Research on the interactions between the field voles (Microtus agrestis) of Kielder Forest and their natural parasites dates back to the 1930s. These early studies were primarily concerned with understanding how parasites shape the characteristic cyclic population dynamics of their hosts. However, since the early 2000s, research on the Kielder field voles has expanded considerably and the system has now been utilized for the study of host–parasite biology across many levels, including genetics, evolutionary ecology, immunology and epidemiology. The Kielder field voles therefore represent one of the most intensely and broadly studied natural host–parasite systems, bridging theoretical and empirical approaches to better understand the biology of infectious disease in the real world. This article synthesizes the body of work published on this system and summarizes some important insights and general messages provided by the integrated and multidisciplinary study of host–parasite interactions in the natural environment.