A truly unforgettable experience, as I'm sure it was for thousands who climbed their nearest high point to ignite Diamond Jubilee beacons. We had gathered in the gardens of a house in the village to eat, drink and be merry whilst Youngest Boy spent four hours somersaulting down a bouncy castle. And then, at ten o'clock we convened in the dark road outside (our village has no street lighting thank goodness) and followed an enormous English flag up to the top of whale-backed Slawston Hill. As we ascended we pointed out flaring lights on the surrounding high points to each other, and then our own blaze sent fire, smoke and flying embers up into the sky as if competing with the big full moon that came out of a wisp of cloud at exactly the right moment. I stared out into the black distances, thinking of those in neighbouring villages gathered around their beacons, looking over to ours. Youngest Boy was simply awestruck, running about with his mate trying to catch flying spots of fire in the air until we gradually drifted off down the hill and back into the village street, saying 'goodnight' to our fellows in the darkness like Thomas Hardy characters coming home.
What to do for the Jubilee I thought. Polish up the Coronation Oxo tin? Yet again scan the 'Our Queen' transfer book? Too obvious. Too Unmitigated perhaps. But then I remembered. I had my own personal portrait of Our Queen. In 2008 I was suddenly thrust into taking pictures at a garden party at the Royal Artillery's Larkhill barracks in Wiltshire. I expected just to get shots of Chelsea Pensioners tucking into cream cakes, or, if I was lucky enough, detailed close-ups of tanks in battle-ready positions. I got all of that, but beforehand I found myself almost alone behind the press pack barrier, right opposite the Guest of Honour as she was about to unveil a new stone sign for the barracks. Happy Diamond Jubilee Your Majesty.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph