Written invitingly in the first person, this book tells of the life and activities of Brother William, a medieval monk and gardener. There are several things that make this a particularly engaging book. The very fact that it is written by the current Head Gardener at Westminster Abbey accounts for the ring of truth here about what is involved in planting, nurturing and garnering the vegetables and grains. The design is pleasing and appropriate, putting the reader in mind of Psalters and other medieval manuscripts. An illuminated letter introduces each month; each is decorated with a symbol – daffodils for March and ears of corn for September. Another strong point is that the end pages are not just decorative but show the buildings and grounds of the monastery, complementing what is learnt from the main text. For example when we read about the storing of spare fruit in July and the distributing it to the local people, we can turn back to resavour the picture of the Almonry.
The book has been well researched and it is the fascinating details that will grip the young imagination. I am thinking here of the seasonal recipes that are included, recipes described fully enough to try out, such as Lenten Leek Soup and Cherry Pottage in the summer. Brother William’s splendid Holiday Menu is prepared for him on the one free day he enjoys each year.