The Natural History of an English Village
A Natural History of Selbourne for a new generation - nature-writing at its finest, expressed through the natural history of one very special place.
Naturalist and author Stephen Moss lives in the longest village in England – Mark, on the Somerset Levels. This watery wonderland is steeped in history: it is the land of King Arthur, where King Alfred burnt the cakes and where the last battle was fought on English soil.
This ancient country parish, dating from before the Domesday Book, has been reclaimed from the sea over many centuries . Today the landscape bears witness to its eventful past, and is criss-crossed with watery ditches and broad droves, down which livestock was once taken to market. These are now home to a rich selection of resident and visiting wildlife: rooks and roe deer; sparrows and snowdrops; buzzards, badgers and butterflies. Amongst these natural wonders are the ‘wild hares and hummingbirds’ of the book’s title: one of our most iconic mammals, the brown hare; and a scarce and spectacular visitor, the hummingbird hawk-moth.
As the year unfolds, Moss creates an intimate account of the natural history of his parish. He witnesses the landscape as it passes from deep snow to spring blossom, through the heat haze of summer to the chill winds of autumn; from the first hazel catkins to the swallows returning from Africa; the sounds of the dawn chorus to the nocturnal mysteries of moths.
But this is not simply the story of one small corner of the West Country; it also serves as a microcosm of Britain’s wider countryside. At a time of uncertainty – as our landscape and wildlife face some of the greatest changes in recorded history – it reveals the plants and animals that will adapt and thrive, and those that may struggle, and even disappear, from our lives.
This is a very personal celebration of why the natural world matters to all of us, wherever we live. Wild Hares and Hummingbirds is nature writing at its finest, expressed through the natural history of one very special place.