We have lived in villages a long time. The village was the first model for communal living. Towns came much later, then cities. Later still came suburbs, neighbourhoods, townships, communes, kibbutzes. But the village has endured. Across England, modernity creeps up to the boundaries of many, breaking the connection the village has with the land. With others, they can be as quiet as the graveyard as their housing is bought up by city ‘weekenders’, or commuters. The ideal chocolate box image many holidaying to our Sceptred Isle have in their minds eye may be true in some cases, but across the country the heartbeat of the real English village is still beating strongly – if you can find it. To this mission our intrepid historian and travel writer Tom Fort willingly gets on his trusty bicycle and covers the length and breadth of England to discover the essence of village life. His journeys will travel over six thousand years of communal existence for the peoples that eventually became the English. Littered between the historical analysis, will be personal memories from Tom of the village life he remembers and enjoys today in rural Oxfordshire.
The village remains a quintessential and much-loved treasure of the English countryside. This rural idyll has inspired generations of great poets, novelists and artists including the likes of Constable, Hardy, Wordsworth, as well as providing the picturesque setting for modern TV series such as Lark Rise to Candleford and Cranford. The English Village celebrates all that is unique and loved about a typical village - the pub, the green, the school, the church, the pond, the local shop and more - as well as exploring how the village has changed over the centuries. Also includes fascinating information on the origins of village names - Siddington, for example, means the farm of the valley (sidd: valley, in: belonging to, ton: farmland). Filled with facts, figures, customs and lore, there is a wealth of fascinating information to be discovered in this charming book.
'A nostalgic experience, informative, humorous, charming, but pervaded by the bitter-sweet scent of regret' Daily Mail The A303 is more than a road. It is a story. One of the essential routes of English motoring and the road of choice to the West Country for thousands of holidaymakers, the A303 recalls a time when the journey was an adventure and not simply about getting there. Tom Fort gives voice to the stories this road has to tell, from the bluestones of Stonehenge to Roman roads and drovers paths, to turnpike tollhouses, mad vicars, wicked Earls and solstice seekers, the history, geography and culture of this road tells a story of an English way of life. 'Fort has an eye for the quirky, the absurd, the pompous and a style that, like the road, is always on the move' Sunday Telegraph 'A lovely book...At last someone has celebrated the romance of the British road' Guardian
The English Channel is the busiest waterway in the world. Ferries steam back and forth, trains thunder through the tunnel. The narrow sea has been crucial to our development and prosperity. It helps define our notion of Englishness, as an island people, a nation of seafarers. It is also our nearest, dearest playground where people have sought sun, sin and bracing breezes. Tom Fort takes us on a fascinating, discursive journey from east to west, to find out what this stretch of water means to us and what is so special about the English seaside, that edge between land and seawater. He dips his toe into Sandgate's waters, takes the air in Hastings and Bexhill, chews whelks in Brighton, builds a sandcastle in Sandbanks, sunbathes in sunny Sidmouth, catches prawns off the slipway at Salcombe and hunts a shark off Looe. Stories of smugglers and shipwreck robbers, of beachcombers and samphire gatherers, gold diggers and fossil hunters abound.
Woven from the words of the inhabitants of a small Suffolk village in the 1960s, Akenfield is a masterpiece of twentieth-century English literature, a scrupulously observed and deeply affecting portrait of a place and people and a now vanished way of life. Ronald Blythe’s wonderful book raises enduring questions about the relations between memory and modernity, nature and human nature, silence and speech.
Tom Fort, whose writing has been variously described as "jocund," "slightly loopy," '"unbelievably poignant," and "deeply peculiar," travels around Britain experiencing some of its extremer climates and some of its more typical, with a view to explaining the British have made of their weather and what it has made of them. There are two interlocking strands: the story of those who—moved to an exceptional, sometimes obsessive degree by the fascination felt by so many—sought to know and understand the weather; and the story of its impact on history, culture, and ways of thought and behavior. He focuses on the people—the clergymen, the gentlemen of leisure, the crackpots, visionaries, charlatans, and shysters, all now largely or utterly forgotten—who volunteered and toiled for the cause, telling their stories by tracking them down to the places—usually their own gardens—where they indulged their quiet passion for measuring rainfall, scrutinizing dewdrops, tapping their barometers, and peering at their thermometers. Once the age of the amateur scientist was over, and the business of weather forecasting was annexed by professionals with state backing, it became a less colorful affair. The historical strand is, in part, a straightforward chronology; an account of the part played by climate in British history; how, when the sun shone and rain fell in gentle abundance, the nation prospered and multiplied; how, when the climate cooled, bringing wet summers and savage winters, they perished by plague and famine and retreated from places made unbelievable; how in time, as the society matured from a rural, peasant society, the weather became less a matter of life and death (though always an absorbing interest). But beyond that there is another dimension to its influence—the moral and spiritual one. This is contentious, but intriguing: the extent to which the British shape their view of "our weather," and the extent to which it may have shaped the British into the people they are.
We see the signs around us every day: the chain cafés and mobile phone outlets that dominate our high streets; the disappearance of knobbly carrots from our supermarket shelves; and the headlines about yet another traditional industry going to the wall. For the first time, here is a book that makes the connection between these isolated, incremental local changes and the bigger picture of a nation whose identity is being eroded. As he travels around the country meeting farmers, fishermen and the inhabitants of Chinatown, Paul Kingsnorth reports on the kind of conversations that are taking place in country pubs and corner shops across the land – while reminding us that these quintessentially English institutions may soon cease to exist.
What has been the dish of kings, the subject of myths and the traveller of epic and mysterious journeys? The eel. Beginning life in the Sargasso Sea, the eel travels across the ocean, lives for twenty or so years, and then is driven by some instinct back across the ocean to spawn and die. And the next generation starts the story again. No one knows why the eels return, or how the orphaned elvers learn their way back. One man discovered, after many adventures, the breeding ground of all eels - and he is the hero of this book.
The first volume in Siegfried Sassoon’s beloved trilogy, The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston, with a new introduction by celebrated historian Paul Fussell A highly decorated English soldier and an acclaimed poet and novelist, Siegfried Sassoon won fame for his trilogy of fictionalized autobiographies that wonderfully capture the vanishing idylls of Edwardian England and the brutal realities of war. In this first novel of the semiautobiographical George Sherston trilogy, Sassoon wonderfully captures the vanishing idylls of the Edwardian English countryside. Never out of print since its original publication in 1928, when it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Sassoon's reminiscences about childhood and the beginning of World War I are channeled through young George Sherston, whose life of local cricket tournaments and fox-hunts falls apart as war approaches and he joins up to fight. Sassoon's first novel, though rife with comic characters and a jaunty sense of storytelling, presents his own loss of innocence and the destruction of the country he knew and loved. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Walking Through Spring follows Graham Hoyland’s journey as he creates a new national trail, walking with the Spring from the south coast in March up to the border with Scotland, which he reaches on the longest day: the twenty-first of June.
A journey along one of Britain's oldest roads, from Dover to Anglesey, in search of the hidden history that makes us who we are today. Long ago a path was created by the passage of feet tramping through endless forests. Gradually that path became a track, and the track became a road. It connected the White Cliffs of Dover to the Druid groves of the Welsh island of Anglesey, across a land that was first called Albion then Britain, Mercia and eventually England and Wales. Armies from Rome arrived and straightened this 444 kilometres of meandering track, which in the Dark Ages gained the name Watling Street. Today, this ancient road goes by many different names: the A2, the A5 and the M6 Toll. It is a palimpsest that is always being rewritten. Watling Street is a road of witches and ghosts, of queens and highwaymen, of history and myth, of Chaucer, Dickens and James Bond. Along this route Boudicca met her end, the Battle of Bosworth changed royal history, Bletchley Park code breakers cracked Nazi transmissions and Capability Brown remodelled the English landscape. The myriad people who use this road every day might think it unremarkable, but, as John Higgs shows, it hides its secrets in plain sight. Watling Street is not just the story of a route across our island, but an acutely observed, unexpected exploration of Britain and who we are today, told with wit and flair, and an unerring eye for the curious and surprising.
This international-bestselling memoir of childhood in post–World War I rural England is one of the most endearing portraits of youth in all literature. Three years old and wrapped in a Union Jack to protect him from the sun, Laurie Lee arrived in the village of Slad in the final summer of the First World War. The cottage his mother had rented for three and sixpence a week had neither running water nor electricity, but it was surrounded by a lovely half-acre garden and, most importantly, it was big enough for the seven children in her care. It was here, in a verdant valley tucked into the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, that Laurie Lee learned to look at life with a painter’s eye and a poet’s heart—qualities of vision that, decades later, would make him one of England’s most cherished authors. In this vivid recollection of a magical time and place, water falls from the scullery pump “sparkling like liquid sky.” Autumn is more than a season—it is a land eternally aflame, like Moses’s burning bush. Every midnight, on a forlorn stretch of heath, a phantom carriage reenacts its final, wild ride. And, best of all, the first secret sip of cider, “juice of those valleys and of that time,” leads to a boy’s first kiss, “so dry and shy, it was like two leaves colliding in air.” An instant classic when it was first published in 1959, Cider with Rosie is one of the most endearing and evocative portraits of youth in all of literature. The first installment in an autobiographical trilogy that includes As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment of War, it is also a heartfelt and lyrical ode to England, and to a way of life that may belong to the past, but will never be forgotten.
The British countryside is in crisis: tensions have never been greater between town and country; between the conflicting needs of farming and the environment; and between a government seen as anti-countryside and the disillusioned majority that inhabit it._x000D_ _x000D_ _x000D_ But how has the land, so fundamental to the fabric of British life, become such a charged issue? This sweeping history of the British countryside since the industrial revolution provides an answer by viewing it not simply as a tool of the farming industry (which previous histories have tended towards) but rather as an object of consumption in its own right, a well of nature and beauty enjoyed by a population increasingly in search of leisure and inspiration, relaxation and entertainment. But, as an antidote to the harshness of an urbanised world, the countryside has itself come increasingly under pressure from that very world – not least because of the fraught relationship between the radically different interests of agriculture and the environment. _x000D_ _x000D_ As mass mobility since World War II has seen ever-growing numbers in pursuit of leisure in the environment, Paradise Lost asks whether the idyll that they seek is in fact an artificial confection – a myth created by writers like Thomas Hardy, DH Lawrence and EM Forster – and reinforced by bodies that aim to promote the land, including The National Trust and the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and groups seeking to promote animal welfare, food safety and an end to rural degradation._x000D_ _x000D_ _x000D_ The ‘Town versus Countryside’ debate has never been more urgent or more highly-charged and it lies at the root of modern British political, economic, social, and cultural life. Jeremy Burchardt here provides a significant contribution to that debate and demonstrates that we cannot hope to understand or address it without an appreciation of how our own attitudes to the countryside have developed and altered over the last two hundred years.
When the exotic stranger Vianne Rocher arrives in the old French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique called “La Celeste Praline” directly across the square from the church, Father Reynaud identifies her as a serious danger to his flock. It is the beginning of Lent: the traditional season of self-denial. The priest says she’ll be out of business by Easter. To make matters worse, Vianne does not go to church and has a penchant for superstition. Like her mother, she can read Tarot cards. But she begins to win over customers with her smiles, her intuition for everyone’s favourites, and her delightful confections. Her shop provides a place, too, for secrets to be whispered, grievances aired. She begins to shake up the rigid morality of the community. Vianne’s plans for an Easter Chocolate Festival divide the whole community. Can the solemnity of the Church compare with the pagan passion of a chocolate éclair? For the first time, here is a novel in which chocolate enjoys its true importance, emerging as an agent of transformation. Rich, clever, and mischievous, reminiscent of a folk tale or fable, this is a triumphant read with a memorable character at its heart. Says Harris: “You might see [Vianne] as an archetype or a mythical figure. I prefer to see her as the lone gunslinger who blows into the town, has a showdown with the man in the black hat, then moves on relentless. But on another level she is a perfectly real person with real insecurities and a very human desire for love and acceptance. Her qualities too - kindness, love, tolerance - are very human.” Vianne and her young daughter Anouk, come into town on Shrove Tuesday. “Carnivals make us uneasy,” says Harris, “because of what they represent: the residual memory of blood sacrifice (it is after all from the word "carne" that the term arises), of pagan celebration. And they represent a loss of inhibition; carnival time is a time at which almost anything is possible.” The book became an international best-seller, and was optioned to film quickly. The Oscar-nominated movie, with its star-studded cast including Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) and Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love), was directed by Lasse Hallstrom, whose previous film The Cider House Rules (based on a John Irving novel) also looks at issues of community and moral standards, though in a less lighthearted vein. The idea for the book came from a comment her husband made one day while he was immersed in a football game on TV. “It was a throwaway comment, designed to annoy and it did. It was along the lines of...Chocolate is to women what football is to men…” The idea stuck, and Harris began thinking that “people have these conflicting feelings about chocolate, and that a lot of people who have very little else in common relate to chocolate in more or less the same kind of way. It became a kind of challenge to see exactly how much of a story I could get which was uniquely centred around chocolate.” Rich with metaphor and gorgeous writing...sit back and gorge yourself on Chocolat.
Based on 30 years of research, Brian May's painstaking excavation of exquisite stereo photographs from the dawn of photography transports readers to the lost world of an Oxfordshire village of the 1850s. At the book's heart is a reproduction of T. R. Williams' 1856 series of stereo photographs, "Scenes In Our Village." Using the viewer supplied with this book, the reader can become absorbed in a village idyll of the early Victorian era: the subjects seem to be on the point of suddenly bursting back into life and continuing with their daily rounds. The book is also something of a detective story, as the village itself was only identified in 2003 as Hinton Waldrist in Oxfordshire, and the authors' research constantly reveals further clues about the society of those distant times, historic photographic techniques, and the life of the enigmatic Williams himself, who appears, Hitchcock-like, from time to time in his own photographs.
Help yourself to a generous slice of Victoria sponge, a perfect cup of tea and a big dollop of romance. Welcome to the Little Village Bakery. Meet Millie. Heartbreak has forced her to make a new start and when she arrives at the old bakery in the little village of Honeybourne she is determined that this will be her home sweet home. Her imagination has been captured by the tumbledown bakery but with no running water and dust everywhere, her cosy idea of making cakes in a rural idyll quickly crumbles. Luckily the locals are a friendly bunch and step in to help Millie. One in particular, Dylan, a laid-back lothario, soon captures her attention. But just as Millie is beginning to settle in, an unexpected visitor from her past suddenly turns up determined to ruin everything for her. It's time for Millie to face the skeletons in her closet if she's going to live the dream of running her little village bakery, and her blossoming romance with Dylan. A charming heartwarming novel about love, life and new beginnings perfect for fans of Milly Johnson and Debbie Johnson. Praise for The Little Village Bakery: 'This book was an absolute pleasure to read - I devoured it in one sitting!'The Reading Shed 'This is an adorable tale of new beginnings, new friends and a village pulling together.Highly recommended.' Shelley Back Books 'I absolutely loved this'Well Read Pirate 'This is the first book I've read by this author and I absolutely loved it. The story weaves together a tale of love, friendship, trust, desire and so much more.' Haven't Got a Clue 'I loved this story, it had a little bit of everything, romance, heartbreak, mystery and a little magic thrown in for good measure. I'll definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out.' Mum Reinvented 'I loved Honeybourne; it's the kind of place I would love to live. This is a sweet, enjoyable read' Cayo Costa What readers are saying about Tilly Tennant: 'A wonderful read with a bubbly, unique and fresh style of writing' Sky's Book Corner 'Tilly makes her characters so relatable that you can't help but fall in love with them' Starcrossed Reviews 'Tilly Tennant has obvious talent for turning the every day into a fairy tale... a sweet touch and light humour' BestChickLit.com 'Tilly Tennant has an amazing gift for story-telling and I'm sure we're going to see great things from her in the future.' Holly Martin
Quentin and Lottie Bredin, like many modern couples, can't afford to divorce. Having lost their jobs in the recession, they can't afford to go on living in London; instead, they must downsize and move their three children to a house in a remote part of Devon. Arrogant and adulterous, Quentin can't understand why Lottie is so angry; devastated and humiliated, Lottie feels herself to have been intolerably wounded. Mud, mice and quarrels are one thing - but why is their rent so low? What is the mystery surrounding their unappealing new home? The beauty of the landscape is ravishing, yet it conceals a dark side involving poverty, revenge, abuse and violence which will rise up to threaten them. Sally Verity, happily married but unhappily childless knows a different side to country life, as both a Health Visitor and a sheep farmer's wife; and when Lottie's innocent teenage son Xan gets a zero-hours contract at a local pie factory, he sees yet another. At the end of their year, the lives of all will be changed for ever. Part black comedy, part psychological suspense, this is a rich, compassionate and enthralling novel in its depiction of the English countryside, and the potentially lethal interplay between money and marriage. Although it stands alone, it continues Amanda Craig's sequence of novels featuring inter-connected characters which illuminate aspects of contemporary life. It is the work of a writer at the height of her powers.
John Lister-Kaye has spent a lifetime exploring, protecting and celebrating the British landscape and its creatures. His memoir The Dun Cow Rib is the story of a boy's awakening to the wonders of the natural world. Lister-Kaye's joyous childhood holidays - spent scrambling through hedges and ditches after birds and small beasts, keeping pigeons in the loft and tracking foxes around the edge of the garden - were the perfect apprenticeship for his two lifelong passions: exploring the wonders of nature, and writing about them. Threaded through his adventures - from moving to the Scottish Highlands to work with Gavin Maxwell, to founding the famous Aigas Field Centre - is an elegy to his remarkable mother, and a wise and affectionate celebration of Britain's natural landscape.
Imagine spending a carefree summer in the Italian sun, beachcombing, eating and drinking with abandon, drifting without restraint from island to island, from port to port. Summer in the Islands is the record of Matthew Fort doing just that in his third Italian voyage on a Vespa – first down the length of Italy in Eating Up Italy, then around Sicily in Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons, and now hopping between the Aeolian Islands, something he hadn’t done since his early 20s. Traveling by Vespa and by ferry, Fort tours the islands at his leisure. He takes us to Elba, where Napoleon was once imprisoned; to Salina, famous for its capers, just as Pantelleria is famous for its dessert wine; to Pianosa, where dangerous Mafia bosses were kept and which Joseph Heller used as the setting for Catch-22; to Capri, where Maxim Gorky ran a school for revolutionaries which was visited by Lenin and Stalin... ...to all of Italy’s 52 islands which he has never written about before. With 30 years of experience as a food critic, travel writer and adventurer, Fort is an excellent guide through the culinary and cultural history he encounters during his summer in the islands.
Downstreamis a celebration of rivers: an exploration of what they mean to us and an account of what we owe to them. Tom Fort followed the course of our third largest, and one of our least known rivers from source to the sea -- the River Trent. Travelling partly on foot and bicycle, but chiefly in a plywood fifteen foot punt, Fort journeyed through the unsung heart of Middle England, showing him the unseen face of his own country. His journey taught him about the land and moving water, its mysteries and magic. Rivers are special to us and the landscape we inhabit. They shape and define our world. They give us power and nourishment. They were the first highways, routes for conquest and flight. They acted as barriers and connections. they stir the imagination and reach into our souls. This is an exploration into the historical, geographical, social, cultural and industrial aspects of a river filled with the curiosities, forgotten characters and departed ways.