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Dales-lover Bill Bryson joins countryside campaign

[Wednesday 02 May 2007]
Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson
Photo: CPRE/David Rose

THE famous American author Bill Bryson, who wrote some of his best-selling books at a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales, is to become President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, it was announced today.

Although born in Des Moines, Iowa, Bryson came to England as a young man, got a job as a reporter on an evening paper in Brighton, then moved to Fleet Street.

To start his writing career, he moved his family to Malhamdale and eventually published Notes from Small Island, a touching and often hilarious account of a journey around Britain, the book that made him world famous.

In it, he records his pride at being finally accepted as a "local" by Dales folk who are notoriously slow at accepting strangers in their midst. He knew he had made it, he reported, when he received his first "Malhamdale wave" - a farmer passing in his Land Rover raised a single finger to the peak of his flat cap.

He eventually became an accepted "local", playing dominoes in local pubs and attending village social functions, but his children felt they wanted to be educated in the States. They went back home but, education finished, the author returned to England and now lives in Norfolk.

He will take over as President of the 80-year-old campaign group in July from the journalists and military historian Sir Max Hastings. The campaign has a long and successful history going back to its inception when it fought for - and won - the battle to stop urban sprawl, leading to the creation of green belts between towns and cities.

CPRE Chairman Sir Nigel Thompson said today: 'We're just delighted that Bill has agreed to be put forward as CPRE President. He's a person who communicates how wonderful and precious England's countryside is to the widest possible audience.

'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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