BB - Denys Watkins-Pitchford
Writing under the pseudonym BB, a September 1979 copy of the Shooting Times magazine first brought me into contact with the superb writings of Denys Watkins-Pitchford. As a boy of fourteen I found myself at a rite of passage moment as my interest in the countryside became a love of the rural scene around me, in all its guises. I still have that magazine, a dark cover with a photograph of a fox at night. it is one of my treasured possessions.
Thomas Hardy is not an unusual choice for someone who is in love with rural writing, but he is possibly the most important author for me after BB. I first read Far From the Madding crowd as a boy of eighteen, sitting in a rented cottage garden in Toller Porcorum, Dorset. I read it over a couple of days without too many breaks ( just for food) enveloped in the very landscape I poured over on the page. In the evening after completed the novel, I drove out to enjoy the July sunset without a direction in mind, and literally drove myself to a stop by encountering Eggardon Hill a couple of miles away for the very first time in my life. That breathtaking scenery on the day I fell in love with Dorset after reading Hardy will stay with me to the grave.
Evesham, Worcestershire 1980. It was a blisteringly hot day and I was on a quick holiday with my parents between them buying houses. Just a few days away before the move. I entered a second hand book shop and not knowing what to read browsed the farming section as I'd just completed my year as an agricultural student a month before.. There a nearly new copy of Fred Archer's, By Hook and By Crook. Reading this semi biographical semi historical book centered around the Vale of Evesham just resonated with me and still does. Over the years I have read many more Archer books with the same joy as on that first day.
Despite stumbling across Fred Archer in 1980, it would be over 20 years before I learnt of another wonderful rural writer, John Moore. Yet he lived just 20 miles from Fred Archer and they knew each other. I'm surprise Moore isn't well known these days as his writing is on a par with anyone on this page.
David ' Dippie' Dixon
Very few people have heard of Dippie Dixon, yet for a lad who cut his naturalist teeth on the wild and nature filled banks of the River Coquet around Rothbury in Northumberland, Dixon is a well known writer up there. Strictly speaking he did not write about the countryside and what lived in it, but documented the changing landscape of the Coquet Valley and the area around Whittingham. His writings at the end of the Victorian Era have provided a valuable record of 'the old ways' in England's Reiver Country.
I'd heard of Wiltshire born Richard Jefferies forever yet it was only in 2010 I finally understood of the writings of this eminent of all naturalist writers. My entry to Jefferies world as a forty odd year old man was not unusual. When writing Jefferies was a Victorian best seller. Yet in the 21st Century he is largely forgotten. His work however is as relevant today and he was the first writer to bring environmental concerns to the public. Not reaching 40 before he died, his pantheon of writing is a must for anyone who has an interest in farming, rural pursuits and nature (and a bit of early science fiction). Since then I've become a Trustee of his birthplace, the newly revamped Jefferies Museum near Swindon
A. G. Street
I love natural history but farming and and especially agricultural history will always be my first love. And for my money A.G Street eclipses them all as not only was he a writer and a broadcaster, also a farmer. Writing from first hand knowledge his description of obtaining a piece of land for the first time and the thrill of walking around 'a little piece of England' struck a chord with me when I first read Street's book 'Farming, How to Begin'
Willie Poole MBE - aka Arthur James
Not everyone's cup of tea, but Master to Hounds, farmer and countryman RWF Poole's descriptions of rural life as seen from the pen of a real countryman informed me of many a way of thinking. Writing for many years as Arthur James his often controversial weekly essays (politicians were a regular target) were always driven through with compassion. Having thrown in his towel and moved to France following the hunting ban, I miss his words of wisdom, even if I they weren't ones I necessarily agreed with. (Having not written on his blog for 3 years, I worry. If anyone knows if he is still blowing his horn over La Manche, do let me know)
Hudson's writings are remarkable, as they cross many disciplines. A reflection of this widely traveled Victorian. Romances, essays fiction and for me his nature writings based on first hand observation are a joy. I recommend a Shepherds Life.
Now Henry Brewis could be seen as an odd accompaniment to Hardy, Jefferies and Street, but he is here because he makes me laugh. His writings do. Sadly taking his own life on the news of returning illness this erstwhile Northumbrian shepherd has made me laugh more times than I care to mention. I'd say only P.G.Wodehouse can lift my spirits to the same extent as Seth, Shep and Gladys down at Clartiehole. If you have never heard of him, do make an effort to read his comic timed genius books.