Join the cult followers who revere the wit and the beauty of this account dedicated English rural life.

Any museum that can post a picture of a gentleman with two ewes in his arms on 2020’s tumultuous exam results day with a caption that reads ‘Us collecting our A Level results’ is a museum worth following. The Merl’s physical location may be in Reading, but thanks to its exemplarily run Instagram account, you can get a slice of its wry humour and wit straight to your phone, as well as images that celebrate the skills and experiences of farmers and craftspeople, past and present. That it has earned something of a cult following is, frankly, little wonder.

When whatever genius is operating the controls behind its grid posts pictures of pub crawls Merl-style, we ache to be one of the sheep on them. When this photo of cows appears with the caption, ‘These tall pandas subsist solely on a diet of bambmoo’, we feel just absurdly happy. And when we get to clap eyes on a brilliant old picture of four sheepdog in the boot of a car with a description that reads ‘Four sheepdog in the back of a car, or as we like to call it, parallel barking’, we realise that we’ve hit the stage when the jokes we like most in life are those that we once prefixed with the word ‘dad’.

And all the while, as we gently guffaw into our cups of loose leaf Earl Grey, we also get to glimpse contemporary and historic scenes of the bucolic life of the country, a pursuit that is every bit as reassuring as many – and perhaps most – of us need in this year that has been anything but. Not, however, that the Merl shies away from weighing in matters of a more topical nature – albeit, thankfully, with a becoming lightness of touch. For evidence see its post which may just have been our very favourite of the year. A clue: it may involve a man driving a tractor beset by poultry as, in his infinite wisdom, he ‘checks his eyesight’ (do note the driver in question’s considerably less short-sighted sartorial choices than the motorist it pokes fun at).

Museum of English Rural Life, for your humour and for your championing of ancient skills, rural people and local communities: you’re our hero.

By Nancy Alsop
September 2020


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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.