Hope Bourne is renowned as perhaps the greatest Exmoor writer of the twentieth century.
For half of her lifetime, Hope lived in and around the village of Withypool on the
southern side of the Moor. In the late 1960s, at a time of great personal unhappiness, she
sought increasing solace in her friends, neighbours and the landscape around her.
her daily business restricted to Withypool and its environs, she set about writing a
tribute to the place. She recounts a time before mobile phones and the internet had come
to dominate daily life, when communication was a gossip over a half-open stable door
and “wireless” meant the radio.
She takes the reader around the village, along the river
and out again around the parish boundaries, describing people, local events, farms and
the changing landscape. Hope’s love for Exmoor is apparent in the detailed descriptions
and sketches which capture a way of life gradually slipping from living memory.
Having so carefully set down the history and living rhythms of the village, Hope’s manuscript
was filed away and lost to view for nearly half a century.
Then in 2014 Dr
Helen Blackman, archivist to the Exmoor Society, rediscovered the text at the Society’s
headquarters, in a nondescript box labelled simply “Village Surveys”. It quickly became
apparent that Hope Bourne’s love song to her home village was a significant work that
fully deserved to see the light of day. Dr Blackman has subsequently prepared the manuscript
for publication and chosen a selection of Hope’s hitherto unseen evocative line
drawings to complement the luminous text.
Hope Bourne’s Exmoor Village will be a “must have” for Hope Bourne’s many admirers,
and for all lovers of Exmoor, its people and places.
Hope Bourne was born in Oxford in 1918 but brought up at Hartland in North Devon. She lived
on Exmoor for some sixty years, for two decades in a caravan at Ferny Ball near Withypool.
Growing or shooting her own food, she earned her living as a writer, publishing four books in her
lifetime as well as pamphlets and a regular newspaper column. In later life three television
documentaries about her life brought her to the attention of an even wider public.
Hope Bourne died in August 2010 a few days short of her 92nd birthday.
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 256 9, 214x138mm, 144 pages. Published September 2015.