James Crowden was born in Plymouth and brought up on the western edge of Dartmoor. He joined the army in 1972 and has travelled widely in the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan. In 1976-77 he spent a winter in the Himalaya trapped for six months in the Zangskar Valley in Ladakh. He studied civil engineering at Bristol and anthropology at Oxford. After a spell in the Outer Hebrides he worked in Bristol Docks as a boatman and then in 1980 settled in Dorset and after five years migrated over the border into Somerset. He worked for twenty years as a casual agricultural labourer involved with cider making, night lambing, sheep shearing and forestry. His first book was Blood Earth & Medicine came out in 1991. Other books include In Time of Flood, Cider the Forgotten Miracle, Waterways, The Wheal of Hope, The Bad Winter, Dorset Man, Dorset Women, Dorset Coast, Dorset Footsteps. In 2009 Ciderland won the Andre Simon Food and Drink Award.
This unique resource explores Somerset’s extraordinarily rich and varied literary heritage just waiting to be re-discovered and re-visited. Many of the literary connections in Literary Somerset are well known: TS Eliot and East Coker, Wordsworth and Coleridge in the Quantocks; but did you know that Thomas Hardy once lived in Yeovil; or that Virginia Woolf had her honeymoon in Holford; or that John Steinbeck lived near Bruton to research the Arthurian legends; or that the weird electrical experiments of Andrew Crosse at Fyne Court inspired Frankenstein… or that the vicar of Isle Brewers was once sold for 25/- and then walked naked across Afghanistan; or that JRR Tolkein had his honeymoon in Clevedon and that Cheddar Gorge inspired Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings? Many of the First World War poets, such as Rupert Brooke and Edward Thomas came to Somerset; Isaac Rosenberg was born in Bristol; Siegfried Sassoon is buried in Mells. There is even the story of Breaker Morant, the Bridgwater-born Bush poet who was executed by firing squad during the Boer war. Speke of the Nile is buried in Dowlish Wake. Then there are the Waughs and the Powys clan. Aubrey Herbert even turned down the throne of Albania twice in favour of Dulverton and Yeovil.
The West Country is justly famous for its wide variety of delicious ciders. Over the last thirty years there has been a quiet revolution in the area with a steady growth in cider producers, from small, local companies to well-established outfits pumping out millions of gallons a year. In this book, James Crowden charts the development of cider making in the West Country, from the sixteenth century monks to the diverse industry of today. Crowden takes us on a tour around the beautiful and fragrant West Country orchards, outlining the differing manufacturing methods, and investigates the differences between a farm-house cider and an industrially manufactured one.He shows how the best cider makers translate their passion into the process and treat each different batch of cider like winemakers would a vintage. He also takes a look at the rise of perry making and profiles the companies dedicated to getting the best out of the West Country pears. Ciderland includes comprehensive summaries and descriptions of every cider and cider producer in the West Country and covers topics such as cider folk traditions and remedies, placing cider making firmly within the local culture.