BOOKS & FARMHOUSE KITCHEN
A thoughtful appreciation of the breadth and depth of beauty in our national and natural heritage
What to read this month; plus a recipe for cider vinegar.
Lavishly illustrated with photographs of National Trust landscapes, this book covers ‘natural’ beauty spots such as Dove Dale and also includes landscapes that obviously bear the hand of mankind. These range from grand country houses to Mr Straw’s House – a suburban ‘semi’ in Worksop – and the nuclear installation-turned-nature reserve of Orford Ness, Suffolk.
While visually appealing, this is not just a coffee table book. It explores our perceptions of landscape in chapters that examine what landscape means for the people living in it; how it has been imagined and represented in culture; what it tells us about the country’s past; and how it helps shape our identity today.
Written by a trio of experts in heritage and cultural geography, who provide their insights in a highly accessible way, it offers inspiring new ways to think about our relationship with the countryside.
Settling down with Alexandra Harris’s Weatherland on a rainy weekend provided the perfect reading conditions for this compendium of English weather as described or rendered by writers and artists.
Her subject, she explains, is not the weather per se, but rather “the weather as it is daily recreated in the human imagination”. Forays into the urban are part and parcel of Harris’s project, but it’s the rural environment that more often comes under scrutiny.
Rain, of course, features heavily, from early Christian narratives that saw bad weather as punishment for disobedience, through a Victorian obsession with damp. The 19th century wasn’t especially wetter than any other, but its literature was veritably drenched. “The vases on the stone terrace in the foreground catch the rain all day; and the heavy drops fall, drip, drip, drip, upon the broad flagged pavement,” writes Dickens in Bleak House as Lady Dedlock looks out over a leaden and waterlogged Lincolnshire landscape.
The earlier back you go, of course, the more desperate the struggle against the elements, and even the Anglo Saxons associated loneliness with the cold, as seen in the elegy The Wanderer, written in the 9th or 10th century about an exiled figure in a barren, winter landscape.
By the time we’re in the present day, the psychological links between weather and certain moods or atmospheres are all too clear; Ian McEwan’s interest in “the disturbing effects of English heat”, from his first novel The Cement Garden through
Atonement, providing a good example.
The water gardens at Ripon’s Studley Royal run through a property that is suffused with history and beauty
BOOK LANDSCAPES OF THE NATIONAL TRUST