Laurence Llewelyn-bowen's Escape To The Country

This series is an account of how, through history, people have moved from the town to the country and taken with them powerful ideas about what the countryside should be.

Each age 'invents' the countryside to chime with the pre-occupations of the day.

The last two centuries have seen the countryside shaped for personal aggrandisement, for moral improvement, for the reflection of a new industrial wealth, as the creation of an 'ideal' landscape, as a place of health and healing and as a refuge from (and comment on) the pace, nature and stress of contemporary urban life.

These ideas find many echoes in our current attitudes to the countryside, but the ambition through the series is to visit and scrutinise specific movements and representations and let the ripples of recognition make their own way into the listeners' minds.

Our tendency to idealise the countryside hasn't always reflected the reality of rural life.

But it provides a fascinating glimpse of our dreams and fears as a society.

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Episodes

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Broadcast
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01Humphry Repton2010040420101025
20121126 (BBC7)
20150406 (BBC7)
20150407 (BBC7)

This series is an account of how, through history, people have moved from the town to the country and taken with them powerful ideas about what the countryside should be.

Each age 'invents' the countryside to chime with the pre-occupations of the day.

The last two centuries have seen the countryside shaped for personal aggrandisement, for moral improvement, for the reflection of a new industrial wealth, as the creation of an 'ideal' landscape, as a place of health and healing and as a refuge from (and comment on) the pace, nature and stress of contemporary urban life.

These ideas find many echoes in our current attitudes to the countryside, but the ambition through the series is to visit and scrutinise specific movements and representations and let the ripples of recognition make their own way into the listeners' minds.

Our tendency to idealise the countryside hasn't always reflected the reality of rural life.

But it provides a fascinating glimpse of our dreams and fears as a society.Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen explores changing ideas about the countryside.

Laurence explores changing ideas about the countryside, starting with early 19th-century landscape designer Humphrey Repton.

The first programme focuses on the first landscape designer, Humphry Repton who brought the countryside in from the cold.

He loved to frame a view over rolling hills and farm workers in their comfortable cottages, that could be seen from the grand terraces and mud free paths close to the big house.

Repton's career spanned 30 bristling years in British history, from 1789 to 1818 - a time of huge social and economic transformation.

His predecessor Capability Brown had worked for the large aristocracy, landscaping their parks to express their wealth and status, while Repton, a generation later, set out to redefine this profession, working more modestly and for a range of clients including dukes, lawyers, bankers and manufacturers.

Repton was effectively a makeover artist.

The producer is Kate Bland.

This is a Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Landscape designer Humphry Repton, who brought the countryside in from the cold.

02William Wordsworth And The Sublime Landscape2010041120101026
20121127 (BBC7)
20150407 (BBC7)
20150408 (BBC7)

How Wordsworth's poetry has influenced thinking about nature ever since.

How Wordsworth expressed a sense of nature's powers in his poetry that has influenced thinking about the countryside ever since.

William Wordsworth wasn't the first, nor the last to escape from the infernal hell of the city and take refuge in the countryside, but he managed to express in his poetry an unequivocal and compelling sense of nature's transcendent powers that has influenced the way we think about the countryside ever since.

For Wordsworth, the Lake District, England's most dramatic landscape, evoked a sense of the Sublime.

He responded to the magnitude of this rugged, ancient, wild, unruly expanse of nature with a mixture of awe bordering on terror.

The producer is Lucy Greenwell, and this is a Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

The dramatic countryside of the Lake District inspired awe and fear in Wordsworth.

The producer is Lucy Greenwell.

03The Sporting Estate2010041820101027
20121128 (BBC7)
20150408 (BBC7)
20150409 (BBC7)

Laurence Llewelyn Bowen explores the idea of the sporting estate.

The stylist explores how field sports contributed to the idea of the country house as a seat of social and political power.

"The Sporting Estate"

From 1800, the remote, bleak, cold country hall or mansion, complete with its shivering, long-faced hounds was given a makeover - often acquired with new money, it became a place for ladies and gentlemen from the city to congregate and socialise.

The country estate was a fantastic place to spend time together, to network, show off your political connections, along with the fine crystal and bespoke china.

It was the heyday of Victorian foxhunting, with increasing numbers of visitors flocking from all over Britain and overseas to hunt in the Shires that were a "sea of grass" at that time.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert began regular visits to Balmoral from 1848 and grouse shooting became a passion for the newly wealthy.

Their son Edward Albert, actually bought Sandringham to develop drive shooting.a pleasure the chubby king could enjoy sitting down.

This programme explores how field sports changed the appearance of the countryside and contributed to the idea of the country house as a 'seat of social and political power'.

With Lady Carnarvon at Highclere Castle and Oliver Pope at the Wrackleford Estate, Dorchester.

The producer is Kate Bland, and this is a Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

How field sports changed the countryside and brought political power to the country house.

It was the heyday of Victorian foxhunting, with increasing numbers of visitors flocking from all over Britain and overseas to hunt in the Shires that were a sea of grass" at that time.

04Feargus O'connor And The Chartist Land Plan2010042520101028
20121129 (BBC7)
20150409 (BBC7)
20150410 (BBC7)

The legacy of O'Connor's 1842 plan for poor Britons to plough their own furrow.

The legacy of O'Connor's 1842 plan for poor Britons to plough their own furrow for financial independence and social dignity.

Out of the insurrection and radicalism of the 1840s came the idea of the countryside as a place of freedom and independence from the squalor and sweat of industrial servitude.

In 1842 Feargus O'Connor, the charismatic leader of the Chartists, drew up the Land Plan, which showed how ordinary people across Britain, could plough their own furrow.For O'Connor a plot of rural land had the capacity to deliver financial independence and social dignity to the poor - an idea that captivates us today.

The producer is Kate Bland, and this a Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

The 19th-century radical Feargus O'Connor's Land Plan represented independence for workers

05Octavia Hill2010050220101029
20121130 (BBC7)
20150410 (BBC7)
20150411 (BBC7)

How Octavia set up the National Trust, based on her belief in the importance of nature.

How Octavia set up the National Trust, based on her belief in the importance of nature for the working class.

, one of the founders of the National Trust, lived at Crockham Hill in Kent.

Not by chance it was exactly the kind of countryside she wanted to preserve: a short train ride from the centre of the fast expanding city.

In her passion to conserve outdoor spaces, she bought nearby Toyes Hill and slapped a conservation order on it.

Laurence Llewelyn Bowen visits Toyes Hill, the first area of land to be held in Trust for the nation to explore Octavia Hill's idea that the countryside offered vital "pure earth, clean air and blue sky" for ordinary, working people.

Producer: Kate Bland

A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Laurence Llewelyn Bowen explores the idea of rural preservation.

In this episode of Escape to the Country, Laurence Llewelyn Bowen visits Toyes Hill, the first area of land to be held in Trust for the nation, to explore Octavia Hill's idea that the countryside offered vital pure earth, clean air and blue sky" for ordinary, working people.

Producer: Lucy Greenwell

Laurence visits Toyes Hill, the first area of land to be held in Trust for the nation."

06Healing In The Open Air2010050920101101
20121203 (BBC7)
20150413 (BBC7)
20150414 (BBC7)

How the rural landscape came to be seen as a place of healing for First World War veterans

How the rural landscape came to be seen as a place of moral, physical and spiritual healing for First World War veterans.

In the wake of the unprecedented horrors of the First World War, the countryside, far from the brutality of industrialized cities, came to be seen as a place of healing: moral, physical and spiritual.

Movements such as the Woodcraft Folk, established by Leslie Paul in 1925, aimed for peace and solidarity and sought to heal the fragmentation of society by conflict, proselytizing a strong pagan and anti-capitalist ethos that embraced the natural world.

Like the Scout movement but with a less militaristic emphasis, the Woodcraft Folk emphasized education of the young, rearing a new generation of nature-savvy, outdoor-loving young people edified by their proximity to nature.

We base this programme at the Stroud regional camp to survey the 'innocent pleasures' of the countryside as interpreted and enjoyed by Woodcraft Folk.

Contributors include Camila Batmanshelidjh and Richard Maybey.

Producer: Lucy Greenwell

A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Laurence Llewelyn-bowen considers the countryside as a place for healing after WWI.

07Gertrude Jekyll And The Suburban Countryside2010051620101102
20121205 (BBC7)
20150414 (BBC7)
20150415 (BBC7)

How gardens became more than just lawns and borders.

How gardens became more than just lawns and borders, and transformed instead into a microcosm of the natural world.

Gertrude Jekyll might come as a surprise in Laurence Llewelyn-bowen's series about the countryside, given that she is loved for her colourful borders rather than any grand landscape.

But Jekyll did something that profoundly contributed to our idea of the British countryside - she transformed the garden from a lawn and parterres into a microcosm of the natural world.

Just when the wilds of Kent or Berkshire or her own beloved West Surrey were being invaded by the city, her action was to protect, to encase nature, to bring it, in all its wild unevenness, into our gardens.

Producer: Lucy Greenwell

A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Laurence Llewelyn-bowen visits Munstead Wood, the wild garden of Gertrude Jekyll.

08The Brotherhood Of Ruralists 12010052320101103
20121207 (BBC7)

Fed up with the frenzy of Swinging London, the artist Peter Blake founded the Brotherhood of Ruralists on 21st March 1975, having decamped from London to the countryside near Bath.

With his former wife, Jan Haworth, Blake converted the disused Wellow railway station into a house, which soon became the bustling hub of the Ruralists' activities.

Infused by a quasi-hippie faith in the inspirational qualities of Mother Nature, the Ruralists turned to the countryside to fulfil one of its ancient functions - that of a Muse.

The Ruralists aimed to revive and update the tradition of imaginative painting of romantic figures in idyllic rural settings.

Blake and his cohorts brought a realism and precision to depicting the compendium of myths, folk tales and legends associated with the countryside.

Thus Blake's series of paintings from Alice In Wonderland, that quintessential text of eccentric English imagination, see Alice and her surreal encounters depicted as though Blake had been there to see them.

The Ruralists' paintings crystallized their intuition that in the country there lies a potent source of inspiration and imagery that they as artists should not ignore.

Presented by Laurence Llewelyn-bowen.

Producer: Kate Bland

A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Laurence talks to Peter Blake about the retreat he co-founded in 1975.

The designer explains how Mother Nature inspired a group of 1970s artists to paint rural life in the countryside.

08The Brotherhood Of Ruralists, Part 12010052320150415 (BBC7)
20150416 (BBC7)

How Mother Nature inspired a group of 1970s artists to paint rural life in the countryside

The designer explains how Mother Nature inspired a group of 1970s artists to paint rural life in the countryside.

09The Brotherhood Of Ruralists 22010053020121210 (BBC7)

How John Seymour's 1976 Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency proved a huge hit with disaffected city dwellers keen on a rural life.

John Seymour's philosophy was a deceptively simple one.

It is time to cut out what we do not need so we can live more happily.

Good food, comfortable clothes, serviceable housing and true culture - those are the things that matter." Seymour thus gave voice to the idea that there is more to life than a 9-5 job, and that a better way of living can be found in the countryside.

In many ways, he catalyzed our contemporary fascination with the negative impacts of human interaction with the natural world, and was one of the first people to take stock of the ever- increasing impact of an industrialising, urbanising humanity on its host planet.

He was an influential figure right up until his death in 2004.

Seymour is best known today for The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency, first published in 1976.

It became a vital resource for disillusioned city dwellers seeking a more wholesome existence in the countryside, and included tips on everything from animal husbandry to recycling.

This book became a Bible for disaffected downsizers of the 70s, flooding from the cities into the countryside, and eventually Seymour set up the School of Self-Sufficiency.

Producer: Kate Bland

A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Laurence Llewelyn-bowen explores the countryside of John Seymour and the 'good life'."

"It is time to cut out what we do not need so we can live more happily.

Good food, comfortable clothes, serviceable housing and true culture - those are the things that matter." Seymour thus gave voice to the idea that there is more to life than a 9-5 job, and that a better way of living can be found in the countryside.

09The Brotherhood Of Ruralists, Part 22010053020150416 (BBC7)
20150417 (BBC7)

How John Seymour's 1976 Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency proved a hit with city dwellers.

How John Seymour's 1976 Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency proved a huge hit with disaffected city dwellers keen on a rural life.

10Villadom In The Cotswolds2010060620101105
20121212 (BBC7)
20150417 (BBC7)
20150418 (BBC7)

How the idea of escaping to the countryside is as old as the Romans.

How the idea of escaping to the countryside, seen as a modern symbol of city dweller angst, is as old as the Romans.

Escaping the city for the countryside is as old as the Romans.

In this final episode of Escape to the Country, Laurence Llewelyn Bowen visits the roman villa at Chedworth, near his home in Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

This is picture postcard Britain - the Cotswolds known as 'The heart of England' and it's littered with second homes - both ancient and modern.

Since time in memoriam, it's lured city workers to delight in its health giving waters, soft light and exquisite landscape - to escape the travails of the office for the weekend.

Producer: Kate Bland

A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Laurence visits the Roman villa at Chedworth to consider Roman rural life.

Laurence Llewelyn Bowen visits Chedworth Villa to compare notes on country living with Pliny the Younger.

The Roman villa near Cirencester is the ultimate, ancient rural retreat from the city.

Laurence compares villa life in the Cotswolds today, where there are numerous second homes, with Pliny's life near Rome.

He also considers what is the ideal countryside.

With Roger Scruton and Alun Howkins he analyzes ideas of the rural idyll and the reveals that, since the 12th century, there has always been a sense that it is under threat.

Laurence visits Chedworth Villa to compare notes with Pliny the Younger.