RICHARD JEFFERIES was born at Coate, now a Swindon suburb, where his family had a smallholding. His father was passionate about nature but an unsuccessful farmer, and Jefferies’ late childhood was marred by poverty. Aged 17, after an aborted attempt to walk through Europe to Russia, he became a reporter for the North Wiltshire Herald. In 1872 he came to national attention when The Times published his letters on the condition of agricultural labourers in Wiltshire, and he continued to make his name contributing articles on rural life to magazines such as The Livestock Journal and Pall Mall Gazette. He published many acclaimed novels and non-fiction books during his lifetime, including Bevis (1882), Nature Near London (1883), The Story of My Heart (1883) and After London (1885), but illness cut his career short and he died in poverty. He is now regarded as one of Britain’s greatest nature writers and his birthplace is a museum.