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Akenfield author Ronald Blythe speaks to ITV News Anglia

Ronald Blythe reading from his book 'At the Yeoman's House' Photo: ITV Anglia

Ronald Blythe's home is so deep in the Essex countryside, the only sound you can hear is birdsong.

In early March, the ancient house in Wormingford is surrounded by spring flowers. When cameraman Chris Warner and I arrive to interview him, we pick our way around the snowdrops, primroses and hellebore that follow the line of his garden path.

As you might expect from one of Britain's best known countryside writers, the author of Akenfield tells us he still likes to get out in the garden and tend them himself.

A spry, active man who looks two decades younger than his ninety years, Ronald Blythe took Chris and me on a short tour of his garden. He explains that the artist John Constable used to walk across the land here to see his uncle, who lived at the nearby hall.

Ronald Blythe showed Elodie Harper and Chris Warner around his garden

Born in Lavenham in 1922, Ronald Blythe tells me that the East Anglian countryside has shaped his character, though it's now entirely different from the rural life he knew as a child.

Today, he says, one man and a machine will do the work in the fields that hundreds used to toil over.

"When I first wrote about it, it was hard work for most people and there was great poverty just before the war, so it's utterly changed nowadays.

What I I feel sorry about now is that a lot of people who live in villages don't know anything about the fields, they just pass them in cars, or just walk past them on a Sunday afternoon, whereas our recent ancestors revered the fields and all their toil for centuries was on the fields.

And so I think of the fields as a workplace."

– Ronald Blythe
Ronald Blythe's home is full of his gardening tools.

Ronald Blythe's most famous work is 'Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village' (1969) which records life in a Suffolk community across three generations.

In 1973, it was made into a film by Peter Hall. The director decided to select his cast entirely from local Suffolk people rather than actors.

The writer himself was given a cameo part as the local vicar, and says many of the older people who took part in the film still remembered working the land with horse and plough, at a time of great poverty.

Anglia Television filmed the making of 'Akenfield' in 1973

Although he tells me he has rarely left East Anglia, Ronald Blythe has had a far from uneventful life. He met the writer EM Forster in his youth, worked with Benjamin Britten at the Aldeburgh festival, and the house where he now lives was once the home of his good friend the painter John Nash.

His exceptional life and writing is the subject of a celebration in Nayland this Saturday. Held in the local Church, there will be tickets on sale to hear talks, films and music that reflect on the Essex writer's career and celebrate his ninetieth birthday.

Ronald Blythe himself is modest about the event, laughing and telling me it feels "peculiar" to be ninety. He says it doesn't feel any different to when he was fifty.

'Kitty' the white cat, who often appear's in Blythe's column for the Church Times 'Word from Wormingford'

Ronald Blythe's books aren't confined to the past; he is still a working writer. Every Tuesday he sits down to write his long running weekly column for the Church Times Word from Wormingford. During our interview, we met the white cat Kitty, who often appears in the column, and who seemed equally keen to star in Chris's shots.

This June Ronald Blythe also has a new book out, to celebrate the centenary of Benjamin Britten. He tells me Britten was kind to him, even though as a young man he was very much in awe of the great composer.

"Britten would be a hundred this year and so I've written a book called 'The Time by The Sea' [based on] myself and those two years at Aldeburgh when I knew him and all the people connected with the festival.

[It's] when I was young, just walking about on the marshes and things like that. So it's that kind of book, it's a kind of poem really."

Ronald Blythe says as a nation we adore the countryside

Nostalgia for the past, or romanticising its hardships are not the focus of Ronald Blythe's work. He is clear sighted about the countryside's transformation in his lifetime, but also hopeful about its future.

"The English adore the countryside really, it's an ideal. They're not even romantic about it, they're sensible about it.

They would love really to live where there are fields and meadows and trees."

At the end of our interview, Chris and I were rather sorry to leave our courteous host with his wonderful stories.

Driving away from the tranquility of Ronald Blythe's house and garden and heading back onto the busy traffic of the A14, it felt like we had re-entered another world.