‘Adrian Bell, most well-known for Corduroy and his ‘Rural Trilogy’, was a farmer-writer whose work reflects the changes in farming between 1920 and 1980. In the second half of his life, his Countryman’s Notebook essays were his main literary output. From 1950 to 1980 he wrote one each week for East Anglia’s The Eastern Daily Press: nearly 1600 in total.
They provide unique snapshots of the significant environmental and cultural changes rural Britain underwent in the decades after the Second World War. Scrapbooks of these articles, lovingly cut out and pasted in, reside – some dearly remembered, some since forgotten with the passing of the collector – in cupboards across East Anglia and further afield.
It is in the Notebook that we see the finest of Bell’s writing. Like the rural craftsmen and women he so admired, and who knew intimately how to manipulate their material, he achieved this in his own work: distilling his experiences of rural life into 1000 pitch-perfect words. The raw material for these weekly essays were the daily dairies Bell kept for much of his writing life, and they provide a fascinating insight to Bell’s process of writing. They reveal a minute observation of detail, not just of his natural surroundings, but also of his relationships with others.’
Richard Hawking writing for The Pen and the Plough
Slightly Foxed published A Countryman’s Winter Notebook, a collection of Adrian Bell’s essays introduced and selected by Richard Hawking, in October 2021