CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Adam Henson: Curling up with a good book for Christmas

PUBLISHED: 09:00 23 December 2014

Arlington Row, Bibury, in winter

Arlington Row, Bibury, in winter

Archant

MC Beaton’s victim is an over-zealous Health and Safety officer who orders a crackdown on everything from wooden shelves to toy money

Christmas in the countryside is hard to beat. But when that countryside is the Cotswold hills then there’s no contest. I love spending the holiday at home on the farm, and checking the livestock first thing on Christmas morning is a wonderful way to start the big day. It’s not unusual to wake up on the 25th to a severe frost or even a light dusting of snow high up on the hills here. It adds a really festive touch.

The short days of December mean that once dusk starts to dim the views across the landscape, there’s a good excuse to curl up by the fire with a good book. Although Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen are firm favourites, I think stories which are set locally really suit the festive mood. So I’ve been asking friends and doing some homework on the way Christmas in the Cotswolds has been portrayed over the years.

I suppose the most famous are Laurie Lee’s memories of carol singing in the Slad valley in Cider with Rosie. It conjures up images of crisp December nights, twinkling lights and the Christmassy smell of roast apples and hot mince pies. It’s so beautifully written. It’s a section of the book which is regularly read aloud at Christmas concerts throughout the county and it always goes down a treat. But Laurie Lee isn’t the only author who has created visions of yuletide in Gloucestershire.

A Cotswold Village is a wonderful and evocative glance back at a bygone world. Written by a talented cricketer, J Arthur Gibbs, it was published way back in 1898 and depicts life in the hamlet of Ablington, near Bibury, in the closing years of the Victorian era. Gibbs describes one Christmas Day that was so warm and mild that the sunshine and the call of the birds made him imagine that it was April. The air was so still that he could hear the Christmas bells ringing two miles away in the village of Barnsley. He paints a vivid picture of the countryside around him with bleating lambs in the meadow, a pair of fantail pigeons ‘of the purest white’ and the sound of a great brown trout splashing about in the stream. As he describes them, you can almost hear the caw of the rooks, the cry of the plover and the scratching of a one-legged cock pheasant which comes up to his feet and takes bread from his hand.

The festive period always has us reaching for scare stories and murder mysteries. I’m not sure why the season of goodwill encourages the reading of grim and gruesome tales but it’s a tradition that’s here to stay. So if you like a fright with your figgy pudding, there are a couple of current authors who are happy to oblige.

The Agatha Raisin mysteries by MC Beaton are based in the fictitious Cotswold village of Carsely and one of them features a Christmas murder. The victim is an over-zealous Health and Safety Officer who annoys the locals when he orders a Christmas crackdown on everything from wooden shelves (splinter risk) to toy money (counterfeit banknotes). But he goes too far when he bans the annual Christmas tree from being put up on the church tower.

An altogether more serious range of books are the Cotswold mysteries by Rebecca Tope. This time the locations are real and all the stories feature an unfortunate house sitter called Thea Osborne who seems to attract misfortune. The hamlet of Hampnett, near Northleach, in the depths of midwinter, is the setting for Fear in the Cotswolds; as the weather becomes more extreme, Thea discovers a dead man lying in a snow-covered field. Gripping stuff, especially when you know the places involved. But if tradition is your thing, then J Arthur Gibbs summed up the festive season in the Cotswolds perfectly when he wrote: “Christmas is Christmas still, in the heart of old England”.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One hundred years ago this month the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was to become known as The Great War. Stephen Roberts remembers the impact the war had on Cotswold lives from 1914-1918

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New bat cams installed at Woodchester Mansion help study protected breeds while also becoming an added attraction for visitors. Jo Barber looks at the work of one of the UK’s foremost bat experts and the mansion’s valued volunteers

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From an all-boy, all boarding prep school for just 30 pupils, to the quietly trailblazing yet still traditional school it is today – here is a snapshot of Beaudesert over its 110-year history

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Of all the castles in the region, none have seen as much war, romance and royalty as Sudeley over its dramatic 1,000-year history. And with such a colourful and eventful past, it is easy to see why some people believe there could be spirits from bygone eras which still wander the halls and corridors to this day

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

What started as a business ploy by one Cotswold firm has developed into an inspirational garden

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

If a bit of English eccentricity is your thing, spend an enjoyable afternoon exploring the delightful follies of Faringdon

Read more
Monday, October 1, 2018

Visitors to the village of Bourton-on-the-Water can now escape the well-trodden tourist trail at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s beautiful Greystones nature reserve and its newly opened visitor centre

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search