Bryson: British countryside is in crisis

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American author Bill Bryson has said that he will use his presidency of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to highlight the "crisis" Britain's countryside is currently facing.

The Norfolk-based writer, whose witty musings on the various countries he has visited have seen him top bestseller charts across the world, is taking over from newspaper columnist and military historian Sir Max Hastings.

He will be put forward at the environmental body's annual general meeting in July, having already been "warmly endorsed" by the CPRE's board of trustees.

Speaking about his plans for the organisation on BBC Radio 4, Mr Bryson reflected on his rural American upbringing, arguing that it gave him "an advantage to me to come from a different environment".

"When I came to Britain I was just bowled over by the fact that you have so many people living on this small island and intensively using the land and doing it for centuries," he said.

"Yet [you] still manage to keep so much of it so beautiful that somehow although you farmed the landscape intensively this country of yours is still a garden and I just think that is such a wonderful accomplishment. And I think that is something that very few people, urban dwellers and farmers alike, sometimes don’t stop to think about."

Mr Bryson takes on the presidency of the CPRE at a time when the countryside is seen by many to be in a state of crisis as farming is pinched by bureaucratic problems over reducing subsidy payments and escalating property prices.

He said: "I have never known a time in the 35 years I’ve known Britain that the countryside wasn’t in crisis in some way but I think it is in particular crisis now and I think we as a society have to give some real serious thought on how we are going to deal with this."

CPRE chairman Sir Nigel Thompson said the organisation was "just delighted" about the prospect of the Notes from a Small Island author taking up the presidency.

"He's a person who communicates how wonderful and precious England's countryside is to the widest possible audience," he said.

"He has particular concerns about some kinds of damage to the countryside, such as litter, and we’ll be working with him on those. But Bill understands and supports our fight across the board."

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