Best of British nature writing celebrated – past and present

Thursday 30th September 2010

New book published - Nature Tales: Encounters with Britain’s Wildlife

A landmark new anthology celebrating British wildlife and landscapes with some of the world’s greatest nature-writers, is to be published today (Thursday 30 September 2010), by Elliott & Thompson and The Wildlife Trusts.

Nature Tales contains nature writing contributions spanning more than 300 years. It includes past voices from Gilbert White, author of the classic The Natural History of Selborne, to celebrated Northamptonshire poet and writer John Clare and Charles Darwin. Nature Tales features writers familiar to any fans of modern British nature writing such as Stephen Moss, Robert Macfarlane and Ruth Padel.

Sir David Attenborough, vice-president of The Wildlife Trusts contributed the foreword for the book. He said:

“I have been fortunate enough to travel widely, but I continue to be inspired by wildlife at home. Reading through this volume I have been reminded that I am not alone. This wonderful collection of some of the greatest nature writers in Britain’s history is a pleasure to read from start to finish and a valuable addition to any naturalist’s library.”

There is something for everyone: from Nick Baker diving with basking sharks off the Cornish coast to JA Baker’s vivid descriptions of peregrines in the Essex countryside, from Gilbert White’s observations at Selborne 300 years ago to Sir John Lister-Kaye tracking deer in a Scottish woodland and Bill Oddie’s recollections of being bitten by a range of British wildlife. Fans of a particular writer will hopefully be introduced to many more they will enjoy.

One name will be new to everyone. John Woolner, a previously unpublished writer, won the chance to be included within the anthology by submitting a personal, real-life wildlife encounter to The Wildlife Trusts’ nature writing competition. Woolner’s encounter with a gannet and a pair of ‘frilly black knickers’ was judged to be the most original, interesting and entertaining. The competition was judged by a panel of experts including representatives of Elliott & Thompson, The Wildlife Trusts, Foyles and best-selling author and contributor, Simon Barnes. You can read the runners-up entries here:

Conservationist, broadcaster, writer and vice president of The Wildlife Trusts, Bill Oddie OBE, said:

“British wildlife comes in an infinite variety. So do encounters. Some are accidental, others are planned. Some are expected, others are a complete surprise. Some are dreams come true, others have never even entered the observer's - please forgive the inevitable expression - wildest dreams. This fantastic collection is not only about wildlife, it is also about the human emotions that wildlife inspires. Enjoy these encounters vicariously, then get out and experience your own.”

Naturalist and television presenter, Steve Backshall, said:

“As a kid I was inspired more than anything by writers who managed to make natural history, and the wild, exotic world come to life. Authors like Jack London, Willard Price and Wilbur Smith, who created impossible missions and wondrous characters that made me yearn to be experiencing their adventures for myself.

“Later in life it was the real life tales of Gerald Durrell, Charles Darwin, Sir David Attenborough and Alfred Russell Wallace that caught my imagination, and cemented the certainty that such achievements and experiences need not be merely fiction. To be thought worthy of inclusion in a work that contains such giants, is one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me!”

Story by RSWT