A “lyrical love letter to Ashdown Forest"

Crowborough’s Julian Roup offers a “lyrical love letter to Ashdown Forest after a 40-year affair.”

Monday, 15th March 2021, 6:05 am
Julian Roup

Wry and vivid, Julian’s memoir chronicles the life of the author and the ten square miles of country he calls his Kingdom. He promises the book is as good as a brisk walk in the woods on an autumn day.

Into The Secret Heart Of Ashdown Forest – A Horseman’s Country Diary (BLKDOG Publishing, £10 hard copy on Amazon and £3.99 on Kindle) is a close observation of Julian’s adopted country, the fabled Ashdown Forest, the home of Winnie the Pooh, where he has lived and ridden for the past 40 years. You meet its literary residents A A Milne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ezra Pound and W B Yeats; you get beneath its skin among the networks of fungi that allow the trees to speak; and you taste its foods, meet its locals, both the living and the ghosts, and see its importance during the plague year 2020-21 through the pandemic lockdowns.

Julian, aged 70, said: “I arrived in England from South Africa in 1980 and found that I missed the Cape very much. It was only after riding on Ashdown Forest for some years that I began to feel some affinity for this landscape which is so different to the one I grew up in. The book unpacks this journey and my growing affection and ultimately love for this magic space which I was lucky enough to find myself living in an old stone cottage this past 40 years.

“If I was grateful to live here before, this pandemic year has really brought home to me just how blessed I am to call this place home. The Forest’s impact on my physical and mental health has been hugely significant. And riding these green miles brings a whole new level of enjoyment. Anyone who loves walking or riding or being in nature will find the book a sort of forest bathing as the Japanese call this kind of activity.

“Last year I wrote a book titled Life in a Time of Plague which has received some critical acclaim. This was a book about surviving the pandemic and a great desire to see if I could make it to 70.

“In many ways it was quite political and a hard book to write. So for my next writing project I wanted some light relief and to write about things I am passionate about so horses and countryside seemed a happy choice and in some strange way that I don’t fully understand, this book has written itself, has just arrived from out there.

“It is a stand-alone book in one way and in another it is very much part of my stable of books which are about land, the loss of land, nature, landscape, horses and fishing.

“My first book A Fisherman in the Saddle covers my life growing up on the beaches and forests of the Cape in South Africa and brings me at the age of 30 to Ashdown. Life in a Time of Plague speaks in part of how the Forest gave me sanctuary in this plague year, and Into the Secret Heart of Ashdown Forest, as my wife, Janice Warman, also a writer with four books to her name, describes as ‘a love letter to Ashdown Forest after a 40-year affair.’”

One other book is titled Boerejood and unpacks the story of the so-called miracle of South Africa’s move from apartheid to democratic rule.