Kenneth Allsop’s rural England

Uneasy neighbours. Allsop’s Powerstock grave  with (far right) that of Squire Crutchley.

TOLPUDDLE reviews the bizarre end-game of Kenneth Allsop  . . .

The man in the E-Type Jag who

reinvented rural England

Kenneth Allsop

NEXT year marks the fortieth anniversary of the death of Kenneth Allsop, the writer and broadcaster who reinvented rural England.  Few under thirty will remember him today, or the scolding columns he wrote for the Daily Mail from his week-ender’s home at Milton Mill in the village of West Milton.   His moss-encrusted gravestone in the quiet country churchyard of nearby Powerstock, where he was buried in May, 1973 amid great celebrity pomp,  seems to have been abandoned to fall on its face.  Isolated from the herds of sleeping villagers of centuries, it stands alone against the churchyard’s stone wall, its simple inscription (“Kenneth Allsop 1920 -1973”)  now weathered and barely visible in the slanting evening sunlight. It seems rebuked for its manners by a neighbouring gravestone, a good step away.  This one, of dark blue stone, is also simply inscribed  –  “William Crutchley 1933 – 2007.”  Like his father, The Admiral, a VC in the Great War, William “Willie” Crutchley was the squire of many Dorset acres around Nettlecombe village. For a man who seemed incapable of unkindness he hated Kenneth Allsop in that kind of subdued countryman’s way that the gaudy incomer and his noisy followers could never full understand.

Allsop himself, tootling along the lanes in his E-type Jaguar, seemed entirely unaware that his excursions into the rural conservation business were causing offence.  He recruited an army of 500 environmental spies, Defenders of West Dorset, dedicated to keeping the scenery tidy for the generalissimo of Milton Mill. Farmers soon learned that they built barns or cut hedges at their peril if DWD’s shock troops disapproved. Media and political celebrities – among them Robin Day and Shirley Williams – flocked to the pool side parties thrown by the BBC’s star reporter on the Tonight news programme.  Baroness Williams’ affection and respect remains undimmed to this day.  “Kenneth was a very lively talker full of radical ideas, a man of the democratic left,” she told Tolpuddle in an e-mail from this year’s Lib Dem conference. “He could be short tempered, I suspect because he suffered more from pain as a result of losing his leg” – after an RAF flying accident – “than most people realised.”

Baroness Williams

The old political log-roller is one of very few survivors of an era which saw the countryside undergoing profound social changes – a complete reversal of the 19th century migration of farm workers to the mills and factories of the Victorians’ industrial revolution. Allsop was not the first to entice an urban middle class to colonise and re-invent the notion of blissful village communities; but he was certainly the most effective in his time, a media star driven by a toxic mixture of euphoria and rage against, as he saw it, the muddled clumsiness of ancestral peasants mishandling their rural heritage.  One of the first drawn to his hissing candle flame – and an unrepentant survivor of the Allsop doctrine – is Brian Jackman, a former travel writer with the Sunday Times who still regards his old friend as a pioneer conservationist, much misunderstood Old Dorset. He contributes an appreciation from his home in West Milton at the end of this article.

Williams with daughter Becky at the Mill

Sixteen years ago nearly a quarter of a century after Allsop killed himself at Milton Mill  Tolpuddle set out to examine the Incomer Syndrome and its effect on the wider rural community.  Many of its disciples are long gone but their influence lingers across the ghost village communities of silent holiday cottages created by the Big City gadabouts.  One of Allsop’s operational strengths was the creation of his Dorset Defenders brigade It ensured continuity of the Cause even when its supremo was away.  His followers never quite got over the bizarre routine of taking a string of orders down the phone, then stepping into the next room and seeing the boss pop up on Tonight on television. DWD’s luminaries included Brian Jackman, the late Dr Mike Hudson, a local GP who practised in Beaminster and Rodney Legg (who died last year).  Legg was chairman of the Open Spaces Society and author of 125 local history books. He always wore a pair of footpath clearing secateurs, sheriff’s pistol-style, on his hip, even on the London Tube.  All footpaths were war paths in Rodney’s book. All four were townies.  Allsop, a Yorkshireman, had been brought up in Uxbridge; Dr Hudson and Jackman had gone, contemporaneously, to neighbouring schools in suburban London.  Legg was from Bournemouth. “We all had an intense hatred of suburbia,” Dr Hudson told me.  The GP was dazzled by Allsop’s famous friends and would do anything to please him.  He once gave himself a hernia pulling young Forestry Commission conifers on Powerstock Common, an ancient forest. Brian Jackman helped entrap a local snare maker for an exposé story by Allsop in the Daily Mail.  And they all had a high old time campaigning against Admiral Sir Victor Crutchley’s decision to allow oil prospecting on the family’s estate.

When Tolpuddle met the admiral’s son, Commander William Crutchley, at Mapperton Manor, the family seat,  in 1996 the squire’s dislike for Allsop and his busy crusaders was palpable.  “Father knew Allsop was a journalist out for publicity and one didn’t want to give him any scope for it really,” he said.  “Local people were probably surprised father supported the drilling it but it was shortly after the fuel crisis and he agreed to the exploration because  he felt the country needed to find its own oil. He felt it was his duty to see it was extracted with out damaging the countryside.  He used his lawyers to take out a document which made the oil company fully responsible for any damage.  He used to go up there every day and sit with the American who was running it because they’d both fought in the Pacific during the war.”

The Allsops at home with children at Milton Mill. “Yule log failed to crackle.”

Allsop’s DWD decided to shiver the Admiral’s timbers with a mock funeral of his oil project.  Tactics were organised by a loose-canon right-wing Tory MP, Victor Montague, the former Lord Hinchinbrooke.  Rodney Legg,  who had been briefly engaged to Allsop’s daughter Amanda, was there to stiffen DWD’s resolve.   In his Mail column Allsop denounced those “with the sniff of money in their nostrils.”  What he didn’t mention was that his own car, a gas-guzzling E-Type Jaguar had got stuck in a ditch on its way up to the drilling site.   It was rescued only after the broadcaster’s farmer-neighbour, Michael Rudd, dispatched a tractor to pull it clear.  The tractor’s driver had been hand-picked.  Mr Rudd said later, with relish, that he was one of the most truculent in Dorset.  “I personally think it was all very much over the top to be so militant against it,” he said. “He tried to prove that the drill holes, which were all deep along our lane here, interfered with his water supply at the Mill, which was a load of rubbish.  He arrived here and took it over as his own piece of country without much thought of the people.  I think we felt that he was making use of Dorset, to write about it, to make money out of it.”

Allsop with daughter Amanda

The late Harry Poole, a retired farmer and gifted local historian in Allsop’s day,  had his own reasons  for disliking the lordly Londoner.  “He pinched my stuff out of the parish magazine and printed it the Mail without so much as by your leave,” he told Tolpuddle. “When he died I asked the Mail if I could take over his column but they said they weren’t carrying on with it. Local people didn’t think much of it when they held their mock funeral. We thought if there was oil exploited there that a lot of people who’d left would be able to come back because there’d be the jobs, money to buy the properties they were in because as agricultural workers they’d never had the wherewithal to have their own cottage.”

Michael Rudd, who was famous locally for his nurturing of barn owls, was not the only farmer to resent Allsop’s lectures in the Daily Mail.   John Samways, who ran a dairy herd near the Mill, remembers the broadcaster’s sharp tongue on the Loders road one day complaining that the hedge he was cutting interfered with birds nesting.  “It wasn’t really a hedge as such,” Mr Samways told me.  “It was really a tall bank growing over and touching traffic.  The county council were always on to us about it, so it had to be kept down.   I explained to him we weren’t cutting every hedge off in the district and the birds still had plenty of nesting places to go to. Another thing was that we we’d got planning permission for a Dutch barn and he complained about that overlooking his house.  He put us in the Daily Mail about it  the following week.  But it hadn’t been put  there to be left empty. It’s full of hay to this day.  Well, he obviously wasn’t a true countryman otherwise he’d have known fodder’s got to be kept dry.”

It was the business of the animal traps that really put paid to any ambition Allsop may have had to be accepted by “real” Dorset people.  Two elderly  brothers ran the business from Misterton, north of the Beaminster tunnel.  Allsop persuaded his ally, Brian Jackman, to buy a gin trip from the pair so that he could expose them in his column.  When I talked to Squire Crutchley about the episode years later he was still incredibly angry about it.  “A very naughty thing to do I think,” he said.  ” They were very nice, widely-respected  old chaps, dear old things.  That sort of behaviour would completely damn Allsop in the minds of most country people.”

Rodney Legg: secateurs man.

Talking to local people all those years back it struck Tolpuddle even then that Kenneth Allsop had no idea that his writings and activities could possibly cause offence or ridicule. Milton Mill is built in some way like a fortress. Backed by a steep bank up  to a lane on one side and cut off on the other by a swift running leat (which Allsop often thought locals were trying to pollute) it would be hardly surprising if its owner did not feel at times that he was under siege.  Safe inside its natural congress of earthworks and moat he spent hours in his book-lined study composing new testaments to the beauty of wildlife and the awfulness of peasants rinsing milk churns near his leat stream.  Brian Jackman once said he loved “the freshness of Ken’s metaphors and the way his copy fizzled with adjectives.” One reviewer of his work said it reminded her of “Evelyn Waugh’s William Boot (“Feather footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.”) where the imagery is rich and the reader is liable to overdose and reach for the Milk of Magnesia.” She quoted an example of Allsop’s prose: “the gigantic hulk of Haggerdown filled the sky, a green-skinned swordfish lunging to impale Poorstock’s shoal of cottages”  She also noted how few real people – apart from Blyton-esque characters like “Bob the game-keeper”, inhabited his work. Could it really have been that Kenneth Allsop found the countryside depressing?  Tolpuddle remembers an old friend, the photographer John Miles, visiting Milton Mill once evening, getting no answer at the door and working his way round the building to a lighted window.  He chinned himself up to the ledge and saw Allsop sitting alone at a candle-lit table looking desperately fed up.

Robin Day

The truth may be that Allsop, like many week-enders who followed him into the rural good life in the years ahead, needed an audience to envy and congratulate him for what he was doing out in the sticks. The Independent used to call these eager incomers Aga Louts. Even Brian Jackman once used the phrase. There’s no doubt, however,  that Allsop always seemed at his most confident when throwing parties for his admiring London friends.  In 1996 Tolpuddle talked to one of his guests, the writer Ruth Inglis, who recalled one such “Gatsby-style” bash with 75 guests.  Mrs Inglis regarded her host as a pioneer. “Ken was one of the first cerebral journalists and authors to proclaim their passion for the as yet unspoiled English countryside by living in it and using London as the workshop,” she said.  “A passionate environmentalist I sometimes had the feeling that he believed he had to anchor himself to there in order to personally protect the landscape.   He could be fierce with locals who hacked away at their hedgerows, clipping them back so that the complex ecological life of insects and birds they sustained was decimated.” Mrs Inglis became lyrical about the way the house welcomed its guests under the “unostentatious but tasteful supervision” of Allsop’s wife, Betty.  “The light was soft, the swimming pool shimmered with its poolside urns and single, bosomy stone Aphrodite, giving it a half -Greek half-Hollywood air.  In the dripping south-western evening air a band of people hugged Betty’s Aga stove to dry off. while Ken played Jelly Roll Morton records, a true Yorkshireman who loved jazz and US slang and grungy Manhattan.” She noted Allsop’s other guests, “a motley  crew of the brilliant and famous” – Robin Day proclaiming loudly over his wine and sounding oddly Australian, Shirley Williams defending her Labour party to “a red-faced local Tory,” Henry Williamson, ultra right-wing author of Tarka the Otter and the broadcaster Daniel Farson.

Aphrodite’s pool at Milton Mill. Guests marveled at its half-Greek, half-Hollywood air.

Allsop remains an enigmatic figure – a perfectionist who once lost his temper because his Christmas Yule log had failed to crackle, a revisionist who couldn’t settle for his own revisionist rural paradise, a media star whose careless power frightened country people, and yet (a final paradox)  a man who would have hated to miss his own celebrity funeral with Julian Bream on guitar and the wind-blown Bishop of Salisbury at his grave side.

Only recently – using a revolutionary new digital process known as deep mapping – have academics begun to get a clearer picture of the complex geo-political forces that define territories and the way their inhabitants react inside them. One of the world’s leading authorities, a lecturer at Kings College in London who has led seminars about deep mapping in America, actually grew up in a West Dorset village and is familiar with the so-called Aga Lout syndrome. “The relationship between an outsider’s view of something like the countryside and the desire to control it speaks to very deep psychological notions of territory and inner insecurity, or lack of it,” he told Tolpuddle.  “It’s all in deep mapping.”

His views chime perfectly with those of a local woman, who got to know and like Allsop’s wife Betty. and who put it rather well talking to Tolpuddle at the time.  “I mean he had a big house, plenty of money and he couldn’t understand that in those days it was a very farming community and people were pretty poor.  I think that was it:  everyone wanted to keep the countryside looking good but they all realised they had to make a living out of it as well.  In a way he was a very 19th century sort of person, part of the Romantic revival and seemed to forget where he was, if he ever knew.  People round here thought he hadn’t a clue about real life.”

See also: “Kenneth Allsop’s book; a warning.”

The squire and his people. Eternally together in Powerstock church yard.

BRIAN JACKMAN pays tribute to an old friend

Kenneth Allsop; “acerbic pioneer.

SOME things never change. The Georgian mill house where Kenneth Allsop spent his last years still stands wrapped in a dream of the past. Grass still grows in the middle of the lanes down which he used to cruise in his E-Type Jaguar, and Eggardon looms untouched on the eastern skyline, watching over the landscape he loved above all others. But now, 40 years on, one wonders what he would have made of the way in which Dorset has evolved since his untimely death in May 1973. Undoubtedly his campaigning achieved some notable victories, not least in persuading the Forestry Commission to abandon their plans to smother Powerstock Common in conifer plantations. He was one of Britain’s first true environmentalists and no one can one doubt the impact of his acerbic style when writing in defence of the natural world at a time when the conservation movement was still wrapped in swaddling clothes. Naturally left-of-centre in his political outlook, he never shirked an opportunity to berate the government of the day and was relentlessly critical of the big beasts of industry – the multi-national oil and power companies and the barons of agri-business who he singled out for their cynical exploitation of the countryside. Today, despite campaigning for their burial, the power lines Allsop railed against still march across the West Dorset AONB on their monstrous pylons, and new threats appear with every passing year. What, I wonder, would he have made of the alien invasion of Himalayan balsam now spreading like wildfire along every stream and riverbank? As for the current standing of his own profession, the events leading up to the Leveson Inquiry must have left him turning in his grave. For me, one of the cruellest things about his passing was that he never lived to see the peregrine falcon return to its ancestral eyries on the West Dorset cliffs, or the otter make its dramatic come-back right across the country. In Allsop’s day, both species had been all but wiped out by organo-chlorine pesticides. Through his long friendship with Henry Williamson, the otter was a grail to him, as was the peregrine, his favourite bird. His was one of the voices that were instrumental in banning the most insidious of these agricultural poisons and the response was immediate. Given half a chance, nature always bounces back, and that’s what the peregrines and otters did – but sadly their revival came too late for Allsop to see them on his home patch. A couple of years ago, one fine autumn day in mid-afternoon I watched an otter swimming down the mill leat that runs right through Allsop’s old garden; and the year before I discovered a pair of peregrines breeding just a few hundred metres further downstream. Ironically, with a fine sense of disregard for Allsop’s views on the National Grid and its cat’s cradles of power lines, they had taken up residence on top of a pylon.

Eggardon hill fort. Allsop likened it to a swordfish lunging to impale Powerstock cottages.

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27 Responses to Kenneth Allsop’s rural England

  1. An interesting column regarding Powerstock and West Dorset and Kenneth Allsop.. Sadly using hindsight is a way of forgetting what life was really like for poor country people back through the 1950s to the 1970s. Many villages owned by large Estates and not modernized so villagers rented their, still with outside loos etc no electricity in many rural areas. I worked for Harry Poole as a farm student back in 1954-56 who taught me much about country life and therefore can understand the attitude of country folk regarding the overbearing incomers who seemed to take over in parish councils and churches due to wealth and education, sadly completely out of touch with the locals. West Dorset today seems to have many incomers and second home owners, again stepping on toes without realizing maybe?. I remember these events as my family settled in Dorset from the West Indies in 1951 and might be considered an incomer myself but as a child I didn’t have the attitude that adults brought with them. I made friends with village children and those from farming backgrounds, they taught me many things like catching moles in mole traps and skinning them to send away for a few pence each towards pocket money. Going rabbiting with a lamp and dog to catch rabbits for the pot, shooting a fallow dear when one could if it strayed into a field from the Powerstock woods, Skinned by the local butcher and as one didn’t have a freezer, keeping a joint or two to eat and selling the rest for a few pounds. Life back then was hand to mouth, growing your own vegetables as one didn’t have the cash to go to shops and order many things at the drop of a hat.
    Sadly the art of laying hedges as I was taught by Harry Poole is not so much done today. It made a thick hedge which when it grew back it gave birds and nature a safe place to nest or hide,Maybe Kenneth Alsopp didn’t realize this? Hedges today they seem to be trashed by cutting machines and the hedges have therefore grown thin and sparse. or neglected to an extent that they are no longer a hedge. ~ final thought on this topic, – The benefit of incomers today has brought money into the rural area and houses in poor condition brought back to life and shops in market towns survive through retired wealthy incomers But are they still welcome? Well I am not sure as after National Service in the RAF I ended up living in the suburbs of London since 1960! so am I still a countryman with romantic memories of the past? I still visit Bridport and area but after so many years so many I knew back then are either no longer alive or like me left West Dorset to earn a living eleswhere.

  2. How can a man “incapable of unkindness” also “hate”?

  3. Ieuan Franklin says:

    I read this article with interest for its details about Kenneth Allsop and village life in West Dorset. My discovery of Allsop’s ‘In The Country’ was part of a motivation for a recent trip exploring the countryside around Bridport. The book is chock full of brilliant details about the nature and topography that surrounded him, so I find the suggestion that he felt alienated in the countryside a little peculiar to say the least. More importantly he was a brilliant writer and it is a shame that this article is such a one-sided character assassination.
    I’m sure Baroness Williams and Brian Jackman were unaware of the sneering and sarcastic commentary and context into which their memories were inserted. I have no personal connection whatsoever – Allsop died years before I was even born – but may I say I also find the use of the intimate pictures of Allsop’s home and family life to be somewhat unethical when put in the service of such a brutal piece.

    • I have only just seen this article and to be honest I was dismayed and disconcerted to find in print what I regard as a very personal photo of me and my father, as well as the one with my whole family. I don’t know how they got hold of these photos but I would never have given permission if I had had the option

      Amanda Allsop

      • The photographs referred to by Amanda Allsop were all published in the Summer 1996 edition of The Wessex Journal (owned and edited by Tolpuddle at the time) to illustrate an earlier study of her father’s influence on rural life in Dorset. They were all willingly provided (at my request) to The Wessex Journal by Amanda Allsop, who also contributed an excellent article in which she addressed some of the criticisms made by local people. A copy of the magazine was sent to her after publication. No comment – adverse or otherwise – was received from Amanda Allsop at that time. Their re-appearance in the public domain 27 years later seemed innocuously pertinent in an updated article about the Allsop years. Tolpuddle is sorry if Miss Allsop is now unhappy about this and is glad to publish her Comment expressing her concerns.

  4. Steve Pitcher says:

    I’m in the middle of re-reading In The Country and came across this article while looking for some background on Kenneth Allsop. It occurred to me that I moved from London to North Devon (Henry Williamson’s Land of the Two Rivers) in the same year that Allsop died. My job brought me into close contact with a very similar rural community to West Dorset. I soon learned the hardships of farming in a difficult environment and the means that farmers felt they had to use to survive. In response to Government policy and incentives, In so doing they grubbed up hedges, sprayed pesticides, poured nitrates, drained semi-permanent grassland, ploughed moorland and clear-felled woodland. But then that’s where the money was, and the petro-chemical industry was as persuasive then as it is now.We knew then that these practices were harmful to the countryside in both the short and long term. Over the intervening 40 years we have understood these impacts better and policy (and the accompanying incentives) have changed. In particular we are beginning to factor the economic value of our ecosystems jnto our decisions. We still aren’t good at taking the difficult long term decisions on climate change though!

    I guess it was inevitable that Kenneth Allsop would have provoked a clash of cultures with his London lifestyle and his sharp observations on rural life. The same is true in North Devon. Nevertheless,he clearly loved where he lived and wrote honestly and beautifully about it. He also wrote with humour and humility about his own struggles to manage his piece of the West Dorset environment. All this comes across in the book. His work remains nature writing of the highest order.

    So why am I now contributing to this debate? Well 300 years ago my 7x great grandparents were married in Mapperton church. They lived at Loscombe, on the edge of Powerstock, North Poorton and Netherbury parishes, for the next 100 or so years. Eventually my great great great grandparents were removed from the parish to Chickerell by the Powerstock Overseers of the Poor! That was around the time the Tolpuddle Martyrs were forming the union for which they were later deported. My family lived in the Portland area for another 80 years before my grandfather moved away. So I am descended from Powerstock paupers, but there is still a Pitcher’s Hill overlooking West Milton and I may come back one day and climb it!

    • There have always been Pitchers in Nettlecombe. I don’t know who is left in the village, but a number of them are now in Powerstock Churchyard. Greta Pitcher
      was originaloly my mother’s daily help and they became friends and saw each other regularly after we left the mill. She is now in the churchyard with her husband

  5. Bruce Fletcher says:

    The first photograph in this piece claiming to be of Shirley Williams and Allsop’s daughter Amanda, is actually of Shirley and her own daughter Rebecca (Becky). Since your quote is from Shirley herself, can you not find an official photo of her to use rather than a personal family photograph? I’m not sure she’d appreciate the use of this shot.

    • Thanks for correcting a careless production error. Tolpuddle, as a Fleet Street hack, often worked on stories with Baroness Williams. In fact he contacted her while preparing the Allsop story. Being photographed in a kitchen wouldn’t bother her at all; she’s not nearly as snooty as Mr Fletcher seems to think.

  6. Tina Rowe says:

    I cannot for the life of me understand why Kenneth Allsop’s decision to “expose” Young and Sons’ sale of gin traps is regarded as an offence. You don’t explain whether this was after the sale of these traps was made illegal, but presumably it was. We must respect the law. I knew and respected the Youngs, bought live ‘Longworth’ traps from them as a child 50 years ago, and found their red-covered catalogues with their fabulous customers’ endorsements absolutely rivetting. I can understand them hanging onto gin traps after they became illegal, but to sell them would have been wrong. I don’t know whether they were prosecuted, but that would not, and did not, put them out of business.

  7. Jan Frances says:

    This romantic and similarly anachronistic country girl at heart, read Kenneth Allsop’s “In the Country” only recently and has been greatly impressed by it, both because of its vividly descriptive writing style and the precious subject matter. I grew up in a rural area (northern Sydney outskirts) in Australia but my family originated from such regions of England, perhaps my indefinable yearning for them. The further I went on in the book, the more attached I became to its brilliant and handsome author. It was therefore of great shock and sadness to learn from a website that Kenneth was in such pain from an old amputation and was suffering depression (and I perceive, an inner loneliness) to such a degree, that he actually took his own life. In fact, tears came to my eyes at the thought of this lovely, kindly man (flawed though he may have been…but aren’t we all?) who relished the countryside with all or most of its feathered and furred inhabitants, choosing one day out of desperation, to abruptly farewell his beloved mill house with all its memories of creation’s beautiful and varied richness, in such a tragic way.

    • As Tolpuddle knows, the photos were provided to accompany two affectionate short memoirs by me and a dear family friend, Ruth Inglis. We were not aware of the context in which they would be published

  8. The other comments on this page are heart-warming and much appreciated

    • mary baines says:

      I was pleased to see these recent-ish posts from Amanda : I have happy memories of you & your family when you lived in Holwell, Herts. My mum worked at your house as a cleaner & we played together . We rode in your father’s E-type to Hitchin, very exciting that was!The family photo brought back a rush of memories but a shame its publication here was unwelcome. I remember terrapins , Percy ? the cat, eating dog biscuits on the roof of your father’s study to the sound of ” Oh what a beautiful morning.. ” from the record player, Fabian bringing a grass snake to school, the glam. French au pairs – talk about Happy Days – they were ! My name then was Mary Hutson. Best wishes.

      • Amanda Allsop says:

        How nice to hear from you. Was your mother called Kate? You remember a lot of things I don’t! Rather surreal, as I suppose it was.

      • mary baines says:

        How lovely to see your comment,thanks. Mum’s name was also Mary Hutson . Your dad called the cat “Eat, sleep & rest”, which I’ve applied to all the many cats in my life since ! I remember reading a piece you wrote , possibly from a book ? ,where you mentioned the Holwell character ‘ Foxy’ Reynolds,who I remember vividly in his wellies with his coat fastened with string! And Rupert Davies, the actor who played Maigret on tv, came to your house for a party – I think your family must have enlivened the village no end. Best wishes, Mary.

  9. Barry Woodward says:

    I have just re-read ‘In the Country’ for perhaps the twentieth time and each time I’m dazzled by Kenneth Allsop’s writing. Until today I knew nothing of his personal life and his relationship with his Dorset neighbours. What I can say is that his appearances on TV in the ’60s as well as reading ‘Adventure Lit Their Star’ reinforced my lifelong interest in natural history and to a large extent inspired my entry into journalism and a later career as a professional writer, albeit at a much lower level! I remember that day in May 1973 when I returned to my desk in the newsroom of a provincial paper to find a message from a colleague on my typewriter which read,’ Your mother rang to tell you Kenneth Allsop has died.’ She knew how much I admired him and his work. I wish he had lived longer.

  10. What a locely thing to read about my father. I, too, wish he had lived longer

  11. I meant ‘lovely’ not ‘locely’

  12. A message for Amanda – I’m writing a book about ancient woodland and wish to feature your father’s rescue of Powerstock Common. I want to give a fair-minded account and wondered if you would be willing to get in touch please. I’m Derek Niemann at and you can find out more about me at Hope to hear from you.

  13. Peter Herbert says:

    Rereading ‘ In the country’ again this year month by month. Now just starting September and enjoying it as much as ever. Steve Pitcher , writing in 2013 was spot on in his appraisal of K A. As for Henry Williamson who was a close kindred spirit of KA, I would recommend his enthralling 15 volume ‘ Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, which in this centenary year of the Somme horror is a very telling account of a young man’s fight for survival during that time. Williamson was also a passionate lover of the West Country. He also had his critics but survived them also. We should cherish them both. Peter Herbert

  14. docksider says:

    Recently, I took down my ex-library copy of In The Country, following up the John Fowles biography and his references to Kenneth Allsop as a neighbour and friend. With no personal knowledge of Dorset, or close connections to anyone mentioned in this “blog”, I am still rather shaken by the tone of animosity held and displayed publicly so long after Kenneth Allsop’s death. Incomers, outsiders, the social disparity between 1970’s farming communities and the neighbourhood big house of the squirearchy was a factor in far less salubrious locations than Dorset. Agricultural Yorkshire, for example, also realised similar “touch of forelock” attitudes, without the support of any conservation-minded incomers taking up their cudgels. These days, 21st century incomers are said to have taken over all those country cottages paying such high prices that local people cannot afford homes, still causing an exodus to find work and shelter far from their beginnings in beautiful countryside settings. Earning a living from the a country base now is done more easily in this computer-age, than by catching non-existent trains from wayside halts or driving an iconic Jag. There must be many more “Allsops” in Dorset today, but perhaps they are less willing to be martyrs to a cause, even though many may drive 4 x 4s.

  15. Jill Smith says:

    A wonderful man great vision and integrity for our countryside, a Hero of mine. Jill Smith

    • Dear liz, thank you d for sending this. We came down in September to scatter some ofriends Fabe’s ashes but we didn’t stop and drove back to Ramsgate straight from there so didn’t get a chance to see you. But will be down next year and will give you a ring them

      Amanda xx

      Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

  16. Graham Hooper says:

    If anyone wants a more rounded and intimate view of Kenneth Allsop they really should read Letters From My Father. The book, which was also at the time (1990) brilliantly translated for Radio 4’s Book of the Week, is a powerful and very moving insight into Kenneth’s life through correspondence with his daughter Amanda.

    Through the letters, one also gets a real insight into Kenneth’s conservationism – it shines through on almost every page. Given these were (then) privately expressed thoughts and feelings, I think they stand as a true reflection of this pioneering and passionate rural campaigner.

    Amanda – if you do catch this post (unlikely I guess), you might like to know I still re-read Letters From My Father often. It has so many wonderful insights into relationships, the human condition and how to live a useful life. And there’s some great humour in there too. I hope that one day the BBC might re-broadcast the Radio 4 dramatisation, assuming they still have it in their vaults? (My old cassette version is getting very thin nowadays – I hardly dare play it!).

    Thanks so much for sharing the letters – it must have been a hard decision for you and your family to do so. But they are brilliant. Whenever I hear Dusty Springfield I always think of your dad groovin’ away to ‘Dusty in Memphis’ all those years ago at Merton College, Oxford!

    Graham Hooper

    • Amanda Allsop says:

      Thank you. I always felt worried that I shouldn’t have published those letters – that they were too personal really. But I have had so many positive comments that perhaps it was the OK thing to do

      • Amanda Allsop says:

        Yes, and I can’t hear Dusty without thinking of my father. The reason I agreed to the letters being broadcast was because they would include the suicide letter, which Pa definitely wrote for publication but never was published until then.

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