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The Books on the Lane Book of the Month Page 


The Sowerby Bridge Industrial Heritage Walk

Christopher Goddard and Michael Gray 

Where better to start than with a map – no ordinary map. This is Christopher Goddard and Michael Gray documenting hidden heritage gems around the Calder Valley, to produce The Sowerby Bridge Industrial Heritage Walk – hand-drawn with thorough nuggets of information about sights of historical and natural interest. We are invited to explore. So we did. One bright sunny Sunday in late February.

There is, for instance, Hollin Well, built, we are told, in 1874 by James Wood as a public water trough and inscribed ‘honest water’. The Stansfield Grange, which began life as a mill-owner’s house, but from 1921 to 1972 provided a hostel for female mill workers. And the architectural spectaculars are the mill buildings themselves.

The point to make, if there must be a point, is that this is Pennine West Yorkshire and so the valley top views are superb, and, as history proves, the rivers and valleys fuelled industrial development of the valley bottoms to leave us with a phantasmagoria of heritage. In essence, this walk is an outdoor museum.

It is six miles, some steep climbs rewarded by, as we said earlier, stunning views, surprising nooks and crannies, masses of wild garlic, varieties of moss, mixed woodland, and a sense that we were treading just a little off the beaten track.

canal and millIt was enlightening to follow in the footsteps of those 17th and 18th century mill workers -exploring the ghostly remains of their homes and workplaces, we at least could enjoy the stunning landscapes, the wooded valleys and breath in the history.

We left Sowerby Bridge Railway Station at around 10.30am and we were back on the high street desperate for a cup of tea at about 4pm (because the tea flask had run dry) It was an unusual and enlightening day out in West Yorkshire. We heartily recommend.

Price: £5.99


Notes From An Island

Tove Jansson and Tuulikki Pietila 


There are books and there are book lover’s books. Notes from an Island falls happily into the latter category and draws on Jansson’s notes, and her partner Pietila’s copperplate and wash etchings, from their summers spent together on the tiny island of Klovharun, at the edge of the Penninge archipelago in the Gulf of Finland.

This is light and thoughtful writing avoiding heavy duty self-indulgence, and the prose sits so amicably next to the etchings. The combination delivers a bird’s eye view of their life together, seeking companionship and solitude from busy mainland lives:

“I was seized by a new feeling of detachment that was utterly unlike isolation, merely a sense of being an outsider, with no worry or guilt about anything at all. I don’t know how it happened, but life became very simple, and I just let myself be happy.”

Some people come to Jansson via her Moomin children’s stories. Some via her books (try The Summer Book and A Winter Book) This is Jansson describing her personal delights and her ‘happy place’.  It is a bookshelf treasure.   

Price: £12.99

Deep Country – Five Years in the Welsh Hills

Neil Ansell



Deep Country was published in 2011, but if you’ve not read it yet – then why not? It is about one man’s island – deep in the Welsh Hills, a personal desire to live only with the very bare necessities.

Ansel’s language is warm and familiar, so it’s easy to sink into his experiences, and he arrives at a Victorian gamekeeper’s cottage late on an autumn night:

“…windows were designed for keeping an eye on the pheasant pens on each side of the building. The one to the west looked out across the moors. You could cross two fields and you were on open moorland; you could walk west for twenty miles without seeing another house, or a road, or a fence. This uninhabited swathe of the Cambrian Mountains right in the very heart of the country has been called the green desert of Wales, its empty quarter.”  

But he is not living alone, and, casting himself into the wild, understands the value of observing and living alongside nature. This about living with bats:

“I generally counted about 20 or thirty bats emerging from my loft….they came and went all night…Sometimes at night I could hear the faint rustle of them moving about in the roof space, and it felt like a privilege to know they were there, living out their unfathomable lives just above me.”

Later we read about his delight with the small and inconspicuous signs of spring:

 “On my way home, I decided to take a long cut up the hill, on a well-worn sheep trail across the moor. The first pale green tendrils were emerging from the thick chestnut mat of last year’s bracken. I rubbed my fingers on one of the delicate coils for that distinctive musty smell, the smell of spring on the moor.”

And a walk along the river reveals a bird’s world:

“On a stone at the water’s edge a kingfisher was perched, its head tipped back and its beak pointing upwards like  a bittern hiding in the reeds, as if it were trying to look inconspicuous, something it was signally failing to achieve.”

Curl up and read this book. It is Ansell’s pleasure and satisfaction in his observations of the everyday in the natural world, as opposed to the spectacular, which engrosses the reader, and in a matter of a few pages, you will find yourself deep in the Welsh hills. 

Price: £9.99

I Belong Here

Anita Sethi

Pub. Bloomsbury Wildlife 2021


I Belong Here cover

To say that Anita Sethi’s book, I Belong Here, is a timely read is an obvious statement, but no less true for its self-evidence.

Sethi was a victim of horrendous racial abuse while travelling on a TransPennine train from her native Manchester to Newcastle. This vicious attack on her right to exist in the place of her birth understandably shook the writer to her core, causing her to question her sense of belonging in the UK and the North especially. Treading that well-worn path of the non-fiction journey of self-discovery – previously beaten by writers from Albert Wainwright to Cheryl Strayed – Sethi sets out to walk along the “backbone” of Britain, the Pennines.

By walking alone through the wild, remote Pennine landscapes she aims to reclaim her identity as a northerner and discover more about the people, places, and ideas of the North.

Sethi opens her Wainwright Prize-shortlisted book in the Peak District village of Hope. This is symbolic, both of the optimism that runs throughout her narrative –  even during her most harrowing accounts of racism in the UK – and of the activist spirit that has clearly spurred Sethi to give voice to her experiences. Walking, she argues, has always been a radical act – Hope, of course being a starting point for the climb up Kinder Scout, site of the 1932 Mass Trespass when an estimated 600-800 walkers sought to reclaim their right to roam in their homeland.

It is this same goal that drives Sethi’s journey almost 90 years later. Her book does not follow a linear structure. Rather it weaves its way through historical accounts of Britain’s colonial atrocities and the Suffragette Movement in Manchester; memoirs of Sethi’s own lived experiences of racism; exquisite nature writing celebrating the unique Pennine landscape and wildlife; reflections on language and how it can shape societal prejudices; and passionate polemics on how to tackle racism and address the climate emergency.

Though this non-linear approach can occasionally make the narrative difficult to follow, it reflects Sethi’s travels through the Pennines – which frequently venture off the beaten path to explore places such as Hull Pot in the Yorkshire Dales, England’s largest natural hole (who knew?) – and brings a fresh perspective to a well-established genre.

I Belong Here is not just a timely read but an important one. Through this book, Anita Sethi transforms a deeply traumatic experience into a story of hope and an urgent call to action – for how we can all take steps to combat hate, tackle social injustice and preserve our unique natural environment.

R.Johnson,  £16.99



Seed to Dust – A Gardener’s Story

Marc Hamer

Published by Harvill Secker 2021 


There has probably never been a more perfect time to read this book. Anxieties are high and our experiences of the world have become limited. We spend much of our time indoors. This book stands to remind us of the beauty and simplicity of the natural world. It is a love letter to the woodpecker, the crow and the rook, the ‘low morning sun lighting up the glittering, dew-sagging spider webs’, the ‘red of autumn leaves’. Through the structure of a year, and significantly the four seasons, Marc subtly weaves the story of his own childhood and adult life against the backdrop of tending to the garden. 

Reading this book is like a long, comforting, all-encompassing hug. Each night I looked forward to picking up its pages and transporting myself away from the day’s concerns to Miss Cashmere’s garden and Marc’s enlightening observations. It is a lovely story in and of itself, but it is also informative. I learnt a lot of practical things about gardening and the natural world. it also works on a deeper level, to throw into question the structures and choices that can dictate our lives. It made me re-evaluate the ways in which I spend my time, my own connection to the natural world, my distance from it. It left me longing for a much simpler life, to be guided only by the changing seasons and the resilient, ever turning cycle of nature.  

I felt very sad to finish this book, it had grown to become like an old friend that I visited each evening. Even now, a few weeks on from finishing it, I miss reading it. I highly recommend it, especially if you are craving stillness, relief from the uncertainties of this current climate, and the opportunity to reconnect with nature. 

ZC March  £14.99