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An angry, sad, emotional book about FMD in Devon: lest we forget – IFBN

Published in Devon at the Chagford Show today, this haunting record - and warning - of the horrors of foot and mouth. It's rather special. LAUNCHED TODAY AT CHAGFORD SHOW 'SILENCE AT RAMSCLIFFE'

The horror of food and mouth disease in the Spring of 2001 has scarcely faded in the minds of any of the farmers and workers whom it affected – but how long does it take for 'government', politicians and 'the public' to forget what happens if vigilance of disease observation and control is allowed to become negligent?

Photographer Chris Chapman and rural poet James Crowden have put together a black and white book of stark and moving photographs, angry and anguished poems, and straight records of 'what it was really like' for those involved.

"Documentary photographer Chris Chapman had unprecedented access to study a contiguous cull on a farm in North Devon," say the publishers, Bardwell Press of Oxford. "Later he was joined by poet James Crowden to tour the farm and surrounding region to share the pain he had witnessed. The book combines the view of the photographer and the poet, neither flinching from the reality of what they saw."

The authors say they hope it will also act as a form of catharsis for those directly affected by the 'Government's appalling and callous handling of the tragedy'.

The book contains more than sombre stories of horrendous killing and heartbreak. Towards the end, various kinds of analysis are included, factual, objective and subjective conclusions are reached, references quoted and historical connections made. It's one of those books that brings the whole thing back to life – and should be kept in every college and public library – excellent material for student projects, and for reminding one's children and grandchildren what it was really like. Most important, though, is that it should be drawn to the attention of politicians and accountants next time they decide to remove safety measures from national bio-security.

More details of the book by clicking here. The book costs £25, and its ISBN is 0-9548683-3-1. It includes a DVD of the same name, courtesy of ITV West.










More than four years after the last case of Foot and Mouth disease was confirmed in Devon, a remarkable new book has been published to document what really happened in the dark months of 2001.  Silence at Ramscliffe: Foot and Mouth in Devon combines Chris Chapman’s powerful photographs and James Crowden’s perceptive poetry to create a unique record of the events of that spring, a record that the authors hope will endure long after the official reports have been forgotten, and that will also act as a form of catharsis for those directly affected by the Government’s appalling and callous handling of the tragedy.


Documentary photographer Chris Chapman had unprecedented access to study a contiguous cull on a farm in North Devon. Later he was joined by poet James Crowden to tour the farm and surrounding region to share the pain he had witnessed. The book combines the view of the photographer and the poet, neither flinching from the reality of what they saw.


“Much of the media revelled in the gorier aspects of the story, and then it was quickly forgotten,” Chris Chapman said. “I wanted to make sense of the experience of the cull for the people whom it affected most, the working farmers, their families, friends and neighbours. I hope in some small way this book will help to heal the wounds of those who experienced its horror.”


James Crowden added that for Devon farmers the epidemic must have seemed as if the “killing fields of Cambodia” had taken over their landscape

“Nothing prepared me for foot and mouth. Image and reality became inextricably linked.  There is no tradition of rural poetry to encompass what we saw,” he said. “The only conscious links were to the First World War and the poetry of Wilfred Owen.”


Despite being turned down by many publishers as an unsuitable subject, Chris Chapman and James Crowden were determined to publish this book as a true record of the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak in Devon and its effect on the rural community. In Devon that community wholeheartedly supported the publication of this book, along with farmers, writers, artists and environmentalists.


Zac Goldsmith, editor of the Ecologist said: “This book provides not only a permanent reminder of the pain inflicted on Britain’s rural communities, but a valuable lesson too – that the nightmare need never be repeated.”


Food writer, TV chef and countryman Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall described the book as a suitably provocative collection of words and pictures.


Silence at Ramscliffe reminds us just how the Government’s appalling and callous handling of the Foot and Mouth crisis undermined all the fundamentals of good farming and good husbandry,” he said. “It serves as a brilliant warning, nationally and even globally, of how man’s chilling disassociation from the species that feed him is, frighteningly, almost complete.”


Silence at Ramscliffe: Foot and Mouth in Devon will be launched at the Chagford Show, Devon on August 18, 2005 from 10 am. Press call 11am – 3 pm.


For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Chris Chapman, 01647 231508 or James Crowden, 01460 30795.



Notes for Editors:


·          The original photography at the heart of Silence at Ramscliffe: Foot and Mouth in Devon was commissioned by Devon County Council and Beaford Arts. It was followed by a TV programme, produced by Available Light, Bristol. DVD copies of the programme are included in the book, courtesy of ITV West.


·          Chris Chapman is a documentary photographer who has lived and worked in the South West for 30 years. His photographs can be found in the Victoria & Albert Museum; the International Center of Photography, New York; Boston Museum of Fine Arts and in numerous private collections. His published work includes: The Right Side of the Hedge (David & Charles, 1977); Dartmoor: The Threatened Wilderness (Channel 4); Wild Goose & Riddon: The Dartmoor Photographs of Chris Chapman (Halsgrove, 2000).


  • James Crowden is a poet, writer and historian. He studied engineering at Bristol University and anthropology at Oxford and then spent 20 years working in the South West in a mixture of rural jobs including sheep shearing, cider making and shepherding. His first book of poetry, Blood Earth & Medicine, was published in 1991. He has since written six other books including In Time of Flood and The Wheal of Hope. He is a full-time writer and poet with occasional programmes on BBC Radio 4.


  • Silence at Ramscliffe: Foot and Mouth in Devon is published by the Bardwell Press, Oxford,, price £25, ISBN 0-9548683-3-1. It includes a DVD of the same name, courtesy of ITV West. The book is available direct from the authors.



  • Text and images can be supplied on request from either Chris Chapman or James Crowden.

Silence at Ramscliffe - Foot and Mouth in Devon

Three Articles by Chris Chapman

The completed journal, Silence at Ramscliffe, is now up on Chris' website

MAFF employee moving cattle prior to their slaughter
(Copyright © Chris Chapman)

The three articles below make for poignant but essential reading for anyone not directly involved and who wants to sense just a little of the tragedy that unfolded for hundreds of people during the foot and mouth crisis of 2001.

All photographs are by the author. (Jan 23. The photos will be added to the articles as soon as possible)

The Western Morning News ran "Silence at Ramscliffe" as a four page spread on January 22nd. There is a 25 minute film called Silence at Ramscliffe, based around the photographs but ending on a positive note when the farm restocked last November ( albeit as a beef and arable holding). This will be shown in late spring on HTV as part of an eight part series.

The articles are published here by kind permission of the author.



Silence at Ramscliffe

(Copyright © Chris Chapman)

Foot & Mouth in Devon

1. Silence at Ramscliffe
    EXTRACT ~ The phone rang piercing the uncomfortable quiet. It was his bank manager. ' No, no, I'm fine Janet. Quite honestly it's a relief. It's impossible to farm at the moment what with this weather and all the restrictions.' They chatted away and I made some more coffee. Finishing his second cup Philip sprang into action. 'I've got to empty that slurry tank before they come else they'll have me.' .....for me the day is remembered as one of unbelievable waste, a sickening solution to what many believe was an unnecessary crisis in the countryside. And because of it Ramscliffe, a small, good, typical North Devon farm, has joined the ranks of the silent.

(Copyright © Chris Chapman)
2. An interview with Philip Lake
    EXTRACT ~ The compensation was high but my feeling all the way through this was that the Government doesn't want to have so many farmers and this was the pay off. And don't forget that there will be a long period without any income. It sounds a lot but its not really.'................... I've been looking at other things, diversification and looking into the grants and trying not to go back to such intensive farming. I took out the milking parlour. If I had gone back into milking I would have needed a new one. It had got too old and there was no sale value in the parts. The bulk tank will fetch something because that one is nearly new.'.......'I don't know what the future is - you tell me. The ones who seriously stay in farming will have to go big - two or three hundred dairy cows and a couple of thousand sheep. I've got three daughters so I don't feel I need to go back into serious farming. I can muddle along. Do a bit of arable, beef and sheep. But I couldn't walk away from farming completely. It's in my blood.

3 An interview with Percy and Roma Lake

    EXTRACT ~ The day Foot and Mouth came to Beaford was terrible. Nigel, my nephew, who farms at Brealeys, had been down to Ramscliffe in the morning. It was a Sunday morning, the 18th of March. He often came down cause he'd lost his father recently. That was my brother, Harold. Well, he stayed there talking in the milking parlour. He went from there over to Simmons's and stayed chatting with they for a while, which he always did, and in the afternoon, about six o'clock, he ringed up and you know he was in tears, he broke down. ' Us got it', he said 'us got it'. We couldn't believe it, no…'

Jack Lewis and his Greyface Dartmoor sheep, Murchington, 1978 (Copyright © Chris Chapman)

Chris Chapman's Website

Chris Chapman was born in Wigan, Lancashire in 1952. He began his photographic career at the Newport College of Art in South Wales where he was invited to join the Documentary Photography Course run by the Magnum photographer, David Hurn.

(Copyright © Chris Chapman)

His photographs reflect traditional skills inherent in the indigenous population and emphasise the accumulation of knowledge associated with age and customs. He has a large archive depicting the culture and character of the region.

His photography has been widely recognised and is represented in both public and private collections, including those of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Arts Council of England and the International Center of Photography in New York. His work has been published under various titles, including The Right Side of the Hedge (David & Charles 1977) and Dartmoor: The Threatened Wilderness (Channel 4 Books 1986).

In April 2001 Beaford Arts commissioned Chris to make a photographic record of the effects of Foot and Mouth disease in North Devon. Concentrating on one contiguous farm, Chris made a picture story showing everyday life on a farm through to the day of the cull. The two landscape photographs from this body of work, taken from roads in North Devon, are included in East of Eden, a large-scale exhibition exploring the theme of art, nature and society. (Some sixty artists are involved including John Virtue, Damien Hirst, Andy Goldsworthy, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Rebecca Early and Louise K Wilson. Details from Spacex Gallery on 01392 431786).