ONE of Hampshire's greatest writers will be celebrated on the 200th anniversary of his most famous book.

William Cobbett was a farmer, politician, journalist and campaigner for the poor and his classic book Rural Rides, published in 1830, has never been out of print.

Cobbett (1763-1835), who lived at Botley, will be the subject of a series of events coordinated by Edward Fennell, the founder of Hyde 900 that celebrated King Alfred the Great.

Mr Fennell, coordinator of Project Cobbett: Rural Rides @ 200, plans to launch the initiative early next year.

He said: "Two hundred years ago England was in a state of turmoil with ordinary people - especially in Hampshire - increasingly impoverished while the great landlords and oligarchs were growing ever-richer.

"William Cobbett, a Botley resident and an activist-journalist with a massive national reputation, took time out to traverse the south of England reporting on what he saw and predicting that the country was heading towards a catastrophe. He was proved right. The Captain Swing riots of the late 1820s shook the Establishment to the core and helped precipitate the radical re-organisation of Parliament via the Great Reform Act. Cobbett became an MP and his book 'Rural Rides' has been in print ever since."

Among the proposals are:

l an exhibition in the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester;

l a Rural Rides website will document in detail the routes taken by Cobbett with information about the various locations at the time together with detailed maps and images from the 1820s and today;

l a short printed biography of Cobbett with a special emphasis on his time farming in Botley;

l a lecture programme on the theme of the politics and economy of Hampshire which shaped Cobbett’s world in the years leading up to the Captain Swing Riots (which some leading politicians blamed on Cobbett directly);

l a dramatised reading of Rural Rides (i.e the principal reader will be in character);

l and a new play.