Christ­mas Books

We’ve tracked down the best gifts for friends – or your­self!

Cotswold Life - - CONTENTS - WORDS: Candia Mckormack


The clos­est you can come to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the un­de­ni­able beauty and rich­ness of this book is by read­ing Robert Mac­far­lane and Jackie Mor­ris’s glo­ri­ous The Lost Words. But it would be do­ing Weeds in the Heart a huge in­jus­tice to take the com­par­isons fur­ther.

A book of star­tling beauty, her­bal­ist Nathaniel and artist Fiona have brought us a tome to be trea­sured, a book of such ex­quis­ite beauty that, with the turn of each page, you feel as if you’re tak­ing a step deeper into na­ture. Tak­ing a spir­i­tual and in­tu­itive ap­proach, Nathaniel teaches us to trust our in­stincts and to en­ter the world of herbalism with an open mind and heart. While, work­ing hand-in-hand with the writer, artist Fiona breathes life into his words with her beau­ti­fully re­alised oil paint­ings of the nat­u­ral world, many gilded with 24ct English gold leaf.

The two have pro­duced this book as an “of­fer­ing of grat­i­tude” to the Stroud Val­leys, and no finer trib­ute can be made to the nat­u­ral flora –

St John’s Wort, Horse­tail, Cleavers, Lady’s Man­tle, Chamomile… all are cel­e­brated with fit­ting rev­er­ence.

Whether you en­joy this book for the beau­ti­ful prod­uct it is, or whether you want to em­bark on a deeper jour­ney into learn­ing more about the plant world, this book couldn’t be more highly rec­om­mended.

Sim­ply beau­ti­ful.

£30, Aeon Books

BATH IN 50 BUILD­INGS by Pat Dar­gan

The Ro­mans were of course adept at iden­ti­fy­ing a good lo­ca­tion on which to build a set­tle­ment, and so when the River Avon’s hot springs were dis­cov­ered, they made their claim and called it Aquae Sulis.

Much like Chel­tenham of the Re­gency era, Bath be­came a fash­ion­able town to take the wa­ters dur­ing the Geor­gian pe­riod, and ar­chi­tects soon left their mark by cre­at­ing el­e­gant build­ings, many con­structed from the golden Bath Stone, lead­ing to its sta­tus in 1987 as a UN­ESCO World Her­itage Site.

From the an­cient glory of the Ro­man Baths to the Pal­la­dian el­e­gance of The Hol­burne Mu­seum, Bath in 50 Build­ings is a vis­ually re­ward­ing re­flec­tion of a city that has largely pre­served its world­class ar­chi­tec­tural gems.

Be­fore vis­it­ing next, we rec­om­mend you read this book and make a note to visit as many of Pat Dar­gan’s 50 rec­om­mended build­ings as you pos­si­bly can.

£14.99, Amberley Pub­lish­ing


We all know Wal­lis Simp­son as the Amer­i­can who stole the king’s heart and rocked the monar­chy, but how much do we know about his other loves?

Rachel Trethewey’s book looks at the three women who could have just as eas­ily changed the course of his­tory: his wartime ro­mance with Rose­mary Leve­son-gower; the lure of long-term mis­tress Freda Dud­ley Ward; and his twice-mar­ried Amer­i­can lover Thelma Fur­ness. Through di­ary ex­tracts and lit­tle seen pho­to­graphs of the time, we’re treated to eye­brow-rais­ing sto­ries of flir­ta­tions and so­cial climb­ing.

The book re­veals Ed­ward’s al­most self-sab­o­tag­ing ac­tions, show­ing a flawed char­ac­ter who quite pos­si­bly didn’t want to be king at all.

£20, The His­tory Press


This gor­geously il­lus­trated large­for­mat book fol­lows the paths of 50 derelict rail­way lines across some of the coun­try’s most beau­ti­ful coun­try­side.

Util­is­ing Bartholomew’s his­tor­i­cal maps – which are a joy in them­selves – we’re guided along the routes, de­tail­ing the length for walk­ers and cy­clists and not­ing sites of in­ter­est along the way. In this part of the coun­try you can en­joy a pic­turesque Wye Val­ley walk; fol­low the dis­used track from Lyd­ney to Cole­ford and Cin­der­ford; and ex­plore the line from Great Malvern to Ashchurch… you may then feel the urge to go fur­ther afield and ex­pe­ri­ence the stun­ning Camel Train in Corn­wall or walk the High­land Rail­way main line along the Dava Way.

Rail­way ex­pert Ju­lian Hol­land’s well re­searched text is ac­com­pa­nied by his­tor­i­cal pho­to­graphs show­ing each line in oper­a­tion prior to its clo­sure, as well as im­ages from the present day.

£30, Times Books


This bio­graph­i­cal study of the Vic­to­rian church artist Charles Eamer Kempe tells a com­pelling story of one of the most in­flu­en­tial fig­ures in late Vic­to­rian and Ed­war­dian church art.

Draw­ing on newly avail­able ar­chive ma­te­rial, Adrian Bar­low eval­u­ates Kempe’s achieve­ment in cre­at­ing a school of artists and crafts­men who in­ter­preted his de­signs, re­main­ing fiercely loyal to his aes­thetic and re­li­gious ideals.

Glouces­ter Cathe­dral is one of the key sites for Kempe glass, which in­cludes his first known win­dow, com­mis­sioned by his own Aunt Char­lotte and de­signed for renowned stained glass work­shop Clay­ton & Bell. In to­tal, Glouces­ter­shire has 105 Kempe win­dows, with key sites in­clud­ing the Cathe­dral, Tewkes­bury Abbey, Newn­ham-on-sev­ern and Bour­ton-on-the-wa­ter.

This book will ap­peal to every­one in­ter­ested in Vic­to­rian art in gen­eral, and stained glass in par­tic­u­lar. Il­lu­mi­nat­ing!

£25, The Lut­ter­worth Press


We’re huge fans of St­effi’s work, and this book bril­liantly con­veys her inim­itable en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm in this fas­ci­nat­ing craft.

Fol­low­ing on from the suc­cess of her Mak­ing Nee­dle Felted An­i­mals, this back-to-ba­sics guide in­cludes clear steps and pho­tos, so begin­ners and even small chil­dren can have a go.

One of the par­tic­u­larly lovely things about the book is that it’s ar­ranged by sea­son, and so we have but­ter­flies and chicks for spring, roses and honey bees for sum­mer, spi­ders and toad­stools for au­tumn, and of course an adorable Fa­ther Christ­mas for win­ter... and if you’re feel­ing par­tic­u­larly ad­ven­tur­ous, why not make your own Na­tiv­ity scene!

A lovely book that takes away the mys­tique from this en­dur­ing craft.

£16.99, Hawthorn Press


Mark Turner is a re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer and mem­ber of the More­ton-in-marsh & District Lo­cal His­tory So­ci­ety. His lat­est book is the re­sult of decades of re­search and is rich with ‘then-and­now’ pho­to­graphs, il­lus­trat­ing just how much has changed in this pop­u­lar Glouces­ter­shire tourist des­ti­na­tion but also, re­as­sur­ingly, how much his­tory has been re­tained.

The faces that peer out from shop door­ways tell sto­ries of pre­vi­ous trades in the mar­ket town that made its for­tune on wool: Maces Con­fec­tionary on the High Street is now Cotswold Ori­en­tal Rugs; Keen’s Op­ti­cian Shop be­came Cotswold Grey; and Strong’s Out­fit­ters has a new lease of life as Jon Fox An­tiques.

One par­tic­u­larly stir­ring im­age shows Sher­man tanks in the town cen­tre in 1944, be­fore em­barka­tion to Nor­mandy for the D-day land­ings. The tanks may have been re­placed with 21st-cen­tury fam­ily saloons, but lit­tle else has changed in this evoca­tive scene.

£14.99, Amberley Pub­lish­ing

RECIPES TO RE­MEM­BER cre­ated by Kelly James and Natasha Will­more

Launched at this year’s Chel­tenham Lit­er­a­ture Fes­ti­val, this book – in sup­port of Mag­gie’s – is a col­lec­tion of nos­tal­gic recipes and mem­o­ries from well-known per­son­al­i­ties, such as Jilly Cooper, Jeremy Vine, PJ Crook, Vic­to­ria Der­byshire, Nell Gif­ford, Ray­mond Blanc, and Kirsty All­sopp.

The book is a re­minder that tastes or even mere aro­mas are enough to trans­port us back in time, re­call­ing the flavours of our child­hoods, such as cho­co­late crunch (Rachel Tre­week); Christ­mas pud­ding (Rob Rees); slabkuchen (Ni­cholas Al­lan); fam­ily soup (Ru­fus Hound); sausage roast (Tom Ker­ridge); and ba­nana loaf (Ben Shires). Fea­tur­ing more than 60 mouth­wa­ter­ing recipes, the book is in­spired by the per­sonal jour­neys of com­pil­ers Kelly and Natasha, who felt com­pelled to help the char­ity that helps so many oth­ers who have been af­fected by can­cer.

Prof­its go di­rectly to Mag­gie’s to help them con­tinue their im­por­tant work.

£20, mag­gi­escook­

‘Glouces­ter­shire in Pho­to­graphs is a beau­ti­ful book; a pas­toral stroll through the county’s sea­sons’


Cotswold writer and sto­ry­teller Fiona Eadie stud­ied at the In­ter­na­tional School of Sto­ry­telling in Sus­sex and can now be heard weav­ing her tales to adults and chil­dren alike across the area.

This new re­lease from The His­tory Press is a charm­ing col­lec­tion of imag­ined tales of life on the wa­ter­ways in times gone by, giv­ing us a glimpse into the very real is­sues peo­ple liv­ing and work­ing the canals.

Span­ning 250 years of life on the Cotswold canals, and mix­ing fact with fic­tion, the sto­ries are com­ple­mented by the il­lus­tra­tions of Cotswold Life writer Tracy Spiers.

A beau­ti­ful book that can be en­joyed across the gen­er­a­tions.

£9.99, The His­tory Press

HIS­TORIC ENG­LAND: CHEL­TENHAM by David El­der, with con­tri­bu­tions by His­toric Eng­land

For those that en­joy the His­toric Eng­land se­ries, this lat­est col­lec­tion com­piled by Chel­tenham-based writer David El­der will be a very wel­come ad­di­tion.

His pre­vi­ous works on the town, as well as his ex­cel­lent bi­og­ra­phy of Chel­tenham-born Antarc­tic ex­plorer Ed­ward Wil­son, make him more than qual­i­fied to bring us this nos­tal­gic col­lec­tion, com­pris­ing over 150 colour and black-and-white pho­to­graphs, in­sight­fully cap­tioned by the writer.

Touch­ing on an­cient sites such as Leck­hamp­ton, Cleeve Hill and Bat­tle­down Camp, he then takes us into the Re­gency glam­our of the spa town of Ge­orge III’S reign, be­fore bring­ing us bang up to date with the ad­di­tion of GCHQ’S ‘dough­nut’ build­ing and even the re­cently opened John Lewis store on the High Street.

From the el­e­gant ar­chi­tec­ture the town has be­come syn­ony­mous with, to the watch fac­tory, the en­gi­neer­ing works and the grunge of the gas works, this is a must-have for lovers of lo­cal his­tory.

£14.99, Amberley Books

A BIKER’S LIFE by Henry Cole

If you have even a pass­ing in­ter­est in mo­tor­cy­cling, you’ll know the name Henry Cole.

The pre­sen­ter of TV shows such as The World’s Great­est Mo­tor­cy­cle Rides; Find It, Fix It, Flog It!; and The Mo­tor­bike Show – as well as founder of be­spoke Bri­tish bike brand Glad­stone Mo­tor­cyles – is well known to shed-dwellers and lovers of two wheels.

A Biker’s Life is a can­did por­trayal of his life to date, in­clud­ing be­ing schooled at Eton, liv­ing with his ec­cen­tric aris­to­cratic fam­ily (his dad wore a three-piece tweed suit ev­ery day of his life), re­cov­ery from heroin ad­dic­tion, and set­ting the world land speed record for a pre-1955 750cc mo­tor­cy­cle on the Bon­neville Salt Flats.

For the man who de­scribes him­self as “chron­i­cally un­com­pet­i­tive”, his epic jour­neys have taken him to all four cor­ners of the world, giv­ing him count­less ad­ven­tures… and en­dan­ger­ing his life on more than one oc­ca­sion.

Writ­ten in re­laxed, ex­ple­tive-filled style, you’ll warm to Henry and his mad­cap ad­ven­tures.

£20, Quer­cus


Many of us know well the names Ernest Gim­son, John Singer Sar­gent and Det­mar Blow, but an­other tal­ented fig­ure was carv­ing out a name for him­self in the Arts and Crafts move­ment of the early to mid 20th cen­tury.

Jes­sica Dou­glas-home’s beau­ti­fully writ­ten bi­og­ra­phy tells the story of a man who be­came a cen­tral fig­ure in the Cotswold artis­tic com­mu­nity be­tween the wars, and whose name has be­come largely over­shad­owed by his peers.

Greatly in­spired by the coun­try­side around his Far Oakridge home, Wil­liam Sim­monds emerged as a mas­ter wood­carver of wild and do­mes­tic crea­tures, as well as a pup­pet-maker of some note. The abun­dance of colour plates show that he was also an in­cred­i­bly skilled painter and draughts­man, and in par­tic­u­lar his study of Ophe­lia, in­spired by his walks along the River Coln in Glouces­ter­shire, is breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful.

This book is an af­fec­tion­ate study of a true Cotswold coun­try­man and in­flu­en­tial fig­ure in the Arts and Crafts move­ment.

£20, Uni­corn


For those of us lucky enough to live in Glouces­ter­shire, it’s ev­i­dent we’re sur­rounded by coun­try­side of im­mense beauty. But how many of us have tried to cap­ture that beauty with a pho­to­graph and been dis­ap­pointed with the re­sult?

Glouces­ter-based pho­tog­ra­pher Aleks Gjika has a deep love for his adopted county, and has com­bined this love with his artis­tic eye and tech­ni­cal pho­to­graphic skills. Orig­i­nally from Al­ba­nia, Aleks has taken his joy of walk­ing the hills and moun­tains of the coun­try he was born in, and trans­ferred it to this part of Bri­tain, say­ing Glouces­ter­shire is like a “truly breath­tak­ing sculp­ture carved by the unique weather and its peo­ple.”

This beau­ti­ful book is a pas­toral stroll through the county’s sea­sons, from rid­ing the Sev­ern bore in the spring and walk­ing a misty path near Pain­swick Bea­con, to watch­ing the sun set from Crick­ley Hill and strug­gling through the snow in the For­est of Dean.

A beau­ti­fully com­piled col­lec­tion.

£16.99, Amberley Books


Daphne Moore was born in Tewkes­bury in 1910, and spent her early life in what is now the Tu­dor House Ho­tel. In 1958 she was given a ‘grace and favour’ cot­tage on the Bad­minton Es­tate by the Duke of Beau­fort, where she lived for the next 40 years. Over the decades, she be­came known for her re­ports in Horse & Hound mag­a­zine, but it is her per­sonal di­aries – il­lus­trated with her charm­ing wa­ter­colours – that are of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est.

Alas­tair Jack­son, who first met Daphne in 1963, has writ­ten a won­der­fully en­gag­ing book which opens up her di­aries to the pub­lic for the first time, re­veal­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing world of hunt­ing and its char­ac­ters from the 1930s to the 80s.

£25, Mer­lin Un­win Books

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