Explore the world of H.E. Bates: Gardening & Nature

Explore the world of
& Nature
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He garden writing

A Love of Flowers

Gardening was essential to H.E.’s writing. He would plan a novel in his mind as he worked in the garden all summer, setting it down on paper during the autumn and winter. He wrote in longhand in his summerhouse, weather permitting, believing the fragrance of flowers stimulated his creative powers.

Gardening was also essential to his well being. Confined to his bed following a heart attack he wrote later: ‘My garden became for me something to cling to. You could say it gave me the kiss of life’.

He wrote two full length books on gardening, A Love of Flowers and A Fountain of Flowers, and for many years had a regular gardening column in a weekly magazine. In an article on pruning he describes the ruinous ‘settin’ back’ technique of his arch enemy, 'Mr Pimpkins', one of his most delightful comic creations.

Threshing Day photo

The Happy Countryman

H.E.s grandparents had a small-holding on the outskirts of Higham Ferrers. There he was a farm boy: sowing, harvesting, threshing, riding the little white pony to The Green Dragon pub for supplies of beer and herding cows whilst his grandfather taught him about nature and told tall tales of poaching.

But life on the little farm was hard and his grandparents struggled to make a living. These experiences separated his town and country life giving him an intimate understanding of the advantages and disadvantages attached to both. Despite his great affection for country life he never sentimentalised it or saw it through rose coloured spectacles.

Through the Woods and O More Than Happy Countryman are two of his most loved country books.

(In this photograph H.E. is the small boy in the centre of the group, in a white shirt.)

You will not go far wrong if you garden for pleasure, but you cannot go wrong at all if you garden for love.
- H.E. Bates (Dedication to his four young children in ’Seasons and the Gardener')
He 1948

Did You Know?

  • He loved walking and as a young man would often be seen striding out across fields in the dark on ‘midnight walks’
  • He had mixed views about the ownership of land. He was passionate about the right to walk freely and very nearly came to blows with a gamekeeper whilst out walking with Madge
  • He hated fox hunting. When the hunt went by his house he was known to go out and shake his fists at the riders. In 1938 he added his name to a petition in the Manchester Guardian to urge the BBC to allow a debate against blood sports