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  • Published: 14 September 2021
  • ISBN: 9780141982571
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $26.00

English Pastoral

An Inheritance - The Sunday Times bestseller from the author of The Shepherd's Life

A poetic, practical, raw and almost miraculously detailed picture of [an] ancient way of life struggling to survive and to be reborn - New Statesman

As a boy, James Rebanks's grandfather taught him to work the land the old way. Their family farm in the Lake District hills was part of an ancient landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognisable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song.

English Pastoral is the story of an inheritance: one that affects us all. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost. And yet this elegy from the Lake District fells is also a song of hope: how, guided by the past, one farmer began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy for the future.

This is a book about what it means to have love and pride in a place, and how, against all the odds, it may still be possible to build a new pastoral: not a utopia, but somewhere decent for us all.

  • Published: 14 September 2021
  • ISBN: 9780141982571
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $26.00

About the author

James Rebanks

James Rebanks is the Herdwick Shepherd, whose account of shepherding has a strong following on Twitter. His family have farmed in the same area for six hundred years.

Also by James Rebanks

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Praise for English Pastoral

Vivid, accessible, inspiring - a story about one man's emerging land ethic, and an appreciation of the old ways in modern times. A vital book for anybody who eats

Kathryn Aalto, author of Writing Wild

A wonderful and timely account of one farmer's lifelong effort to do right by his family, his land, his animals and his ecosystem

Nick Offerman

James Rebanks describes the life of a Lakeland working farmer from the inside with a unrivalled truth and eloquence

Tom Fort, author of Casting Shadows

English Pastoral is a work of art. It is nourishing and grounding to read ... this brave and beautiful book will shape hearts and minds.

Jane Clarke, author of When the Tree Falls

James Rebanks is a beautiful writer, in a unique position to describe the challenges currently being faced by farmers throughout the world. English Pastoral is a joy to read and extremely moving - a book which should be read by every citizen.

Patrick Holden, Sustainable Food Trust

Through the eyes of James Rebanks as a grandson, son, and then father, we witness the tragic decline of traditional agriculture, and glimpse what we must now do to make it right again. As an evocation of British landscape past and present, it's up there with Cider With Rosie.

Joanna Blythman

Wonderful ... I can't imagine anyone starting to read English Pastoral and not being eager to read it all at once, as I did

Philip Pullman

One of the most important books of our time. Told with humility and grace, this story of farming over three generations - where we went wrong and how we can change our ways - will be our land's salvation.

Isabella Tree

A beautifully written story of a family, a home and a changing landscape.

Nigel Slater

I have never met anyone so roaringly, joyously in context and content as James Rebanks, belting around his farm in the rain ... The story of Rebanks and his family is the story of what farming has been in Britain but, also, the story of what it could become

Caitlin Moran, The Times

Beautiful and shocking, but ultimately so gloriously hopeful. The book we should all read as we emerge from this latest strangeness.

Paula Hawkins

James Rebanks combines the descriptive powers of a great novelist with the pragmatic wisdom of a farmer who has watched his world transformed. This is a profound and beautiful book about the land, and how we should live off it.

Ed Caesar

A beautiful and important book.

Sadie Jones

A wonderful, humane book told through the eyes of a man who has watched much vanish from his land, and now wants to put it back ... Moving and illuminating.

Benedict Macdonald, author of Rebirding

A rare and urgent book ... Its beauty is not only in the writing but in what is behind it: a gentle and wise sensibility that is alive to the human love affair with the land and yet also intimately cognisant of our collective and systematic cruelty towards it.

Hisham Matar

James Rebanks's story of his family's farm is just about perfect. It belongs with the finest writing of its kind

Wendell Berry

A heartfelt book and one that dares to hope.

Alan Bennett

What a terrific book: vivid and impassioned and urgent--and, in both its alarm and its awe for the natural world, deeply convincing. Rebanks leaves no doubt that the question of how to farm is a question of human survival on this hard-used planet. He should be read by everyone who grows food, and by everyone who eats it

Philip Gourevitch

Farming, unlike almost any other job, is bound up in a series of complex ropes that Rebanks captures in his own story so beautifully: family pressure and loyalty, ego, loneliness, and a special kind of peer pressure...English Pastoral is going to be the most important book published about our countryside in decades, if not a generation

Sarah Langford

Remarkable ... A brilliant, beautiful book ... Eloquent, persuasive and electric with the urgency that comes out of love

Christine Patterson, The Sunday Times

Rapturous ... For Rebanks writing and farming have proved complementary: while working long hours on the land he has produced a book in a pastoral tradition that runs from Virgil to Wendell Berry

Blake Morrison, Guardian

It is a book full of love: of his grandfather, of his children and of the Lake District valley where he lives and farms ... Some books change our world. I hope this turns out to be one of them.

Julian Glover, Evening Standard

Rebanks is a rare find indeed: a Lake District farmer whose family have worked the land for 600 years, with a passion to save the countryside and an elegant prose style to engage even the most urban reader. He's refreshingly realistic about how farmed and wild landscapes can coexist and technology can be tamed. A story for us all.

Evening Standard, Best Books of Autumn 2020

A deeply personal account by a farmer of what has happened to farming in Britain. Everyone interested in food should read this compelling, informative, moving book

Jenny Linford

Heartfelt, rich with detail ... James Rebanks writes with his heart, and his heart is in the right place. We should listen to him.

Jamie Blackett, Telegraph

Moving, thought-provoking and beautifully written.

James Holland

Ambitious, accomplished ... Rebanks is eloquent - scenes of mud and guts are interspersed with quotes ranging from Virgil to Schumpeter, Rachel Carson to Wendell Berry ... English Pastoral builds into a heartfelt elegy for all that has been lost from our landscape, and a rousing disquisition on what could be regained - a rallying cry for a better future.

Laura Battle, Financial Times

A home-grown Georgics for the twenty-first century

The Tablet

I think, genuinely, this is the best book I've read this year, and one of the most important books of recent years. It is about food and farming, and how we eat what we eat. It's about progress and nostalgia, without being prideful or mawkish, it's about families and tradition, and the passing of time. It made me simultaneously proud to be British, and sad for what we have become, but hopeful that we can change.

Adam Rutherford

A book of toil and beauty, rooted in a fell farm in the Lake District ... English Pastoral is a nuanced, hopeful, honest story. It is essential reading.

Geographical Magazine

James Rebanks's English Pastoral deserves to be called a masterpiece. Four generations of his family building on centuries of their farming in the Cumbrian Fells gives us a poetic, practical, raw and almost miraculously detailed picture of this ancient way of life struggling to survive and to be reborn. This wonderful book was waiting to be written.

Melvyn Bragg, New Statesman Book of the Year

Perfectly judged, it made me cry (twice) and left me with a new understanding of agriculture, and a real sense of hope.

Melissa Harrison

English Pastoral is one of the most captivating memoirs of recent years ...The traditional pastoral is about retreat into an imagined rural idyll, but this confronts very real environmental dilemmas. Like the best books, it gives you hope and new energy.

Amanda Craig, Guardian

The power of English Pastoral lies not just in the passion and eloquence of its prose or the clarity of its argument. It carries the authority of one who has not just thought about these problems, but lived them. It is a timely and important book.


It moved me to tears, made me feel excited and optimistic, and said, so eloquently and succinctly, all the things I've been thinking and feeling ... It is not just a beautiful book to read, but so important and so timely. A wonderful, thought-provoking, heartlifting read.

Kate Humble

I can't remember a book I've wanted to press into people's hands more this year than this resonant, immensely thoughtful look back at three generations of a farming family ... Managing to cram the whole modern history of British farming and nature into 270 beautifully written pages, this is a gem that's moving and immensely informative.

Andrew Holgate, The Sunday Times Nature Book of the Year

James Rebanks has a sharp eye and a lyrical heart. His book is devastating, charting the murderous and unsustainable revolution in modern farming ... But it is also uplifting: Rebanks is determined to hang on to his Herdwicks, to keep producing food, and to bring back the curlews and butterflies and the soil fertility to his beloved fields. Truly a significant book for our time.

Daily Mail – Books of the Year

Lyrical and illuminating ... will fascinate city-dwellers and country-lovers alike.

Independent – 10 Best Non-Fiction Books of 2020

A lyrical account of Rebanks' childhood on the Lake District farm that he's made famous; an account of how he learned about stockmanship and community and the rhythms of the land from his father and grandfather. [...] His writing is properly Romantic, which is a high compliment [...] Rebanks is obviously a wonderful human as well as a splendid writer.

Charles Foster

Marvellous and moving

Richard Flanagan, Man Booker Prize winning author of Narrow Road to the Deep North

Powerful, important and deserves every accolade.

Raynor Winn

A lament for lost traditions, a celebration of a way of living and a reminder that nature is 'finite and breakable.' Mr. Rebanks hits all the right notes and deserves to be heard

Wall Street Journal

Lyrical, evocative, generous ... Thank the gods of agriculture for James Rebanks

Kristin Kimball, New York Times

A wonder of a book, fierce, tender, and beautiful. Deeply personal but also global in significance, its pages course with love and concern so palpable I more than once wept while reading it. James Rebanks writes lyrically and passionately of the shadow that has fallen over our relationship with land, and how we might reconfigure the ways we think about it, relate to it, interact with it, and with each other. It's both a sobering, urgent read and a deeply inspiring, hopeful one. The book, and author, are to be treasured

Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk

The most important story, perfectly told

Amy Liptrot

Memorable, urgent, eloquent ... Rebanks speaks with blunt, unmatched authority. He is also a fine writer with descriptive power and a gift for characterisation ... English Pastoral may be the most passionate ecological corrective since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring

Caroline Fraser, New York Review of Books