Countryfile Discovers Exmoor’s Hope Bourne

Ellie and John Burgess

Ellie and John Burgess - Credit: Archant

Well-known and colourful author and countrywoman, Hope Bourne, who died aged 91 in 2010, is featured in Countryfile on Sunday, 16th March.

Ellie and Rachel Thomas

Ellie and Rachel Thomas - Credit: Archant

Famous for living in a small caravan in a remote spot on Exmoor for over two decades, Hope attracted national attention in the way of life she followed that was almost self- sufficient. She grew her own food, collected wood and armed with a 12 bore shotgun or a .22 rifle, shot for the pot. In addition to helping farming friends across the moor, she earned her living as a writer, publishing four books on the Exmoor countryside and rural life, as well as writing a popular weekly column for a local newspaper. Wherever she went on Exmoor, Hope sketched and painted the living landscape around her, annotating many of her drawings and giving some of them to people she visited as a thank you for feeding her. She loved Exmoor’s wildness, its solitude and beauty, changing through all the seasons, and was passionate about hill farming and hunting.

Hope was a founder subscriber to the Exmoor Society, a conservation charity set up to fight proposals for afforesting The Chains, the heart of the moorland. She soon became a Trustee at a time when the Society was fighting against the continual loss of moorland. She wrote regular erudite articles for the Society’s annual Exmoor Review ranging from wildlife to farming activities. She left her whole Estate to the Exmoor Society which included a large collection of over 2000 drawings and paintings, letters, manuscripts, memorabilia and 700 books. With some of her financial legacy the Society has put on two exhibitions and commissioned a DVD and a book, “Eloquence through Art”. Her lasting legacy will be part of the Exmoor Society’s archives that are about to be set up in new premises at 34 High Street, Dulverton after operating for 46 years in Parish Rooms.

Countryfile filmed with television presenter, Ellie Harrison, at two places – first at Fernyball with Exmoor Society Trustee John Burgess who knew and interviewed her, and second at Parish Rooms in Dulverton where Hope’s collection of material is housed, and Chairman Rachel Thomas shows some of the documents left to the Society.