6 great Cotswold themed books ideal for a Christmas gift

Nests, by Susan Ogilvy,

Nests, by Susan Ogilvy, - Credit: Particular Books

Candia McKormack gift-wraps her selection of books to buy and receive this Christmas... all with a Cotswold connection

All Aboard: Remembering Britain's Railways, by Julian Holland

All Aboard: Remembering Britain's Railways, by Julian Holland - Credit: Collins

ALL ABOARD! 

Remembering Britain’s Railways 

Julian Holland 

This could so easily have been ‘just another history of railways’ book, but Julian Holland never disappoints when covering his favourite subject. 

With quirky chapter titles including ‘Reservoir dogs’, ‘Bog off!’, ‘The infernal combustion engine’ and ‘The Clockwork Orange’, you know right away you’re going to have an entertaining read, packed with tantalising tales and terrific trivia, but also one that’s thoroughly researched.  

Julian takes us on a journey through social history, from seaside branch lines and the joys of trainspotting as a young boy, to camping coaches and chic railway hotels. 

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And there’s plenty of interest for those wanting to learn more of the history of this area, with walks along closed railway lines, adventures with the GWR – including its streamlined railcar, fondly remembered as the ‘Flying Banana’ – and  a cover painting featuring the Severn Railway Bridge in the 50s, by Gloucester artist Rob Rowland. 

£30, Collins 

Dweller in the Shadows: A Life of Ivory Gurney, by Kate Kennedy

Dweller in the Shadows: A Life of Ivory Gurney, by Kate Kennedy - Credit: Princeton University Press 

DWELLER IN THE SHADOWS 

A Life of Ivor Gurney 

Kate Kennedy 

It seems incredible to think that this is the first comprehensive biography of Ivor Gurney, so this publication is an overdue and most welcome release. 

Born in Gloucester in 1890, the son of a tailor and seamstress, he went on to become one of the country’s best-known – though possibly most tortured – poets and composers. Following his early years as a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral, and befriending fellow composer Herbert Howells, he enlisted as a private soldier in the Gloucestershire Regiment and went on to fight in WWI where he penned some of his works that were later published as the collected works Severn and Somme. 

Though his life was marred by mental ill health and PTSD, he went on to write an astonishing body of work; the extent of which is revealed in Kate Kennedy’s book, with appendices detailing his musical and literary works in chronological order.  

This is a wonderful book that is an affectionate tribute to a truly great man. 

£30, Princeton University Press 

Worcestershire in Photographs, by Steven Hamilton

Worcestershire in Photographs, by Steven Hamilton - Credit: Amberley Publishing

WORCESTERSHIRE IN PHOTOGRAPHS 

Steven Hamilton 

This book has few words, but when a county is captured this beautifully by a talented photographer, perhaps they’d be superfluous. 

Steven Hamilton spent around 18 months – much of it during the pandemic lockdown – capturing these images of Worcestershire with his DSLR, walking the Malvern and Clent Hills, traversing the Cotswolds, reflecting the beauty of the Avon and Severn rivers, and breathing in the abundant beauty of the Vale of Evesham. 

Alongside the natural landscape, we see the industrial side of the county, too, including Redditch’s imposing water tower, the sweep of Arley’s iron Victoria Bridge, the expansive network of manmade waterways, and the red-brick majesty of Kidderminster’s carpet factory and Burcot’s waterworks. 

To see the diverse glories of this glorious county, we recommend getting your hands on this book. 

£17.99, Amberley Publishing 

Nests, by Susan Ogilvy

Nests, by Susan Ogilvy - Credit: Particular Books

NESTS 

Susan Ogilvy 

It’s hard to put into words the beauty of this book, but I’m going to give it a try... 

After a chance discovery of a sodden chaffinch nest in her garden following a storm, Susan Ogilvy gently picked it up, brought it into her house and carefully placed it on some newspaper to dry out. As the bedraggled heap came to life before her eyes, revealing its jewel-like colours, she felt compelled to paint it at exact life size.  

This became the start of her ‘obsession’, going on to paint more than 50 birds’ nests from life, revealing the unique construction of each – twigs, leaves, mosses, lichen, feathers, hair and grasses; all building materials employed in these abandoned mini palaces. 

The joy of handling this lovely book feels something akin to a privilege, much like that experienced with works by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. 

£20, Particular Books 

In the Shadow of Cleeve Hill: The Autobiography of Bernard Parkin

In the Shadow of Cleeve Hill: The Autobiography of Bernard Parkin - Credit: Pitch Publishing

IN THE SHADOW OF CLEEVE HILL 

The Autobiography of Bernard Parkin 

Foreword by HRH The Princess Royal 

Bernard Parkin is undoubtedly one of most respected photographers in the horseracing world, and those who frequent Prestbury Park – the home of steeplechasing – will be familiar with his work. 

As an award-winning racing photographer, he was the first of his profession to hold Royal Warrants of Appointment to HM The Queen and The Queen Mother, and so the warm foreword written by The Princess Royal feels both apt and heartfelt. 

Now in his 92nd year, Bernard Parkin has amassed a wealth of memories; a library of thousands of photographs; and fascinating, pertinent and often humorous anecdotes from the world of horseracing. Expect stories of the racing greats, including Desert Orchid, Arkle, Paul Nicholls, AP McCoy, Dick Francis and Frankie Dettori, alongside his exceptional photography, caricatures and cartoons. 

As HRH Princess Anne so eloquently says, ‘Thank you for the memories.’ 

£30, Pitch Publishing 

The Celtic Myths that Shape the Way We Think, by Mark Williams

The Celtic Myths that Shape the Way We Think, by Mark Williams - Credit: Thames & Hudson

The Celtic Myths That Shape the Way We Think 

Mark Williams 

Mark Williams’ latest work on the Celts is an exploration of the lasting influence of Celtic mythology on our cultural lives, from medieval literature to theatre, film, politics and the modern fantasy genre.  

As Associate Professor of Global Medieval Literature at the University of Oxford, this scholarly but accessible volume looks at ten myths that have had the greatest impact and are of most relevance to our lives today. Legendary figures include Irish and Scottish hero Finn; Cú Chulainn, who became a symbol of the reborn Irish nation; Blodeuwedd, the Welsh mythical figure who inspired Yeats; and King Arthur, who paradoxically became the archetypal English national figure.  

Rated by renowned historian Professor Ronald Hutton as ‘simply the best concise work on its subject yet published.’ You don’t get much higher praise than that.  

A wonderful book.  

£20, Thames & Hudson