Ronald Blythe: The voice of the countryside who never owned a car, mobile phone or computer

Warm tributes have been paid to the East Anglian countryside writer Ronald Blythe, who has died at the age of 100.

His most famous work - Akenfield - was an account of the lives of people living in rural Suffolk, collected during the summer of 1967.

He lived in a remote part of Essex down a farm track and enjoyed an existence untouched by modern conveniences, never owning a car, a mobile phone or a computer.

Known to his friends as Ronnie, Mr Blythe collected the stories of farmers, blacksmiths, and country people and wove them into a book based in the fictional village.

Author and art historian Ian Collins first met him in 1988 when he asked him to write the foreword of his book, Art in East Anglia.

They went on to become close friends, and Mr Collins helped to care for the elderly writer as he lived into his nineties and reached his 100th birthday.

He said Mr Blythe was "full of life, right until the last moment".

READ MORE: ITV Anglia reporter Elodie Harper went to spend a day with Ronald Blythe when he was 90.

Ronald Blythe spoke to ITV Anglia when he was 90 Credit: ITV Anglia

The writer was born into great poverty as the son of a farm worker and the oldest of six children.

Mr Collins said his friend's early life was very hard, and he was self-taught as his family had no money to send him to a grammar school.

But he was compassionate and kind, loved people, and loved to hear their stories.

"This part of the world meant everything to him. He never learned to drive a car.

"He mostly walked, used buses and trains a bit, but he mostly walked so he was limited how far he got in the world and for all his life he lived within 10 miles of his birthplace.

"Although he'd seen such hardship he also saw the amazing beauty of Suffolk and Essex. He was a great lesson in [demonstrating] you don't have to go anywhere to know about life.

"He didn't have a car, he never used a computer, never had a mobile phone, a washing machine, a shower... He was free of material desires. He never went shopping and he never had a convenience meal, he cooked.

"He'd write in the morning, garden in the afternoon and cook in the evening.

"He would say 'I don't really approve of alcohol but I do like a little drink.'"

Mr Blythe finally retired from lay reading at church in Wormingford at the age of 95, though a selection of his writing was published to mark his 100th birthday and is already in its third reprint.

Mr Collins said his friend had amazingly robust health.

"Until he was 95, he had never had an aspirin or a paracetamol. He was unknown to the medical services.

"He didn't really believe in medication - he liked a glass of sherry, very fortifying. He also didn't believe in water - never touched the stuff - tea and sherry was all he needed."

Mr Collins added he believed his friend would be remembered as one the country's great countryside writers - and would be more and more appreciated as the years go by.