The Heart of the Country

By James and Robin Ravilious, foreword by Ronald Blythe (Scholar Press, 1980)

Recommended by Martin Stott

The Heart of the Country captures — in the words of Robin Ravilious and the photographs of James Ravilious — a slice of rural north Devon between the Taw and Torridge rivers. Structured around four themes (The Land, Farming, Village Life, and Occasions), each with a short introduction by Robin, James records in over a hundred photographs what Ronald Blythe calls ‘the poetry of the commonplace’.  Taken over a six-year period in the 1970s within a ten-mile radius of Beaford (covering three towns and about thirty villages), the photographs have an immersive quality which Blythe describes as ‘saying something very memorable about the deeper actuality of rural experience’. Forty years later, they evoke a romantic, almost wistful, air of a community where the threads of people’s lives—the Post Office, the village shops and pubs, hedge laying, foxhunting, the village forge, and winter snows with all the challenges they brought for farmers and their livestock—entwine to create a record of a rural society to which the authors themselves belong, connecting a lingering yesterday to the present.