James Rebanks was taught by his grandfather to work the land the old way. Their family farm in the Lake District hills was part of an ancient agricultural landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, that landscape had profoundly changed. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song.
English Pastoral is the story of an inheritance: one that affects us all. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse, and how the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost. But this elegy from the northern fells is also a song of hope: of how, guided by the past, one farmer began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy for the future.
This is a book about what it means to have love and pride in a place, and how, against the odds, it may still be possible to build a new pastoral: not a utopia, but somewhere decent for us all.
James Rebanks is a farmer based in the Lake District, where his family have lived and worked for over six hundred years. His No.1 bestselling debut, The Shepherd's Life, won the Lake District Book of the Year, was shortlisted for the Wainwright and Ondaatje prizes, and has been translated into sixteen languages.
"Wonderful [...] I can't imagine anyone starting to read English Pastoral and not being eager to read it all at once, as I did"
– Philip Pullman
"A wonderful and timely account of one farmer's lifelong effort to do right by his family, his land, his animals and his ecosystem"
– Nick Offerman
"Just about perfect."
– Wendell Berry
"Through the eyes of James Rebanks as a grandson, son, and then father, we witness the tragic decline of traditional agriculture, and glimpse what we must now do to make it right again. As an evocation of British landscape past and present, it's up there with Cider With Rosie."
– Joanna Blythman
"English Pastoral is a work of art. It is nourishing and grounding to read [...] this brave and beautiful book will shape hearts and minds."
– Jane Clarke, author of When the Tree Falls
"James Rebanks describes the life of a Lakeland working farmer from the inside with a unrivalled truth and eloquence"
– Tom Fort, author of Casting Shadows
"Vivid, accessible, inspiring – a story about one man's emerging land ethic, and an appreciation of the old ways in modern times. A vital book for anybody who eats"
– Kathryn Aalto, author of Writing Wild
"James Rebanks is a beautiful writer, in a unique position to describe the challenges currently being faced by farmers throughout the world. English Pastoral is a joy to read and extremely moving – a book which should be read by every citizen."
– Patrick Holden, Sustainable Food Trust