top of page

Reading the Land 2024

We were delighted to be welcome some of the most important and respected nature writers to Shaftesbury over the weekend, to share with us their work, insights and reflections on the natural world.

Friday 15 March

Guy Shrubsole

The Lost Rainforests of Britain

Britain is a rainforest nation, but we cut down most of our temperate rainforests long ago. Fortunately, fragments survive, scattered like stars across the damp Atlantic seaboard. Guy's book, The Lost Rainforests of Britain, and accompanying campaign to bring back Britain's lost rainforests - covers the rainforests' from its origins to the government's recently-announced Rainforests Strategy for England, and what needs to happen next. 

Sponsored by Shaftesbury Tree Group

Saturday 16 March

Amy-Jane Beer

in conversation with Stephen Boyce

Amy is preoccupied with themes of wildness, time, connectivity and response-ability. In her 2022 book The Flow she followed them upstream and downriver via the medium of water, the ultimate connector of lives, places and moments; they inform her campaigning efforts with Right To Roam, and her work in progress, a eco-timeslippy narrative non-fiction exploring the old and new nows and the human-natural histories of long-peopled places.

Sponsored by Shaftesbury Swifts

Tim Laycock: Mollie Whuppie and the Giant

Children's event, Shaftesbury Library

Tim Laycock returns to Shaftesbury Library with a parcel of traditional tales and story songs from the British Isles for all the family. How did Mollie outwit the Giant? What became of the Fisherman’s Son? And who were the musicians in the Animals’ Band? 

Charles Foster

The Cry of the Wild

The wild world is under siege. We are the besiegers. What does it feel like to be the besieged? Unless we know that we won't empathise, and if we don't empathise we won't change. New York Times Bestselling author Charles Foster opens a door into the lives of an orca, an otter, a mayfly, a fox, an eel, a gannet, a rabbit, and another beleagured mammal, the human.

Sponsored by Shaftesbury Hedgehogs

Sophie Pavelle

in conversation with Jeni Bell

Finding the forgotten species of climate-change Britain

Travel the length and breadth of Britain with millennial science communicator Sophie Pavelle as she recounts her remarkable adventure in search of ten animals and habitats threatened by climate change. Exploring rare native species that may disappear by 2050 – from the harbour porpoise and grey long-eared bat to the Atlantic salmon and the mountain hare – discover the problems they face and what we can do to ensure we don’t ever have to forget them.

Sponsored by the Nurturing Nature Project

Yuval Zommer: Nature Art Workshop

Children's event, Shaftesbury Arts Centre

In this creative workshop, create your own ‘creatures’ with Yuval, using nature’s treasures such as twigs, leaves, pebbles and petals together with everyday recycled materials such as paper plates, packaging cardboard and paper cups.

Panel, chaired by Keggie Carew

Speaking up and speaking out: Nature Writing at a Time of Crisis  


What is the role of nature writers at a time of ecological crisis?

Where can we find the stories that reach beyond this echo chamber?

How can we convey the imperatives and beautiful positives of nature restoration?

Why is the natural world still prey to vested interests?

When is it time to get political, or even angry?


As the natural world continues to be degraded the tone of nature writing is beginning to change. Nature restoration is the best solution to our biggest challenges, but the message to our leaders is not getting through. The challenge is to convey the urgency and consequences to a mainstream audience. How to write about our natural world to save it. Four writers come together in conversation to share their ideas, hopes, fears, thoughts, challenges and dilemmas, in what promises to be a fascinating discussion with audience participation.


Amy-Jane Beer, The Flow: Rivers, Waters and Wildness

Keggie Carew, Beastly: The Epic 40,000-Year Story of Animals and Us

Charles Foster,  Cry In the Wild: Eight Animals Under Seige

Guy Shrubsole, The Lost Rainforests of Great Britain

Sponsored by FOLDE Dorset

Sunday 17 March

Leif Bersweden

Where the Wildflowers Grow: My Botanical Journey through Britain and Ireland

In 2021, Leif Bersweden went on a big botanical adventure around Britain and Ireland with his bike, travelling from Hampshire’s Bluebell woods to the shores of Shetland, to track down our most intriguing and well-known plants, with the people who love them most dearly.

Leif’s latest book, Where the Wildflowers Grow, follows him on that journey as he botanises his way through an entire calendar year, meeting our plants, telling their stories and exploring people’s connection to their local flora. Plants are capable of extraordinary things that we rarely hear about or give them credit for, and Leif is here to share their ways with new audiences. 

Sponsored by the Nurturing Nature Project

Yuval Zommer: Nature Art Workshop

Children's event, Shaftesbury Arts Centre

In this creative workshop, create your own ‘creatures’ with Yuval, using nature’s treasures such as twigs, leaves, pebbles and petals together with everyday recycled materials such as paper plates, packaging cardboard and paper cups.

Anita Roy

Transient Magic: Reconnecting with the Seasons

Spring, summer, autumn, winter. The four seasons each have their own particular character, their own flavour: seasoned with a mix of magic and memory. Anita talks about reconnecting with the temperate climate and English landscape after two decades of living in New Delhi, and the books that flowed from that: A Year in Kingcombe, which she wrote and illustrated, and Gifts of Gravity and Light which she co-edited with Pippa Marland. She explores the symbiosis between nature writing and activism through her work with local environmental group Transition Town Wellington. And wonders aloud about mortality, what it means to know a place, who heals who in relation to the land, and how to be a human in the more-than-human world.

Sponsored by Sustainable Dorset

Chris Smaje

In conversation with Robin Walter

Saying NO to a farm-free future

Chris Smaje makes the case for local, job-rich, low-energy, mixed, agroecological farming as a response to the meta-crisis of present times, and explains why present moves toward high-tech and high-energy food ‘solutionism’ through technologies like the manufacture of bacterial protein are the wrong prescription for present ills.

Sponsored by Planet Shaftesbury 

Stephen Moss & Brett Westwood

Change in Wonderland

For many of us the natural world is a source of inspiration, never more so since the rigours of lockdown. Authors of Wonderland, Natural Histories  and Tweet of the Day,  Stephen Moss and Brett Westwood discuss the wildlife and landscapes that mean so much to them from the reedy expanses of the Somerset Levels to the cityscapes watched over by red kites and peregrines. But as well as these successes, there are many losses too. As active writers and seasoned naturalists, Brett and  Stephen will share their memories of past wildlife, and their perspectives  on the state of nature in the United Kingdom. Although there are many reasons to be concerned about the state of nature, there are signs of hope too as we greet the oncoming spring. 

Sponsored by Kensons Farm Organic Vegetables

Closing remarks

bottom of page