‘Five or six years ago, there was a real push for more working-class voices in publishing,’ the author Rebecca Smith explained to me. ‘But I didn’t recognise any of those stories because they were all urban. And I thought, we were working class too. And that’s what made me explore that.’

The result is Rebecca’s first book, Rural: The Lives of the Working Class Countryside, which is published this week. It’s a fascinating read, offering history and insight into the different industries that have dominated the countryside and the lives of those who work in them. This is then interweaved with Rebecca’s own family story of foresters in Cumbria, miners in Derbyshire and builders of reservoirs.

The latter story of the nation’s ‘navvies’ is one I must confess to knowing little previously about. When areas like Manchester were expanding and needing water, it was workers out in the countryside who built the reservoirs to supply them.

The book is a treasure trove of such detail. Forestry is another area I came away knowing more. Deforestation has been a centuries old process in the UK: forests shrunk from covering 15% of the land in Domesday Book times to four per cent by the 1870s.

By the First World War, the UK was importing 90 per cent of its timber, which led to the creation of the Forestry Commission in 1919: an attempt to make us more self-sufficient.

Foresters, like farmers, are sometimes seen as working against the environment.

That, Rebecca Smith argues, is a misunderstanding of their role: we need food and shelter, and that’s achievable in balance with nature. She described to me how her father and brother, who have both worked here, are imbued with a love and understanding of the outside world.

In the book, Rebecca described the importance of the weather to those working in the countryside: when growing up she and her brother could chat throughout the news, but come 6.27, there was absolute silence as the weather report was read out.

That sense of the precarity of rural life rings large in the book: not just from the weather, but also in belonging to a place that doesn’t belong to you.

As Rebecca notes, just five per cent of England is owned by homeowners: 30 per cent is still the preserve of the aristocracy and gentry.

The tourism industry plays on a chocolate box image of the countryside: ‘the romanticised rural idyll of past industry is good business,’ Rebecca notes. The reality, however, was often far different and remains relatively unknown. Her book is a compelling attempt to redress that balance, and to show what life in the countryside was, and is, really like.

Rural by Rebecca Smith (William Collins) is out now.