Regular readers will know that I have been doing a lot more walking over the last couple of years. This is partly lockdown related, but I was already going out for walks more often than I had been and I have continued to keep walking now that life is back in a relatively recognisable routine. This means I am walking around and through fields (with public footpaths) a lot and seeing more wildlife but not always knowing what I am seeing. When asked if I wanted to review this book it felt like an ideal subject for me.
This book is as good as I hoped it would be. If you can imagine an insect/animal and also many plants that might be in an arable field, then this book tells you what you need to know about them. The book fly-jacket tells us that Sophie has spent many years volunteering all over the world in conservation projects but the field that inspired this book is behind the house where Sophie lives. So many fields are in danger of being redeveloped and this is one of the reasons why Sophie wrote this book: to remind us what we are losing.
One of the key themes of the book is how the insects, animals and plants connect with each other in different ways, all making their contribution to the eco-system of the field. Some of the entries in the book are longer than others but all are filled with interesting information such as in the First and Second World War starch from horse chestnut 'conkers' was used to make ammunition. Households were asked to donate their conkers. The starch contained therein is not anything special, but it did mean that they were not using starch that may have formed part of the food chain.
Included are sections on crops that we find in our fields such as Oil Seed Rape. This has to be one of the most easily identifiable crops to see (and smell) when driving past fields. There is also a section on potatoes and wheat.
The photographs in the book are beautiful and also help identify what is being written about. The one thing I found a bit odd about the book is that it is written in alphabetical order. So you have Dog Rose, Earth Worm, Elder and Powdery Mildew, Primrose and Rabbit. I found this disconcerting as if I wanted to look up a butterfly I'd seen on a walk I would have to know its name. Though of course I could just use the index to look up the butterflies listed. I do appreciate that this is not meant to be an identification guide so I am being picky.
I really enjoyed this book, I learned things and I will now also be looking out for more things when I am out walking.
The Secret Life of an Arable Field by Sophie McCall is a White Owl imprint from Pen and Sword Books.