Shepherd’s hut in winter. Copyright Roger Deakin Estate
Roger Deakin’s shepherd’s hut sits strikingly in a field of snow at Walnut Tree Farm. In winter Deakin was more likely to choose to sleep in the small bedroom above the warm farmhouse kitchen but ultimately he would ‘crave the mild adventure’ of sleeping outside. This meant that on spring, summer and autumn nights this nature writer and lover of the outdoors could leave the farmhouse and his cares at the end of a working day, enter a relatively simple world with only candles and a slow but sure ‘Tortoise’ stove for heat, and settle down to the sounds and smells of nature in his shepherd’s hut or railway wagon.
Extract from Notes from Walnut Tree Farm (published posthumously in 2008):
A crow was flying in big circles about the field, climbing steeply now and then, then gliding down, as if for pure pleasure. I dozed back to sleep but was awoken by a most terrific rumbling and shaking of the whole hut, and a scratching sound. I thought a cat must somehow have leapt in through an open window and on to my bed. But I think it was the roe-deer, the one with the faun, rubbing against the hut, as I heard what sounded like hooves disappearing through the long grass. The birdsong was now far too raucous for sleep, so I adjourned to the house over dewy grass for breakfast, and to wrap a leaving present for Frank Gooderham, my lovely postman.
In his book Landmarks, published earlier this year, fellow nature writer and friend Robert MacFarlane explores Deakin’s landscapes and sense of place as part of a wider meditation on the power of language, the relationship between words and nature and our understanding of our environment.
A life lived as variously as Roger’s, and evoked in writing as powerful as his, means that even after his death his influence continues to flow outwards. Green Man-like, he appears in unexpected places, speaking in leaves.
The Roger Deakin Archive includes manuscripts and research papers for Waterlog and Wildwood, over 130 notebooks and diaries, papers of Friends of the Earth and Common Ground, papers of the Aldeburgh Festival from the 1980s, papers relating to rural Suffolk and a pair of Speedo trunks.