Archive for category Oxfordshire

Build a better bookshelf

One of the great pleasures of getting away on a cottage holiday is the chance to relax with a good book. Another is getting out and about, seeing and doing things that make a real change from everyday life.

So having a well chosen selection of books (as well as DVDs and games) in a holiday property can contribute a lot to a holiday. Bookshelves tend to acquire a life of their own, with visitors donating books they’ve brought and read. That can lead to a wonderfully mixed selection of books reflecting all sorts of tastes and interests. Even so, it still helps a lot if at the heart of the collection is a core of books appropriate to the property. Books about the area, of course, whether guide books, local history or fiction. But also books that can help visitors appreciate aspects of country life they might otherwise miss.

For instance, a couple of new books from Britain’s Wildlife Trusts do this in quite different ways. The first is a guide designed to help you get closer to nature, called 152 Wild Things to Do. Divided into four seasonal sections, it lists places to visit (mostly wildlife reserves owned by the Trusts), activities for both adults and children, and skills you can acquire.

In spring, if you’re in Wales you could visit Silent Valley nature reserve. Or you could cook nettle soup. “Healthy, delicious and found absolutely everywhere, nettles are a wonderful leaf that can be cooked up into a wholesome soup. Food that’s free and full of goodness – perfect! You’ll need to pick the tender tops of young nettles in the spring.” It goes on to a full Nigella-style listing of ingredients (including optional wild garlic leaves), cooking instructions and a final flourish: “You could stir in some crème fraîche or serve with a swirl of cream and some crusty bread.”

In summer, you could go wild swimming or glow-worm spotting; in autumn, you could go blackberrying (and make jam), discover Tolkien’s inspiration or see Britain’s largest butterfly. And in winter… well, buy the book and give it as a present, or just for yourself to spur inspiration and booking another cottage holiday.

In all there are – as you would expect – 152 recommendations, so there’s plenty to keep you busy. The book is probably aimed mostly at parents hoping to occupy children and stir an interest in nature and the countryside, but there’s plenty for everyone. It serves as an introduction to a number of small, lesser-known nature reserves and the colour photography is beautiful. It’s a book that deserves a place on every holiday cottage bookshelf.

Rather more traditional is Nature Tales, from  the same source. It’s a compilation of nature writing spanning the last three hundred years, with a forward by Sir David Attenborough. “This wonderful collection of some of the greatest nature writers in Britain’s history is a pleasure to read from start to finish and a valuable addition to any naturalist’s library,” says Sir David. Quite so, but don’t let that reference to a naturalist’s library make you think this is some learned, stuffy book. Quite the reverse, because it’s the ideal accompaniment to a cup of tea and a digestive, with most of the items no more than two or three pages long.

The book is organised in themed sections – By river and sea, From my window, Nature trails, and so on – each with items from across the 300 years. So an entertaining piece by Bill Oddie – one of the longest items at nine pages – is preceded by the 19th century novelist Richard Jefferies and followed by Nan Shepherd, a wonderful descriptive writer who died in 1981 at the age of 88. There are brief notes on each contributor, which might well lead you to follow up on their other writings.

Even more than in a naturalist’s library, this book belongs in every holiday cottage. And it, too, would make an excellent birthday or Christmas present for any nature-minded reader.

152 Wild Things to Do, published by Elliott and Thompson Ltd, £12.99,
Nature Tales, published byElliott and Thompson Ltd, £18.99

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Egg Hunts and Easter Treasure Trails!

Large Divine Milk Chocolate Easter Egg With Marc De Champange Truffles Disrobed by Chocolate Reviews.

Easter Egg picture by Flickr User Chocolate Reviews

The Easter weekend is here! Some of you may already have plans but for those of you who have woken up with the spirit of adventure but no idea what to do then below are some eggselent suggestions:

Chastleton (Oxfordshire) 3rd April 1-5pm – Indoor egg hunt

A good one for if the weather isn’t too good. Visit the National Trust website for full details, normal entry fees apply plus £1.50 to enter into the egg hunt.

Scotney Castle (Kent) 2nd – 5th April 11am-4pm – Easter Trail

Not one, but two houses where Elizabethan and Medieval styles meet. There’s a moat, some beautiful gardens and wonderful countryside to explore. Normal charges apply plus £2 to join the trail, visit the National Trust website as above for full details.

Upton House and Gardens (Warwickshire) – 2nd-5th April 12-4pm – Easter Trail

Walk around the 1930s styled gardens with lush lawns, terraces and water gardens. Normal charges apply but there is no additional charge for the trail. Again, got to the National Trust website for full details.

Burghley (Lincolnshire) – 4th April – Easter Egg Hunt

Hunt for chocolate eggs in the Sculpture Garden and Garden of Surprises and in the afternoon treat yourself to lunch at the Orangery Restaurant. Visit the website for full details. Easter Egg hunt included in the ticket price.

Clumber Park (Nottinghamshire) – 2nd-5th April 11am-2pm – Easter Egg Trail

Sniff out some chocolate eggs aroundthe beautiful grounds. But if you aren’t quite lucky enough to find any then each entrant gets a Cadburys Easter Egg prize. Normal admission charges apply plus £2 for the trail. Visit the National Trust website for full details.

I hope this has inspired some of you and you all have a wonderful Easter!