Celebrating the women who shaped the British countryside

On International Women's Day, we're celebrating the women who've made fantastic contributions to the countryside, from women's efforts during the First World War to the female farmers and thinkers shaping our rural lives today

Octavia Hill stained glass, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, Founder of The National Trust

To mark International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the women who’ve made fantastic contributions to the countryside, from women’s efforts during the First World War to the female farmers and thinkers shaping our rural lives today

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide, and is a call to action for gender parity. The first International Women’s Day (IWD) took place in 1911.


When is International Women’s Day 2019?

Every year International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8th March. In 2019 IWD takes place on Friday 8th March.


Influential women of the British countryside

Saturday 8 March is International Women’s Day and to celebrate we look at some of the fantastic things women have achieved in the British countryside.

Award-winning farmer Joan Bomford

The 83-year-old beef farmer and winner of Countryfile’s Farming Hero 2015 discusses ploughing with steam engines, Dutch elm trees and the importance of get-up-and-go.

Award-winning farmer and Countryfile Farming Hero 2015 Joan Bomford

Lucy Walker, Victorian mountain climber

Leaving behind a quiet life of croquet and cream teas, Lucy Walker became one of Britain’s finest early mountain climbers. Clare Roche tells her extraordinary story.

Group of Victorian walkers
Lucy Walker with other climbers (Alamy)

Beatrix Potter

The popular children’s author set many of her stories in the Lake District. She was incredibly fond of the area and her writing enthused young people about wildlife and the countryside.

Unidentified clipping of British author/illustrator Beatrix Potter posing outside with herding dog, probably at her home Hill Top/Credit: Getty

The Land Girls

Land Girls working in the beet fields of Lincolnshire during World War II/Credit: Getty

While men were fighting for Britain on the battlefield, the women were fighting for Britain in the fields and factories. Without their fundamental contribution to the war effort, Britain would have ground to a halt.

The 10 key moments in Women’s Institute (WI) history

While the first WI was set up in Canada in 1897, it only reached British shores in 1915. It was initially established to encourage women from the British countryside to grow and preserve food in a bid to increase food supply in a nation that was ravaged by war. The first British WI met on Anglesey in North Wales on September 16th 1915.

Read more about the history of the Women’s Institute


1922:  Members of the Women's Institute manning a West Country produce stall.  (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

In memory of columnist Candida Lycett Green


BBC Countryfile Magazine‘s editor Fergus Collins remembers the talent and extraordinary spirit of a fine columnist and committed country woman.

Saviour of Britain’s green spaces: Octavia Hill

Octavia Hill was a social reformer whose belief in the benefits of fresh air led to the creation of the National Trust. A century after Octavia’s death, Polly Toynbee ponders what she might think of today’s efforts to improve society.

Octavia Hill
1st October 1892: Octavia Hill (1838 – 1912) who worked with Ruskin to improve housing conditions for the poor and co-founded the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty. (Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images)

Ellie Harrison’s Cotswolds smallholding

Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison lives on a small-holding in the Cotswolds

After taking over a five-acre orchard in the Cotswolds, Countryfile presenter and naturalist Ellie Harrison decides her first challenge is to attract more wildlife. After all, how hard can it be?

Hope Bourne

Nature-loving Hope Bourne/ ©Chris Champman Photography & Film

A love of freedom and wilderness inspired Hope Bourne to fend for herself in a remote valley on Exmoor. There, she scraped a living by writing about life on the rugged moorlands

Swimming legend Mercedes Gleitze

In 1927, Brighton-born Mercedes Gleitze became the first British woman to swim the English Channel – and a star was born

British swimmer Mercedes Gleitze (1900 – 1979) in the water/Credit: Getty

Author Nan Shepherd

One of the greatest books about Scottish mountains lay in a drawer for 40 years. Charlotte Peacock profiles author Nan Shepherd and her enduring passion for the Cairngorms.

Image by kind permission of Erlend Clouston