Fennel Hudson: Lifestyle and Countryside Author

Nigel 'Fennel' Hudson is a rural lifestyle and countryside author known for his Fennel’s Journal books and as host of The Contented Countryman podcast. He’s a naturalist and outdoorsman who, through his travels in wild places, explores the notions of freedom and self. A nature writer and country sportsman, his work has been compared to that of Roger Deakin, BB, and Jack Hargreaves.

He observes the subtle things – around us and within us – that might otherwise go unnoticed. He values old-fashioned things and champions a relaxing and peaceful rural life. Much of his writing centres on what he calls 'The Quiet Fields' – those quiet corners of the landscape where time moves slowly and nature exists undisturbed. His motto, and the message in his writing, is 'Stop – Unplug – Escape – Enjoy.'

Fennel Hudson

The Contented Countryman

Born in England in 1974, Fennel grew up exploring the fields, woods and streams of the Welsh marches. Working as a gardener and estate hand, he savoured a slow-paced and idyllic life. But adult responsibilities and a desire for material things led him down a dark path. He gave up the life that defined him and went in search of gold that "glittered beneath a hangman's noose". Here, grappling with corporate and urban existence, he endured hardships that would affect his worldview forever.

From having everything, to losing everything, Fennel eventually reclaimed his identity by restoring the values and lifestyle of his youth. This gave him a unique understanding of the meaning and True Beauty of life, which he shares by reminding us to ‘Stop – Unplug – Escape – Enjoy’.

Fennel's beliefs

Fennel passionately believes in individuality, personal identity and life purpose: that we should always know and remain true to ourselves. Because of this, he always champions adventure, freedom, and a meaningful life. His favourite quote is:

"Don't do anything that offends your soul".

Born to love the countryside

Growing up on a smallholding on the edge of the 6,500-acre Enville Estate in Shropshire, Fennel spent his early years helping his parents with their self-sufficent lifestyle: growing and harvesting fruit and vegetables and tending to the family's chickens. His maternal family had farmed the Shropshire countryside for over 300 years, and so Fennel inherited a sense of heritage and a deep-rooted love of the outdoors. Gardening, shooting and fishing were important to his way of life and soon Fennel was adept at preparing food for the table. His love of the countryside developed into enthusiasm for natural history, where studying wildlife – and our relationship with it – became became his lifelong passion.

Fennel the nature and lifestyle writer

Fennel's writing has been compared to that of Roger Deakin, Jack Hargreaves, Chris Yates, and 'BB'. Indeed, 'BB' is one of his biggest influences, hence why his writing centres on what he calls 'The Quiet Fields' – those quiet corners of the landscape where time moves slowly and nature exists undisturbed. 

Fennel's first short story was published at the age of 13. It was a tale about wizards, dragons and dwarves, and was adopted by his school for its Dungeons and Dragons club. He then became Editor of the school newspaper and copywriter for his colleges' brochures. 

At the age of 23 Fennel was asked by Chris Yates to write a regular feature in Waterlog, the traditional anglers' magazine. He declined the offer due to modesty but privately accepted the challenge, writing more than a hundred articles in secret that have since been published in Fennel's Journal. 

Since the age of 28 Fennel has earned his living writing sales and marketing copy for businesses. It's creative output, but never competes with the passion, insight and eccentricity in the books, blogs and articles that bear his name. He's published over a dozen books and contributes regularly to magazines such as The Flyfishers' Journal. He also writes a weekly blog and – using a vintage fountain pen – sends handwritten letters to his friends every week.

His favourite reader review is:

"Fennel has captured the essence of the countryside – that is, its almost human character. So brilliantly has he compared and contrasted it with the nature of we humans. His writing is not so much a 'balanced study', more a 'study of the balance' that exists between Nature and Man."

Fennel the wildlife artist and illustrator

Fennel studied art at college, developing an appreciation of traditional techniques in oils, pencil, graphite stick, lino cut and etchings. However, it wasn't until he met professional artist and author Bernard Venables in 1995 that his skills were honed and he became aware of the possibilities of a talent that had previously been a hobby.

Bernard taught Fennel the brush and ink technique that he had used in his 28 books, and encouraged him to broaden his use of mediums and develop greater personal identity as an artist. Fennel was quick to use his skills to build a reputation as a landscape illustrator and designer of corporate logos.

Today, Fennel most enjoys using the scraperboard medium made famous by natural history illustrators Denys Watkins-Pitchford and Charles Tunnicliffe. 

Fennel the gardener

At the age of 11, Fennel persuaded his parents to allow him to take a Saturday job as a gardener at a local country house. The success of his 'hobby job' paved the way for a career in horticulture, where he would study at the respected Pershore College of Horticulture. This enabled him to take up a position as a gardener at the prestigious Rooksnest Estate in Berkshire. Later he would work internationally as a garden designer and then as marketing manager of a leading plant nursery. His career in horticulture lasted for 17 years, which he regards this as the happiest of his professional life.

Fennel the angler 

As the firstborn grandson into an angling family, it was inevitable that Fennel would become a fisherman. He inherited his grandfather's collection of vintage fishing tackle and classic angling books, and so developed traditional values and appreciation of antique tackle such as split cane bamboo rods.

He caught his first fish – a brown trout from a Welsh reserviour – at the age of six, which put in place his love of fly-fishing. Principally a game fisherman, Fennel is also known for his passion for wild carp that he discovers and fishes for in overgrown and 'forgotten' ponds. He's travelled the length of the country in search of surviving strains of this incredibly rare strain of fish.

Uncomfortable with the competitive and 'all too efficient' nature of modern fishing, Fennel began corresponding with traditional angler and respected author Chris Yates during the early 1990s. Their correspondence evolved into friendship and so, in 1995, Fennel was invited to join Chris' Golden Scale Club – a select and somewhat eccentric group of traditionalists that included famous anglers such as Bernard Venables, Richard Walker, Maurice Ingham, Peter Stone, Mike Winter and Peter Wheat. 

Writing in Coarse Angler magazine in September 1995, Chris wrote: 

"Fennel, who is 21, is one of the generations of younger anglers who gives me faith in the future." 

Today, Fennel mostly fly-fishes for trout and grayling in the waters near to his home in North Wales.

Listen to the Big Interview with Fennel Hudson

The visionaries' website infinitepie.co.uk – known for its motto 'Connections that Count' – has interviewed Fennel about the series of events that led him to create Fennel's Priory, and the people who helped him to shape it. The interview makes for dramatic listening, with Fennel talking openly about the breakdown that forced him to reassess his life and return to the values and identities of his youth. It's about a journey that led to him understanding the importance of indentity, and seeking the ideals of a slow-paced rural life.

Listen to the interview


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