IT is as you might expect from the people behind Jardine Press, Catherine and James Dodds.

But Tracks in the Sand is so much more than a beautiful thing to look at because amongst the gorgeous sepia photographs of a bygone age, there’s also a wonderful love story which stretched from the banks of the River Nile to the banks of the River Colne.

Made-up of dozens of old photographs and the letters James’ grandfather Tim Foster sent back home to his sweetheart, Pollie Pannell, the book details Tim’s service in the First World War, which eventually ended up with him building a railway across the Sinai dessert and then becoming the first English station master in Jerusalem exactly a hundred years ago this month.

To say the book is a labour of love would be a gross understatement indeed with James spending hours sifting through hundreds of old prints while Catherine edited the collection of letters.

James says: “I knew the existence of some of this material but it wasn’t until I was ill a few years back that I had time to go through it all.

“Unfortunately my grandfather died before I was born but he was always a larger than life character in my childhood. I remember going over to granny’s house and spending time in his shed with all his jam jars and oxo tins filled with nails and screws. He made everything himself and the biggest compliment my granny ever gave me was when she used to say I was just like him.”

Born in Ipswich and growing up in Hadleigh, for most of his life Tim was based in Brightlingsea, where he was the station master.

He joined up at the beginning of the Great War aged 26 and was sent off to Gallipoli where he fought with the Anzacs. After contracting typhoid and nearly dying, he was then sent back to the middle east where he was put in charge of building a little light railway at the south end of the Suez Canal.

“It was quite unusual for a soldier to have a camera,” James adds, “and it was a measure of how important he was that he was allowed one at all and was able to take so many fascinating pictures.”

James’ granny grew up in Marks Tey and Harwich and was a member of the well known Pannell family who, according to James were quite the entrepreneurs in Victorian times.

When Tim eventually returned from service the pair married in November 1919.

Catherine continues: “I do believe if we had a book just filled with these photos that would have been enough but then there were these incredible letters to go with them and rather than placing captions under the pictures, the letters tell their story perfectly.

“To tell the story of both the home front and the front line was quite important for us.”

Available now from Wivenhoe Bookshop and Red Lion Books in Colchester, there’s a special launch being organised by the Wivenhoe Bookshop which will take place at the Royal British Legion Hall on Wivenhoe Quay on Friday, February 2 from 7pm. Tickets are £4 from the Wivenhoe Bookshop.