To Everything a Season was reviewed in Country Life by John Lewis- Stempel

Posted by Lydia Unwin on

John Lewis-Stempel (Country Life Magazine)
To Everything a Season by Charles Moseley  

Doubtless this book will be filed on the overloaded shelves of ‘Nature’ in your local bookshop – erroneously. Nature-writing is dominated by the tropes of ‘Heroic Me’ (author on wildlife quest) and ‘Misery Me’ (author in search of Nature cure), whereas Charles Moseley’s jottings, reflections and observations on his 60 years inhabiting the fenland village of Reach belong to an earlier, perhaps more authentic genre: the countryside book, written by the seasoned insider.

A structure of sorts is offered by the author’s seasonal arraying of his material, but the word that kept bubbling in this reviewer’s mind, like the merry marsh gas, was ‘gallimaufry’ (medley). Nothing of waterland life, social or natural, escapes his harrier’s eye or honed pen, weather it is the pitiless winds (‘Fen Blows’), maypoles, the paying of rent on quarter days (as still happened, anciently, on his arrival), or the ‘important look’ on Hector the Labrador’s face as he poos. With his large allotments, Dr Moseley, now in his own autumn at 80, does a decent tilt at self-sufficiency, plus bee-keeping, fruit-growing, brewing, baking and poultry-keeping. He makes hay, sells barley. He knows his earth, the way it ‘tanned the lined of your hands’ for days after working it.

Only Dr Moseley’s admission that he is a don – his erudition manifested, not least, in the pleasant propensity to quote and parse English pastoral poetry – marks hum as anything but a black-fingered son of Cambridgeshire fenland. Early on, there is a nod to the rural agitator William Cobbett, with whose ‘sometimes cantankerous views’ Dr Moseley finds it easy to sympathise. Big Agriculture has left its chemical mark on Reach – the glow-worms have all but gone, together with the old-time labourers, the Seths and the Alberts – but the author has planted oaks, and this book. There was not a page I did not enjoy.

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