The Last English Poacher

A poignant study of a dying practice
The Last English Poacher



Emma Crome


Emma Crome

Running time

16 minutes

Country / Nationality


Our Judges say:

A thought provoking story about a rarely seen or discussed rural way of life.

Jimmy Hyland

Fascinating, well made portrait of a poacher which is also an evocative, political perspective on the changing English countryside. One of the best films in the festival.

Paul Hodgson Music Judge

Beautifully shot (no pun intended) film. Nice music. A very calming film.

Simon Taylor

A beautiful insight into the shadows, and sunlight fields, of a British tradition.

Claire Carter Writer, Film Officer for Kendal Mountain Festival, 'Creative Consultant'.

Brian Tovey may be the last traditional poacher in England, the closest thing the country might have to an indigenous person living off the land. An antihero of conservation and nature, Brian’s outlook is anti-establishment and his way of life is almost off-grid, tucked away in a village on the edge of the English Cotswolds. He roams his surrounding fields and woods illegally hunting for game on private estates belonging to the big land-owners - Earls, Lords, Duchesses and farmers, an almost ethereal existence that clings to the age-old conflict between common and forest Law. ‘The Last English Poacher' is an elegy to England's changing rural communities, and our diminishing connection to the land. What can we learn from an outcast? A man who doesn’t love the animals he kills for food, but respects them and knows them better than most. This unconventional way of life is slipping away, and with it an intimate knowledge and perspective on a wilder way of living. Directed by Emma Crome and Peter Emery, 'The Last English Poacher' sprang from research into characters for a long-form documentary about the state of nature in the UK. It quickly became obvious that Brian's way of life was an intriguing representation of a lesser-known part of our rural history, a far-cry from our picture postcard, bucolic views of our green and pleasant land. Emma's story of how she came to meet Brian can be heard on The Adventure Podcast, and you can learn more about Brian's story in the book by John F MacDonald - 'The Last English Poachers.'

Sustainability Notes

The Last English Poacher is suggestive of an alternative way of living - one that has almost died out but is more relevant now than ever before. Can we live more sustainably by eating more locally sourced food, game, having more land access for communities to grow food together, rather than it remaining the province of the larger, wealthier land-owners? How can our rural communities thrive when it is so expensive to live in the English countryside? The removal of people from the land over centuries through forest law, the enclosures acts, the industrial revolution, has all contributed to our increasing disconnect with nature. Brian has clung on to his belief that he has a right to live from the land - whether right or wrong, it raises some interesting questions around privilege and opportunity when it comes to sustainability.