Rural – Jersey Country Life Magazine


A new book by Jill Mason. Reviewed by Alasdair Crosby

I am honestly, truthfully in awe of the range of the author’s knowledge about rural Britain. It seems to be encyclopaedic, and the range of contents is vast.

Over 300 pages, the contents start with an essay on ‘farming: the big picture’ – which is illuminating and educational and fleshes out the interviews with farming ‘talking heads’ that one hears on ‘Farming Today’. It continues with sections on farming livestock, animal welfare and then with separate sections on farming cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry.  There is a section on horses and ponies after which the author turns to arable farming, horticulture, genetic modification, organic farming and farming diversification. Then she writes about landowners and managers and forestry.  Pest species are covered with sections on alien and invasive species. Then she gets on to country sports, working dogs, conservation,  renewable energy, countryside leisure, and finishes with a section on ‘our heritage’.

I would not want to kid anyone that I have read the book in detail; my working regime unfortunately does not allow much time for the quiet perusal of encyclopaedias. But the sections that I have read: ‘farming, the big picture’, cattle farming, country sports, working dogs are all spot on, detailed but well-written, and beautifully illustrated with pictures by her husband, David.  

The author’s name was previously unknown to me. The cover blurb informs me: ‘Jill Mason was one of Britain’s first women gamekeepers, a job which she enjoyed for over 30 years. She has lived and worked in the countryside all her life and has written for several country and field sport magazines. She is the author of several books including The Rabbit, The Hare and The Townies’ Guide to the Countryside, Rural England, and Away My Lads, Away and The Ennerdale and Eskdale Hunt.
‘She lives in Norfolk with her husband David Mason, also a retired gamekeeper.
‘David Mason, whose pictures appear throughout her books, is a keen wildlife and countryside photographer whose work has been published in many books, magazines, and newspapers.’

Many, much wiser heads than my own, regularly describe the disconnect that exists between town and country. This encyclopaedia (no other word for it) could do much to bridge that gap. The only problemette that I have with this is that although it has cows on the front cover, they are only black-and-white ones.

A really good present for anyone whose heart is in the country. It is on my Christmas wish list, anyway.

Jill Mason

To be published by Merlin Unwin Books Ltd; £30.00 on 8 September

Tel: 01584 877456



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