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The Last Horsemen [Paperback]

Charles Bowden
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

12 May 2011
A century ago, power on farms was provided by five million heavy horses. They were the pride of rural Britain and the men who worked with them were the elite among farm workers. But today heavy horses are almost a thing of the past. They might be seen in all their glory at agricultural shows decked in glistening harnesses and paraded around the main ring but generally they are a distant memory. Except for one place: Sillywrea Farm in Northumberland, the last farm in Britain to be worked solely by horses. "The Last Horsemen" is the inspiring story of John Dodd and his family who have lived on Sillywrea for more than 150 years and for all that time, horses have been the only source of power. Telling the inspirational story of a year in the life of John Dodd, his family and the farm, this book compellingly evokes the beauty of the countryside. With a farming industry that seems to lurch from crisis to crisis, learning from people who have chosen an alternative way of life becomes ever more important. "The Last Horsemen" is a truly inspirational opportunity to view, first hand, scenes rarely played out in Britain's countryside in the twenty-first century.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Andre Deutsch Ltd (12 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0233003231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0233003238
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Charles Bowden is a Northumberland farmer's son who read English at Oxford before joining Thomson Newspapers in Newcastle. He was agricultural editor of the Newcastle Journal from 1975 to 1985 when he moved to Tyne Tees Television to produce the weekly farming programme they made for ITV. Since 1988 he has worked as an independent producer making over 150 programmes about farming, rural issues and wildlife for the BBC and regional ITV companies. He launched and edited the quarterly magazine of the Northumberland and Newcastle Society and served on the North-East committee of the National Trust for nine years. He lives in Northumberland, very close to Sillywrae Farm.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The world we have lost 19 Jan 2012
I found the recently published paperback at my local farmers' co-operative shop near Dumfries - and nearly passed over it. I'm so glad that I followed my instinct and bought it. Having read it, and knowing now that the hardback was published ten years ago I'm really eager to find out what is happening at Sillywrea Farm. It's a gentle, generous, slow paced and lyrical book but the hard work, dedication and sheer effort required to continue using REAL horse power, instead of tractors, comes through so clearly.

I think I was shocked to have the confirmation that there is - or was - only one farm still using solely horse power in the UK. I am sure that there are many smallholdings that still use horses but not for every task, I imagine. One thing that came through clearly was that it's hard to make the transition either way; if you stick with horses, it's virtually impossible to upgrade to tractors, given the investment required; and if you already have tractors, it's hard to go back to horses as it requires equipment and expertise that is difficult, if not next to impossible to obtain. You do wonder though, whether there are a number of farmers just trapped in a cycle of constant investment and borrowing, who would like to go back to a slower pace but who find themselves enslaved by the machines that are supposed to make their lives easier.

If anyone has any news of Sillywrea or of the author, Charles Bowden, I'd really like to have that as it's proving very difficult to find out more via the usual means of internet searches. I'd like to buy a DVD of the TV series he made, if there's one available.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A need for relaxation,and digression to an older lifestyle.The last horsemen has a way of adding relaxation to a busy world.It gives a purpose to the rushing world,the characters are friends,and the horses become team members.Superb and a must for all the stressed out amongst us.It's a Sunday morning style of approach with the all familiar Jack Hargreaves type men,telling their tales with unhurried handling.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The last horsemen 19 July 2014
By Clare O'Beara TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Sillywrea farm in high country north England is farmed by horse, with horses also used to pull tree trunks out of the woodland. This appears to be the last farm so worked in Britain.

The five horses presently used are Clydesdales, smaller than Shires and intelligent about their work. We see a year in the farm life, from spring ploughing and seeding to lambing, haymaking, cattle sales, then winter for repairs, turnips and so on. One young horse is being broken in and trained gradually. As the farmers do not need to invest in heavy machinery they do not have big debts to service; on the other hand the labour is intense and unending.

I loved the attention to and pride in the big horses. We also meet people involved in this lifestyle, such as the mobile farrier and the harness maker.

Sadly the men are attending several farm sales through the book, picking up old machinery or harness parts where they can, and it's clear that farms are closing down at a great rate and modern equipment is replacing everything about the old way of life. A Shire Horse Museum also closed down. The author was right to document this life while he could, and it was made into a Tyne TV series. We wonder if the National Trust or other should invest in the farm, but I suppose that would mean the farmers giving up control or ownership of assets.

Further reading: The Days Of The Servant Boy by Liam O'Donnell, describing a very similar life on farms in Ireland.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 8 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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