I’ve another six books to share with you which I’ve read over the summer. I now have a routine that I have two on the go, one for bedtime reading and one for reading on the go, such as on buses or trains, I try and make sure my on the go one is a paperback so it’s a bit lighter!
- The Marches by Rory Stewart; I enjoyed this book though it did get a bit slow towards the end, Rory shared walks with his father along the border between England and Scotland, Rory on foot and his father ‘ambushing’ him by car. he looked into the turbulent history of the area as he went along, talking to people either side of the border about their feelings of identity. I found their observations of the political side interesting, he worked in the Foreign Office in Afganistan, his father was in the Malaysian Civil Service. An interesting person.
- The Sheep Stell by Janet White; some people amaze me at their courage and drive to live the life they want. Janet was born into an academic family but having tasted country life when her family was evacuated during the war she decided she wanted to farm. Her work took her from shepherding in Scotland, to living alone on a remote island off New Zealand, to West Sussex and finally to Somerset. Great book and a fascinating life.
- The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd; I read this little book as it was mentioned by other authors I’ve read recently as inspirational. Nan was born near Aberdeen and loved the Cairgorms, she walked round them, over them and on them in all weathers and all seasons, getting to know the mountains intimately. Her book was first published in 1977 and was quite unusual in being written by a woman – her writing does have a different feel to it. I enjoyed this though I think if you knew the area you would love it more.
- Wilding by Isabella Tree; Isabella and her husband inherited the family estate in West Sussex, they tried to keep it going as a farm but it was losing money fast. They decided to ‘rewild’ it, letting nature take over again. It was fascinating to read how the flora and fauna came back so quickly and also made them rethink what habitat is required by different animals or birds and how everything is interrelated. I read it with slightly mixed feelings though as I felt it was written as if this was the answer to failing farms, but this was only possible through grants and subsidies, this is a limited pot of money. There is also conflict over the countryside people want to see, this was scrubland, do we want our moors, mountains and valleys to be turned into scrubland? We do need to think about how we manage the countryside, looking at how farm practice and land management can help and improve natural diversity. Farmers also have their hands tied by government policies, subsidies and grants, so these need looking at. A few of these areas around the countryside would be wonderful. It’s one of those books that everyone who cares about the countryside should read.
- The Brief Life of Flowers by Fiona Stafford. This is an interesting book, a chapter on each flower, from snowdrops and bluebells to elder-flowers, thistles and poppies. She looks at their history, their uses, the references to them in art and literature. It sounds a bit heavy but it’s easy to read, full of fascinating facts. I enjoyed it.
- Between stone and Sky by Whitney Brown; This was my favourite from this pile of books, loved it. Whitney was living in North Carolina heading for a life in academia, she organised a folk festival with Wales as it’s theme, a dry stone waller came over and built a wall across the exhibition area. She was fascinated. She ended up going over to Wales to learn the art of building a dry stone wall. She fell in love with the work and the remote Welsh countryside (and the waller!) She split her time between Wales and America, gradually building up a business over there. It’s a very honest book of relationships, countryside, skills, difficult decisions.
So I’m still on the nature theme of writing – I’ve a lovely pile of books waiting to be read!