Robert Gibbings Once More

In the summer of 1942 I blinked into the daylight as, making my first cry, I emerged from my mother’s womb – hardly “ripped untimely”, but, all the same, Β premature enough to require us both to remain in Leicester General Hospital long enough to make up the 7 weeks snatched from gestation.

At the same time Robert Gibbings was delivered of “Coming Down The Wye” from The Temple Press, Letchworth.

Clearly, despite falling in the midst of the Second World War, this was a vintage year. Apart from that world-wide devastation, life three quarters of a century ago was lived at a gentler, simpler, pace. Technology, albeit harnessed for the killing machines, was primitive compared with that of the 21st century.

My mother sees many parallels between the global battles of conflicting nations of the days of her young motherhood and the international war against the current pandemic.

Mr Gibbings’s book

bears a statement that its production conforms to wartime economy standard. I might add that, apart from slight foxing the stout quality of the paper and binding of my copy far exceeds normal trade production of today. The water damage seen at the very tops of the pages was probably sustained during the half century I have owned the work.

Anyone seeking inspiration really to look and listen to the delights of the nature that appears to be teaching the world lessons we would do well to heed, is encouraged to sample the pleasure of the splendid prose using fluent, lilting, language with which the author seemingly effortlessly evokes the experience of his exploration of another of his liquid lifelines. This time the River Wye.

Robert Gibbings’s observation is detailed and attentive; his ear acute and sensitive; and his knowledge of the natural world exemplary. He is widely read and able to include appropriate historical and poetic references. As usual he includes local conversations in the vernacular with a sauce of myth and legend.

The delightful writing is a perfect accompaniment to the work of the author as fine artist. As usual with this craftsman I have reproduced a plentiful selection of complete pages of the work in order that those who wish may be able to try the text for themselves;

and to demonstrate the power and delicacy of the engravings and their placement on the page.


While I was scanning the above pictures patient robin Ronnie was allowed on to the feeding tray by the greedy sparrows.

Jackie had begun weeding and tidying the footpath into the Rose Garden.

This afternoon she completed the task magnificently. Her photographs are pretty good, too.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb sausages in red wine; very creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots, and tender green beans with which the Culinary Queen drank Budweiser and I drank more of the Rheinhessen.


  1. Oh I could get lost in this book! I wonder what potato wine tastes like … the section on love spoons was interesting to read too … as are the beautiful descriptions of birds and the landscape!

  2. The excerpts are enchanting – I wish I had heard of this writer earlier. While Mr Gibbings illustrations are quite stunning, it is his prose that captures and draws me in. You left so many of his encounters and observations incomplete, teasing and enticing us to get our own copies and read on πŸ™‚

    Jackie’s sterling job of clearing the pathway and including photographic evidence of the result and then cooking that meal is impressive. You are a lucky fellow!!

    1. I am lucky, Pauline. I started on the author for the drawings and was then blown away by the prose. I didn’t mean to tease, but I thought you had to see his words, too. There’s quite a lot of his work on

      Thank you very much.

      1. I did some research into the availability of his books – and they are out there in various forms and publications. Unfortunately not for those living on retirement funds πŸ™‚ But I have also noticed an astronomical increase in the price of just about everything at this time – so it could change. Still, I am very glad to now know his name.

  3. Jackie’s work AND photos ARE magnificent!!! πŸ™‚

    Like you, my Dad was born premature. He was born many years before you. I was always surprised, when hearing his story, that he survived.

    I’ve been thinking a lot, the past few months, about people your Mum’s age. They have already been through so much in the years they’ve lived…and now this pandemic. Their generation is wise, strong, hard workers, etc., and they have beautiful hearts. We must look to their example to press on and do good each day that we live.

    Robert Gibbings’ words and illustrations are wonderful! His images of flora, fauna, animals, etc., are lovely! πŸ™‚

    (((HUGS))) πŸ™‚

  4. You must be quite strong to have survived being born seven weeks early then. I think many people of our mothers’ generation have the view that they’ve lived through scary times before, and they’ll get through this one, too. I remember my mom alluding to that after our current president was elected.
    Those book illustrations and lovely, and your garden is so filled with color.

    1. Thank you very much, Merril. My genes stood me in good stead – and the hospital care must have been commendable for the period. May we live to see the fruits of your Mom’s wisdom.

  5. Absolutely superb drawings Derrick, I’ve been reading a few of the pages, and loved this very poetic piece, from page 29.. . with poetic licence I’ve set out the words in an appropriate format…

    “Rain began to fall
    Big drops, bigger drops
    Bubbles on the water
    Wind and more wind
    A deluge of rain
    All sound drowned
    By the rumbling of thunder
    A vivid afterglow
    Velvet darkness”……

  6. I’m glad you were kept in safe and sound when born. It likely did you and your mum good. I think she’s right about some similarities. I was reading novel that took place in WWII and decided when it was finished that things were a bit too similar for me to read anything like that again for a while. Jackie did some solid weeding there in that path! what a difference! And that potato wine recipe…sounds a bit heavy on the sugar, but interesting.

  7. I love the woodcuts.
    I pulled out one of my favourite Le Carre books to read again. It’s in paperback by a reputable publisher. The glue at the back was dri and the pages fell away and I had nothing I could do but throw it away.
    So don’t talk to me about economy standards. I wish they would go back to the way they did it.

  8. The illustrations are wonderful. Well done, Jackie. The path to the roses looks lovely. Weeding paths isn’t always an easy task!

  9. There are some wonderful nature and countryside books from that era. I liked the Romany books by G. Bramwell Evans (which are meant for children) and “Brendon Chase” where three brothers run away to live in the woods. Neither book has the quality of illustrations that Robert Gibbings has produced here, though,.

      1. Sadly, no. I’ve had six attempts at a follow up manuscript, and I can’t get it past my agent. Traditional publishing is a very tough world. Even though a lot of what is published is not memorable, it is popular. And publishers are in the business of selling books.

  10. Hi d –
    I bookmarked this post to indulge in reading next month.
    The sausage dinner was a complete tease the way you worded it like that
    And good day to you and J

  11. A vintage year indeed, producing a very fine specimen :). By the way, I got caught up reading page 32 and now wonder what the top of page 33 says!!!

    1. greater importance than previously realised. Those born in early spring to better. This was one of the problems of offering the snippets of text πŸ™‚ Thanks very much, Luanne.

  12. The opening is dramatic and humorous. I quite liked the opening of the book too. You have a unique audio-visual technique of reviewing books. Looks like it is the kind of book I would enjoy reading.

  13. I remember loving the look of the last Gibbings book you featured, Derrick. This one is another treasure and soI will add yet another book to my wish-list. Your garden is looking wonderful! I love the before and after photos of the path!

Leave a Reply