The Gustav Holst Way
New walking guidebook celebrates the centenary of The Planets:
The Gustav Holst Way by Frank Partridge
One hundred years after Gustav Holst started work on The Planets, Cheltenham’s Holst Birthplace Museum has published the first guidebook to the Gustav Holst Way, the 35-mile rambling route across the Cotswolds that was laid out by museum volunteers and officially inaugurated in 2011.
The richly illustrated book, with numerous photographs and accurate maps charting the five contrasting sections of the route between Cranham and Wyck Rissington, is partly a conventional guide for walkers and partly a homage to Gustav Holst, who was a keen walker himself and had a lifelong love of the Cotswolds. Holst’s private notes and manuscripts indicate that he began work on The Planets in 1914, a few months before the outbreak of World War I.
Walking for Holst was both a pleasure and a necessity: as an impecunious young man whose first job (as the organist at Wyck Rissington church) earned him only £4 a year he was invariably unable to afford the bus or train fare home to Cheltenham.
The budding composer would often take his trombone with him to practice his skills in the sparsely populated hills, much to the bemusement of the sheep and cattle. On one occasion he was chased off a field by an angry farmer who blamed him for alarming the ewes and making them lamb too early.
The route picks out important landmarks in Gustav Holst’s early life, including his birthplace – now the museum – and several places where he played, taught and composed music. Other highlights on the route include the Devil’s Chimney, Cleeve Common and picture-postcard Cotswold villages such as Naunton, Guiting Power, Wyck Rissington and Bourton-on-the-Water.
The guidebook, written by former BBC and Sky News journalist Frank Partridge, contains many snippets of historical and biographical information to remind walkers of the great composer at the various resting points along the way.
Priced £7.99, The Gustav Holst Way is available at the Holst Birthplace Museum shop. Both the book and an e-book version are available at www.amazon.co.uk.
Gustav Holst Way author, Frank Partridge at the book’s launch 17 July 2014