building deep carbon-rich soils. How’s that for multi-tasking!

The book features contributions from a fabulous range of people whose work, creativity and purpose are linked by a passion for our heritage meadows. Covering every facet of these landscape gems through the lenses of art, science, farming and culture, the diversity of voices mirrors the exuberant diversity of the meadows that connect us.

Floodplain meadows, the setting of my own research, receive a focus not only from me, but also my supervisor, David Gowing, who talks about their unique hydrology, and Irina Tatarenko of the Floodplain Meadows Partnership, who delves into their rich soils. Anita Barratt also provides an insight into the special character and history of North Meadow, home to the UK’s largest population of wild snakes-head fritillaries. Along with perspectives too numerous to mention here from every part of the meadow spectrum, this is a must-have addition to the bookshelf of all meadow lovers.

Each contribution is the perfect length to dip into with a cuppa, a beautiful companion on any coffee table. You’ll find many interesting facts and immersive perspectives and stories, accompanied by stunning photography. This book is clearly a labour of love, mindfully curated to pay tribute to the fractal patterns that underpin our meadows, reflecting the ebullient diversity of flora and fauna, the characterful physical and cultural landscapes they are still an integral part of, and the people whose lives have been shaped by a shared love of them. This book truly does what it says on the cover, exploring the intimate bond between people, place and plants. I feel immensely proud and humbled to consider myself a small part of this grand and centuries-old community.

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