Sunday, April 07, 2024

The Meaning of Butterflies: science, aesthetics, spirituality, poetics, relationship with place

 Matthew Oates will be talking about ‘The Meaning of Butterflies: science, aesthetics, spirituality, poetics, relationship with place.’


Saturday 27 April 2024, 2pm

Richard Jefferies Museum, Marlborough Road, Coate, Swindon SN3 6AA

Zoom link -- please apply to

Matthew describes himself as ‘an English naturalist and nature writer, in love with the natural world, particularly with butterflies―especially the mighty Purple Emperor.’ Book titles include His Imperial Majesty, a natural history of the Purple Emperor (2020), In Pursuit of Butterflies (2015) and Beyond Spring (2017). He worked in nature conservation for some 40 years with the National Trust, the Nature Conservancy Council and Hampshire County Council, and retired in April 2018.

The talk is free to attend in person and by Zoom link. The meeting room has very limited capacity. Please book if you would like to attend or if you want to Zoom in. 


Friday, January 26, 2024

Shortlist for Richard Jefferies Award for best nature writing published 2023

 The Richard Jefferies Award [1] is given annually to the author of the publication considered by the judging panel to be the most outstanding nature writing published in a given calendar year. The winning work must reflect the heritage and spirit of Richard Jefferies’ countryside books.

 The final shortlist for 2023 publications was announced today (in n0 particular order):

 ·         The Orchid Outlaw: On a Mission to Save Britain’s Rarest Flowers by Ben Jacob (John Murrays)

·         One Midsummer’s Day: Swifts and the Story of Life on Earth by Mark Cocker (Jonathan Cape)

·         Footprints in the Woods: The Secret Life of Forest and Riverbank by John Lister-Kaye (Canongate Books)

·         Across a Waking Land: A 1000-mile Walk through a British Spring by Roger Morgan Grenville ( Icon Books)

·         Late Light by Michael Malay (Manilla Press)

·         Windswept: Life, Nature and Deep Time in the Scottish Highlands by Annie Worsley (Harper Collins)


The award was first introduced in 2015 by the Richard Jefferies Society and then sponsored by the White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough. It has attracted an unprecedented number of nominations that grow each year reflecting the increasing quality of books dedicated to the natural world.

 Previous award winners are: Gods of the Morning by John Lister-Kaye (2015), The Wood for the Trees by Richard Fortey (2016) The Seabird's Cry by Adam Nicolson (2017), Wilding by Isabella Tree (2018); Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald (2019), Orchard by Benedict Macdonald and Nicholas Gates (2020), On Gallows Down by Nicola Chester (2021) and Wild Fell by Lee Schofield (2022).

 The judging panel will meet in the early summer to agree and announce the overall winner of the £1000 prize.


 [1] For more information about the Award and previous winners:

Friday, June 30, 2023

Wild Fell Wins Top Literary Prize for Nature Writing


 Lee Schofield was announced on 22 May 2023 (The International Day for Biodiversity) as the winner of the Richard Jefferies Award for the best nature writing published in 2022 for his book titled Wild Fell: Fighting for nature on a Lake District hill farm published by Doubleday.

Lee's Zoom talk (11 March 2024) about his work and the book can be viewed here .  
Wild Fell is a vivid and detailed account of Lee Schofield’s work as the RSPB’s Site Manager at Haweswater in the Lake District, where the nature conservation charity works in partnership with the landowner United Utilities. Their aim is to discover ‘how to rebalance farming and nature’ and ‘to develop a way to look after our land that occupies the middle ground between hill farming and conservation, restoring nature, respecting traditions, producing food, and supporting the local economy’. This might sound like an almost impossible agenda, and Schofield does not duck the challenges he has faced in mediating between the interests of a variety of key stakeholders in a highly sensitive landscape.

Although Wild Fell engages fully with the political, social, economic, cultural and financial contexts that affect Haweswater, it is above all an optimistic and uplifting record of projects that are advancing conservation, producing positive changes and enriching the biodiversity of the environment. These initiatives include altering land usage, especially by scaling back the number of sheep, extensive new planting of trees and wildflowers, restoring a river to its natural course, soil improvement, and developing eco-tourism to benefit the local economy. Success depends on having plans that interact and reinforce each other, and which accommodate both compromises and co-operation with the local community, and the book is a convincing illustration of what can be achieved when a conservation organisation works with a water company and the local community to effect change.

 Professor Barry Sloan, Chair of the panel of judges, said:

 Much of the appeal of Wild Fell stems from the fluency with which Lee Schofield conveys the intimate knowledge and deep feeling he has developed for the Haweswater landscape, his own personal commitment to enriching and developing it, and the unabashed delight he takes from each sign of progressive change. It is a highly personal story as well as a thoroughly documented account of a complex and ongoing conservation project, a combination which should earn it the wide readership it deserves.”

 Lee Schofield said:

 As a first-time author, and as someone who never imagined I’d have a book published, winning the Richard Jefferies Award is genuinely beyond my wildest dreams. There really would be no story to tell at Haweswater if it weren’t for my wonderful RSPB colleagues past and present, and the inspiration and energy I’ve gained from the Lake District’s growing band of conservationists and nature-friendly farmers. This award is really for all of them.”

 The judges are drawn from the Richard Jefferies Society  and their sponsors, the White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough who had the difficult choice of selecting an overall winner from a highly commendable shortlist of books:

            Where the Wild Flowers Grow – Leif Bersweden (Hodder & Stoughton)

Wild Fell – Lee Schofield (Doubleday)

The Treeline – Ben Rawlence (Jonathan Cape)

The Lost Rainforests of Britain – Guy Shrubsole (William Collins)

Fen, Bog, and Swamp – Annie Proulx (Fourth Estate)

Illuminated by Water – Malachy Tallack (Doubleday)

 Previous winners of the award of £1,000 are: Gods of the Morning by John Lister-Kaye (2015), The Wood for the Trees by Richard Fortey (2016), The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson (2017), Wilding by Isabella Tree (2018), Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald (2019), Orchard by Benedict Macdonald and Nicholas Gates (2020) and On Gallows Down by Nicola Chester (2021).