James Crowden is an author and poet living in Somerset
Born in Plymouth in 1954, he was raised on the western edge of Dartmoor. In 1972 he joined the army and served in Cyprus travelling widely in Eastern Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and north west India. In 1976-77 he spent a winter on the northern side of the Himalaya, in the remote Zangskar Valley in Ladakh. It was from this experience that he developed a lifelong interest in agriculture and Buddhism. James has a degree in Civil Engineering from Bristol University and later studied ethnology at Magdalen College, Oxford and the Pitt Rivers Museum. At the age of 21 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
For twenty years James worked in North Dorset and South Somerset as a shepherd, sheep shearer, cider maker and forester. The choice of manual work was deliberate and gave him a deeper understanding of the landscape. James has now retired from working on the land and is writing full time. Over the last few years he has worked on many different projects, in particular with Common Ground. In 1999 he was made their Apple Day Poet Laureate and subsequently wrote a libretto for a major new environmental opera called The Silver Messenger which was performed in Christchurch Priory in July 2001. This was part of Common Ground’s three year Confluence Project with the composer Karen Wimhurst on the River Stour in Dorset. James has also made over 100 oral history recordings in Dorset and Somerset.
James’s poetry has often been featured on BBC Radio 4 and television, as well as Literature Festivals at Dartington, Wells, Ludlow,Ledbury, Oxford, Sherborne, Bridport and Beaminster. He enjoys working in schools and gives a wide range of poetry workshops, talks and lectures. In 2004 he wrote a book called ‘Waterways’ for the National Trust. Since then he has written Dorset Man, Dorset Women and Dorset Coast as well as Ciderland which won the Andre Simon Food and Drink Award 2008. He has also presented several documentaries for BBC Radio 3 & 4 on Sheep Counting, Eels and Elvers. Thomas de Quincey’s Walking Stick and Chasing Hares. He is now writing a a book about Afghanistan before the troubles. He is now writing a book about Afghanistan and crossing the Hindu Kush on foot via Badakhshan and Nuristan.