‘A Horseman’s Country Diary’ by Julian Roup – A Love Letter to His Home in East Sussex

This lyrical book is a love letter to Ashdown Forest after a 40-year affair. Wry, funny, moving and vivid, this memoir chronicles the life of the author and the 10 square miles of the country he calls his Kingdom. This book is as good as a brisk walk in the woods on an autumn day. Written with love and passion it is a hymn to landscape and freedom. It is a close and deep observation of the writer’s adopted country the fabled Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England, (the home of Winnie the Pooh) where he has lived and ridden for the past 40 years.

His gift is the ability to take you deep into the landscapes that make this place resonate in his heart: its streams, woods, and heathlands. You meet its literary residents A.A. Milne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ezra Pound and W.B. Yeats. You get beneath its skin among the networks of fungi that allow the trees to speak. You taste its foods, meet its locals both the living and the ghosts, and see its huge importance during the plague year 20202021 through the pandemic lockdowns.

His passion for horses shines through these pages and his writing is, as he himself says, a form of “moving meditation”. He takes you under the soil of this place and he leaves a soft glow on the landscape when he is gone. The 22 essays in the book are small narrative jewels of landscape, horses, friendship, and a search for belonging – what it means to feel part of a place, having lost the one he was born to in South Africa’s Cape.

In him, Ashdown has found a new voice. Having read this book you will see the forest through his eyes as a place of magic. This is nature writing at its best, echoing that of Roger Deacon and Robert Macfarlane. The author, Julian Roup says of this book: “After the best part of a year in lockdown thanks to Covid it became clear to me as never before how much I owed to the place that has been my home for 40 years – Ashdown Forest in East Sussex – and to my horses who have carried me across its green miles.”

“The forest and the horses have brought me health and peace and contentment when in fact life offered just the opposite. The pandemic truly brought it home to me how important nature is to our well-being. So this book is a thank you to the forest and to the horses, particularly my newest horse, Callum, the big chestnut Irish sports horse who has been my salvation during this plague year.”

Reviews of ‘Life in a Time of Plague’

“It is a wonderful account of the time of COVID-19; I especially like the reverie at the end with its sense of time regained in that Proustian way. Julian Roup has a great gift for evocation and description.” Bernard O’Donoghue, Whitbread Prize-winning Irish poet, Oxford don, author of Seamus Heaney and the Language of Poetry.

“Witty, incisive, irreverent, iconoclastic,” described George Plumptre of CEO National Garden Scheme, and author of The English Country House Garden and Royal Gardens of Europe.

“Julian Roup tells the story of his corner of rural Britain under the first 75 days of lockdown. His beautiful writing captures the way the world slowed down amid the strangeness of the new reality. The book is a snapshot of the details that make up the fabric of history – thinking back on memories of friends passed, observations on humanity and the natural world in his East Sussex valley, and of course his lovely horse Callum. Riders will appreciate how horses ­in both reality and in our imagination serve as an escape,” said Horse & Hound.

Reviews of ‘A Fisherman in the Saddle’ 

“This is storytelling charged with raw emotion and a deep appreciation for the sheer beauty and enduring magic of nature, which transcends politics, family implosions, and emigration. Horses, the author said, became ‘my nation, my friends, my identity, my medicine.’ When I am in the saddle, I’m home,’ said Robyn Cohen of The Cape Times.

“Every now and then a gem of a new book lands on my desk: sometimes but rarely a diamond. This is one. I laughed. I cried. I was deeply moved. This is among the best books I have ever read about fishing, horses, growing up, the pain of maturity, leaving one’s homeland and the things that make up the richness of life,” said Dave Bristow, Getaway Magazine.

“The ability of horses to help and heal is boundless. In A Fisherman in the Saddle, Julian Roup explains how he feels about horses. The feeling of elation, of freedom, of excitement, was indescribable. It was like being given wings and the gift of flight. I was hooked for life. I know the feeling, and I hope many others discover it for themselves,” said  Octavia Pollock of Country Life.

Reviews of ‘Boerejood’

“Brilliant, just terrific, really very, very good. Engaged, intelligent, personal, fast-moving and funny,” said Graham Watts of Financial Times.

“A delicate exploration of society 10 years after the end of apartheid and the onset of majority rule. Roup has no nostalgia for the old regime, but immense sadness for the embattlement of the Afrikaans language and culture,” said John Lloyd, Editor of FT Weekend Magazine.