Country Life’s top 10 blogs and columns of 2020, from wise owls to the invention of toilet paper

You'll scratch your chin, nod in recognition and quite probably chuckle out loud at the most-read columns from the Country Life website this year.

A special shout-out must go to the brilliant Martin Fone — you can catch up on all his Curious Questions articles here — and Rosie Paterson and James Fisher for their lockdown blogs.


What did people use before toilet paper?

Credit: Toby Keel

The mania for the humble toilet roll that accompanied the coronavirus had our columnist Martin Fone musing on where it came from in the first place.

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Jason Goodwin: The night I accidentally sent a friend to go dogging on a remote West Country hilltop

Credit: Getty

Oh, Jason. It could have happened to anyone.

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How likely are you to be killed by a falling coconut?

Credit: Getty

Martin Fone’s Curious Questions blog was published just at the end of 2019, but kept people fascinated well into 2020.

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How do you survive social isolation? A former Royal Navy submarine commander on the five things you need to do

Credit: Ryan Ramsey

For some people, the isolation of lockdown was second nature. James Fisher spoke to a Commander Ryan Ramsey, a former submarine skipper in the Royal Navy, to get his tips.

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Seven astonishing books to read in 2020 which will change your understanding of the history of the world

Credit: Tim Mackintosh-Smith/Yale

Barnaby Rogerson chose these extraordinary tomes at 2019 turned to 2020.

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The seven rules of cycling that no cyclist will ever tell you

Credit: Peter Cade via Getty Images

Our lockdown bloggers Rosie Paterson and James Fisher shared the truth about cycling, and wondered how it is that March was simultaneously 28 years and yet only two months ago.

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How wise are owls

Credit: Alamy

The age-old image of the intelligent owl has persisted for centuries — but are they really the intellectuals of the avian world? Martin Fone investigated.

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‘I’m fairly sure the elderly lady with excellent hair doesn’t usually winch her shopping up through a second floor window’

Credit: Alamy

Down and Out in Devon and London’ was the working title for our blog series — and this one, lit up by ingenuity of an English village dweller, was one of the best.

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Would Anne Brontë be more famous without her two sisters?

Credit: Alamy

To mark the forgotten Brontë’s 200th birthday, Charlotte Cory looked back at the life and works of this ‘runt of the literary litter’ and found she was by no means meek and mild.

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10 sustainability myths busted, and six things you can do to make a real difference

Credit: Alamy

It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little — do what you can,’ wrote Sydney Smith some two centuries ago. That inspired Jonathan Self’s list.

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Curious Questions: Which bird’s song is loudest?

We tend to think of bird song as endearing and delicate — but there are birds out there who would put