Four difficult women who fought to preserve the English countryside

One thing that Covid lockdown made us appreciate was the importance of being outdoors. When we were finally allowed into them, national and local parks became chockfull and many people rediscovered that being in the open had health benefits. How timely, then, that Matthew Kelly has written an account of four redoubtable rural activists: Octavia Hill, Beatrix Potter, Sylvia Sayer and Pauline Dower. He describes them as ‘the women who saved the English countryside’ – which is perhaps a bit of a stretch, though it’s true that individually they fought tooth and nail to preserve vast tracts of it. Their lives spanned the past two centuries and they were all,