By Jane Yelland

Eric Brown retired from Kirklees Council after 33 years in 2021. In the two years since he retired, the countryside officer turned museums manager has been busy.

Formerly site manager of Oakwell Hall Country Park in Birstall, Eric volunteers with the Oakwell friends group, gardens and invests time in his allotment.

And it is his love of veg growing on his plot in Mirfield that has helped provide the genesis of his debut novel.

Pilgrimm’s Progress, a humorous tale of ‘seduction, murder and allotmenting’ was published by Fisher King earlier this year.

“I have always been a bit of a dreamer, I was always looking out of the window and imagining stories and characters when I was at school,’’ said Eric, 59.

“About 13 years ago I had a shed on the allotment – it was such a great shed I thought that if you wanted to escape from the world down on the allotment you could.

“When the last plot-holder has gone and finally shut the gate you could lead a nocturnal existence and nobody would ever know you were there.’’

Pilgrimm’s Progress charts the travails of underachieving middle-aged local government officer Graham Pilgrimm, who hides out in the shed on his allotment after inadvertently finding himself framed for murder.

“It’s farcical and far-fetched but I also wanted to make it believable, with believable characters,’’ revealed Eric, who warned that it’s also a touch ribald in parts.

His characters are an amalgam of people he has met over the years, while the dialogue between his own mates about beer and football influenced that between Graham and his friends in the novel.

Eric, the father of grown-up daughters Ellie and Izzy, feels his love of horticulture and nature stems from his dad Dennis and his grandad, who helped out with the family garden when he was a child.

“I used to spend ages hunting for bugs and beasties, I was like a young Chris Packham,’’ he added.

After leaving Mirfield High School Eric completed a degree in Earth and Life Studies at Derby University and went on to work at Riber Castle wildlife park in Matlock, and Chester Zoo.

He then joined Kirklees Council as an assistant countryside ranger in the Colne Valley, later becoming Heavy Woollen countryside officer and latterly head ranger then site manager at Oakwell Hall, where he worked for 21 years.

Eric is currently working on a sequel to Pilgrimm’s Progress, which sees his unlikely hero thrust into more outlandish situations.

“Pilgrimm’s Progress won’t change anyone’s life but hopefully people can lose themselves in it for a while and have a laugh or two along the way,’’ added Eric.

Click here to buy a copy of the book.