Discovering local treasure, author and artist Hope Bourne
The Exmoor Society, established in 1958, is an independent charity that protects and promotes Exmoor for the benefit of all. The Society acts as a champion and watchdog for conservation and the enjoyment of natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage, values very much shared by Rohan.
The Exmoor Society shares with us one of their favourite artist and author, Hope Bourne, and how Exmoor inspired her works. Hope Bourne is remembered for two reasons, her creative talents as an author and artist and her tough, self-sufficient lifestyle. If you want to understand the true character of Exmoor, you need only pick up one of Hope's books where you are treated to an authentic account of someone who lived very much in touch with the moor. Regarded as a critical Exmoor artist and author, the Exmoor Society dedicated a guided walk in her memory to allow people to learn more about her life. Our guide for the day is Lisa Eden, who provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of this extraordinary character.
The walk begins in the centre of Withypool, next to the River Barle. Withypool was the closest village for Hope during most of her time living on Exmoor. Each day she would make the eight-mile round trip to meet locals and fetch supplies. From the river, we follow a footpath which leads us up through the village onto some neighbouring farmland, where we can take in the beautiful views of Withypool and the nearby moorland of Withypool Hill. It is here where Lisa begins her introduction of Hope.
Hope Bourne moved to Exmoor in the 1950s after her mother's death, left with no money and no home. A fiercely independent and tough-natured woman, Hope began a self-sufficient lifestyle by living off the land and earning a small income through tending farm stock. In the 1970's she moved to Fernyball, a small piece of land with an old caravan where she lived for 24 years with no electrics, no mains water, no sewage, and no telephone.
Hope lived by a frugal budget of less than £1 per week to see her through the year, over and above what nature could provide. Alongside farm work, Hope taught herself to write and paint and authored six books. She would walk 20 miles every day with her sketchpad capturing the landscape and the wildlife of Exmoor. As our walking party emerges from the farmland onto Kitridge Lane, it is easy to see how Hope found her inspiration.
Peppered down Kitridge Lane is numerous farm gates, which Hope fondly named 'Windows to Adventure', which offer spectacular views across the Exmoor landscape. When painting such views, usually on the back of old Christmas cards or envelopes, Hope would annotate her work with information such as the conditions of the day and the colours.
Leaving Kitridge Lane, we re-enter the village where Lisa points out buildings that Hope was particularly fond of, including Oliver's Cottage and the village church. From the cottage, we follow a footpath that offers walkers the opportunity to circumnavigate Withypool Hill. The views from the pathway are spectacular and highlight the diversity of the beautiful Exmoor landscape. As we complete this final leg, attendees of the guided walk agree, they will be reacquainting themselves with the works of Hope Bourne.
It's here where you will encounter Exmoor in a way you never have before. Trust us. It is a read you won't regret.