A Breath of Country Air (Henry Williamson Collections)

June 14, 2021
A Breath of Country Air (Henry Williamson Collections)

Henry Williamson (1895-1977), nature writer and novelist,remains best known for his nature stories set in North Devon, themuch-loved classics Tarka the Otter and Salar the Salmon. Between1937 and 1945 he farmed 243 acres of difficult land in NorthNorfolk, bringing a near-derelict farm to an A grade classificationduring the years of the Second World War. Throughout those years hewas writing newspaper articles, to help finance the farm. The 82essays contained in A Breath of Country Air – originallypublished in two volumes in 1990-91, now gathered in a singlee-book – bring together Williamson's weekly pieces in the LondonEvening Standard, written during 1944 and 1945. They are broadlyconcerned with day-to-day happenings on the farm, featuringparticularly his two young sons Rikky and Robbie, together withother reflections on country life. Further pieces poignantlydescribe the end of Williamson's farming dream, with the sale ofthe farm and auction of implements and the family's move 60 milessouth to Botesdale, in Suffolk.The book concludes with a 15-part serial, 'Quest' (originallypublished in Women's Illustrated magazine in 1946) which recordsthe period immediately after the move. Richard and RobertWilliamson – Rikky and Robbie – have written the Forewords; Richardremembers these stories 'as a video of my beautiful years,faithfully recorded . . . I can with the greatest clarity smell thenew ploughed fields, hear the owls, and see the little greyFerguson on those far away fields of the Norfolk farm'; while forRobert, after the move to Botesdale, 'being away at school, theholidays were greatly enjoyed, and Henry has captured the mood ofthese holidays, now that the strain of the farm had gone'.