Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.



Sunday, January 08, 2012

A Winter's Tale


I have a great many books - shelves and shelves of them in fact. Some I have bought and never quite got round to reading properly and others I haven't read for many years. A couple of days ago I decided to gather a pile of these together and put them on a small table next to the sofa so that I can spend some of the dark winter afternoons and evenings reading or re-reading them.


Vanishing England is one of the pile that I've read in the past but I want to make a few notes of the places and buildings mentioned this time and see whether later this year I can look for some of them to see whether they have indeed vanished. If they are still there it will be interesting to see how much they have changed from the time when the book was first published in 1910. There's quite a lot on East Anglia so those I may well be able to check on when I'm visiting Neil and Cesca.


England is A Village I have read not just once in the past but several times, it was written during the early months of WW2 and published in 1940 and describes a country village life that is now long gone but one that I can just about remember.


Something else that makes this one of the books I would grab if there was a fire are the lovely illustrations by Denys Watkins Pitchford, they are so atmospheric.
Denys Watkins Pitchford is the real name of the author of three of the other books in this pile - 'The Wayfaring Tree', 'Tide's Ending' and 'Dark Estuary'. 'BB' was not only an artist but a wildfowler, angler, conservationist and superb naturalist.He was responsible for the re-introduction of the rare Purple Emperor to a wood in Northamptonshire which is now one of the best sites in Britain to see this beautiful butterfly. I own 16 of his books at present and hope to acquire more but the ones I don't have tend to be expensive as they are very collectible. The two I want most are 'A Summer On The Nene' (a really good copy is over £100 - by some distance!) and 'Indian Summer' which ranges between £40- £110! There is every chance that one of these will be joining my collection this year:)


These are the two little books sitting on top of the pile, there are two more in the series which are on my book wish list. Published in the late 1940s they are simple guides to what you might see through the year in each location. 'A Walk Down The Lane' begins

"It is damp and raw on this Winter's morning, with heavy clouds, cold,clinging mists,mud and sodden grass; chilling to the very marrow of ones bones. The lane takes on a forbidding appearance. Nature is in her nakedness and the trees shiver as Boreas, the great North Easter, blows through them."

That pretty much describes many winter mornings on the lane that leads up to Blackamoor where I walk every day with B Baggins.
The other three are 'A Walk In The Woods', 'A Walk By The River' and 'A Walk O'er The Downs' - I rather suspect that the author lived in Sussex:)


This photograph comes from Seasons of Change and shows a woman plaiting rushes into baskets. Many women supplemented the meagre wages of their ag lab husbands by making lace, straw plaiting and other rural crafts in the 19th century. The book itself chronicles the impact of the Industrial Revolution on rural life between 1850 and 1914. It is profusely illustrated with photographs throughout. I've had this book a long time but have never yet done more than leaf through it.


From the same book comes this photograph which shows how quickly people forget how hard life was only 100 years ago - the lifetime of my grandparents! This is John Brinkworth still working as a hedger and ditcher at the age of 81! No old age pensions in those days, you had to keep on working as long as you could and then if your family couldn't support you it was into the Workhouse. My mum was born in 1910 and all her life she was terrified of having to go into hospital because she associated hospital with the Workhouse. Of course many hospitals did begin life as the local Workhouse which was definitely not a place where you would want to end your days. I do seem to have strayed off the subject a bit here don't I? :)


A modern reprint of book originally published in 1952 and full of all kinds of interesting bits and pieces about the countryside and country life as it was then. I was 6 years old in 1952 and regularly walked 5 or 6 miles with my mum along local country lanes, my dad worked on Sundays so in Spring, Summer and Autumn mum and I usually went out walking taking a picnic lunch with us. We used to sing as we walked - The Happy Wanderer, Daisy,Daisy (Lend Me Your Bicycle Do),The Gypsy Rover, It's A Long Way To Tipperary and lots of other songs. It was a different world then.
Edited to add:
Did anybody notice? I was walking up the field back to Short's Lane this morning when I started singing to myself 'Daisy,Daisy, Lend me your bicycle do' when I suddenly thought 'LEND ME YOUR BICYCLE'? By the time I reached the lane I was laughing out loud and singing the proper words ''Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do'. What on earth was I thinking last night when I wrote that? Talk about a senior moment!

The Time Travellers group has a little sub group devoted to researching the Brigantes tribe which ruled a large area of Northern Britain. Cartimandua was queen of the Brigantes at the time of the Roman conquest so she is going to be my introduction to the Brigantes about whom I currently know very little indeed.


Another book I've had a good while and still not read, it's about the history, folklore, wildlife and people of the Fens - a very special area of England most of it barely above sea level which until very recently was remote from the rest of the country.


The Fens are famous for the wonderful array of wildfowl, waders and other birdlife to be found there. Here also can be found the fen raft spider, this is the UK's largest and rarest spider, one I trust I shall only ever see from a distance and preferably not at all!

So that is that is my reading for the next few weeks. I think you can glean quite a lot about me from those titles. There is of course another pile - the new books that arrived over Christmas! That's for another post though.

40 comments:

Roy said...

What a wonderful collection of books D.
England as a village, yes one can barely remember the times around post WWII. It would be good to be like that again (with digital cameras of course) {:)

*Sheila* said...

I have a few books like this, and when I read the intro you copied I got goosebumps! I feel transported back in time too when you mention the songs you sang with your Mum. We would go for picnics with my grandparents and would sing the same songs and we rode along.
Many years ago the town I came from re-purposed the old workhouse and made it a part of the local hospital. It was somewhere that patients were sent to convalesce.
My grandmother had been ill at the time, and was very upset that she may have to go there as it still held the stigma of the workhouse.

Louise said...

What a lovely collection of books. I do love old books. Vanishing England particularly appeals to me but they all sound very interesting. I read the Rambler's countryside companion last year and I liked it!

Diane said...

What a great collection. Ive never been to the Fens, I'll have to stick it on "my list". PS The War memorial book is wonderful - so very personal. x

MorningAJ said...

Fantastic collection. I love BB and grew up on the Little Grey Men. I'm jealous of your originals.

Foxglove Lane said...

A beautiful collection which made me feel quite nostalgic. What beautiful memories they hold. Thank you for your wonderful blog!

Hollace said...

I love the looks of that book, The Rambler's Countryside Companion. I think you, Rowan, might be the voice of this generation to the next. In 50 years how will the young people know how it was for us? (Even though we think the history we read is far more interesting than our common everyday experience, someday it will seem quaint and appealing to new readers. But we need storytellers! You could write a book "Rambles with Bilbo Baggins" and keep older history with recent history tied together. A "Then and Now" book...
I have to laugh: my Grandma always joked about being sent to the Poor House also known as the County Farm Home here, where indigent people were put to work in the fields.

seafringededge said...

May you find the time required to wander those beautiful images and ponder the prose. I think I would enjoy them too and have a little collection about where I live. Neighbours in their eighties are giving a verbal background to many of the buildings still here in this hamlet and I feel so protective of it.

George said...

What a great idea, Rowan, to share some of your winter reading books. One of the great pleasure of winter is the ability to stay inside and read without feeling guilty about not being outside doing something more "productive." From my standpoint, few things are more productive than reading.

Penny said...

Although I was born and live in Australia, I have a collection of books that came from England and I must go through the library to see what I can find. As a child we were all brought up on English books (Arthur Ransome) as there was not a lot of well written Australian books for children (or so my father said). I am afraid that I dont think I have any of the ones you mention, but you never know what will turn up.
That is what I like about your blog, places I may never go to but you take me there.
Oh and the word verification is 'trablins' now what does that conjure up!

Dartford Warbler said...

Plenty of good books there, to keep you reading when the cold winds are driving you indoors.

I love having book piles around, to dip into...

Von said...

Lovely!!!Enjoy and what a sense of wellbeing that will produce throught the months of cold.
I'm revisiting Gene Stratton Porter, if you don't know her you might enjoy as she was an early naturalist and a wonderful writer.

Jo (Pieceful Afternoon) said...

What lovely books and a great list. I find that a lot of English books are not available over here - which makes me sad. I have made a list of the ones I want to seek out the most - hopefully the prices won't be horrendous. Thank you for sharing the wonders of your country.

ChrisJ said...

Just the kind of books I would choose. I think most Brits of our (or my) age were brought up with a lot of incidental country lore. I could sit and read those books for the rest of the year.

Rosie said...

You have some wonderful books in your pile on the table! Having lived in the Lincolnshire fens for a number of years and worked in a museum dedicated to local history we had many books and objects to do with wildfowling, eel catching and etc and displays in the galleries - even a fenland punt. I also used to record memories of those who lived and worked on the land. It is a really fascinating area. Vanishing England also looks interesting - I like the illustrations. Thanks for sharing your January reading with us:)

laoi gaul~williams said...

ohhh what a fantastic collection of book!

i find them interesting as many of my ancestors were 'ag lab' and my great x 4 (or 5 i lose track!)grandpa Aaron Kimber was still working into his eighties!
my nan was taught 'tatting' by her granny so i imagine this was how they added tot he family income.

Wanda..... said...

Your post has brought up lots of reminiscing and emotions, Rowan...just like a good book! I especially relate to the singing with your mom on the path....my own memories with all of my grandchildren!

Hilaire said...

Co-incidentally I've just been thinking I must dig out The Wayfaring Tree which I brought back from my parents' house after they died. It had belonged to my maternal grandfather and had some pressed flowers in it (rather hideous, I have to say, thick and brown and unrecognisable!) and a pencilled note here and there of the date and place.

I have it beside me now and it will be my new 'book at bedtime'! Thank you for spurring me on to go and find it.

Mary said...

....but it did end with the words "on bicycle built for two" didn't it, ha! ha!

Lovely, even brought tear to my eye, recalling England as it used to be. The countryside was the most beautiful anywhere, the villages picturesque and kindly, the farms productive and lush............even the towns were clean and elegant despite the lack of big money. Whatever happened? Of course we know, but we dislike it and complain. Thank goodness we have the good memories, and the wonderful books such as yours, to temper the heartache and constant wishing for those good old days.

Great post Rowan andI do hope you are able to find those books........and that they'll be on sale!!!!!

Hugs - Mary

P.S. I'll have to start checking our used book shops for some old English tomes - I would love a collection.

Victoria said...

Wow..fantastic!! I loved this magical post..how I'd love to glance through your enchanting collection..very speical and beautiful books too!
Shine on!
Victoria

Mac n' Janet said...

Great collection of books! You and my husband have similar taste in books. I'm more of a fiction person. I like my history fictionalized.
What wonderful memories you have! Many of my ancestors were farm laborers and I know they had hard lives, but it seems the members of my family who have had easier lives aren't living as long. I sometimes think a simpler life, though full of hard work, may be better for us.

elaine rickett said...

I am a great one for foraging in charity book shops - I love your list of books - I will make sure I copy it down and try to find some of them. I love the nostalgia of an England that we have lost, but can find again, through this type of book.

Cheryl said...

What a wonderful selection of books...all from a bygone age.
I can see that your winter evenings will pass swiftly with such reading.
The illustrations are beautiful, and would be a joy to browse on there own.

So funny LEND ME YOUR BICYCLE DO........must tell my Mum

Granny Sue said...

What a fascinating stack of books, Rowan. I want to read England is a village; I think it will recall some of the stories my mother told about growing up in England.

Angela Bell said...

Fascinating post,books ,books and more books ,wondeful!

Thimbleanna said...

Hahaha -- I started singing Daisy Daisy with your first line thinking...hmmm, that doesn't sound right but if she says so. I can't remember anything these days. Give me your answer do is much better LOL. I'm half crazy over the love of you! LOVE that song. We used to sing it with our grandmother when we were little. That and Twenty Froggies Went to School -- do you know that one? I was so distressed in my 20's and 30's as I'd forgotten the words and my grandmother was gone. But, now we have the internet and my song is restored -- Yipee!

What a wonderful post Rowan! I love that you take such an interest in your country and it's history!

WOL said...

What an interesting library you must have. Are you familiar with the author Rosemary Sutcliff? I recently downloaded some of her books onto my Kindle. She writes about Roman Britain, Saxon Britain and Norman Britain. Her novel "The Eagle of the Ninth" has been made into a film recently. She is supposed to have been a meticulous researcher and very accurate in her depiction of the life and times. With your interest in history, you might like her books.

Ash said...

Looks like you have your reading work cut out for the new year!! - Cartimandua caught my eye as I live so close to the area - maybe I should look into that more too. My book to get through this year is called 'the Subversive Stitch', a look at how stitching is considered to be so inferior to the world of 'art' - something very close to my heart as I experience much of that glossing over of the work I try to do!!!

Lynda (Granny K) said...

What wonderful books Rowan. I think that the older we get the more interested in the past we become.
My mum would have been 101 today and I think people did sing more in the 'olden days'. Valder-ee-ee!
I can't resist a pile of old books and have not yet succumbed to a Kindle. No contest!

Kate said...

Would you mind sending me the ISBNs for A Walk Down The Lane, A Walk In The Woods, A Walk By The River and A Walk O'er The Downs? I would like to try & find them, but can't locate them by title or author alone. Thanks!

Morning's Minion said...

I could very happily go into a corner with your stack of chosen titles!

Moncha said...

They look like wonderful books !!!
Love to read them, but I've got a lot of other books that I still have to read.
I will keep them in mind though, because they sound fantastic !!

Bovey Belle said...

I've seen your booksheles before and know we share kindred spirits in our choice of books (right down to the obscure C Henry Warren!!!) I would happily settle down with any of these. You've given me an idea for a post now as I have SUCH a stack of books to read right now (many about poet Edward Thomas).

P.S. Your cheque arrived safely today - many thanks. I hope you enjoy your two "new" old books!

Comfrey Cottages said...

Oh I could so happily cozy up and delve into any or all of those good reads! I am especially drawn to the book about the fens:) I spend a great deal of time reading of how things were "back in olden times" also! :) I would have a hard time reading about Catimandua, as I always see her as such a traitor.. but who knows how any of us would react in her shoes?! I would be most interested if you share more after you learn more about her! big hugs xx

Commonweeder said...

This is a fascinating collection of books. I also spend more time reading by the fire in january, and I more and more become interested in local histories written by people at the time. Thank you for a great post.

Nan said...

I think Hollace is right. Your writing is helping to chronicle life now and there.

I haven't been to England for twenty years, and I fear it has changed beyond recognition. I am encouraged when I read you words, and those of some other English bloggers that the countryside we Americans envision is still there.

These books are wonderful. I've not heard of a single one but I'd like to read them.

And oh, those old songs. My mother sang more of the popular standards, but in music class we sang the Daisy song, and the New Ashmolean Marching Society and Students' Conservatory Band (whew what a mouthful!) and The Ash Grove.

I cannot imagine any child in either of our countries walking 5 or 6 miles unless it was a scheduled hike up a mountain, for instance. And that was normal. I didn't live in the country growing up but I walked and walked all over town.

Dog Trot Farm said...

What a lovely collection of books. January is the month for book reading here at Dog Trot Farm. Once holiday decorations are stored away, and before unfinished craft projects are brought out, I read. Sending New Year wishes from across the pond, Julie.

joanne May said...

Books galore! Nice to see your collection. I think it is important to collect and preserve old books.
I love the black and white illustrations and old photos. Beautiful. ;-)

Heidi said...

I love to read so much that I created a book and food blog. Last year, I started setting books aside and it really worked to get my reading more. I now want to look up a few of these titles you mentioned espcecially England is a Village. It sounds a perfect book.

Did you have a favorite book last year? My favorite read was The Frozen Lake by Elizabeth Edmondson. A book about two families in the north of England when winter hits and families travel back to enjoy the holiday season. It is set in the 1930s when England was becoming aware that war was imminent.

Hugs from Holland ~
Heidi

Miss Robyn said...

HI Rowan - I was just thinking of you and thought I would come say hi.. a few years have passed since we were in contact!
I have moved home and finally am settled in myself.. AND going to Cornwall at the end of the year for a few months!!
hope all is well with you - I would love to renew our blogging friendship xo Robyn