- Book Tickets
The natural history of the Western Front during the First World War
'If it weren't for the birds, what a hell it would be.'
During the Great War, soldiers lived inside the ground, closer to nature than many humans had lived for centuries. Animals provided comfort and interest to fill the blank hours in the trenches - bird-watching, for instance, was probably the single most popular hobby among officers. Soldiers went fishing in flooded shell holes, shot hares in no-man's land for the pot, and planted gardens in their trenches and billets. Nature was also sometimes a curse - rats, spiders and lice abounded, and disease could be biblical.
But above all, nature healed, and, despite the bullets and blood, it inspired men to endure. Where Poppies Blow is the unique story of how nature gave the British soldiers of the Great War a reason to fight, and the will to go on.
Winner of the 2017 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize for nature writing
John Lewis-Stempel is an award-winning writer predominantly known for his books on nature and history. He lives in Herefordshire, on the very edge of England before it runs into Wales, and within a stone's throw (with a decent gust of wind) from where his family were farming in the 1300s.
Six Weeks, his book about British frontline officers in the First World War, published in November 2010 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson was described by The Literary Review as 'the most moving book I have ever read on the First World War'. The book became a number 1 bestseller in WW1 category on Amazon.
His non-fiction bestseller Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field featured on Radio 4's Start the Week, and won the 2015 Thwaites Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing; it was also shortlisted for BBC Countryfile Book of the Year 2014. The Running Hare, published in 2016, was a Radio 4 Book of the Week and Sunday Times Top 10 bestseller.
Currently he writes for Country Life and in 2016 was won the BSME Magazine Columnist of the Year Award.