18 Sep 2010

HOPE BOURNE an extraordinary lady.

I count myself fortunate to have first met with this lady in the late 60’s early 70’s and passed most agreeable time in her presence, walking the moor and gazing at vistas I would never have found myself, and when she gazed across the moor that wild, lonely, beautiful, place possessing an almost primeval atmosphere. she was looking at something entirely different to me you could almost see and feel the love she had for this place she had made home for so long, I would even go so far as to say that she was the only person to have tamed this place by solely living on the resources the moor could provide and living at onement with nature, her neighbours allowed her free reign to hunt and fish on their land. Hope, when I knew her was living at Ferny Ball Farm, about three miles from Withypool across the moor which was a derelict farm which she utilised by having her small but functional caravan half in the farmhouse and half out but was in the lee of the winds that funnelled through the coombes at high velocity, she had a very functional garden which she would keep well stocked with seasonal veg and the usual salad items, I remember one particular veg she would never be without and that was perpetual spinach and seasonal spinach, her bantams supplied her with meat and eggs, collecting pheasant eggs in season along with fungi which she used fresh and dried the excess, blackberries and bilberries she really relished and it was amazing what she could cook on her limited cooking appliances. she was a very good shot with both .22 and her 20 bore she said that she preferred the 20 bore as it was less scathing on game at close quarters, her basic meat diet was rabbit which were in those days abundant which accounted for the large buzzard populous being there staple diet on the moor I recount that several years later myxomatosis ravaged the rabbit numbers and almost wiped out the buzzard population. She would from time to time take a young buck red deer of which she wasted nothing, making thumb sticks from hazel and mounting a thumb prong of antler the hide which she would sell, to purchase art materials, she would cure and fashion rabbit skins into various garments, the winters are extremely cold on the moor. Fuel was gathered and stored in readiness for the winter months there was a lot of fallen dead wood in the wooded coombes , she also dug peat which she dried for fuel, water was collected from a nearby stream. Food storage was a problem to be overcome having no electric supply so, potatoes were clamped as were other root vegetables she would smoke meat hang it and also dry it, commonly “Jerky.” Hope was also a proficient fly fisherwomen, and she loved her fish, back in the sixties and seventies salmon were coming up the River Barle to spawn and Hope certainly had her share, her expertise included Trout Tickling. She had taught herself to sketch and paint, and in a few strokes could capture the moors moods, her sketches when viewed almost seem to come alive and her paintings were charged with the colours of the season she was portraying, making them even more animated. Her time on the moor was never wasted, painting, sketching, writing columns for papers, and writing books, she followed the hunt which she loved, and then writing about it, she lived and breathed the moor and indeed still is in the moor, albeit in sheltered accommodation at Withypool a little village in the heart of Exmoor, she still writes, although she is now very frail, she has been an inspiration to me and to many others, her ability to recognise plants , birds and animals by sight and sound, predict the weather, and be perfectly in tune with nature, on this plane the ground she walked almost seemed hallowed. Hope Bourne was never in receipt of any benefits, she was self sufficient in every way even down to herbal medicines she knew all the beneficial plants and would tend sick and injured animals and birds which she would sketch over and over till their release. I will close this brief article on a very special person, Hope L. Bourne, in your twilight years nature is with you in every way. If any of my visitors get the chance, you will be able to borrow her books on Moor Life at most libraries, well worth the read. Dave J


  1. She sounds like an extraordinary lady, and hearing about her makes me want to visit the moors.