I was born in South London in 1943; the son of Cyril, an army musician (Grenadier Guards), and Maisie, nee Selwood, who looked after the home and family. I awarded a place at Dulwich College (a public school that had a socialist headmaster in those days), and went on from there to read Zoology as a scholar at Peterhouse, Cambridge. Since 1965 I have earned a living as a writer and broadcaster; first with the now defunct World Medicine; then Farmers Weekly; then New Scientist; and then I had my own science programme on BBC Radio 3. I’ve worked freelance since 1990. Along the way I have written for all the English broadsheets and The Daily Mail; fora great many periodicals including New Statesman, The London Review of Books, Resurgence, The Literary Review, Rural Jersey, BBC Wildlife Magazine, The Idler, the Beshara Magazine and the Critical Muslim; and have written about 18 books and contributed chapters to several more. Most are on aspects of biology (evolution, genetics, and natural history including trees and birds); several are on food and farming – in the course of which I evolved the idea of “Enlightened Agriculture”, aka “Real Farming”; but also on the underlying politics and metaphysics – the largely abandoned discipline that should be returned to the centre stage. I have also lectured at venues that include the Royal Society; quite a few universities including Cambridge, Oxford, the LSE, and Beijing; St Paul’s, Exeter, and Durham cathedrals; Schumacher College; miscellaneous gatherings including the Oxford Real Farming Conference, FarmEd, Groundswell, Wakelyns Farm, and various book festivals including Hay on Wye, Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Southwold, and How the Light Get In; and in various bookshops, pubs, and a hockey club.
In the early 2000s, together with my wife, Ruth, and with substantial help from generous friends, I helped to establish the Real Farming Trust and the Campaign for Real Farming. Then in 2010, together with Ruth and the agricultural writer Graham Harvey, I helped to set up the Oxford Real Farming Conference which, thanks mainly to Ruth but with very considerable input from others, has gone from strength to strength. In 2021 and 2022, Covid forced ORFC to go on-line, thus creating a global thread. The in-person meetings will resume in 2023 and the on-line worldwide conversation will continue alongside. The ORFC in turn has given rise to the College for Real Farming and Food Culture which now has an excellent, albeit stripped-to-the bone staff and with a following wind will also go from strength to strength. This website is intended to run in parallel with and to complement the College’s own website.
I have two daughters and a son by my first wife, Rosemary; two sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law; and four granddaughters. Since 2005 I have lived in Oxford with Ruth.