"You might like to look at these", said my Neighbour Who Knows What I Like, holding out a heavy carrier bag. "But you're not to start another collection and when you've finished with them you can get them down to the charity shop". I closed the door, took one look inside and starting building another set of shelves in the Library Wing. I already had a small collection of 1950's editions, with plain over-sized green covers and illustrations by countrymen like John Nash. I love them as much for the ads for Atco Autoscythes and Cremona Assorted Toffees as for the editorial content on everything from redstarts on window-sills to the vegetation on British Railways' embankments. They were once as at home in a rural kitchen as a Rayburn and a gingham table cloth.
Founded in 1927 by J.W.Robertson Scott in the manor at Idbury in the Cotswolds (telephone Shipton-under-Wychwood 226), it was an immediate success, and although the offices have now moved from the comfortable-sounding Sheep Street in Burford to Skipton in Yorkshire, it sells 80,000 copies every month to countrymen all over the world. I think it's sad that the cover design is now a full-bleed colour photograph just like everyone else on the magazine rack, and that it was deemed necessary to lose the trademark green panels, but we now need The Countryman putting his feet up in our kitchens more than ever. Oh, I've just spotted an advertisement for Pick Knitwear with a drawing by Edward Ardizzone. Whatever else happens, this one's not going to Age Concern.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph