ABOUT JAMES

James Crowden is an author and poet living in Somerset. Born in Plymouth in 1954, he was raised on the western edge of Dartmoor. In 1972 he joined the army and served in Cyprus travelling widely in Eastern Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and north west India. In 1976-77 he spent a winter on the northern side of the Himalaya, in the remote Zangskar Valley in Ladakh. It was from this experience that he developed a lifelong interest in agriculture and Buddhism. James has a degree in Civil Engineering from Bristol University and later studied ethnology at Magdalen College, Oxford and the Pitt Rivers Museum. At the age of 21 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

For twenty years James worked in North Dorset and South Somerset as a shepherd, sheep shearer, cider maker and forester. The choice of manual work was deliberate and gave him a deeper understanding of the landscape. James has now retired from working on the land and is writing full time. Over the last few years he has worked on many different projects, in particular with Common Ground. In 1999 he was made their Apple Day Poet Laureate and subsequently wrote a libretto for a major new environmental opera called The Silver Messenger which was performed in Christchurch Priory in July 2001. This was part of Common Ground's three year Confluence Project with the composer Karen Wimhurst on the River Stour in Dorset. James has also made over 100 oral history recordings in Dorset and Somerset.

James's poetry has often been featured on BBC Radio 4 and television, as well as Literature Festivals at Dartington, Wells, Ludlow,Ledbury, Oxford, Sherborne, Bridport and Beaminster. He enjoys working in schools and gives a wide range of poetry workshops, talks and lectures. In 2004 he wrote a book called 'Waterways' for the National Trust. Since then he has written Dorset Man, Dorset Women and Dorset Coast as well as Ciderland which won the Andre Simon Food and Drink Award 2008. He has also presented several documentaries for BBC Radio 3 & 4 on Sheep Counting, Eels and Elvers. Thomas de Quincey's Walking Stick and Chasing Hares. He is now writing a a book about Afghanistan before the troubles. He is now writing a book about Afghanistan and crossing the Hindu Kush on foot via Badakhshan and Nuristan.

This is me - IT worker

FLAGON PRESS

Flagon Press

Flagon Press is the imprint belonging to James Crowden Publishing and its aim is to publish local books with the same ethos as local food. In other words, local subjects for local books, local writers, local designers, local printers, alternative low key marketing, low carbon footprint distribution to local bookshops and other alternative outlets. The main graphic designer is the artist Andrew Crane of Whitelackington near Ilminster. Two of the covers already used by Flagon Press are from mixed media textile works by Alice Crane of Wambrook.
James Crowden’s first book Blood, Earth & Medicine was a hot lead monotype/letter press book printed on a 5½ ton Heidelberg by the Parrett Press in 1991. The same Heidelberg printing press has now moved a few miles to Ilminster and is now being used by Rose Mills Print.

Other books for Flagon Press have been printed and bound by Remous of Milborne Port on the Dorset/Somerset border or Butler, Tanner and Dennis of Frome. Other Flagon Press titles include The Last Broomsquire, The Devon Food Book, Literary Somerset, Dorset Coast, Dorset Footsteps, Coastlines, Chasing the Light, The Bad Winter, Lewesdon Hill and We Have Heard Ravens.

James Crowden and his team of designers believe that each book is an individual work of art that should arise organically and be crafted, not mass produced. Books are to be savoured … and enjoyed like an artisan Calvados or Cider Brandy.

BOOKS

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Dorset Coast

Dorset Coast documents the lives of thirty six men and women, who work on the Dorset Coast, which stretches from Lyme Regis to Mudeford Quay. This extraordinary stretch of southern England takes in such places as Charmouth, West Bay, Abbotsbury, Weymouth and Portland, Lulworth and Purbeck, Swanage and Poole.

Here are tales of smuggling and tragedy at sea, daring rescues and foreign trade, fishing and fish merchants, lobster men, quarrymen, boat builders, geologists, divers, chefs, oysters, swans, artists, seine boats, tank training, live firing, gig racing, submarines, prisons, lifeboats, oil exploration, mullet fishing, poaching, punch and judy, netmakers, sculptors, scallopers, coastguards, sailing close to the wind, landslips, wrecks and dinosaurs. Such enormous variety that even this book only just touches the surface.

Dorset Coast is a companion volume to Dorset Man and Dorset Women which have both received high acclaim.

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Literary Somerset

This talk explores the literary highways and byways of Somerset, including the watering holes of Bath and Bristol. Writer and poet James Crowden has produced an intellectual roadmap of Somerset from Roman times through Anglo-Saxon Wessex up to the present day. Here you will find more than 300 writers: early chroniclers and opium addicted Romantic poets, philosophers, pirates and playwrights, eccentric clergymen, diarists and herbalists, novelists and historians, travellers chefs and scientists - From St Gildas and John Locke to John Cleese, Fay Weldon and Terry Pratchett.

Many of the literary connections are well known: TS Eliot and East Coker, Wordsworth & Coleridge in the Quantocks, but did you know that Thomas Hardy once lived in Yeovil ? or that Virginia Woolf had her honeymoon in Holford? or that John Steinbeck lived near Bruton; or that the vicar of Isle Brewers walked naked across Afghanistan? or that Arthur C Clarke was born in Minehead or that JRR Tolkien had his honeymoon in Clevedon and that Cheddar Gorge inspired Helm's deep in Lord of the Rings.

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Dorset Women

Dorset Women documents the lives of 35 women who have lived and worked in the county. They speak in their own words about their lives as shepherdesses, scrap dealers, farmers’ wives, sheep shearers, market gardeners, pig farmers, cheese makers, orchard owners, ferret handlers, falconers, farriers, cidermakers, supply teachers, taxidermists, letter cutters, songwriters, musicians, hairdressers, midwives, priests, otter conservationists and undertakers. Many are deeply linked to the land and their stories mine a rich vein of anecdote and experience. This book includes Dorset-born rock musician Polly Harvey (PJ Harvey), her mother Eva, former Biba twin Rosie Young and publican Val Crabb.

Dorset Women is a companion volume to Dorset Man which documents manual labour and rural life. Both projects were instigated by James Crowden, a poet and historian who worked on the land for twenty years as a casual agricultural labourer. For both books, Crowden collaborated with West Dorset photographer George Wright, who photographed the women on medium format black and white film. Crowden made digital recordings of the women talking and these were transcribed by Wright’s daughter Ruby.

Dorset Women was funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian foundation and 'Chalk and Cheese', a UK LEADER + funding initiative supporting sustainable development in Dorset's rural heartland.

  • Interviews by JAMES CROWDEN
  • Transcribed by RUBY WRIGHT
  • Photographs by GEORGE WRIGHT
  • ISBN coming soon

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We Have Heard Ravens

Catherine Simmonds has extracted these ‘poems’ from the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth and drawn out the fine lines of these observations and let them sing of their own accord - keen language, verging on haiku. The poems have an immediacy and freshness which takes us by surprise even today. That Dorothy was an inspiration to her more famous brother William is without doubt, and even perhaps to Coleridge. The three of them often went for long walks together in Dorset, Somerset and the Lake District. It is perhaps time to see Dorothy’s own work for what it was, not just an inspiration or a journal but as poetry in its own right. As Catherine Simmonds says in her introduction : “ Dorothy was never one to shy away from taking risks with language and would alter and redraft key descriptive lines in her journal until she was satisfied they rang true. The straightforward almost muscular nature of her writing means that her stylistic legacy strikes at us across the centuries - streamlined and wonderfully, curiously modern. ‘We Have Heard Ravens’ has been drawn up using less than 7000 of her words, a tiny fraction of her original output, and is intended as an experiment and a tribute to an extraordinary English writer who brought her whole self to bear not only upon her writing craft but upon her relationships with those close to her, and who as a result left English literature immeasurably richer.”

Catherine Simmonds was born in 1972 in Shaftesbury, Dorset. She read English and Commonwealth Literature at Stirling and returned to Dorset in 1998 where she works in a freelance capacity for museums, arts organisations, and as a writer and performer of poetry. Her love of Dorset and her interest in literature first brought her into contact with Dorothy’s writing whilst researching the time the Wordsworths’ spent living on the edge of Dorset’s Marshwood Vale.


‘Her information various – her eye watchful in
minutest observation of nature – and her taste a
perfect electrometer’ wrote the poet Samuel
Taylor Coleridge of his new acquaintance
Dorothy Wordsworth. Her brother, the
poet William Wordsworth, recalled her
influence on him in The Prelude: ‘speaking
in a voice /like a brook / That did but cross a
lonely road, and now / Is seen, heard, felt and caught
at every turn.’
Here – some of Dorothy's most beautiful
journal writing has been stripped back to
reveal the full poetry of her unique voice –
speaking to us across two hundred years of
the restless, changing seasons of the English
countryside.

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Working Women of somerset

Thirty Somerset Women employed in a fascinating variety of occupations describe their working lives in their own words. Full of revealing and humorous moments. Their stories as told to James Crowden provide a compelling insight into the heart of a rural community. Tales of hard work and achievement are accompanied by atmospheric black and white portraits taken by Pauline Rook.

"Its pages shatter the cliched myth of the rosy cheeked farmer's wife scattering corn from her apron for a handful of chickens…" The Countryman

Photography Pauline Rook - Agre Books 2001 - ISBN 0-9538000-5-9

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Cider: The Forgotten Miracle

Cider - The Forgotten Miracle is a witty, energetic and unforgettable investigation into the history of farmhouse cider. A fresh assessment of ancient traditions that have not only influenced the landscape for the better, but produced excellent cider into the bargain. Not surprisingly these myths, superstitions and anecdotes revolve around farms and farmers. This fascinating story set against the backdrop of 17th and 18th Century England is told with humour and clarity. It also involves a vivid description of working at Burrow Hill Cider Farm and charts the early days of the Somerset Cider Brandy Company.

Cyder Press 2 1999 - ISBN 0-9537103-0-0

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Bad Winter

The Bad Winter is a series of fifty poems about Dartmoor that starts with the bad winter of 1962-63 which was the coldest prolonged winter since 1740. The snow lasted for at least three months on the moor and many farms and villages were cut off. Woven into this is the history of the South West moor where the poet James Crowden grew up. He covers a very wide range of subjects such as Tavistock Abbey, the Lydford Mint, tin mining, rabbit warrens, swaling, peat cutting, leats, china clay, Dartmoor prison, Eamon de Valera, Blue Grass and of course the Chagford Tinners Riot of 1793 which was led by his great-great-great-great grandfather Zacharias Pascoe who later built himself a small cottage at Rundlestone near Princetown. Here you will find a rich vein of Dartmoor history and a personal touch which taps into the real lives of those that have lived and worked on the moor.

Introduction by James Pascoe Crowden This collection of poems has a loose historical narrative running through them. Some of the poems evolved out of conversations many years ago, others are more recent. In particular the memories of such people as George, Ethel and David Bowden, Fred and Don Peek and the farmers around Meavy left a deep impression on me as a child.

Although I was brought up in Tavistock, my mother’s parents lived in Meavy. My parents were married there, I was christened there and both my grandparent’s funerals were held there. It was and still is an important village to me, for it contains my earliest memories. My grandmother’s first cousin was a writer called Winston Graham and his books on Cornwall took pride of place on the book shelves of the White Cottage. So for me there also was an early attraction to writing. My grandfather, Captain Henry Moulton, who sang in the church choir for many years, had been in convoys in both wars and so also there was a strong link to the sea as well as to the moor. The Royal Oak also played its part.

Only relatively recently have I delved into the life of Zacharias Pascoe. When I mentioned his name to Dr Tom Greeves in Tavistock he exclaimed “Not THE Zacharias Pascoe?” Indeed it was the same man that Tom knew from his tin mining research. Zacharias is an interesting antecedent to have on one’s side in times of trouble. In 1800 his daughter Jane Pascoe married a quarterdeck gunner Dennis Crowden who had recently come into a good wodge of prize money from the capture of two Spanish frigates heavily laden with gold, silver and drugs from South America.

When I grew up in Tavistock the snow and arctic conditions of the ‘Bad Winter’ of 1962-63 left a very deep impression on me and maybe it is no coincidence that I later spent a winter in the Himalayas. Dartmoor is endlessly interesting but it is the working men and women who lived on the moor who fascinate me. These poems are only a start but I hope that they give some insight into the working conditions on the moor as well as the ancient history that lies just under the surface.

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1914: From Chandeliers to Annie Laurie

1914 is a series of over thirty previously unpublished verbatim accounts, poems and anecdotes covering the early months of the First World War: the famous retreat from Mons, the battles of Le Cateau, Néry, Marne and Aisne and finally the desperate defence of Ypres.

There are accounts of nurses in Antwerp; naval disasters in the Broad Fourteens; forays into the Bay of Bengal and Mesopotamia, and the famous Christmas truce, which at one point involved the singing of the Scottish folk song Annie Laurie in perfect English by a German officer on Christmas Eve.

What is of great interest is the variety and poignancy of the soldier’s voices, the immediacy and honesty of their writing. This book is designed as a sequel to James Crowden’s earlier book about the Boer War called From Ladysmith to Archangel. What is remarkable is that even after 100 years these voices and words can still convey great depth of feeling and illuminate the war with very powerful images.

Cover image: 1st Cameronians on the move up to the front from Vlamertinghe
to Levantie on 19 October 1914. Lt Col Philip Robertson map reading.
Photo by Lt R C Money © IWM (Q 51506)

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Blood, Earth & Medicine

A study of casual agricultural labour and farm work in Dorset involving sheep shearing and lambing, hurdlemaking and forestry, cidermaking and scything. Also included are many anecdotes about farm work and accounts from 19th century reports into working conditions on farms. Links in with the books Dorset Man, Dorset Women and Dorset Coast. Also included are tales of smuggling on the Dorset Coast. James's great, great grandfather, also called James Crowden, was a coastguard at Lulworth cove in the 1840s.


“The sense of a committed lived life behind the verse is very strong and appealing” Seamus Heaney

“A precious and impressive invocation of that very ancient way of life.” John Fowles

“Ted Hughes Territory seen from the inside.” Andrew Langley, Daily Telegraph

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Bridgwater

Bridgwater has an astonishing wealth of trading history and was for hundreds of years the only large port for most of Somerset. Trade was very extensive and there are at least a dozen other Bridgwaters in the rest of the world. This book was written to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the Bridgwater's First Charter. Poems by James Crowden, Photography by Pauline Rook.

Agre Books 2000 - ISBN 0-9538000-1-6

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the last broomsquire

The Last Broomsquire takes the very real events surrounding the 18th century story about the hanging of John Walford and weaves it into a multidimensional Quantock novel - a tale of passion, brutality, adventure and romance.

Here we meet not only the broomsquire, but the romantic poets Coleridge and Wordsworth, the enlightened tanner Tom Poole, and the eccentric landowner Andrew Crosse, whose electrical experiments inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.

The author skilfully brings the Quantock landscape alive with his ripping yarn, a tapestry embellished with beautiful women, family feuds and sudden death, as well as mud horse fishermen, shady smugglers, laudanum, cider and excise men. Rarely has a single location played host to such a string of remarkable events.

Martin Hesp is a well known journalist and broadcaster who grew up in the shadow of the Quantocks. This is his first novel.

Flagon Press Autumn 2010 - ISBN 978-0-9562778-1-7

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Ciderland

The West Country is justly famous for its wide variety of delicious ciders. Over the last thirty years there has been a quiet revolution in the area with a steady growth in cider producers, from small, local companies to well-established outfits pumping out millions of gallons a year. In this book, James Crowden charts the development of cider making in the West Country, from the sixteenth century monks to the diverse industry of today.

Crowden takes us on a tour around the beautiful and fragrant West Country orchards, outlining the differing manufacturing methods, and investigates the differences between a farm-house cider and an industrially manufactured one. He shows how the best cider makers translate their passion into the process and treat each different batch of cider like winemakers would a vintage. He also takes a look at the rise of perry making and profiles the companies dedicated to getting the best out of the West Country pears.

Ciderland includes comprehensive summaries and descriptions of every cider and cider producer in the West Country and covers topics such as cider folk traditions and remedies, placing cider making firmly within the local culture. Photographs by Claire Lloyd Davies

Birlinn 2008 - ISBN 9781841586274

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Coastlines

Chasing the light

Born in Finedon, a small village in Northamptonshire, Michael left school at 15 with a dream of going to university and a thirst to study art. Coming from a close-knit but working class family, there was little chance of pursuing his dream but encouraged by his siblings, particularly his sister Ruby and her husband David, Michael continued to paint and develop his natural talent and exhibit his work locally. His career as a youth worker enabled him to teach art and use art as a therapy for young people with social problems, to express their feelings. Michael has continued to teach – he is an inspirational enabler and has the patience to encourage and empower would-be artists of all ages.

Thirty-five years passed by and Michael married Janice and they had two children, Simon and Zöe, only then did he decide to try to fulfil his early ambitions and, spurred on by his wife, he achieved a BA (hons) in Fine Art at the University of Central England. Michael has won many awards for his artistic endeavours including:
1997 Emma Jessie Phipps award in Theoretical Art Studies
1997 Whitworth Wallis Marine Painting Competition Medal Winner
2001 1st Prize in Sculpture and installation Bridport Open Art Competition
2003 2nd Prize and voted 2nd most popular exhibitor Bridport Art Open Competition

It has taken Michael ten years since graduating to have the time, and the courage, to put together a book of his work, which illustrates the development of his own very personal visual language, and to communicate this vocabulary to the viewer through this work.
Michael’s paintings illuminate and breathe the local landscape and seascape of West Dorset and yet reach far beyond the representation of what he sees, and what we see too. They are windows onto a world that we can feel, touch, smell, inhale as well as see. Countryside in summer sunshine and winter rain, spring renewal and autumnal decline; seascapes that reflect the ever-changing emotions of the ocean – silent, serene, angry, tumultuous.

The paintings are profound and the sketchbooks are every bit as fascinating as they chart the journey of the artist’s eyes. Coastlines is a visual hymn to all that is glorious along the Jurassic Coast and inland to a timeless and unique landscape that is Dorset.

Flagon Press 2008 - ISBN (Coming Soon)

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The Devon Foodbook

Sadly Carol died 14th October 2009 after a three-year battle with leukaemia. There have been many tributes to Carol's courageous nature, both as a writer and champion of the wests finest foods.

Linking the Landscape to the Food on Your Plate. Devon produces some of the best food in Britain, from meat to fish and shellfish, cheese, clotted cream and vegetables, not to mention top class beers, cider and wines. The Devon Food Book explores the stories of some of the people behind this cornucopia of produce. Along with the history of farming, fishing and food production the book paints a fascinating picture of how Devon’s food culture and landscape have evolved together. The story is completed by recipes from some of the county’s most celebrated chefs, featuring these products.
Carol Trewin and Adam Woolfitt have already collaborated on two books, 'Gourmet Cornwall' and 'Cornish Fishing and Seafood'. Both books won the Gourmand World Cook Book Award for Best Local Cook Book in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Carol Trewin - has worked as the Food Editor of the Western Morning News and has written on food, farming and the countryside for many publications, including Inside Cornwall, Food Illustrated, the Field, British Farmer and Grower. Before returning to the South West she was editor of Radio 4’s Farming Today, and also worked for BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme, Woman’s Hour and the BBC World Service. Other radio programmes include On Your farm, Costing the Earth, Walston Goes Walkabout and Over the Counter. From 1997 – 2002 she was Farming Editor of the Western Morning News and later ran a £3 million food project for Taste of the West in Cornwall. In 2005 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies. From 2005 she has also been editorial consultant for Taste Cornwall Magazine, published twice a year.

Adam Woolfitt - has been a photographer all his life, and has contributed to many titles such as GEO, Newsweek, Gourmet, Travel and Leisure, the Weekend Telegraph and Sunday Times Magazines. From 1967 to 1994 he contributed more than 25 assignments to National Geographic and NGS Books Division. He writes on digital technology for the British Journal of Photography, Image Magazine and Ag Magazine, and is a past Chairman of the Association of Photographers. He was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the British Institute of Professional Photographers in 2002 and won his associateship of the Royal Photographic Society while still a student at Guildford College in 1959.

Flagon Press Spring 2010 - ISBN 978-0-9557073-9-1

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Dorset Footsteps

DORSET FOOTSTEPS is a series of linked poems that reach right across Dorset from Ashmore in the north east on the edge of Cranborne Chase down to Lyme Regis on the South Coast. During 2006 James Crowden was writer in residence along this route, the Dorset section of the Wessex Ridgeway. Here you will find poems evoking a very real sense of freedom, rural history and terroir, fieldnames and farmworker’s lives, hillforts and radio masts, chalk downland, Liz Frink’s studio and John Fowles’s garden.

The main sequence of 25 poems are deliberately split in half, like lengths of hazel rod, and are intended to be read with two voices, using a modern version of the Anglo-Saxon mid line break to great effect. What has been wonderful about this project is that Artsreach in Dorchester was able to commission local artists to use selected words in sculptures, waymarkers and benches which are dotted along the route at unexpected locations. This use of poetry and outdoor art takes its inspiration from the works of Ian Hamilton Findlay. Many different writing workshops for adults and school children also took place along the route in all weathers.. Wessex Ridgeway Poems.

Flagon Press 2007 - ISBN 978-0-95579073-1-5

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From Ladysmith To Archangel

James Crowden explores the 'Language of War' by using contemporary sources, diaries, letters, newspaper reports and verbatim accounts to get a real feel for the war as it unfolded and to show how these cataclysmic events were recorded at the time, and why the Boer War had such an impact on public consciousness world wide.

James was amazed to find a very rich cast of characters which included Conan Doyle, who acted as a doctor in a typhoid outbreak; Rudyard Kipling, who briefly edited a newspaper; Mahatma Gandhi who acted as stretcher bearer at Spion Kop; Winston Churchill who was captured when an armoured train was ambushed; his intrepid aunt Lady Sarah Wilson who was also captured by the Boers, swopped for a horse thief, and not only survived the siege of Mafeking but became the first woman war correspondent, writing a column for the Daily Mail. Most interesting of all perhaps was that Vincent van Gogh had a third brother, Cornelis, who fought on the Boer side in a Dutch Commando, was captured and died in a British Army hospital.

The Boer War was in some ways a proxy war and like the Spanish Civil War, had the equivalent of International Brigades often made up of aristocrats fighting on the Boer side. There were German, Irish, Dutch, Italian, French, American, Scandinavian even Russian Commandos. The Boer War was used as testing ground for weapons and tactics. It paved the way for First War in much the same way that the Spanish Civil war opened the gates for the Second War. Several high ranking German military advisers who fought on the Boer side as artillery men and engineers were captured.

The Boer War became the first of the modern wars fought with modern weapons. There were searchlights, radios, heliographs, pigeons, machine guns, barbed wire, trenches, war balloons, Mausers as well as long range artillery and high explosive. There were diamond mines, gold mines, towns under siege, set piece battles, snipers, nurses, disease and 'concentration' camps as well as a very hard fought guerrilla war.

Perhaps most importantly, James had taken a very experimental approach to military history and laid the book out as if it was poetry to give the language a chance to breathe. The style of writing seeks to make military history more intelligible and accessible to a far wider audience and to enable them to understand what it was like to be there and the way in which language was used to convey those thoughts and feelings about a war which should never really have happened.

Flagon Press 2013 - ISBN: 978-0-9562778-5-5

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Lewesdon Hill

LEWESDON HILL lies poised like a wooded and mysterious Mount Parnassus above the small West Dorset village of Stoke Abbot. Lewesdon Hill the poem was first published in 1788 with instant success. The author, William Crowe, 1745-1829, the son of a carpenter, was rector of Stoke Abbot, Public Orator at Oxford University and a Fellow of New College. A learned man with a keen eye for the classics, he takes the reader to the summit on a May morning and describes the landscape, as well as the finer points of Dorset smuggling techniques and the famous wreck of the East Indiaman, the Halsewell, near Worth Matravers in 1786. The real importance of Lewesdon Hill is that it is a useful stepping stone, bridging the Augustan and Romantic periods.

The poem was much admired by William Wordsworth who lived in the area for two years with his sister Dorothy at Racedown Lodge. Coleridge stayed with them and walked the hills in June 1797. Both men were inspired by the poem and referred to it in later years. This hidden gem of Dorset literature is now reprinted in facsimile form. The introduction by poet and historian James Crowden makes the whole poem come alive and adds greatly to our knowledge of William Crowe, a remarkable man with many eccentricities of his own. An essential book for anyone interested in Dorset, the origins of the Romantic movement and the Oxford literary world of the late 18th century.

Flagon Press 2007 - ISBN 978-0-9557073-0-8

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Flowers In The Minefields

James Crowden tells the story of Somerset's war poet in the Western Desert - his life and reads from his poetry. Jarmain lived in West Pennard and was a schoolmaster at Millfield in Street. He joined the Royal Artillery and served at El Alamein with the 51st Highland Division as an anti-tank gunner. He then fought his way with them right along the desert coast to Tunisia, and then took part in the invasion of Sicily. Whilst in the Western desert he wrote some very fine poetry which was published by Collins. He also wrote a novel called Priddy Barrows. Sadly John Jarmain was killed by a German mortar shell just before breakfast on 26th June 1944 in a village outside Caen, in Normandy, in June 1944.

Flagon Press 2012 - ISBN: 978-0-9562778-3-1

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Open-Mouthed

Open-Mouthed A cutting edge book of Food poetry

by Four Devon Poets

Eat your words ! Poetry on a plate.

Here you will find Alphabet Soup and Elvers; Cornish Earlies and Borscht, Pistachios and Mussels, Gathering Mushrooms alongside a hostess trolley, Tripe an Cow 'eels, Sad Cake and Sloes, Trout Hatcheries and Meat Commissions, Dartmouth Crab, Riverford Rocket, Mushy Peas, Feeding the Dolls, Curried Squirrel and Mammoth.

These are just a few of the sixty-four mouth watering poems by James Crowden, Lawrence Sail, Alan Peacock & Elisabeth Rowe.

Open - Mouthed is a true feast for the senses, an a la carte menu of poems, al fresco, al dente, succulent morsels plucked from the hedgerows and kitchens both at home and abroad. Four very different voices all connected in some way with the Westcountry, Dartington and Devon. Here you can graze to your heart's content, sample the hors d'oeuvre, short spicy little numbers, the succulent main course, long languorous poems for summer, just desserts, the fruit, the wine, the cider, the orchards, a real celebration of food and poetry folded into one spine, one book.

James Crowden was born in Plymouth and has written nine books. He grew up on the western edge of Dartmoor where he developed a penchant for cider, pasties and saffron buns.
Elisabeth Rowe lives on the edge of Dartmoor and read English at Oxford. Her first book of poems, Surface Tension, was published by Peterloo Poets in 2003.
Lawrence Sail lives in Exeter and has published nine collections of poems, most recently Eye-Baby (Bloodaxe Books, 2006).
Alan Peacock grew up in the Pennines, has published five collections of poetry and has lived in Devon since 1988.
The foreword is by Carol Trewin - Food Editor of Western Morning News. Prospect Books publish historical and contemporary food books and is run by leading food writer, critic and publisher Tom Jaine of Allaleigh, Totnes.

ISBN coming soon

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Wessex Diaries

Sketches from Life in Hardy Country. Shepherds Hut Illustration by Tim MillarJohn Vallins has been contributing fortnightly for nearly twenty years to The Guardian’s Country Diary column. These sketches are small gems of country life preserved not in aspic but subtle prose. Here you will find: The Pig Handling Parson, A Pigeon called Jeremy, Cidermaking and Hurdlemaking, the Odcombe Leg Stretcher, Blackmsiths, Hedgehogs and Dimmer Dump. Scythes and Dewponds, Smoked Eel and Prize Cattle, Apple Day and Heavy Horses, Sheep Shearing and Hydraulic Rams, Foals, Winterbournes and Compton Pauncefoot’s Bells.

About The Author - John Vallins

John Vallins was born at Bramley, in Surrey, where his father was the curate. After National Service (which took him to Nigeria), and reading English at Magdalene College Cambridge, he first came to Somerset in 1956 in response to an advertisement for ‘an active bachelor to teach English and coach Apple Day Illustration by Tim Millarcricket’ at King’s School, Bruton. A few years later, there was a chance brush with literary greatness; John Steinbeck came to live near Bruton to write his version of Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, and Steinbeck was told that John's wife, Sallie, was a good typist. So he clambered up the narrow steps to a third floor flat to deliver his handwritten manuscript to her to be typed.

In 1965, the family moved to Surrey, where John taught at Cranleigh School, close to where he was born. In 1974, he was appointed Headmaster of Chetham’s School of Music, in the heart of Manchester, where he and his family spent eighteen years.

Retirement in 1992 brought a return to Somerset, Blackmore Vale, and the edge of Hardy’s Wessex, near William Barnes's birthplacerich territory for rural scenes, personalities, events, reminiscence, and literary echoes.

Since 1992 John Vallins has been living in Somerset and contributing fortnightly to The Guardian’s Country Diary column, which has appeared daily in the paper for 104 years, and nowadays has a place of honour on the Leader.

Tim Millar studied art at Cheltenham, specializing in sculpture and drawing. Since leaving college, he has worked mainly in cast glass. He is a member of the Shave Farm Artists, a group based in Somerset. He has previously illustrated two books of folk dances. The illustrations for this book were prepared using a Japanese brush-pen, a tool intended for calligraphy but equally good for drawing

Flagon Press Autumn 2011 - ISBN 978-0-9562778-2-4

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The Wheal of Hope

In 1998 the closure of South Crofty, the last working tin mine in Cornwall, brought to an end more than 3,000 years of history. This vigorous and detailed book records what it was like to labour hundreds of fathoms underground and it pays tribute to the men, women and children whose lives shaped Cornwall's unique industrial landscape.

Photography George Wright - Agre Books 2000 - ISBN 0-9538000-2-4

“It is a splendid blend of creative photos and perceptive verse.” Winston Graham - Author of Poldark

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Cornish Fishing and Seafood

Did you know that more than 50 species of fish and shellfish are regularly landed in Cornwall? Or that stocks of most of these are thriving? "Cornish Fishing and Seafood" is not just another book of fish recipes, although more than 20 recipes demonstrate how easy it is to cook the best, freshest fish. It also celebrates seafood and sea fishing in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and reveals why our only truly wild source of food, harvested by the last of the hunter-gatherers, is special, to be treated with respect. It takes the lid off the myths and misunderstandings surrounding sea fishing, to discover the real state of fishing in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Using the words and experiences of the fishermen themselves, auctioneers, processors and fish merchants, this book debunks any idea that fishermen are wilfully destroying the very thing that provides them with a living, showing instead the initiatives they have taken to protect stocks for the future. While celebrating the positive aspects of Cornish fishing, "Cornish Fishing and Seafood" does not shy away from recent difficulties - decommissioning, cuts in fish quotas, and shortages of manpower. It also looks forwards, and outlines the steps being taken to ensure that Cornish fishermen and Cornish boats keep fishing profitably in the twenty-first century. "Cornish Fishing and Seafood" has been written with support from the industry, at sea and onshore, so that profits from sales can help the Duchy Fish Quota Company to keep Cornish fishing quota in Cornwall.

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Waterways

This is the fourth title in the National Trust's series "Living Landscapes". Waterways in their many forms reveal a fascinating history and today represent one of our most precious resources. This book tells the story of the water's journey, from the mythical connections of the humble spring or well to the formal water gardens and moated castles of the aristocracy. Along the way we learn about the engineering feats of the earliest canal-builders, the colourful communities that grew up around the watermills, how rivers powered the industrial revolution (and gave us our first taste of large-scale pollution), the wildlife that water supports, and explore the many literary and cultural connections of water.

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Silence at Ramscliffe

For many the slaughter of healthy farm animals during the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001, as part of a government sanctioned contiguous cull, was nothing short of genocide. True, the disease was virulent and widespread, but none of the lessons of the earlier 1967-68 outbreak had been learnt. In the words of Professor Fred Brown, the cull was "barbaric conduct" and "a disgrace to humanity." Commissioned by Devon County Council through Beaford Arts to make a record of Foot and Mouth Disease and its effect on the rural community, photographer Chris Chapman centred his story on the study of a contiguous farm in the parish of Beaford, North Devon. Later he invited the poet James Crowden to accompany him on a tour of the farm and the surrounding region, hoping to share with him the pain he had witnessed. This extraordinary result, from both poet and photographer, neither minces its words nor flinches from the reality.

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Gourmet Cornwall

"Gourmet Cornwall" celebrates the superb food and drink of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly; the dedicated men and women who produce it, and the chefs who create some of the finest contemporary dishes. This is the first in-depth study of regional food in Britain today: real food, with real taste. It is for foodlovers everywhere.

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Poems From The Oak Room

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Dorset Man

"Dorset Man" is a rural arts project documenting men's working lives within the 'Chalk and Cheese' area of Dorset. Here you will find blacksmiths, thatchers, fishermen, shepherds, sheep shearers, foresters, hurdlemakers, bakers, butchers, cheese makers, publicans, millers, scrap dealers, charcoal burners, grave diggers, bee-keepers, rat catchers and swill men. They live and work in an area stretching, from Thorncombe and Monkton Wyld in the west of the county, to Farnham, Cann Common and Melbury Abbas in the east. The project was masterminded by James Crowden, a local poet and historian who has worked here for 25 years. He collaborated with West Dorset photographer George Wright, whose work has appeared in books and magazines worldwide and is part of the National Portrait Gallery's permanent collection. Together, Crowden and Wright have created an invaluable historical record of how rural life has changed since the 1900s. Crowden made digital recordings of the men talking about their lives while Wright photographed them on medium format film.
The result shows a landscape rich in stories and depicts a rural way of life sure to inspire a new generation interested in local food and indigenous craft skills. "Dorset Man" was funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and 'Chalk and Cheese', a UK Leader plus funding initiative supporting sustainable development in Dorset's rural heartland.

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FEATURED ARTICLE

three hares - chasing hares

These hares are deeply embedded in our psychology.

The Quest is fascinating.


ARTICLES & REVIEWS

RADIO

TALKS

James Crowden has given many talks and readings on a wide variety of subjects over the years. These include talks at the Royal Geographical Society, The Alpine Club, the Royal Society ( on the history of cider !) as well as Paris: La Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Shakespeare's bookshop, British Embassy and Avignon; Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol Universities as well as a wide variety of Literary and Food Festivals including Oxford, Dartington - Ways with Words, Bridport, Beaminster, Abergavenny, Ledbury, Hereford, Exeter, Tavistock, Ilminster, Crewkerne, Topsham and countless wonderful village halls, theatrical venues, remote farms, orchards and Apple Day events.

For cost of talks please contact James Crowden direct

Literary Somerset

This talk explores the literary highways and byways of Somerset, including the watering holes of Bath and Bristol. Writer and poet James Crowden has produced an intellectual roadmap of Somerset from Roman times through Anglo-Saxon Wessex up to the present day. Here you will find more than 300 writers: early chroniclers and opium addicted Romantic poets, philosophers, pirates and playwrights, eccentric clergymen, diarists and herbalists, novelists and historians, travellers chefs and scientists - From St Gildas and John Locke to John Cleese, Fay Weldon and Terry Pratchett.

Many of the literary connections are well known: TS Eliot and East Coker, Wordsworth & Coleridge in the Quantocks, but did you know that Thomas Hardy once lived in Yeovil ? or that Virginia Woolf had her honeymoon in Holford? or that John Steinbeck lived near Bruton; or that the vicar of Isle Brewers walked naked across Afghanistan? or that Arthur C Clarke was born in Minehead or that JRR Tolkien had his honeymoon in Clevedon and that Cheddar Gorge inspired Helm's deep in Lord of the Rings.

History of Cider

Thought provoking talk on the origins of the bottle fermented sparkling cider otherwise known as methode champenoise which was an old trick first pioneered by the cider aristocrats of Herefordshire and Somerset in the 1650s. The talk also includes cider poetry and a detailed look at the role of orchards and varieties used in the making of farmhouse cider and perry. Based on James's book Cider the Forgotten Miracle and Ciderland which won the prestigious Andre Simon food and drink award in 2008.

In Time of Flood - The Somerset Levels & The River Parrett

This talk is based on the book of the same name and follows the river Parrett from source to mouth. This is the heart of the Somerset Wetlands, the Levels and Moors which become inundated each winter and provide a unique habitat for man and wildfowl, otter and eel. The poetry of James Crowden is very accessible and covers such diverse topics as elvers, eel smoking, nuclear power stations, withies, basket making, cider distilling and explosive factories. The book also covers the history of the river from Celtic times to the present day.

Blood Earth & Medicine

A study of casual agricultural labour and farm work in Dorset involving sheep shearing and lambing, hurdlemaking and forestry, cidermaking and scything. Also included are many anecdotes about farm work and accounts from 19th century reports into working conditions on farms. Links in with the books Dorset Man, Dorset Women and Dorset Coast. Also included are tales of smuggling on the Dorset Coast. James's great, great grandfather, also called James Crowden, was a coastguard at Lulworth cove in the 1840s.

Flowers in the Minefield - John Jarmain:

James Crowden tells the story of Somerset's war poet in the Western Desert - his life and reads from his poetry. Jarmain lived in West Pennard and was a schoolmaster at Millfield in Street. He joined the Royal Artillery and served at El Alamein with the 51st Highland Division as an anti-tank gunner. He then fought his way with them right along the desert coast to Tunisia, and then took part in the invasion of Sicily. Whilst in the Western desert he wrote some very fine poetry which was published by Collins. He also wrote a novel called Priddy Barrows. Sadly John Jarmain was killed by a German mortar shell just before breakfast on 26th June 1944 in a village outside Caen, in Normandy, in June 1944.

1914 - From Chandeliers to Annie Laurie

1914 is a series of over thirty previously unpublished verbatim accounts, poems and anecdotes covering the early months of the First World War: the famous retreat from Mons, the battles of Le Cateau, Néry, Marne and Aisne and finally the desperate defence of Ypres.

There are accounts of nurses in Antwerp; naval disasters in the Broad Fourteens; forays into the Bay of Bengal and Mesopotamia, and the famous Christmas truce, which at one point involved the singing of the Scottish folk song Annie Laurie in perfect English by a German officer on Christmas Eve.


The talk covers the events of 1914 through the eyes of old soldiers quite few of whom James knew in the 1960s and 1970s.  

The Bad Winter Dartmoor

The talk centres on the book which is a series of fifty poems about Dartmoor that starts with the bad winter of 1962-63. The coldest prolonged winter since 1740. The snow lasted for at least three months on the moor and many farms and villages were cut off. Woven into this is the history of the South West moor where the poet James Crowden grew up. He covers a very wide range of subjects such as Tavistock Abbey, the Lydford Mint, tin mining, rabbit warrens, swaling, peat cutting, leats, china clay, Dartmoor prison, Eamon de Valera, Blue Grass and of course the Chagford Tinners Riot of 1793 which was led by his great-great-great-great grandfather Zacharias Pascoe who later built himself a small cottage at Rundlestone near Princetown. Here you will find a rich vein of Dartmoor history and a personal touch which taps into the real lives of those that have lived and worked on the moor.

The Wheal of Hope South Crofty & Cornish Tin Mining

In 1998 the closure of South Crofty, the last working tin mine in Cornwall, brought to an end more than 3,000 years of history. This vigorous and detailed book records what it was like to labour hundreds of fathoms underground and it pays tribute to the men, women and children whose lives shaped Cornwall's unique industrial landscape. The talk incorporates a rich vein of tin mining and copper mining history from Geevor to The Tamar valley and Dartmoor. James's ancestors were tin miners and tin streamers from Wendron near Helston.