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  • Published: 29 August 2013
  • ISBN: 9781409028086
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 288

Four Fields

One of the very best of the new nature writers meditates on the relationship between man and grass by looking at four real fields in four different continents

Shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize

In his first book since the acclaimed The Running Sky Tim Dee tells the story of four green fields. Four fields spread around the world: their grasses, their hedges, their birds, their skies, and their natural and human histories. Four real fields – walkable, mappable, man-made, mowable and knowable, but also secretive, mysterious, wild, contested and changing. Four fields – the oldest and simplest and truest measure of what a man needs in life – looked at, thought about, worked in, lived with, written.

Dee’s four fields, which he has known for more than twenty years, are the fen field at the bottom of his Cambridgeshire garden, a field in southern Zambia, a prairie field in Little Bighorn, Montana, USA, and a grass meadow in the exclusion zone at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Meditating on these four fields, Dee makes us look anew at where we live and how. He argues that we must attend to what we have made of the wild, to look at and think about the way we have messed things up but also to notice how we have kept going alongside nature, to listen to the conversation we have had with grass and fields.

Four Fields is a profound, lyrical book by one of Britain’s very best writers about nature.

Shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize

  • Published: 29 August 2013
  • ISBN: 9781409028086
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 288

About the author

Tim Dee

Tim Dee has been a birdwatcher all his life. His first book, TheRunningSky (2009), described his first five birdwatching decades. In the same year he collaborated with the poet Simon Armitage on the anthology The Poetry of Birds. Since then he has written and edited several critically acclaimed books: FourFields (2013), a study of modern pastoral, which was shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize; GroundWork (as editor, 2017), a collection of new commissioned writing on place by contemporary writers; and most recently, Landfill (2018), a modern nature–junk monograph on gulls and rubbish. He left the BBC in 2018 having worked as a radio producer for nearly thirty years. He lives in three places: in a flat in inner-city Bristol, in a cottage on the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens, and in the last-but-one house from the south western tip of Africa, at the Cape of Good Hope.

Also by Tim Dee

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Praise for Four Fields

Heavy with poetic resonance… [Dee] pushes the boundaries of nature writing, creating a form that is lyrical but deeply alert to ecological crisis.

Miriam Darlington, BBC Wildlife

First-rate evocation of the natural world merges with an elegiac note in these rich stories of the soil.


[Dee’s] descriptions are constantly inventive; wry and fearless… A project as expansive, and as mesmerizing, as a fenland sky.

Mary Crockett, Scotsman

Dee’s writing is often quietly poetic, with the spirit of Gerard Manley Hopkins hovering overhead.

Jon Day, Daily Telegraph

Four Fields is an enthralling and unexpected book – or four short books – about what we have made of the natural world. The language itself is rich and loamy. There is evidence of much thought here, as well as a naturalist's profound observation. It is proof that really, there is no such thing as "nature writing" – Dee gives us the wide world and everything in it, including ourselves and all our works.

Kathleen Jamie, Guardian

Mesmerising… Four Fields is about far more than pieces of earth; it is a summary of humanity’s aspirations


While the battle of Little Bighorn may be a familiar story, his account of the slow death of a Namibian farmstead near the desert is not, and is the finest section in the book. Dee's vision is at its most scalpel-like as he examines road-kill swallows or the bloated bodies of wildebeest piled up in rivers where they have failed to make the crossing.

Hugh Thomson, Independent

All this springs from Dee’s intense desire to convey his feelings about grass, the level lands where it grows, and the life, both natural and human, that accompanies it – and he succeeds mightily in doing that.

Derwent May, The Times

Wonderfully written prose... Sure to be well worth the wait.

The Great Outdoors

You want to take your time to luxuriate in the beautiful prose and get lost within the literary references, ambling through it all in your own time, much like Dee does in his four fields. A great read.

Phoebe Smith, Wanderlust

The inventive, constantly surprising spontaneity of Dee’s style, and his dazzling range of lore and learning is so pleasurable… In this beautiful book, Dee makes the grass sing both for natural joy and global warning.

Iain Finlayson, Saga

A hymn to what [Dee] calls ‘the bend and give of life’, to the vistas opened up by a loving, intelligent, curious sensibility and to a belief in the virtues of looking. It is, in that way, an education in how to be.

Adam Nicolson, Country Life

A loving investigation into the pastoral… The language is almost overwhelmingly rich and ripe, full of tumbling wordplay… This is virtuosic beyond the merely visual, its aesthetic power drawn from Dee’s sense of deep time, his ability to interweave the natural, historical and cultural into one dense and lovely tapestry.

Olivia Laing, New Statesman

Tim Dee is a superb writer. This is lyrical, enchanting, thoughtful reading.


It’s a brilliant idea and the book is as passionate, lyrical and intelligent as Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways.

Giles Foden, Conde Nast Traveller

With a lyricism richly and strangely his own, Dee maps a topography that has as much to do with the mind as with Earth.


Strikingly original… Insightful, poetic and evocative.

Duncan Craig, Lonely Planet Traveller

The book offers experiences and, for anyone whose responsiveness to the world has slackened, a reminder of how full experience can be.

Amy Leach, Observer

Tim Dee has a deep feeling for the natural world and an ability to celebrate it in ways that seem fresh and new.

Tim Richardson, Literary Review

[Dee] writes so well, and so personably, that he casts a disarming spell over his readers.

Mary Blanche Ridge, Tablet

[Dee] is at once a naturalist, environmentalist, journalist, historian and diarist. Dee’s rich writing delights as he imparts his considerable research and observations about life and the state of the world

Good Book Guide

[It] belongs in the tradition of 'nature writing', but works with it too putting its beautifully written sentences in the service of description and evocation, but using them to frame a serious conversation about environmental preservation and its opposites; it’s a deeply attractive book and also an important one.

Andrew Motion, Guardian

Felt very deeply and pondered very wisely, it takes four areas of the planet and tells their story in ways that bring the plight (and delight) of the earth as a whole within reach.

Andrew Motion, Times Literary Supplement

A lyrical, poetic reflection on our relationship with the natural world.

Tim Maguire, Edinburgh Evening News

This profound work by Tim Dee is as creative and original as anything on the Man Booker shortlist and arguably more “useful”... The book’s reach is extraordinary.

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

[A] marvellous new memoir.

Richard Mabey, New Statesman

An enthralling and unexpected book of what we have made of the natural world

Kathleen Jamie, Guardian

This is nature writing at its finest

Juanita Coulson, Lady

With the eye of a birdwatcher and the soul of a poet, Dee meditates on our green spaces and what we have made of them

Michael Kerr, Telegraph

Dee’s rich writing delights as he imparts his considerable research and observations about life and the state of the world

Good Book Guide

Charged with meaning and lyrically luminous, Four Fields is an unquantifiable work – and an unmissable one

Melissa Harrison, The Times

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