We’re all looking for things to keep us busy during this strange and surreal time, finding a book we can lose ourselves in, burying our heads deep within its pages is a surefire to offer our minds some welcome relief from the movie-style madness around us.
‘Why would you want to live in such a godforsaken spot?’ was a question once asked of Yorkshire Shepherdess, bestselling author and star of Channel 5’s Our Yorkshire Farm, Amanda Owen. The windswept and unforgiving landscape she calls home is the historic Ravenseat in Upper Swaledale, a traditional hill farm in the remote heart of the idyllic Yorkshire dales.
Home to Amanda, her husband Clive and their nine ‘free-range’ children, as well as their many sheep, cattle, horses and dogs, the farm lies in one of the most picturesque parts of Britain. Having published three bestselling books, including Adventures of a Yorkshire Shepherdess, before she embarks on lambing season, Amanda shares with us some of her all-time favourite reads.
‘Easter really passes us by as we’re always pre-occupied with lambing, something the children find much more joyous than hunting for chocolate eggs which the sheep would probably find first anyway!’ she tells me one drizzly morning.
Describing her bookshelf as ‘what some might call ‘the worst bookshelf ever! It’s a messy collection Encyclopaedias, livestock birthing manuals, titles on horses [a love of hers] along with Eric the Caterpillar and The Gruffalo.’ Lovingly worn with circles where warm mugs of tea on the cover once sat, she convinces me these are the ‘signs of a good book thats been loved’.
All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
Herriot’s books are ones I read as a child and look back on with fond memories. I’m not a big fiction reader, it can leave me cold if I feel it never happened: I crave the realism. There are so many real-life tales which are just as enchanting as fiction. All Things Bright and Beautiful is one book which made the transition from my childhood home to my family home with Clive and the children. I adore realness of it’s characters and would lose myself in Herriot’s tales time and time again. His are books which you can pick up at and delve into any part of, and they never fail to delight. Credit: Pan Macmillan
Swaledale by Ella Pontefract and Marie Hartely
This book ignited my love of the Dales and inspired my move from the city to the country. Originally published in 1934, authors Ella and Marie were true mavericks, visiting remote farmsteads in their caravan and the result is this incredible, timeless book that explores social change, shifts in the landscape and British farming. Hugely ahead of its time Swaledale is an easy to read but powerfully evocative book that allows the reader to drift into another time and era.
The Collected Poems of Robert Burns (Wordsworth Poetry Library) by Robert Burns
I simply cannot fail to marvel at Burn’s talent. As a farmer, not only can I relate to Robert’s magic, but I can read it to my children who can immerse themselves in his poetry. It is sad that today, for some poetry has a stigma of being a little dull, but this is pure literary magic. Australian poet Banjo Paterson is another favourite. I want my children to want to read so by encouraging them to help themselves to what’s on the bookshelf is important. Children may feel discouraged to pick from an immaculate, picture perfect collection that looks uninviting, but ours is a real mishmash, collated over the years with creased spines and well-thumbed pages.
Hill Shepherd by John and Eliza Forder
Whilst not exactly a literary book, published in the late 1980s, this was a book I borrowed from the library as I couldn’t afford to buy it. Years later I was able to buy a copy and it has remained with me ever since. A collection of photographs about life as a hill shepherd, naturally, it resonated with me and I believe set me off on the path to becoming a shepherdess myself. I love the realness of the photographs, none of which are posed, being shot in all weathers to capture the realities of this lifestyle, turning the camera in the direction others weren’t.
The Book of Boswell: Autobiography of a Gypsy by John Seymour
The Romany culture has always been one which fascinates me, I enjoyed the stories told and the fact that is was real. [Amanda and I both have horses bought from gypsy families and despite the stigma often attached to the lifestyle, our animals have been kindness defined]. Urging me to visit Appleby Horse Fair, Amanda tells me how she has since picked up another book exploring Romany culture and is loving it almost as much!
What is editor, Hollie-Ella reading?
I am actually reading two books at the moment, one which I pick up each morning for some daily inspiration, which I have shared below and another which I am enjoying just getting stuck into, although I only started reading it on Saturday night; For The Love of Horses, by Kelly Wilson.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
A book which needs no introduction, this is one I will treasure and already look forward to reading to my little ones for years to come. An international bestseller Mackesy’s beautifully heart-warming illustrations are accompanied by the most wonderfully relatable and inspiring narrative. Described as ‘the new Winnie The Pooh’, the endearing conversations of these charming characters were widely shared across social media before finding their home in his debut book.
What are you reading? Share your current reads with us by tagging us on Instagram, we’d love to see! We’re @inthecountryinsta on Instagram. Stay safe, and stay well.
Hollie-Ella and the In The Country Team. Xxx