The Broad Leys story started back in 1975 when Katie & David Thear gave up their city jobs and brought a smallholding (Broad Leys) in Essex. At the same time, they started publishing a bi-monthly magazine, Practical Self Sufficiency.
The magazine was an immediate success, meeting the needs of a growing number of people who needed information on growing fruit and vegetables organically and raising poultry and livestock on a small scale.
Our logo - the thatched house - is actually based on the original Broad Leys Smallholding
In the mid-1970s there was a surge of interest in self-sufficiency and escaping the rat race. The TV program "The Good Life" ran from 1975 to 1978 and whilst on the surface merely being a formulaic sit-com it opened the eyes of a mainstream audience to the idea of there being a better, more worthwhile, way of life.
The magazine always had a practical focus and, as readers sent in their own contributions, Practical Self Sufficiency quickly became a forum for people to share ideas and help each other. In that spirit we welcome articles and manuscript submissions today
Katie also practised the entire range of smallholding activities developing half an acre of fruit and vegetables and over time she and her husband kept a wide variety of poultry and livestock.
She drew on her childhood experiences having been born on the Llyn peninsular in rural North Wales, such as making butter, yoghurt and cheeses from the milk of dairy animals although she updated those skills to the modern world. She constantly experimented to adapt traditional techniques for the present day, being one of the earliest users of raised beds in her vegetable garden in 1976.
Reflecting general interest and the Thear's own interests, in April 1982 the magazine increased in size by 16 pages and stated "Incorporating Goat World". Katie was later to write the definitive guide Starting With Goats.
The last issue of Practical Self Sufficiency was No. 43, December 1982 and issue 44, February 1983 was entitled Home Farm better to reflect the two main areas of interest, the home and the farm, as well as emphasizing the small-scale, humane and organic approach to livestock rearing and food production in town and country.
Issue 60, October 1985 celebrated 10 years with a change in style and a new tag-line of "The Practical Country Magazine", which changed in Issue 67, December 1986 to "The Practical Small Farmers' Magazine' . The magazine remained in the same style until No. 88, June/July 1990 when it was restyled and the tag line changed to "for small and part time farmers" which remained until issue 109, January 1994.
April 1994 heralded another change with the magazine re-titled Country Garden and available monthly via newsagents rather than just by subscription and specialist outlets. In April 1995 the title changed to Country Garden & Smallholding. The last change was to Country Smallholding in April 1999 which continues to this day.
The Thears sold the magazine to Archant Regional Ltd, their last issue being March 2001 and the magazine continues to this day.
This gave Katie more time to concentrate on writing books (she wrote over 20 books in all) although she continued to write articles for magazines. Katie sadly died on March 18th 2010 after a long battle with cancer. Just before her death, she saw the publication of her only novel, Hearing the Grass Grow.
Following Katie's death, David continued with the business side of Broad Leys but no new titles were released. Katie Thear Obituary
In early October 2014 the Broad Leys Media Ltd book titles and intellectual property rights were purchased by Broad Leys Publications Ltd. The Purchase will create the exciting opportunities to look for new ways to market and increase book sales, both within the UK and international markets. The new owner Nigel Bowerbank has kept poultry all of his life and having had a smallholding, the husbandry and breeding of pigs and cattle, together with the incubation and rearing of chickens, both bantams and large breeds, ducks, geese and quail, he brings a wealth of knowledge and will write additional books to increase the present range of titles, with his entrepreneurial background, his strengths are both corporate organisation and the ability to spot new growth opportunities. He welcomes trade customers to sell and promote both existing and new book titles.
Broad Leys Publications Limited
Norfolk NR30 1PJ.
Tel: 01493 249 160