Book Review: Liberty & Livelihood: A Portrait of Life in Rural Britain

Arising from the Countryside March in September 2002, this is a wonderfully eclectic view of rural Britain. More than 150 photographers and writers describe every imaginable aspect of our country and somehow manage to conjure up the sights and smells and sounds with which those of us who are lucky enough to live there are so familiar.

From Clarissa Dickson Wright to the late and much loved Jim Thompson, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and from Kate Hoey to Zac Goldsmith, passionate affection for our rural heritage is expressed in a kaleidoscope of different ways.

The photographs are gripping and involve the reader even more than the text. I took my copy with me last weekend and everyone in the house party, young and old alike, poured over it, exclaiming when they recognised familiar scenes, going quiet and thoughtful as they saw things which are now, sadly, rare and threatened.

Although a wide range of subjects is covered, from food to farming to rural crafts, perhaps the most moving essays are the two written about hunting by senior academics: Andrew Roberts and Roger Scruton. They combine intellectual rigour with personal emotion in a way which should not fail to move the most ardent abolitionist to reconsider. That is why no country house should be without it.