The last greatness of rural England - England before motorways or trunk-roads, before the "commercialisation" of the countryside, and before its emasculation by modernity and political correctness - was encapsulated by the personality and writings of Denys Watkins-Pitchford or "BB".
As young children we were read to in the evening by our mother and our imaginations were fed by some of "BB"'s most inspiring and rewarding stories: the "Bill Badger" series, "The Whopper", "Brendan Chase". It was such stories as these that gave me a love of the countryside and led me to explore the outdoors from a very early age. Long before a television arrived in our house I had already explored the parks, the ponds and brooks and the fields on the outskirts of Leeds. What a great joy it was then to venture off the M1 last week, accompanied by Declan who is more a fan of "BB" than I am, into deepest Northamptonshire in order to visit some of the places connected with "BB".
We stopped first in the village of Lamport and found the Old Rectory where "BB" had been born and where he grew up. The rolling countryside was idyllic and we saw images there which had come straight from his drawings and prints.
We visited the graveyard at Cranford St John where he is buried with his wife and son - a graveyard which is in the most beautiful rural setting you could imagine. We prayed for him and his family there - that his Christian soul which was large enough to appreciate the work of God in the fields and the woods and in Christ, would be made even larger by the fulfilling grace.
Finally, we visited "The Round House" where lived he lived during the last decades of his life. Declan was overjoyed to find "Big Pond" still there after so many years - but we couldn't see "Big Boy" the carp.
Visiting these places for the first time has renewed my thoughts about "BB"'s books, especially his books for children. In an age of technology and information we do need to keep in touch with a more preliminary experience of life, and of the relationship between God and Creation. "BB"'s books are accesible, beautiful and hugely engaging - there is a lot to be rediscovered here.