Down the Combe and Into the Meadow – Influences and Waymarks

The endnotes section for Down the Combe and Into the Meadow entitled Influences and Waymarks, includes a large number of links to resources for further reading. Since retyping these links from a physical book may be tiresome I present the section here for ease of use.

Although every effort has been made to ensure the validity of links at the time of publication, the passage of time inevitably leads to some links becoming broken. While we cannot update the book we will attempt to updates links herein. If you find any broken links please let me know.

Chapter 1

Laurie Lee. (1974). Cider with Rosie. Harmondsworth (UK): Penguin. (p.105).

This exquisite phrase comes from: Peter Marren. (2015). Rainbow Dust: Three Centuries of Delight in British Butterflies. London: Square Peg. (p.191).

Robert Macfarlane. (2015). Landmarks. London: Hamish Hamilton. (p.23). Robert Macfarlane has significantly influenced my thinking. These borrowings come from his chapter ‘A Counter-Desecration Phrasebook’. He continues (p.24): ‘It is not, on the whole, that natural phenomena are disappearing: rather that there are fewer people able to name them, and that once they go unnamed they go to some degree unseen. Language deficit leads to attention deficit. As we further deplete our ability to name, describe and figure particular aspects of our places, our competence for understanding and imagining possible relationships with non-human nature is correspondingly depleted.’

For a vivid account of the undercliff farmers of Weston and Branscombe, I recommend: Cliff and Beach at Branscombe by Barbara Farquharson and Sue Dymond (2014). Branscombe: The Branscombe Project. See also my chapter 8 (pp. 172–97).

John Matthews. (1998). The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas. London: Thorsons. (pp.43-4). This magical book offers a cornucopia of ideas for celebrating the standing-still of the sun in the winter sky. For more on rituals see my chapter 12 (pp. 273–94).

Peter Wohlleben. (2017). The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World. London: William Collins. (p.140). This book will ensure that you never look at trees in quite the same way again.

Rob Cowen. (2015). Common Ground. London: Hutchinson. (p.205).

Radical Honey. (2015). In Praise of Goosegrass. Accessed at:

Whispering Earth. (2010) My Herbal Treasures in March – Cleavers. Accessed at:

D.C.D. Pocock. (1981). ‘Sight and Knowledge’. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 6. (pp.385–93).

‘Yaffle’ is the name given to the laughter-like cackle of the green woodpecker, hence some of its vernacular names: ‘yaffle’, ‘yaffle bird’, ‘yaffingale’, ‘yappingale’ and ‘laughing Betsy’. The green woodpecker spends much of its time foraging for ants, its primary food source.

This discussion of the sixth sense is particularly inspired by: Marna Hauk et al. (2015). ‘Senses of Wonder in Sustainability Education, for Hope and Sustainability Agency’. Journal of Sustainability Education, 10, November, no pagination. ‘Through our intuition we experience all of our other senses and find wonder in the mundane.’

William Braud, (2002). ‘The Ley and the Labyrinth: Universalistic and Particularistic Approaches to Knowing’. Transpersonal Psychology Review. 6 (2). Braud’s work is referenced in psychotherapist Peter Darch’s unpublished 2003 paper, Being Alive to Nature, which devotes its first part to the particular in nature. Peter kindly shared his paper with me. Together with our two interviews of 29 November 2019 and 25 January 2018, Peter’s ideas have been of constant inspiration.

Rainer Maria Rilke. (2014). Letters To a Young Poet. Floyd VA: Sublime Books. Letter IV. (p.23).

David Kidner. (2001). Nature and Psyche: Radical Environmentalism and the Politics of Subjectivity. New York: State University of New York Press. (pp.293–304). ‘A place, in nature,’ writes Kathleen Raine, ‘is after all, only a larger and more complex organism, a symbiosis of many lives … Within the larger unity each centre of life unfolds in its own unity of form in perfect and minute precision. The whole is not made up of parts but wholes. Nature is a whole made up of wholes.’ See: Kathleen Raine. (1991). Autobiographies. London: Skoob Books. (p.4).

Robert Macfarlane. (2015). Landmarks. London: Hamish Hamilton. (p.62).

Patrick Kavanagh. (1967). ‘The Parish and the Universe’. In Collected Pruse (sic.). London: MacGibbon & Kee. (pp281–3).

John Tomaney. (2013). ‘Parochialism – a defence’. Progress in Human Geography, 37(5), (pp.658–672).

Conor McDonough. (2017). ‘Shining a light on ordinary parish life. The Irish Catholic. February 23. Accessed at:

For a history of the raven, its extirpation from and subsequent return to many parts of the country see Joe Shute. (2018). A Shadow Above: The Fall and Rise of the Raven. London: Bloomsbury.

For the discussion of connecting to the whole through mindfulness of the particular, I am greatly indebted to Sheri R. Klein, US artist and educational researcher. Sheri introduced me to the process of beholding, immersion and reflection. See, especially, her article ‘Coming to our Senses: Everyday Landscapes, Aesthetics and Transformative Learning,’ Journal of Transformative Learning, 16(1), 3-16. The quotation in my text is from p.12.

Peter Darch interview, 29 November 2017.

  1. George Thomas. (Ed.). (2004). Edward Thomas: The Collected Poems and War Diary. London: Faber and Faber. (pp.27–8). This is a much-thumbed and profoundly inspiring collection of nature poems to which I return frequently and devotedly.

David Pinder. (2018). ‘The National Trust and coastal conservation in Devon’, Transactions of the Devon Association for the Advancement of Science. June. (pp.365–400). Accessed at:

Sandy Macfadyen interview, 28 November 2017.

Sandy Macfadyen interview, 28 November 2017.

Peter Darch interview, 29 November 2017. We devoted much of our time together to his reflections on Carl Jung’s view that since the Enlightenment, there had been a rising dominance of conceptual thinking, a narrow adherence to conscious rationality and that this was leading to the exclusion of bodily, heart and soulful engagement with nature. Following Jung, Peter calls for symbolic engagement with nature (‘call it poetic, call it mystic, call it shamanistic’) enabling our awareness to be shaped by image and not by thought in the form of concepts and ideas. ‘We would be talking about a life of images. We would be experiencing nature as body and soul rather than as mind.’

Matthew Shaw. (2016). ‘Listening to the spirit of place’, Resurgence & Ecologist, 298 (September/October), (pp.28–9).

Passage inspired by my conversation with Peter Darch, 25 January 2018.

Thomas Hutchinson. (Ed.). (1969). Wordsworth Poetical Works. London: Oxford University Press. (pp.163–5).

In his excellent book, His Imperial Majesty: A Natural History of the Purple Emperor (Bloomsbury Wildlife, 2020), Matthew Oates lists the remarkable range of designated National Nature Reserves and Local Nature Reserves, other sizeable nature reserves and Sites of Interest for Nature Conservation in Greater London. See p.329. Other conurbations, cities and towns are similarly wildlife rich, as David Goode shows in his outstanding 2014 treatise on natural history in UK urban environments, Nature in Towns and Cities. London: Harper Collins.

A European-wide initiative of so-called ‘rebel botanists’ are mounting a ‘More than Weeds’ campaign in urban areas to foster naming and recognition of wildflowers by chalking the names of plants found growing out of pavement cracks. The aim is to raise awareness of the ‘forgotten flora at our feet’. The original French name for the initiative is ‘sauvages de ma rue’ (‘wild things of my street’). Chalk trails leading from one species to the next have been set up in Hackney, London. See Alex Morss. 2020.  ‘Not just weeds: How Rebel Botanists are Using graffiti to Name Forgotten Flora’. The Guardian. 1 May.

Chapter 2

A recitation of Aidan Crowley’s Our Sense of Wonder, together with an accompanying film of nature and people images is available at:

The Observer Books were a series of small, pocket-sized books published by Frederick Warne & Co between 1937 and 2003. The series began (1937-1942) with a number of natural history topics, all titles of which I purchased for nature identification and understanding purposes. They were cheap enough for a boy with a limited pocket money allowance to purchase. The series then branched out to cover other than natural history topics such as geology, architecture, churches and railway locomotives. A thread of natural history-related titles nevertheless continued to run through the whole series, for example, Sea and Seashore (1962), Lichens (1963), and Caterpillars (1979).

Indicative of my abiding interest in wildflowers, the most thumbed book amongst my collection of vintage nature books is David McClintock and R.S.R. Fitter’s Pocket Guide to Wild Flowers (Collins, 1956). Belying my urging of the reader to see the ‘extraordinary in the ordinary’, I was sucked in by the book’s star system indicating how common or rare a plant was. A commonly and widely distributed plant receives no stars, a plant less frequently seen but locally common receives one star. Two stars are for scarce plants only growing in limited areas. Three stars are for plants that are ‘real rarities’. According to the authors, the aim of the star system is to ‘add to the pleasure of finding something uncommon’ (p.ix).

Uncomplimentary as it may seem, ‘deceit’ is the collective noun given to lapwings probably because they perform a broken wing display to feign injury and so distract anyone approaching too closely to their nest, a scrape on bare ground.

An account of the controversy appears in Alison Flood’s 2015 Guardian article, ‘Oxford Junior Dictionary’s replacement of ‘natural’ words with 21st century terms sparks outcry’. Accessed at:

Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris. (2017). The Lost Words. London: Hamish Hamilton. For more on the book, its impact, its pick-up in schools, and the campaigns it has generated, go to:

Eva John has written an Explorer’s Guide to the Lost Words to support the facilitation of learning around the lost words in classroom, outdoor and indoor settings. The resource is available through the John Muir Trust at:

The picture recognition survey was commissioned by Hoop, a now defunct app that helped families find active things to do with their children. The survey report is well covered in the following: ‘Half of British Kids Can’t Tell You What Plant This Is’, Sky News, 14 August 2019, and Katharine Rooney, ‘Fewer Children than Ever Know Names for Plants and Animals’, 10 September 2019,

Some key findings of the National Trust 2008 survey, Wildlife Alien to Indoor Children are summarized in the following: and

For overviews of the two 2017 surveys go to: Robert Macfarlane’s ‘Badger or Bulbasaur – have children lost touch with nature? The Guardian, 30 September 2017. and

For the surveys of German and UK student teachers, go to: Petra Lindemann-Matthies, Marti Remmele and Eija Yli-Panula, ‘Professional competence of student teachers to implement species identification in schools – A case study from Germany, Centre for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 2017, 7/1, (pp.29–48), and, Anne Bebbington, ‘The ability of A-level students to name plants’, Journal of Biological Education, 2005, 39/2, (pp.63–7).

For ‘plant blindness’, see Christine Ro, ‘Why ‘plant blindness’ matters – and what you can do about it’, BBC Future, 29 April 2019, and Benjamin Balas and Jennifer Momsen, ‘Attention “blinks” differently for plants and animals’, CBE-Life Sciences Education, 2017, 13/3. Available at:

Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder originally appeared in 1956. A version with stunning nature photographs by Nick Kelsh was published by Harper Collins in 1998. The quotations used are from p.55 of this edition.

For helpful accounts of the slump in house sparrow, starling and cuckoo numbers, see: ‘Why are London’s Iconic Sparrows Disappearing?’, Grrl Scientist, 2019,; ‘The decline of British starlings’, BirdGuides, 2019,; ‘Understanding the Decline of the Common Cuckoo’, British Ornithologists Union, 2018,

For an outstanding account of the sixth extinction, go to: Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, 2014, New York: Picador. Each of the previous five ‘great mass extinctions’ on our planet has been marked by a ‘profound loss of biodiversity’ (pp.6, 16-17).

Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, 2005, London: Grove Atlantic, is now accompanied by a wonderful book of activities for children designed to counter nature deficit disorder: Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, 2016, London: Atlantic Books.

Natural Childhood by Stephen Moss, 2012, commissioned by the National Trust is accessible at:

Details of the 2013 RSPB report are as follows: Connecting with Nature: Finding Out How Connected to Nature the UK’s Children Are. The report is accessible at:

RSPB’s overview of this and succeeding surveys up to 2019, Connection to Nature, is to be found at:

For the programmes, mission and philosophy of Otterhead Forest School, go to:

For the health, educational and psychosocial benefits of nature immersion, see: Stephen Moss, Natural Childhood, National Trust, 2012; Patrick Barkham, Wild Child: Coming Home to Nature, London, Granta, 2020; Isabel Hardman, The Natural Health Service: What the Great Outdoors Can Do for Your Mind, London, Atlantic Books, 2020; Sue Stuart-Smith, The Well Gardened Mind: Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World, London, William Collins, 2020; Rachel Bragg, Carly Wood, Jo Barton and Jules Pretty, Measuring Connection to Nature in Children Aged 8-12, RSPB, 2013, (pp.9–19).

Miles Richardson, David Sheffield, Caroline Harvey and Dominic Petronzi, The Impact of Children’s Connection to Nature, 2015, RSPB.’s_Connection_to_Nature_A_Report_for_the_Royal_Society_for_the_Protection_of_Birds_RSPB.

Guy Shrubsole argues that what I am describing is in fact a vestige of the temperate rainforest that once covered up to one fifth of these isles. See his brilliant 2022 account of their loss and of moves to recover and restore them, The Lost Rainforests of Britain, London: William Collins.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines wonder as ‘a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable or unfamiliar’. A very helpful overview of the notion of wonder, on which I draw, is Ruth Wilson’s ‘Wonder: A Many Splendored Thing’, Community Playthings, 2018:

For the biophilia hypothesis, refer to: Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 1984.

The material from Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder used here is taken from the 1998 Harper Collins edition, pages 56, 66 and 67.

Rachel Carson, 1998, The Sense of Wonder, New York: Harper Collins, (p.94). The quotation taken from Paul Evans’ Field Notes from the Edge: Journeys Through Britain’s Secret Wilderness, London, Rider, 2017, appears on p.86. The words of Robert Macfarlane are taken from ‘Badger or Bulbasaur – have children lost touch with nature? The Guardian, 30 September 2017.

According to local Exmoor legend, Benedictine monks from nearby Dunster planted snowdrops in Snowdrop Valley in the thirteenth century to mark Candlemas. Snowdrops are often to be found in the grounds of old monasteries across these islands. Pre-monastic introduction is also mooted, i.e. that the Romans brought snowdrops to the British Isles from southern Europe or Turkey. Origins are lost in the mists of time. Just as fascinating as speculation on provenance is how what is most likely a non-native plant has been taken to heart and become ‘naturalised’ in both soil and psyche. As touched upon here and there throughout the text, the borderline between native and non-native is exceedingly fuzzy and, especially with climate change, becoming fuzzier (see Chapter 10).

This account of Higher Weston farm educational activities is drawn from the Higher Weston Farm Study Pack, and an interview with Sandy Macfadyen, 28 November 2017. The sound mapping exercise described is taken from Joseph Cornell’s Journey to the Heart of Nature, Nevada City CA, Dawn Publications, 1994.

Robert Macfarlane, Landmarks, London: Hamish Hamilton, 2015, (p.10); Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle, Berkeley CA: Counterpoint Press, (p.41); George Monbiot, ‘If children lose contact with nature they won’t fight for it’, The Guardian, 20 November 2012.

These descriptions of nocturnal nature experience are to be found in the 1998 Harper Collins edition of Rachel Carson’s Sense of Wonder on, inter alia, pages 15, 17, 67, 68, 91, 92, 93.

On the joys of deeply experiencing nature in darkness, read John Lewis-Stemple’s 2022 short book, Nightwalking: Four Journeys into Britain After Dark. London: Doubleday.

Chapter 3

Disaster facts and figures are taken from the EM-DAT International Disaster Database of the Centre for Research on the Epidemology of Disasters – CRED. Recorded disaster events in 2020 numbered 389 involving 15,080 deaths and affecting 98.4 million people. In 2021 there were 407 recorded disaster events killing 18,335 people and affecting 103.5 million people. See:; also,

On synthetic chemical pollution, see: European Environmental Bureau (2020). Towards a Toxic-Free Environment.

On maritime plastic pollution, see: The Ocean Cleanup (no date). The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Also: The National Geographic (2021). The World’s Plastic Pollution Crisis Explained.

On the links between epidemics/pandemics and environmental abuse and wildlife degradation, see: David Selby and Fumiyo Kagawa. (2020). ‘Climate Change and Coronavirus: A confluence of crises’ in Padraig Carmody, Gerard McCann, Clodagh Colleran and Ciara O’Halloran. Eds. COVID‑19 in the Global South. Bristol: Bristol University Press.

For an overview of the multiple-crisis syndrome, see: Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich. (2013). ‘Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?’ Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (p.43).

United Nations General Assembly. (2015). Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015.

UNESCO. (2014). Shaping the Future We Want: UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). Paris: UNESCO.

Clive Hamilton. (2010). Requiem For a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. London: Bloomsbury. (p.33).

On the issue of sustainable development and growth, see: David Selby and Fumiyo Kagawa. (2018). ‘Teetering on the Brink: Subversive and restorative learning in times of climate turmoil and disaster’, Journal of Transformative Education, 13(3), (pp.259–276).

The natural capital defense of nature is, in my view, rank foolhardiness. To surrender the notion of intrinsic value as the ground on which we make our stand in defending nature is an act of appeasement that can only end in everything living or dying according to the yardstick of economic value. Such an approach on the part of environmentalists, says George Monbiot, is ‘morally wrong, intellectually vacuous, emotionally alienating and self-defeating’. George Monbiot. (2018). ‘The UK government wants to put a price on nature – but that will destroy it’, The Guardian, 15 May.

Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry. (1992). The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era – a Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos. New York: Harper. (p.199).

Michael McCarthy. (2015). The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy. London: John Murray. (pp27, 28).

Ibid. (p.245).

Paul Kingsnorth. (2012). ‘Confessions of a recovering environmentalist, Orion Magazine, January/February.

The ideas in this paragraph are in part inspired by George Monbiot’s article, ‘Forget “the environment”: we need new words to convey life’s wonders’, The Guardian, 9 August 2017.

I borrow here from Robert Macfarlane. (2015). Landmarks, London: Hamish Hamilton, (p.25).

I am grateful to my Sustainability Frontiers colleague Fumiyo Kagawa for our discussions on wabi-sabi. She guided me to the 1994 book Japan: Profile of a Nation. Tokyo: Kodansha International.304-5. I was also helped by Tadao Ando’s text What is Wabi-Sabi?

For a review of trends and developments in environmental education on islands around the world, see David Selby & Fumiyo Kagawa. (2018) ‘Archipelagos of Learning: environmental education on islands’, Environmental Conservation, 45(2), (pp.137–146).

Rachel Carson. (1998). The Sense of Wonder. New York: Harper Collins. (p.83.

On geosmin see Jacinti Bowler, ‘Love the Smell of Rain? There’s an Ulterior Motive Behind the Lure of Petrichor’, Science Alert, 7 April 2020.

Gregory Bateson. (1972). Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Chandler.

In writing this account of sustainability corrective sensory learning modalities, I have been deeply inspired by the wonderful article written by Marna Hauk and her students at Prescott College, Arizona: ‘Senses of Wonder in Sustainability Education, for Hope and Sustainability’, The Journal of Sustainability Education, December 2015.

Chapter 4

John Agard’s poem, ‘Inheritance’, is one of nine original poems commissioned by the Royal Society of Arts as part of its Seven Dimensions of Climate Change event series. It was first performed at the RSA in London on 26 May 2015 in an event commissioned by the Climate Change Collaboration.

The linking of clusters of celandine roots with a cure for piles is an example of the doctrine of signatures at work. The doctrine is believed to have originated in the Middle Ages but may well be of more ancient provenance. Drawn upon by early herbalists and folklorists, the idea is that resemblance between a plant part and a particular body part is indicative of the plant possessing curative or alleviative properties relating to the latter. Well-known examples include: walnuts, with their brain-like appearance being used to treat head-related ailments; lungwort with its spotty leaves being used to treat lung infections; eyebright, with it eye-like flowers being used to treat ocular problems. For an interesting account of the doctrine, see Sarah Baldwin, The Doctrine of Signatures: Reading the Signs of Nature available at:

For a fascinating review of Wordsworth’s celandine poems, refer to Lisa Spurgin, ‘Featured Poem: The lesser celandine by William Wordsworth’, The Reader, April 2011, available at:

A useful overview of the record-breaking spring of 2020, with graphs and statistical tables and prepared by Meteorological Office personnel is available on CarbonBrief at:

The violet-feeding fritillary butterflies resident in Devon are: the small pearl-bordered fritillary, the pearl-bordered fritillary, the high brown fritillary, the dark green fritillary, the silver-washed fritillary.

Ash dieback is a fungal disease imported into Europe from parts of China some thirty years ago. Unlike the native ashes of those parts that have existed alongside the fungus and hence developed resistance, the European ash has no natural defences. The disease entered the UK in 2012, probably on imported ash saplings. For further details, go to:

The quotation given is from Nick Clarke, ‘The Green Read: How coronavirus could help us save the planet’, Aljazeera, 15 April 2020. A valuable summary of coronavirus’ environmental effects is provided in the Anthropocene section of the Natural History Museum website: Nature: Liberated by Lockdown? 21 September 2020.

This paragraph draws upon the World Environment Day speech of the United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director, Inger Anderson, where she advocates for nature-based solutions to biodiversity loss, climate change and zoonotic pandemics, solutions that include the preservation of remaining wild spaces, an end to deforestation, reforestation, ecosystem restoration of degraded land and habitat-sensitive agriculture. See her 5 June 2020 speech, It is the time for nature: It also draws on an article by myself and colleague Fumiyo Kagawa. (2020). ‘Climate Change and Coronavirus: A confluence of two emergencies as learning and teaching challenge’ in Policy & Practice: A Development Education Review, vol. 30, Spring. (pp.104–14).

See Michael Blencowe’s post, Wheatear: The arrival of the white-arsed vanguard of summer.

For the Nature’s Calendar database, visit:

Examples in this paragraph are drawn from Patrick Barkham’s 2019 article, ‘Naturalists concerned for early-emerging spring species in UK’, The Guardian, 22 February; the Matthew Oates’ quotation is from Barkham’s 2020 article, ‘UK butterfly season off to unusually early start after sunniest of springs’, The Guardian, 6 June, For the articles go to: and

For the New Year Plant Hunt 2021 and the record of 710 species in bloom, visit:

For an interesting non-formal phenology program for children offered by the Dobies Garden Centre in Kinross, go to:

[1]For Birdlife International’s Spring Alive programme, visit:

For the HEROES 2018 Annual Report with a vivid photo montage of students involved in phenology data gathering, analysis and dissemination, go to:

An account of Pakistan’s Billion Tree Tsunami, is available at: World Economic Forum. (2018). Pakistan has planted over a billion trees. July.

See BBC News. (2019) ‘Ethiopia “breaks” tree planting record to tackle climate change’.

For the Great Green Wall initiative, see: UNEP. (2021). Good news for Africa’s Great Green Wall. Also: UNEP. (2020). The world’s biggest ecosystem restoration project. For the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, visit:

On the Philippines tree-planting law, see: Mashable SE Asia. (2019). Philippines just made it compulsory for students to plant 10 trees if they want to graduate.

Woodland Trust. (2017). A New Northern Forest.

For the Woodland Trust schools programme, go to: Woodland Trust. Plant trees for your school.

Isabella Tree. (2018). ‘We need to bring back the wildwoods of Britain to fight climate change’, The Guardian. 26 November. Isabella’s outstanding book, Rewilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm, elaborates her ideas.

For an excellent account of scrubland in its own right and as precursor of new woodland, go to:

For Mark Cocker’s thoughts on straight-line thinking and excessive concern with tidiness as obstacles to ecological renewal, see his book, Our Place: Can We save Britain’s Wildlife Before It Is Too Late?, 2018, London: Jonathan Cape, (pp.290–295).

For an intriguing account of the reproductive and genetic features of red campion and other campions, read chapter 15, ‘Smutty Campions’, of Dave Goulson’s 2014 book, A Buzz in the Meadow. London: Vintage. (pp.171–184).

John Lane’s Timeless Simplicity, 2015, Totnes, Green Books, offers a persuasive case for living simply and within the carrying capacity of the planet. The quotation comes from page 5. Other essential reading in this regard is: Duane Elgin. (1981). Voluntary Simplicity: Towards a way of life that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich. New York: William Morrow.

The quotation is from Naomi Klein’s wonderful 2021 climate change activist’s handbook, How to Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other. London: Penguin. (p.268).

For Extinction Rebellion in the UK go to:

See Dara McAnulty. (2020). Diary of a Young Naturalist. Ford (Dorset), Little Toller, especially pages 160–1,199, 206.

For Fridays for Future, go to: For the UK Student Climate Network, go to:

For an account of the hedge school movement in Ireland, see:

Some examples taken from the ‘Toolkit for Young Activists’ chapter of Naomi Klein’s activist handbook (see note 26), pp.257–283, while others are taken from ECEE. 2014. Ethical Consumerism in European Education. (pp.24–31).

For ideas linking T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland to the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 to 1920, I have borrowed from: Michael Austin. 2020. Why is April ‘the Cruelest Month’? Eliot’s Masterpiece of Pandemic Poetry. April.

Chapter 5

Officially, International Dawn Chorus Day occurs on the first Sunday of May each year. The day is described as ‘the worldwide celebration of nature’s greatest symphony’. For details, including details of special events go to:

For more on folkloric aspects of elder, visit: Trees for Life: Elder and Every Day Nature Trails, The Elder Tree: Mythology and Folklore

For more on folkloric aspects of hawthorn, visit: The Woodland Trust, Hawthorn.; The Hazel Tree, Hawthorn – Bride of the Hedgerow.;
and, Trees for Life, Hawthorn.

I have mainly relied on two sources for my account of the early history of rewilding in the United States: first, John Davis’ overview of the rewilding movement in his paper Rewilding Distilled. and, second, for Yellowstone, on George Monbiot’s account of the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction, see his excellent 2013 book, Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding, London: Allen Lane. (pp.84–6).

For an excellent account of the Alladale wolf project and wilderness reserve, refer to: Juliana Shallcross. 2019. This Man Wants to Bring Back Scotland’s Wild Past – Starting with Wolves. 28 March. On the threat felt by some farmers and alternative viewpoint see: Cal Flyn. 2020. ‘Landscape of fear: why we need the wolf. The Guardian. 24 November.

For details of lynx reintroduction plans, visit the website of the Lynx UK Trust: See also: ‘Lynx plans drawn up for Argyll and Inverness-shire’. BBC. and:

The Rewilding Britain website offers excellent coverage of the wild boar and other keystone species. Visit:

For the Knepp story a read of Isabella Tree’s 2018 book, Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm (London: Picador) is an absolute must. For the story of Knepp and the purple emperor butterfly, read Matthew Oates’ brilliant book, His Imperial Majesty: A Natural History of the Purple Emperor (London: Bloomsbury). On the return of the white stork, read Isabella Tree. 2019. ‘Storks are back in Britain – and they are a beacon of hope for all of us’, The Guardian. 8 July Also: Amy Hall, White stork – Their heritage in the UK and potential future. Cameron Bespolka Trust.

The large blue is very particular. The butterfly feeds and lays its eggs on wild thyme and marjoram. The caterpillars trick a particular species of red ant into carrying them into their nest, where they turn carnivore and feed on ant grubs until they emerge the next year as butterflies. The red ant requires a well-grazed terrain so as to allow the sunlight to warm their nests. To avoid too much shade, a finely tuned grazing regime is required. In the absence of such a regime life becomes too cold for the cold-blooded ants. See: Jeremy Thomas and Richard Lewington. 2010. The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland. Gillingham: British Wildlife Publishing. (pp.152–7).

For the Great Crane Project, visit:

A spectacular example of whole ecosystem rewilding is WildEast, the initiative of three East Anglian farmers concerned with securing community support for the return to wildlife to 250,000 acres of land. The plan involves asking land stakeholders involved to agree to rewild 20% of their own backyard. Farmers of all sizes, conservation projects, vicars, schools and teachers and industrial estate owners are becoming involved. See: See, also: Patrick Barkham. 2020. ‘Farmers hatch plan to return area the size of Dorset to wild nature’, The Guardian, 14 July

There is an interesting piece on small-scale rewilding in Stephen Moss. 2021. Skylarks with Rosie: A Somerset Spring. Salford: Saraband. (pp.124–6).

A notable example of the corridor approach is Cairngorms Connect, an alliance of landowners driven by the vision of linking contiguous habitats of native valley and montane woodland, wetlands and riverine environments together to enhance ecological balance and processes. See:

For the River Otter Beaver Trial Monitoring Plan, as revised in October 2017, go to:

For Scottish beaver introductions, see Scottish Wildlife Trust. Scottish Beavers.

River Otter Beaver Trial: Science and Evidence Report. 2020. See, also Devon Wildlife Trust Spring 2020. ‘Beavers: what now?’, Wild Devon. (pp.12–17).

Claire Marshall. 2020. Beaver families win legal ‘right to remain’. 6 August.

My colleague, Fumiyo Kagawa, visited Woodland Valley Farm on 20 June 2018, to observe the beavers and interview Chris Jones. Material in this paragraph is taken from her interview notes but also from the Woodland Valley Farm website. The farm offers accommodation and facilitates a range of learning programmes.

Rachel Corby. 2015. Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature. Stroud: Amanita Forest Press, (pp.76–7, p.206).

Mary Reynolds Thompson. 2014. Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore us to Wholeness. Ashland, Oregon: White Cloud Press, xx-xxii.

I acknowledge my indebtedness to Nick Baker for the Yellowstone metaphor, which can be found in his excellent 2017 book, ReWild: The Art of Returning to Nature. London: Aurum Press (see, especially, pp.268–70). For other books on inner rewilding and the relationship between nature rewilding and inner rewilding, see: Marc Bekoff. 2014. Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence. Novato, California: New World Library; Sandra Ingerman & Llyn Roberts. 2015. Speaking with Nature: Awakening to the Deep Wisdom of the Earth. Toronto: Bear & Company; Miles Olson. 2012. Unlearn, Rewild: Earth skills, ideas and inspiration for the future primitive. Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society Publishers.

For a delightful account of ways to reconnect the garden with the wild, with lots of practical ideas, see: David Goulson. 2019. The Garden Jungle or Gardening to Save the Planet. London: Jonathan Cape.

Chapter 6

A word I love and borrow from the German where the noun ‘Duft’ connotes the most sublime and transporting of scents invariably from flowers.

For a brief account of the fortunes of the lady’s-slipper orchid and the protection the remaining native plant is afforded, see Reina Gattuso. 2019. This British Orchid is under Guard in a Secret Location.

For details of the wood white butterfly and its fortunes, see Fox et al. 2015. The State of the UK’s Butterflies: 2015. Wareham Dorset: Butterfly Conservation/Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. (pp. 6, 15,16,17).

Butterfly statistical details taken from the executive report in Fox et al. 2015. The State of the UK’s Butterflies: 2015. Wareham Dorset: Butterfly Conservation/Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. (p.2). [See web link in note 2 above.] See, also: Martin Warren. 2021. Butterflies: A natural history. London: Bloomsbury. (pp.235-242). Moth statistics are taken from the following: Macgregor et al. 2019. ‘Moth biomass has fluctuated over 50 years in Britain but lacks a clear trend’, Nature, Ecology and Evolution, 3, (pp.1645–9); The State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2021. Wareham Dorset: Butterfly Conservation, Rothamsted Research, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. For the moth snowstorm metaphor, see Michael McCarthy. 2015. The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy. London: John Murray. Chapter 1.

For the 2017 and 2019 German insect loss studies, see: Casper Hallman and colleagues. 2017. More than 75% decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PLOS ONE, 12(10).; Sebastian Seibold and colleagues, 2019. ‘Anthropod decline in grasslands and forest is associated with landscape-level drivers’, Nature, 574, (pp.671–674).

Dave Goulson, 2021. ‘The insect apocalypse: “Our world will grind to a halt without them’, The Guardian. 25 July.

For data on skylark population decline, visit the British Trust for Ornithology website at:

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species has a webpage on Threats to our hedgerows at; also a page on Hedgerow Wildlife at Devon County Council advice on healthy hedge maintenance is particularly informative. See:

State of Nature 2019. For the Freshwater Habitats Trust, visit: For details of how amphibians are faring in the UK, visit the Froglife website:

For information on meadow loss and restoration visit the Magnificent Meadows partnership website: For a detailed account of meadow loss since the 1930s read George Peterken’s brilliant tome, Meadows. London: Bloomsbury, especially chapter 14, ‘Loss and Survival’.

Dan Pauly. 1995. ‘Anecdotes and the shifting baseline syndrome of fisheries’, TREE, 10 (10), October, (p.430). For helpful discussions of the shifting baseline syndrome, read: Nick Baker. 2017. Rewild: The Art of Returning to Nature. London: Aurum. (pp.32–3); also, Isabella Tree. 2018. Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm. London: Picador. (pp.147–8).

Where the Wild Things Were Project:

The meaning of ‘speedwell’ is much discussed. As in my text, it can be taken as invocation that your travels will be speedy and safe. This may lie in the plants’ propensity for inhabiting verges of paths and roadways. Speedwells, in particular germander speedwell, have also been seen as being of medicinal value drunk as an infusion. It was reckoned to heal wounds, cleanse the blood, cure gout and clear up respiratory ailments. From a health angle, the meaning may well have connotations of speedy recovery. An alternative name for germander speedwell is bird’s eye speedwell. The name arises from the flowers having the appearance of a white eye peering through blue. See: James Duncan. 2020. Species of the day: Germander Speedwell. Sussex Wildlife Trust. 16 May.

I cannot but repeat my recommendation (see note 9) of George Peterken’s comprehensive, erudite and beautifully illustrated 2013 book, Meadows, published by Bloomsbury Wildlife. The two paragraphs on defining meadows owe much to his work; see, especially, pp. 13–19.

For accounts of Goren Farm go to Great British Life. 2016. A wildflower wonderland in East Devon, 6 June. and About -Goren Farm Seeds.

For the East Devon Grey Long-Eared Bat Project, visit: See also the Back from the Brink site:

For the Plantlife website, go to: I also used data and quotations from the following: Patrick Barkham ‘Flower Power! The movement to bring back Britain’s beautiful meadows’. The Guardian. 28 January 2021.

For descriptions and images of the Nottingham catchfly, go to: For the story of the return of the catchfly to Nottingham Castle, see: ‘Historic Nottingham Catchfly to return to the Castle grounds a century after it disappeared’, Nottingham Post, 2020.

For the Englishman’s or White Man’s Foot, visit the Druid’s Well at:

For children’s versatile usage of ribwort plantain for their games, see Plant-Lore’s website:

For an account of the extreme toxicity of hemlock water dropwort, see: C. Downs et al. 2002. ‘A hemlock water dropwort curry: a case of multiple poisoning. Emergency Medicine Journal, 19(5).

I have drawn from George Peterken’s 2013 book, Meadows, for details of haymaking (see notes 9 and 13), especially chapter 5, ‘Making hay the traditional way’. It should be noted that Peterken makes much of regional variations in how haymaking was carried out, which I am not able to do in the space available.

Information on Damers First School meadow activities taken from Miles King. 2021. National Meadows Day 2021: A Tale of Two Meadows, July 3. For details of the schools eco-learning and harmony program, visit: Edd More. Eco learning at Damers First School.

For Moor Meadows go to:

For the Norfolk Wildlife Trust/Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group meadow restoration scheme, see Patrick Barkham, 2019. ‘Norfolk scheme brings ancient wildlife meadows back to life’. 23 August.

In writing this concluding paragraph, I acknowledge my debt of gratitude to Mark Cocker for his short but oh-so-inspiring 2019 Country Diary piece, ‘The exquisite joy of a meadow full of flowers’, The Guardian, 2 July.

Chapter 7

This lovely poem comes from 30 Days (Time is Now), an anthology of illustrated science and nature poetry written and compiled by Joanna Tilsley, Quantum Press, 2014.

For this and other poems by Scotland-based Vicki Feaver, go to:

For an account of the naming of butterflies and moths that is both scholarly and illuminating, see: Peter Marren. 2019. Emperors, Admirals and Chimney Sweepers: The Weird and Wonderful Names of Butterflies and Moths. Dorset: Little Toller Books.

The abundance of marbled white butterflies I discover in Cliff Meadow in July 2021 could chime with the finding of Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count 2021 that, while butterfly numbers plummeted in the case of many species, the marbled white was one of a few species to buck the trend with a 213% increase in numbers. See:

The pebblebed heathlands of East Devon comprise beds of rounded pebbles mixed with sandstone. Extending north to the Somerset border, they were deposited by a large northward-flowing desert river some 235 million years ago. Deeply buried in the Jurassic period, erosion has since returned them to the soil surface. They are rich in dinosaur fossils. Acidic in quality, they provide an important lowland heath habitat, and now are home to the heath-loving Dartford warbler (Sylvia undata) as it extends its territory.

I have taken Victorian and earlier perceptions of the Nightjar from: Sharpe’s London Magazine, no.50, 10 October 1846, (pp.373–4).

Macfarlane, R. (2011). Introduction. In: Shepherd, N. The Living Mountain. Edinburgh: Canongate, p.xxvi.

For reader-friendly accounts of butterfly and moth metamorphosis, go to: Tibi Puiu. 2018. ‘How caterpillars gruesomely transform into butterflies’, ZME Science.

The principal differences between crickets and grasshoppers concern the length of their antennae, the mechanism they employ for stridulating, i.e. the body parts they rub together to make sound, and when they are active. Crickets have long antennae; grasshoppers have short antennae. Crickets stridulate or ‘sing’ by rubbing their wings together; grasshoppers ‘sing’ by rubbing their hind legs against their wings. Grasshoppers are out during the day while crickets become active at dusk. See Grasshoppers and Crickets. Amateur Entomologists’ Society:

On butterfly symbolism, I cannot recommend highly enough Peter Marren’s 2015 book published by Square Peg, Rainbow Dust: Three Centuries of Delight in British Butterflies, especially his chapter 7 on butterflies and the imagination, pp. 154–74. Other sources: Marina Rose, The Butterfly Effect: Personal Cycles of Transformation, Rebirth and Renewal. 2017., and, on butterfly symbols in art through the ages, Matthew Wilson. 2021. Butterflies: The ultimate icon of our fragility. BBC Culture.

For a discussion of the concept of ‘transformation’ as it applies to education for sustainability and climate change education, see the 2018 article I wrote with colleague, Fumiyo Kagawa: ‘Teetering on the Brink: Subversive and restorative learning in times of climate turmoil and disaster’, Journal of Transformative Education, 16(4), (pp.302–322).

I am indebted to Imaginal Labs for their succinct explanation of the role of imaginal cells in the pupa. See: The Story of Imaginal Cells.

Chapter 8

Sarah Acton became the Jurassic Coast’s poet-in residence in 2017. Visit:

‘Teddies’ are early potatoes. The poem appears in Branscombe is Beautiful, the Poems of Nobby Clarke, 2002, Hartland Press.

Stones with naturally occurring holes, usually but not always flint, are often referred to as hag stones. They are supposed to bring luck to the finder. On hag stones, see: Clive Mitchell. 2022. The Pebble Spotter’s Guide. London; National Trust Books. (p.57).

For further information on the coastal geology of East Devon and Dorset, read Denys Brunsden. 2003. A Walk Through Time: The Official Guide to the Jurassic Coast. Wareham: Coastal Publishing. Useful for walking the area is Devon County Council, Geology in Devon, a free booklet available from Discover Devon:

For an overview of the pros and cons of the Anthropocene concept, read Joseph Stromberg. 2013. ’What is the Anthropocene and are we in it?’, Smithsonian.

Information on plat farming is taken from two sources: Barbara Farquharson & Sue Dymond. 2014. Cliff and Beach at Branscombe. Branscombe: The Brancombe Project; Chips Barber. 2004. Branscombe. Cullompton: Avocet Press

For first-rate guidance on finding the hazel dormouse, visit the dedicated People’s Trust for Endangered Species web link:
Also, visit the Woodland Trust site: For reference to the dormouse in and around Weston Combe, see: The Dormouse Monitor, December 2019, 3.; also read the Sidmouth Herald, December 2020. I am grateful to Louise Woolley, Sidmouth ecological consultant, for her illuminating exposition of the life ways of the dormouse during a 17 August 2021 bat detection expedition she led into Weston Combe.

For an interesting discussion of the naming of broomrapes, see: In Defense of Plants, 2017, Broomrape: What’s in a Name?

The Countryfile Magazine offers an excellent guide to rockpooling, namely a Guide to Rockpooling, 2020 a Rockpool Identification Guide, 2018:

The Cambridge University Department of Zoology provides an excellent abstract overviewing the latest (2020) research into the amazing adhesive mechanisms of limpets. See ‘Stick like a limpet? It’s all in the mucus’:

For Dorset Marine Conservation Zones and marine Sites of Special Scientific Interest, go to: Dorset Wildlife Trust, 2022, Marine Protected Areas. For information on Highly Protected Marine Areas, go to: JNCC, Highly Protected Marine Areas. For the Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve, visit:

For more on the amazing species to be found in Devon and Dorset coastal waters, go to: Dorset’s Marine Protected Areas. and also Devon Wildlife Trust, Beneath the waves.

Community of Arran Seabed Trust. 2021. Coast Winter News (winter season newsletter).

The discussion of COAST draws upon my interview with Paul Chandler, then Executive Director of COAST, on 11 October 2018 and Sustainability Frontiers colleague Fumiyo Kagawa’s interview with Manuela de los Rios, then Communications and Administrative Officer, on 13 September 2017. It also uses data from the COAST website,, and the quarterly (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) COAST newsletter since 2019. For the Marine Society ‘Great British Beach Clean’, go to: On the Arran No Take zone, in particular, and the effectiveness of MPAs in general, see Mattha Busby, 2020. ‘How a no-take zone revived a Scottish fishery devastated by dredgers’, The Guardian. 25 February.

On the notion of being a ‘good ancestor’, the following text is recommended: Roman Krznaric. 2020. The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World. London: Penguin Random House.

In writing this section I have been much inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s contribution to the Facing the Anthropocene Series, 4 March 2021 available at:  For the seventh generation notion also go to the indigenous blog, What is the Seventh Generation Principle? 30 May 2020: For the notion of the 200-year present, see: Paul Saffo, 2010, Elise Boulding on the “200-year present”: For the learning activity ‘Inventing the Future (Backwards)’, see Graham Pike & David Selby.1999. In the Global Classroom 1. Toronto: Pippin.(pp. 233–4).

Chapter 9

The poem ‘Farming Is Not an Industry’ is to be found in the regular e-diary of Hilary Peters, Dispatches from the Counter-Revolution. Hilary Peters campaigned against intensive farming as unsustainable. See: for the poem, and to find the complete list of her dispatches fighting back against the industrial model, visit:

The name Lady-jump-out-of-bed derives from the old children’s game of squeezing the calyx and so forcing the corolla to jump out, a practice accompanied by a vernacular chant. See:

The German name, Muttergottesgläschen, ‘Little Glass of the Mother of God’ has Christian folkloric roots, its usage confirmed by figuring in fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.
See: ‘Marian’ refers to anything relating to the Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic religion.

For an account of the curlew and its decline that is at one and the same time evocative, deeply moving and inspirational, see: Mary Colwell. 2018. Curlew Moon. London: William Collins.

A most useful account of the pros and cons of hedge management for Devon is provided in Devon Hedge Management 3: Trimming available at:

For the East Devon Grey Long-Eared Bat Project visit the following website: The project is part of a bigger East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty project, Saving Special Species, that is bent upon protecting eight threatened species that have a special connection with East Devon: the brown hairstreak butterfly; the grey long-eared bat; Bechstein’s bat; the greater horseshoe bat; heath lobelia; the Devon whitebeam; the pearl bordered and small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies. For the Saving Special Species Project go to:

For nature in general on the Golden Cap Estate, see: Wildlife on the Golden Cap Estate in Dorset, National Trust.

For bats on the Estate in particular, go to: ‘Bat surveys record some of Britain’s rarest bats at Golden Cap, Dorset’, Bridport Life and Times.

This account of bat natural history together with the description of the 17 September 2020 ‘Bats about Bats’ walk at Stonebarrow is derived from transcriptions of inputs given by the walk guides, added to which are insights from Louise Woolley as she led a Sustainability Frontiers bat detection expedition down Weston Combe on the evening of 17 August 2021. Information was also drawn from the magnificent volume, Bats of Britain and Europe written by Christian Dietz and Andreas Kiefer and published in English translation by Bloomsbury Wildlife in 2018.

For Farm Wildlife’s advice on retaining winter stubble, visit:

For farmland bird population decline, see Isabella Tree (2018). Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm. London: Picador, especially, pp. 5, 120. For an excellent account of stubble and farmland birds, see: Moorcraft, D., Whittingham, M.J., Bradbury, R.B., and Wison, J.D. (2002). ‘The selection of stubble fields by wintering granivorous birds reflects vegetation cover and food abundance’ Journal of Applied Ecology, 39, (pp.535–547):

See also the FarmWildlife website on ‘Winter stubbles’:

It is believed that the new food plants became attractive to the brown argus when the sites where they grew became warmer with the onset of climate heating. On this matter, see: Jeremy Thomas. 2010. The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland, Dorset: British Wildlife Publishing. (p.127).

For details of Farm Wildlife, see:

On the change in cirl bunting fortunes, see: Kathryn Smith. 2021. ‘Saving the cirl bunting from extinction in the UK’. FarmWildlife. This document contains the Farm Wildlife ‘six key actions’. See, also: ‘Cirl Bunting continues stunning comeback. Rare Bird Alert.

For more about the special vision of the kestrel (and other birds), see:

For a summary account of sociocracy, see: Ted J. Rau. 2018. ‘Sociocracy: The Movement. Enlivening Edge Magazine. January 20.

For case studies of sociocracy in action, including its use by several environmental organizations, visit Sociocracia Practica, Case studies of sociocracy,

IMBY describes agro-ecology as follows: ‘using ecosystem principles to work with nature, rather than against it; this includes various methods – cover crops, companion planting, green manures, manures. Essentially, it involves applying ecology to agriculture, rather than using chemicals (as in) intensive industrial agriculture (i.e. biology not chemistry)’. The IMBY definition of biodynamic farming is as follows: ‘A system of farming that follows a sustainable, holistic approach which uses only organic, usually locally sourced materials for fertilizing and soil conditioning, views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem and often bases farming activities on lunar and other astronomical cycles’. For IMBY, regenerative farming refers to regenerating the soil by encouraging ‘the soil’s natural biological and mineral systems to flourish, leading to richer, more productive soil and an environment in which people, crops, farm animals and wildlife can all thrive’. For further information go to: the Soil Association website:; the Biodynamic Association website:; and the Regeneration International website:

This section draws upon material transcribed from a virtual interview with Laura Williams, IMBY, held on 25 September 2021.

Chapter 10

For details of the painted lady discoveries made by scientists at the University of York working in partnership with Butterfly Conservation, other organisations and citizen scientists, go to: Painted Lady migration secrets unveiled, University of York, See also British Ecological Society, 2018, Painted lady’s roundtrip migratory flight is longest recorded in butterflies, The Butterfly Conservation quotation is taken from the first source listed here and is attributed to Richard Fox, Surveys Manager.

Information on the silver Y drawn from: Ray Cannon. 2018. EU migrants: Influx of Silver Y moths.

Gilbert White. 1977: original published 1788–9. The Natural History of Selborne, ed. Richard Mabey. London: Penguin Books. See, especially, pages 32, 39, 63, 89 and 138.

On Christian orthodoxy concerning unchanging nature, see: Sonia Shah. 2021. The Next Great Migration: The Story of Movement on a Changing Planet. London: Bloomsbury. (p.82).

Flora Thompson. 1978. Lark Rise to Candleford. London: Penguin (originally published 1945).

This passage draws from my critique of mechanism, ‘Reaching into the holomovement: a Bohemian perspective on social learning for sustainability’ in Arjen Wals. ed. 2007. Social Learning Towards a Sustainable World. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic. (pp.165–180).

For a marvellously told account of the swallow in migration and its time in southern Africa, read: Stephen Moss. 2020. The Swallow: A Biography. London: Square Peg.

For the EU Birds Directive, 1979, visit:

The Birdlife International 2015 report, The Killing, can be downloaded from: while a Guardian summary is available at:

N.B. The landing pages for both the above links contain images that may be distressing to some readers. For the 2016 European Wilderness Society piece by Karin Eckhard, go to:

World Migratory Bird Day in fact covers two days, one set in the time of spring migration, one during the autumn migration period. The dates vary from year to year. For details go to:

See: ’Swallows opt out of migration’, 11 March 2022. Birdguides.; and Kieran Lawrence Clive Barlow, Keith Densusan, Charles Perez & Stephen Willis. 2021. ‘Phenological trends in the pre- and post-breeding migration of long-distance migratory birds’, Global Change Biology, 20:2, (pp.375–389).

For the Islay Sustainable Goose Management Strategy 2014-2024, go to:

Listen to Karine Polwart. 2017. A Pocket of Wind Resistance. Hudson Records, and see her accompanying booklet, Wind Resistance. 2017. London: Faber and Faber.

Ragwort is a much maligned and much persecuted plant. An important food plant supporting 133 species and reckoned to be the seventh most important nectaring source for insects, it has been the object of a persistent campaign for its extirpation based upon exaggerated and unconfirmed reports of horse poisoning deaths arising from eating the plant. The eradication campaign has had a knock-on effect on dependent wildlife. For an account offering a pro and con assessment of the facts, go to Ragwort Facts – a UK Scientific Perspective.

For details of northbound butterflies reaching Scotland, go to: Madeleine Cuff. 2020. ‘Warmer summers lure more butterflies to Scotland. 9 October. For an Islay butterfly synoptic list, consult the Islay Natural History Trust’s Checklist of the Butterflies and Dragonflies of Islay.

On birds being pushed north by global heating, see Patrick Barkham. 2022. ‘Rare birds’ arrival an “unmissable sign” climate emergency has reached Britain.’ The Guardian. 17 June. On the arrival of the European bee-eater as indication of climate change, refer to Stephen Moss. 2022. ‘Weatherwatch: arrival of bee-eater is worrying sign of climate crisis’. The Guardian. 21 July.

On the fate of the mountain ringlet, see: Stephen Moss. 2021. ‘How climate crisis made my British butterfly hunt a race against time’. 1 August.

On the fate of the dotterel, see Graham Appleton. 2020. Scotland’s Dotterel: still hanging on. 30 April.

On invasive plants read the 22 December 2021 blog Alien invaders or home-grown thugs? The impact of invasive species on our ecosystems. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

For the tens rule, see Mark Williamson and Alastair Fitter. 1996. ‘The varying success of invaders’, Ecology, 77(6) (pp.1661–1666). .

The tens rule is contested. For a critique, see: Ivan Jaric and Gorcin Cvijanovic. 2012. ‘The Tens Rule in Invasion Biology: Measure of True Impact or Our Lack of Knowledge and Understanding? Environmental Management, 50(6).

I have been much influenced in these few paragraphs by the writing of Sonia Shah. See her 2020 paper ‘Native Species or Invasive? The Distinction Blurs as the World Warms’, Yale Environment 360, April. Another recommended read is her 2020 book The Next Great Migration: The Story of Movement on a Changing Planet. London: Bloomsbury.

Chapter 11

In Europe this statement stands true but in North America and elsewhere, the wax cap or ‘waxy cap’ tends to be found in woodland or meadows transitioning into woodland.

For further information on Golden Cap, see: These paragraphs have also drawn on Waxcaps and Grassland Fungi: A guide to identification and management made available by Plantlife:

A further rich source on waxcaps is the Waxcap Website of the University of Wales at Aberystwyth:

For details of the River Witham Circular trail, North Hykeham, near Lincoln, go to:

The passage quoted from Lev Parikian is taken from his description of his visit to the natural places of his childhood that appears in his 2020 book, Into the Tangled Bank, London: Elliot and Thompson. (pp.126–8).

Glenn Albrecht uses the term, solastalgia, to catch the idea of nostalgia for place when one is in that place but when it has been subject to environmental change. See: Glenn Albrecht et al, (2007) ‘Solastalgia: The distress caused by environmental change’, Australasian Psychiatry, 15(1). S95–8.

In what follows, I have been much influenced by Sally Weintrobe’s magnificent 2021 book, Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis, London: Bloomsbury Academic, especially pages 235–244. Another source of great help and illumination has been her edited tome, Engaging with Climate Change: Psychoanalytical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Hove: Routledge. I thank Peter Darch for bringing my attention to Sally’s work.

For the full ‘You Call it Eco-Trauma’ poem by Mia Nelson and her success in the 2021 Climate Crisis and You challenge on the Young Poets Network, go to:

Eco-shame should be distinguished from eco-shaming, a response to destruction of nature involving shaming of the perpetrators, a strategy judiciously used in environmental activism. See Elaine Thelen. 2019. ‘Eco-shaming is on the rise, but does it work?’ in Future of the Environment. World Economic Forum. July 18.

On the rooting out of urban trees and pursuant campaign, see: ‘Sheffield tree massacre: How locals battled to protect Europe’s greenest city’, Independent.

On the outrage caused by the netting of supermarket roofs see, for example,

For the 2020 survey of adult US citizens see: Matthew Schneider-Mayerson & Leong Kit Ling. 2020. ‘Eco-reproductive concerns in the age of climate change’, Climate Change, 163, (pp.1007–1023). For the BirthStrike movement, see: Elle Hunt. 2019. ‘BirthStrikers: meet the women who refuse to have children until climate change ends’, The Guardian. 19 March.

See Caroline Hickman et al. 2021. ‘Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey’. The Lancet Planetary Health. 5(12). December. e863-e873.

For radical climate change responses see: Timon McPherson, Christopher Raymond, Natalie Gulsrud et al. 2021. ‘Radical changes are needed for transformations to a good Anthropocene’, Urban Sustainability, 5, February:

For what is called climate change denialism, see: Sally Weintrobe. 2021. Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis. London: Bloomsbury Academic, especially pages 138–143.

Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone. 2012. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going crazy. Novato California: New World Library. The stack of books and articles also informing our conversation included: Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams. 2021. The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for an Endangered Planet. London: Viking; Byron Williston. 2012. ‘Climate Change and Radical Hope’, Ethics & The Environment, 17(2).(pp.165–186); Catriona McKinnon. 2014. ‘Climate Change Against Despair’, Ethics & The Environment, 19(1). (pp.31–48); Maria Ojala. 2016. ‘Facing Anxiety in Climate Change Education: From Therapeutic Practice to Hopeful Transgressive Learning’, Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 21. (pp.41–52); Elin Kelsey. 2016. ‘Propagating Collective Hope in the Midst of Environmental Doom and Gloom’, Canadian Journal of Environmental Education. 21. (pp.23–40); Maria Ojala. 2017. ‘Hope and Anticipation in Education for a Sustainable Future’, Futures, 94, (pp.76–84); Panu Pihkala. 2017. ‘Environmental Education after Sustainability: Hope in the Midst of Tragedy’, Global Discourse’. 7(1). (pp.109–127); my 2018 co-written article with colleague Fumiyo Kagawa: ‘Teetering on the Brink: Subversive and Restorative Learning in Times of Climate Turmoil and Disaster’, Journal of Transformative Education, 16(4). (pp.302–322).

On symbolic meanings attached to barn owls, see, for instance: Symbolism and Metaphor. 2020. Barn Owl Symbolism and Meaning. November. Also: Bird Watching USA. 2022. Barn Owl Symbolism & Meaning: Are they good or bad luck? See further: Jamie Sands & David Carson. 1988. Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Bear. (pp.121–2).

Martin Seligman.1992. Learned Optimism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. (p.292).

This passage draws heavily on the 2018 article I wrote with Fumiyo Kagawa: ‘Teetering on the Brink: Subversive and Restorative Learning in Times of Climate Turmoil and Disaster’, Journal of Transformative Education, 16(4). (pp.302–322).

On futures learning activities, see, for instance, my 1999 handbook with Graham Pike. In the Global Classroom 1. Toronto: Pippin Publishing. (pp.217–247). See also: David Hicks. 2014. Educating for Hope in Troubled Times: Climate Change and the Transition to a Post-Carbon Future. London: Trentham Books. For the Council of All Beings in particular, see John Seed, Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming & Arne Naess.1988. Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings. London: Heretic Books.

Chapter 12

Sources on mistletoe and the rituals and folklore surrounding the plant are as follows: Icy Sedgwick. 2019. What strange folklore lies behind mistletoe and Christmas?; Megan Shersby. Mistletoe guide: how it survives on other plants, and folklore associated with it.; Roger Di Silvestro. 2019. 12 Things to Know about Mistletoe. National Wildlife Federation. ‘Witches’ broom’ is also popularly used to describe a tree deformity marked by an abnormal brush-like, densely branched cluster of weakened shoots affecting a number of trees.

For folklore and ritual surrounding holly, see: Trees for Life. Holly Mythology and Folklore. For folklore surrounding ivy, go to: Linda Crampton. 2022. English Ivy Symbolism, Traditions and Mythology. Owlcation. June.

For traditionally played midwinter carols with a strong nature orientation, listen to Sneak’s Noyse, Christmas Now is Drawing Near. Saydisc – Cd-SDL 371, 1988. Also: Magpie Lane. 1995. Wassail! Country Christmas. Beautiful Joe Records 541; Barry Coope et al. 2003. Fire and Sleet and Candlelight. No Masters Cooperative NMCD21.

The inspiration behind many of these observations, and indeed what I write subsequently about winter solstice rituals, is John Matthews’ wonderful 1998 book, The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas. London: Thorsons. See, especially pages 76–112 (for Yule traditions, pp.98–9 and 104–5). The St Barbara’s Branch ritual has been and largely remains a German, Central and Eastern custom, but John Matthews references similar English customs revolving round midwinter flowering branches (pp.78–9). The National Trust is endeavouring to revive the wassail. For its Join in with the annual wassail guide visit:

My understanding of ritual is much influenced by Casper ter Kuile’s fine 2020 volume, The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices. London: HarperCollins UK. See also Gavin Lamb. 2020. Reinventing Old Rituals for Modern Times to Reconnect with the Natural World.

For Basho, see Marjorie Buettner. 2009. ‘The Return Message: A Pilgrim’s Way of Longing’, Modern Haiku 40(1). For Emerson’s ‘The Undersong’, go to:

For a very useful overview of forest bathing and its benefits, visit: Harriet Sherwood. 2019. ‘Getting back to nature: how forest bathing can make us feel better’, The Observer. Forestry England offers a good guide to forest bathing. See:

I am deeply indebted to my friend and colleague Peter Darch for sharing with me his account of his sacred place experiences.

Some of the ideas in this paragraph are borrowed from Sarah Scarborough. 2020. Ritual: Five Daily Rituals from Finland for Connecting to Nature and Increasing Your Life Force! November.

For a guide to winter solstice rituals and celebratory activities, see John Matthews. 1998. The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas. London: Thorsons. (pp.239–41).

There are a number of learning activity sources for celebrating the spring equinox. These include: Vivianne Crowley. 2022. How to Celebrate the Spring Equinox: According to a Wiccan High Priestess. British Vogue, 16 March.; Cathy James. 2023. Activities to celebrate the Spring Equinox with children. NurureStore. 20 March.

On Beltane activities, visit: Lucy Corkill. 2019. 5 ways to celebrate Beltane. The Green Parent. 23 April. On the Green Man refer to: John Matthews. 2002. The Green Man: Spirit of Nature. Boston MA: Red Wheel.

On summer solstice activities, go to: Christina Millikin & Glenn Carreau. 2022. How to Celebrate the Summer Solstice. wikiHow. 27 June.

For Lammas celebrations and rituals see Tiny Ritual. 2019. 6 Ways to Celebrate Lammas. July 29.

Helpful here is Barbi Gardiner. 2022. 10 Powerful Rituals for Autumn Equinox: Celebrating the End of Summer. Outdoor Apothecary. 19 September

An excellent account of Samhain with copious suggestions for activities to undertake is to be found in: Selena Fox. Undated. Celebrating Samhain. Circle Sanctuary.

In writing these paragraphs on the wheel of the year, I have drawn considerably on the following: Kenneth Meadows. 1996. Earth Medicine: Revealing Hidden Teachings of the Native American Medicine Wheel. Rockport MA: Element Books. See, especially, pages 31–42 and 252–267.

‘Moth snowstorm’ is Michael McCarthy’s description of the onetime abundance of moths in his youth, an abundance best seen in car headlights at night. See his wonderful 2015 book, The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy. London: John Murray.

On the winter moth and climate-induced asynchrony, see: Buse, A. et al. 2002. ‘Effects of elevated temperature on multi-species interactions: the case of Pedunculate Oak, Winter Moths and Tits’, Functional Ecology.; Netherlands Institute of Ecology. 2007. Winter Moths Prove Able to Adjust to Climate Change.  For an account of the moth, visit: Dominic Couzens. 2021. ‘Country diary: Winter moths have the best and wildest party of all. The Guardian. 31 December.

On mourning for nature, see Sofia Quaglia. 2022. ‘Glacier grief: how funerals and rituals can help us mourn the loss of nature’, The Guardian. 10 October. On Eden Portland, visit:

World Rivers Day:; Sustainability Day:; International Mountain Day:

For World Wetlands Day, go to:

For the International Day of Forests, visit:

For Earth Day, visit:

For World Biodiversity day: visit:

For World Environment Day, see:

For National Hedgerow Week, see:

For the Big Garden Birdwatch, visit:; for the Big Butterfly Count, see:

A very useful calendar of environmental awareness dates is offered by the organization, Green Dreamer. Visit:

How to Format a Paperback Novel for the UK Market

Using Word to Format a Paperback – UK

I make a part of my income from formatting novels for other writers, so obviously it would be madness to give away the secrets of how I do that, right?

Well, maybe that is actually wrong. Some people have time but no money, others have money but no time. If you are one of the latter, and you want your novel formatted just reach out to me and I will do a professional job for you at a reasonable rate.

If on the other hand, you are time rich money poor, then below is the secret laid out for you in full detail. It’s my first final draft (We all know what a first final draft is, right? It’s the one you think is perfect but it isn’t really) so if you spot any mistakes, or if it raises more questions than answers, please tell me.

And just like how some restaurants will supply the recipes for their signature dishes, safe in the knowledge that many customers would sooner leave it to the professionals, I am happy to let you see how I do what I do. If nothing else, some of you might appreciate why my charges are actually a little on the cheap side.

How To Format a Novel in Word

Okay, here’s the link you need. This is a .DOCX file so it is only going to be useful to people using Word 2013 or later. Also, your computer will warn you not to open it unless you are sure it’s from a safe source. I can only tell you, there is nothing sinister in there and you are just going to have to trust me. I can’t prove a thing. But most people coming here probably already know me, so that’s cool.


This file is set up exactly like a novel with the correct page size and general layout conventions. In addition, instead of consisting of generic lorem ipsum and Insert Title Here, text, the document itself is a step-by-step instruction manual for how to tweak and adjust the settings to suit your own personal aesthetic preferences.

When you open it, I recommend you save a copy with the title of your novel, and then set about dropping your text into place while keeping the original version to check back in case you did anything wrong.



The Bright Orange Swimming Hat – Audio

I have been meaning to get my act together a bit more towards producing audiobooks of some of the Blue Poppy ouvre. As you may or may not already know, The Cream of Devon – an anthology of short stories from the county that rhymes with heaven, is Blue Poppy Publishing’s first official foray into traditional publishing, so it seemed like a good place to start. It comes with the added bonus that it is easier to produce a finished recording of a short story than an entire novel.

This is the first story which has been recorded so far andFront cover of The Cream of Devon book. I offer it to you free in the sincere hope that you will tell me what you think of it and, if you like it, tell others.

The voice work was done by Sarah Kingdon-Ward who, apart from being a talented actor, happens to be my sister so she did it as a favour. I therefore owe her a debt of sorts which I can perhaps repay in the short term by showcasing her talents as a voiceover artist to anyone else who wants an audiobook done. SFX added by me in post production.


The Bright Orange Swimming Hat – By Irene Sugden, from the book The Cream of Devon.

Short Story Competition – Results

Announcing the Winner and Runners up of the World’s Least Prestigious Writing Competition.

I do love a bit of false modesty. For a long time I described Blue Poppy Publishing as “The World’s Smallest Publishing Company”.  As time went on, I had to change that to “Devon’s Smallest Publishing Company”, but now I think I am correct in saying that it is not even “Ilfracombe’s Smallest Publishing Company”.  However, a writing competition that I ran attracted just 23 entries. It was limited to entrants from Devon and the stories had to be set in Devon. As such, I think it is not going to threaten any of the global contests that take place.

Nevertheless, lack of quantity does not mean that the quality was not good, because it was. We had some brilliant stories and these will be part of an anthology to be published later in the year. They will be joined by a few more stories that have been submitted since the contest ended to make it a good sized book.

But WHO WON? I hear you ask.

OK – without further ado. The winner was Colin Smith with Stand and Deliver, a comedic story about a temporally misplaced highwayman holding up vehicles along the North Devon link road and around barnstaple. Colin is a stalwart of writing groups in South Molton and Barnstaple, and has been included in several other anthologies including “Mystery Magic and Mayhem

There were then five runners up by four writers which were all so close together that I decided to award the remaining £250 in equal portions.

So that meant a completely new writer Jade Ruby won £100 for two of her entries which got into the top six.

And the remaining three prizes of £50 each went to Jane Bheemah, Lalla Merlin, and Alex Morrison.

Well done to everyone who entered. Now to get to work on producing the anthology.

Three Good Ways of Publishing – Self-Publishing – Assisted (Not Vanity) Publishing – and Traditional Publishing

OK, I think I am ready to write this. As ever, please excuse the odd typo, the books are professionally edited, but the website isn’t.

What’s the Difference Between Traditional Publishing, and Self-Publishing?

What, in terms of what actually happens, is the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing?

And what is the difference between assisted self-publishing and vanity publishing?

You could be forgiven for thinking that traditional publishing is the Holy Grail. But just getting a publishing deal does not mean you have “arrived” and you are by no means guaranteed to be rich. Far from it. Nor will you be immune to having to do a lot of hard work.

You may have decided that self-publishing is the route for you. You can’t face the rejection process, you’re not a TV celebrity, or you just can’t wait around to see your book in print. I did, and I don’t regret it. But boy did I make a lot of mistakes along the way. I still am making them!

Or you may want to have the creative control of self-publishing, without all the stress of having to learn every stage of the process. Getting experienced professionals to handle the production and distribution, while you focus on the fun stuff like writing the book and selling copies to friends and family.

Each of these routes is a viable way into print and each has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Of these, the one I admit to knowing the least about is traditional publishing. However, here’s what I do know.

Benefits of traditional publishing

The first andmost obvious benefit is, cachet or kudos. You have goen through a fierce selection process, some would call it a rejection process, and come out at the end a winner. You have run the guantlet of agents and comissioning editors, partial requests, full requests, and publishing deal offers, and you made it to the end. Hands clasped and raised in victory, you dance the happy dance of the published author.

Traditionally published authors do not have to find an editor, or a typsetter, or a cover designer. They don’t have to find the best price for printing, or worry about how many books to print. The publisher takes care of all that.

Trad authors don’t have to produce a marketing plan, or an AI sheet, or send out ARCS, or handle distribution, or stand in freezing market halls to sell their books. They get given a few free copies of their book when it is printed. They will even sometimes receive copies of the book in French or German or Japanese, if it does well.

Trad authors GET PAID up front. It’s not always very much. In some cases, especialy with very small presses, the payment is zero. But, unlike musicians signign record deals, they are not asked to pay any of that money back even if the book doesn’t sell. That’s a risk the publisher takes.

Drawbacks of Traditional Publishing

You don’t have much, if any, artistic control once you have signed over the rights. You may well still own the copyright, but the publisher can edit the MS, they have final say on the cover art, and the blurb, and how the book is marketed. Everything. If you write historical fiction, a publisher may not care as much as you do about anachronisms. That Edwardian dress on the cover of your Regency set novel may make you scream, but you can’t do a thing about it.

Although you don’t have to produce a marketing plan, you will still be required to attend events, book signings, etc. as part of the marketing plan that the publisher has made. They may assign you a member of their team to liase, but you are not off the hook completely.

You do get paid up front but, unless you’ve got a fantastic reputation, it won’t be much, and the subsequent royalties can be as low as 1.5% on rrp. One million books at £10 each would still give you £150,000 at that rate, but don’t count on selling that many books. It is staggeringly unlikely. I believe (though I may be wrong) that about 5% is the upper end of royalty rates for trad authors.

Benefits of Self-Publishing

Self-publishers have complete artistic control at all times. They get to chose their editor, they can play around with the layout until they are happy with it, they get to decide on the cover art, either doing it themselves, or engaging a cover designer, and they can write their own blurb.

Self-publishing authors can make a much bigger royalty on their own books. even using PoD (print on demand) like KDP and IngramSpark, you can earn about 10%-50% per book sold, and there are few or no up-front costs involved. (IngramSpark has a set-up cost per book. This can be eliminated with ALLi membership* using a spceial discount code.) *Affiliate link

When it comes to printing, you should be able to print a B&W paperback novel that would retail for £10 for about £2-£4 each on runs as low as 100-300, so you can expect 50%-80% profit – that’s your royalty rate!

You can produce a Kindle edition (and other ebooks formats for other platforms if you want to) and make extra money there for zero outlay.

Drawbacks of Self-Publishing

You won’t get rich; you may even lose money.

Having that artistic control means you have to learn all these skills of layout, design, editing, etc. Or risk producing a very poor quality unprofessional book that will embarrass you for years to come. I speak from experience!

You are paying for everything! So if you engage professionals, e.g. editor, graphic designer, cover atist, etc. it is going to cost you up front. Most self-publishing writers who make money from their work spend several thousand pounds on production. Thos who do not, usually don’t sell many books beyond their immediate circle of friends and family.

You have to decide on the print run. If you print more books they cost less per book to print. But if you print too many you could end up with boxes of unsold books that you paid for.

Low volumes. You are unlikely to sell more than about 300 physical copies of your self-published book. Any more than that puts you firmly into bestseller territory. You will need that exxtra income per book to cover your set-up costs.

Benefits of Assisted Self-Publishing

First, let’s be clear, this does not include “Vanity publishing” which often describes itself as assisted self-publishing.

Here is the difference as I see it, and I do have skin in this game so you don’t HAVE to trust me if you don’t want to.

Vanity publishers; take control of distribution, and they own your rights for a fixed period. They charge an up-front fee to you for production costs and printing costs that is typically several thousand pounds, and the deal allows you a small number, perhaps twelve or twenty, of author copies. You may also buy copies at a special author rate. That is to say, you are being permitted to buy copies of the book that YOU paid to have printed. Some of these companies are worse than others. The worst of these are flagged up in ALLi’s free Self-Publishing Advice website. (We’re too small to even get a rating).

Assisted Self-Publishing; is similar to self-publishing, in that you retain control and you still pay for everything. However, you also still own your books. Blue Poppy Publishing is that type of business. When an author has paid to have 100 or 300 or 1,000 books printed, they OWN those books. Blue Poppy stores them and handles distribution for as long as they want them to. If they decide to take over, they can claim all their remaining stock back.

Assisted self-publishing gives you the cachet of having a publisher. Most people don’t know the differnce between a self-publishing imprint and a traditional publisher. The Blue Poppy Publishing name, and logo combined with the quality production, makes you look like a proper published author.

You don’t have to handle distribution. Blue Poppy provides an ISBN, sends off the legal deposit books, and handles distribution through Nielsen and the wholesaler gardners. Shops can, in theory, order your book.

You are still free to produce a KDP edition, etc. If you want to sell the ebook on Amazon, you can set that up yourself alongside the print run. (though there’s a lot to be said for waiting until the print run is almost sold out before putting the book on Amazon. Local bookshops like the exclusivity.

Drawbacks of Assited Self-Publishing

The biggest drawback is if you mistake a dodgy vanity publisher for something like Blue Poppy. There are loads of small publishers like me springing up. I’m sure that all have come up with a similar idea independently because its time has come. Just be sure to check the terms of the arrangement. I don’t provide a contract, but I do explain the deal clearly to anyone who asks. Also, and I may be unique in this particular thing, I never take any money from anyone until my job is done and we are ready to go to print.

The other drawbacks are similar to those of self-publishing. Low volumes, high up front costs and the need for you to do a lot of hard work on marketing. Expect to sell 100-300 copies of your book, mostly to friends and family. The best will do better because of word of mouth, but nothing isguaranteed. You will probably lose money, but by avoiding some of the more costly errors, hopefully, the risk of losing money will be reduced.

Short Story Competition – Short List

It has been an interesting exercise running this competition. I have learned a lot and will probably do something similar again with a few changes to reflect lessons learned.

We didn’t get an overwhelming number of entries and I posted a, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, long list a little while ago consisting of everyone who entered.

We then had a delay with the judging due to unforseen circumstances, but we do now have all the marks in.

However, I am going to keep everyone in suspenders just a little longer while I have another read through myself, and seek opinions from one last casting judge, because it is pretty tight at the top.

The winner of the £250 first prize will, however, be one of the following people, listed in alphabetical order by surname.

  • Jane Bheemah
  • Lalla Merlin
  • Alex Morrison
  • Jade Ruby
  • Colin Smith


Short Story Competition – Long List

At the start of the year, I decided to run a short story competition. This was a very new experience for me and yet another major learning curve.

I got everything set up and I started letting people know. I did limit the entries to writers in Devon. That’s because when I do the anthology of the best entries, I wanted to be able to deal directly with the authors without driving all over the country.

I also had a specific theme that the stories had to be set in or strongly connected with Devon. This is because with my business firmly rooted here, I find that books with local interest sell best.

Anyway, thanks to those restrictions, and having a zero budget for advertising, we didn’t get very many entries. So therefore, I am going to announce a longlist of entrants right now which will just be the names of all the writers who entered. Some entered multiple entries.

As with many things, a very poor start will not stop me from growing and improving, and the following writers can count themselves in with a very good chance of being the lucky winner of £250

So, in alpahebetical order of surname.

  • Val Allsup
  • Susan Barrett
  • Anne Beer
  • Ralph Bell-Ley
  • Caroline Berry
  • Jane Bheemah
  • Darren Colwill
  • Nathalie Denzey
  • Shiela Golding
  • Ella Hobson
  • Katie Mallett
  • Damien Mansfield
  • Lalla Merlin
  • Alex Morrison
  • Jade Ruby
  • Colin Smith
  • Irene Sugden
  • Pamela Vass

The judging will now commence. I’m sorry but I don’t have a definite date for when I will announce a shortlist or a winner yet as I honestly don’t know what to expect of the judges.

In future years I will probably know a lot more and there will be a lot more entries too. Meanwhile you will just have to trust me that something is going on in the background.


Martha Kingdon Ward – Diary for 1946 – up to 11th Jan

N.B. Any text of which I am uncertain I have denoted with a series of ? or with the words in [square brackets – sometimes with an explanatory note]

I have added a few footnotes here and there.

Martha’s Dairies


Sepia toned photo of Martha Kingdon-Ward aged approx 15 - 20Martha would have turned eighteen in this year. Since she can’t have been far off that age when this photo was taken (single image from polyfoto sheet) I am including it here.


Perhaps years later I shall look back upon this difficult year with compassion – I hope so. Not self-pity, that’s entirely different. I mean an understanding of ones own faults and failings, a comprehension also of pain constantly suffered – that comprehension which is so strange, as though coming from the outside, from a totally different angle. When I was vaguely trying to disclaim the fact that I love him, while I was faintly trying to disbelieve, I don’t know that I was any happier than during the awful months that followed – while Eve died & we went for a happy holiday, and I knew for a certainty that he loved someone else and would marry her. It’s at these times that the world’s real values seem to stand out so clearly: you realise that you cannot make a fuss, cannot cause a public scene – you also realise so strongly that other people’s happiness matters – that girls and the family’s at home. Which is why I have never talked ??? yet to a single soul. Why make them as unhappy as that?

I wish I could explain just how numb, how sick, how hopeless I feel. I am afraid just now I am horribly selfish. Yesterday up in the train, travelling so smartly and comfortably on my darling Great Western that every minute was taking me further away from him, I felt that everything was quite mean indeed. Trees, pylons, houses, and fields raced by, but they seemed unconnected, useless, meaningless. And then, as now, and before, there was one great long pain in my heart because he is going to be married he hopes in September. I don’t — to hate her – I’m sure he wouldn’t marry someone horrid. I just don’t feel anything but sick now and a kind of ?????. Everything passes out of my mind sometimes, but Cardiff[?] ??? and things that remind me of him. And he is very dear.

When Miss Iveston heard I might not play in Iolanthe she exclaimed, “Of dear – but can’t you?”

“Well, he says I probably won’t be good enough, and I think he’s right.”

“Who said that – Bruce?”

“Mr Henderson? Yes”

“I’ll tell him what I think of him! … Anyway, who would they get instead of you?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea. Of course they might get Ann?”

Miss Weston attended hard to her reed. “might they?” she said.

“It would be rather amusing.” I added faintly.

She looked at me and said nothing – but one had no need to say it!

“I’ve rarely seen a more lovable face than that young man” said B.H. seriously of Marius Goring[1], and I knew naturally that she meant it, and wasn’t playing our little comedy. “It’s a fine, sensitive face, well-bred and highly intelligent. And he has beautiful hands. I feel you could trust him.”

“Yes I think you could.” I agreed a little tritely, because I didn’t want to interrupt her flow of thoughts, since really however tender-hearted she might be about Marius Goring her real thoughts were naturally centred on someone else.

“He’s a fine actor, in fact a brilliant actor. He’s always been given extremely difficult roles. You told me he was terrifyingly brilliant as ????[2] at the beginning of the war and remember hearing about it, although alas too young to understand.”

I remember hearing about it too. But it’s a nice face all the same, and a nice lad …”

(B.H. always does go charmingly sentimental)

So I picked up my notes and put my pen into my pad and wrote. But I knew her blue eyes were dancing with a secret pleasure and, out of respect for her own far away secrets, I would not ask her to tell. You cannot paint some pictures even for your best friends.

Tuesday 1st January

I started the New Year most seasonably by feeling extremely ill. In fact, I was a sick little hippo all day, and most depressed about it. Still, I had to put up a good show, as two naval officers P. and Mummy had met last night came upon me. They were asked to lunch but Mummy proved so attractive that they stayed until a quarter to one the next morning!!

We took them out to “I Live in Grosvenor Square”[3] which was a better film than most critics would have you believe. Anna Neagle was sadly miscast, sadly, but Rex Harrison was superb as David Bruce, which required excellent handling. Somehow though, I felt faint and ill. I struggled to entertain Cass [?or Caps?] and Barney – who were really ??? and interesting. Mummy was admirable and though P. [Pleione] seemed a little forced and injudicious in her speech, she made a gallant effort. I at last had to stagger up at about 10:20 and I went shivering to bed feeling just ghastly. Jolly New-Year opening – what? And it was so cold!!

[There follows a list of names and other words which are difficult to decipher – possibly
“Ryan is ??? Red Berkeley, Major Derby, Keith, Ranisas, & Fairfax”]

Wednesday 2nd January

I still felt like a groggy hippo when I was awakened by our pleasant chamber-maid. We had our last meal sadly, packed, and left on the 10:30 GWR. The journey back was as empty as coming. We did the Tel X-word.[4] I didn’t get the clues.

“What’s another word for ill?” urged P.

“Sick hippo” I responded wearily, and they looked most sympathetic.

Though it was sunny, and the Somerset views were again exquisite, the train kept stopping ‘in the middle of nowhere’  and Mummy said “The engine driver seems to have got hold of our crossword.”

Mummy left us for London at Swindon. We had a long wait at Didcot. We went for a walk but the town is so dull and it was so cold we returned and had a nice cup of tea with a charming waitress at the station. [sic – I presume that the waitress was charming but not that they all sat down with said waitress for the tea as the wording implies] At Goring we waited fifty minutes for a cab and came home frozen. Mrs E.[5] was angelic, and E.[6] was glad to see us back. Eve[7] wasn’t bad either. Doggo jumped about! To bed early.

Thursday 3rd January

It was good to wake and be at home. We breakfasted at about 8:30 and listened to badly chosen Mozarts in “This Week’s Composer”[8] It was terribly cold, and I practiced at intervals trying not to stick the keys with my frozen fingers! The scales progressed sufficiently for me not to damn mankind more than usual – good clarinettists in particular, of course! We played [it looks like “Dafters”] quite a bit, and got playfully furious when the other one collected huge rent moneys. At 3 or so, we went out onto the ice, which was v. thin, however, so we slid about it for an inch or so, before plunging into little holes made by our hooves. Altogether we galumphed acres before going in to quite a hearty tea. Hippo wasn’t too well today, but better than yesterday, which is a mercy! Of course Mozart accompanied [Dafters] – [str?is of] Ks.207[9] and darling 453. Wrote in the evening and sat with Mummy. Susan in trouble with C. Wilde etc. “Rex” & Lilli P. came today [looks like – & Jas Mason. Newc: wasn’t Newc: but now is.] Isn’t that plain?

Top of page above the line

??D, Blake??s & Helendon all poisoned – by whom?! Keith – a new man – came. He’s been dumped on them by [Gregory Peck?] Why? They don’t know and they suspect a mystery.

Friday 4th January

Certainly quite a leisurely day, we listened to M’s instrumental music through breakfast. As usual it was a bad selection – parts of “hunt” 407[10] & 581[11]and all of 526[12] not bad – but all things we can hear moderately easily. Then I gave the room a thorough do, after which we seemed to think ourselves so good that we needn’t do any more work for a bit. But actually, of course, it was being so cold, the room being so icy too. We settled down quietly and, Dafters, which, not a bit aided by the interfering puppy, we played quite a lot, and enjoyed somewhat. We went on the ice after lunch and slid about inelegantly. Mummy was awfully cross with us and we had an awful set to because she said I was too selfish or, at any rate, inconsiderate. Well, she’s quite right, but what on Earth am I to do? Because I know she’s right, up to a certain extent, but she certainly overdid it a bit.

Practiced hard at more scales.

Saturday 5th Jan

We had ??? at last this morning, as we all went to Reading on the 11:00, and I had some work to do first. Mummy got cross with me because she thought me unkind to refuse lunch with Cozzie and Eve to help on P. But I knew better – know that it wouldn’t help. If I went with Eve, so at last she understood and was less annoyed. And bless her she stayed with the dogs while we went to “The 7th Veil”[13] with Mrs Ellis. This excellent film is a Sydney Box production, directed by Compton Bennett. Watch him. I’ve seen it before, of course, but I thrilled once more to the compelling melancholy of Ann Todd’s voice and face with the acting ability of James Mason, Hugh McDermott, and especially Albert Lieven are strong supporters, while Yvonne Owen as Susan was brilliant. The cinema soon became crowded out, but we were pleased to see an enclosure queue when we came out – not nastily pleased but pleased for British pictures. E. enjoyed the film very much indeed.

Practiced assiduously when I  got home and wrote. The scales are beginning to look up a little, dare I hope?

(A new young man, Jonathan Hope, played Dafters[?] with M??, ???, ??? & ???

Bla??? Left Newcastle House ??? because he ???)

Top of page above the line

[Five very closely packed lines. These are a continuation of the entry for 6th Jan.]

Sunday 6th January

The days roll by – and do I get any better at clarinetting? Well, when I practiced today it seemed to my sickened ears that I really was a little better. I went through E and Ab major, and their minors, and did C, F, etc. a little faster. Well, there really seemed to be a little more synchronisation. Every now and then, when I forgot about it, I would squeak over either break. I’m still inclined to be imperfect with the sidekeys, and I squeak alright[?] but it is – I’m sure it is – getting better. Otherwise, there was the usual onrush of breakfast and lunch, washing up, etc. and I took the dog out to the p??? as I had to go for Mummy. We played Dafter in the evening after I’d practiced, and I wrote a little. (Hope met his fiancée Clari??? Derby, and learned that C Wilde had phoned her. He vowed revenge so imagine his consternation on finding out that Hamilton was ??? Wilde while C?a?e is Chesterfield. Hope gave Clarissa and his friend Jacqueline Go?den dinner. Chesterfield kissed her, and Hope angrily hit him Wilde and Hope don’t get on at all, though W. doesn’t know that. Hope loves the ??? he ???

Monday 7th January

  1. started work at the RCM[14] so I had the day to myself. Not that I did much good. I did this room and mummy’s v. thoroughly and I tidied a little. Mrs T. [or I?] gave me an early lunch as she was off to the cinema. I washed up, let the dogs out and had a jolly good practice. At last, it was a thorough hard going one. I worked away at Ab, E, and again at the earlier ones, faster. Something seems to be happening to them – I hope it’s all to the good! I also hada severe go at tonguing. Tonguing is the bane of my life. Mr Clarke does it well, and I don’t – isn’t that a pity? I skipped tea and P. came in before Mrs E., so that when dinner came I was really quite hungry. Mrs E. saw “? Frenchman” and loved it. All day I worked at Hunca Munca’s ?. and did so much to it that it was completed by about 10pm.

(Hope, Anita Louise, and C. Wilde didn’t hit it off too well. C.W. hates Hope violently because H. said unguarded things of A.L. before he met her.)

Tuesday 8th January

  1. didn’t have to go [up/in?], so life went on in much the same old way. I made a frantic effort at tidying which didn’t much work, and I fancy she did the same. I practiced for nearly an hour before lunch and again in the evening, so that went quite well. We both ??? did the Telegraph crossword in the afternoon, and I wrote a rather controversial letter to Verity. I just hate Picasso and Bartók and all they stand for, and I am sick of being told I ought to like them. I don’t argue that they are not great (though I don’t think so!). People always say, “You’ll be proved wrong later!” But I won’t because what I say is I don’t like Bartók & co. – and I don’t say that without first having listened, or seen, or whatever it is, and found out that I don’t. Ah well – why worry? Nothing can stop what I feel … (Miss Louise now apparently loves Hope!! Hope and Wilde had a sort of quarrel … H. wrote to Clarissa Derby Martin Bright angry with George Blakeney who insulted him. He left, tearing up the photograph of ??? D. had given him. D. left too.)

Wednesday 9th January

Wild and windy, but a lovely day for me. P. was off at 7, so I got up early and spent a long time doing the room hard, making the beds, and tidying. I got it looking nearly normal and then did the bathroom. That done, I at once practiced for a good hour. I do think my fingers are getting more supple – more used to the holes and keys they automatically have to find. I went to the Cozens’ after a hurried lunch, and walked up reviving old memories. Felix and Cozzie were delightful all the afternoon. We talked much of course, but pleasantly and interestingly. Felicity played to me with delightful ease and charm, and not a bit shy or difficult. Col. Cozens came in time for tea and the party went even better. In spite of Eve being as difficult as possible and saying the Cozens always found me trying, we got on as beautifully as ever – though if Eve had had her way I’d never have been there! Cozzie played me lovely K333[15] after tea, with its adorable cadenza. Home in rain, but very happy. It had been a good day. (?.?. forced to pretend he’s a girl, and ?? ???? is in love with him! He walked home extolling ‘her’girlish features, to ‘her’ annoyance!! ??? proposed (|) and Phil knows ‘she’ll’ [have to close] Wilde forced to read Hope’s letters.

Thursday 10th January

  1. was off early again and I was left to do the beds, the room, and mummy’s room, also tidy up for both. Well, I did all of it exceedingly well, I thought. Then I bethought me of more work and hopefully had a go at the Mozart book. I can’t let all that work go west, I thought, so I settled down and nearly completed January by the end of the day. There was quite a nice concert including K407, which is a landmark of horn history,[16] and Dvořák’s sextet in A which failed to give me much pleasure. I listened to many records, mostly 414 & 449, and played the piano after tea. Then came a serious practice of over an hour, with scales and plenty of tonging; also a bit of DW:229 II for fun. After dinner I wrote to billy and again to Dorothy as P’s been so remiss[17], and to Dr Lofthouse[18]. (??bel and Phillipa “eloped” and Phil is feeling very worried. Hope was very ill and delirious. His C/O Major [Darcy Thanet] is very worried.

Friday 11th January

Life was quite good to me today. Though P. had to go, and went off early at that, mummy stayed here all day! So we both of us did our cleaning work assiduously, and then I brought my work in with [me] by the fire and we had the most enjoyable day. All my things were carefully arranged, and I worked at the Mozart album all day, practically. We made toast for tea and had a really happy time together. I washed up the lunch things with Mrs E. which took rather a long time, but she was very pleased to have me help her. I practiced as hard as ever in the evening and scales like E and A-flat major began to lose some of their terrors. You wait! – I’ll go downhill alright soon. This is just too good to last and I’m sure Mr Clarke will find something very wrong. I wrote to Ann CR and sent her some reeds which I did up marvellously. (Aren’t I dreadful?)!  Read more of M?W’s marvellous Mozart book.

(Phil met his “bridesmaid” – A/! – in leiber’s gloomy and ghost infested house. Phil is worried to death. Hope was deliriously ill, and Hele??? Who’s nursing him is very worried. Wilde to stay with the M???


[1] Marius Goring, Actor, b. 1912 d. 1998 film credits from 1925 – 1990 he played Conductor 71 in Stairway to Heaven and Frederick Jannings in Night Boat to Dublin, both in 1946.

[2] The word looks possibly like Hitler but Goring never played him. It may be that it refers to his role as Lieutenant Felix Schuster, a German U-Boat officer in “The Spy in Black” 1939. The story was set in 1917. The word doesn’t look like Schuster or anything that makes sense, but perhaps, as they had not properly seen the film there was some confusion?

[3] A.K.A. “A Yank in London” 1945. It starred Anna Neagle, Rex Harrison, and Dean Jagger.

[4] Obviously the Telegraph Crossword.

[5] Mrs Ellis

[6] Mr Ellis

[7] Eve Hadfield

[8] Now called “Composer of the Week” it was first broadcast 2nd August 1943 on the BBC Home Service. Source Wikipedia.

[9] Violin Concerto No. 1

[10] Horn quintet in E flat

[11] Clarinet quintet

[12] Violin sonata in A major

[13] The 7th Veil 1945 starring James Mason, Ann Todd, and Hebert Lom

[14] Royal College of Music. Pleione decided fairly soon after this to abandon any thoughts of a career in music after the enormity of what went on in Germany had sunk in. She felt that she was never going to be a truly great musician – unlike Martha – and that her future lay in the field of Speech Therapy.

[15] Piano Sonata No. 13 in B-flat major,

[16] You may recall that on Jan 4th she lists this among what she refers to as a bad selection. I suspect that she felt the selection was insufficiently esoteric for the programme, rather than that any of the music itself was bad.

[17] This rings true!

[18] Charles Thornton Lofthouse (1895-1974) who was the head of music at Reading University until some time after the second world war.

Martha Kingdon-Ward Diaries

As some will know and many will be unaware, I am the grandson of the explorer Frank Kingdon-Ward (also known as Francis Kingdon Ward, and Capt F.K. Ward) author, explorer, and plant collector.

I am also the nephew of a very talented musician, my Aunt Martha, who sadly died last year at the age of 93. She was a clarinettist of considerable renown who formed a number of musical groups best know of which was/is Sweet Harmony.

She was a devoted fan of Mozart and did a huge amount of reaserch into his works.

I just got back from a celebration of her life with many of her muscial friends. I must confess, for complicated reasons that I don’t want to bore you, or embarrass myself, with I only ever met her once. Nevertheless, I have been entrusted with her diaries which, although they do not cover the entirety of her life, are nevertheless extensive consisting of 40+ books, each one filled with fairly close-packed writing. They date from the 1970s until fairly recently. There is also one from 1946 which I am working through now.

I will share bits from these dairies for all, although I anticipate the main interest will be exclusively among her immediate friends and family, it will be worth the effort for them alone.


The Legend of Falcon – a Dungeons and Dragons Story

A D&D Story

The following is a first-draft, unedited short story set in my homebrew world of Talamon. It tells the back-story of one of the many memorable player characters who have been adventurers in that world.  Falcon is a warforged druid. In the first campaign I had asked people to come up with a character who was one of the tight core races – human, elf, dwarf, half-elf, halfling (known as goodfolk in Talamon) – or at least be able to pass for one of them. Almost half the players went out of their way to create characters who were NOT of those races but disguised themselves in some way. Falcon was one of these.

The Legend of Falcon

How an Aeonian Mechanican Scout Came to Have a Soul.


  • Zanna – a gnome artificer
  • Nickel – a kobold artificer
  • Φ*-47824 a.k.a. Falcon – a mechanican (* the Greek letter Phi)
  • Firion Blackdrake – an Aeonian soldier and political candidate from one of the founding families.
  • Falor – a human fighter (pronounced  valour)
  • Gusti – a dwarf barbarian
  • Aeschalos – an elf ranger
  • Damos – a human druid
  • Bract – a goodfolk druid acolyte
  • Ygarwn – a human druid acolyte (pronounced ee-gar-un)
  • Galrean – a human priest to the goddess Gallobana

Concepts and places

  • Aeona – The eternal city, a city of a million souls of which the majority are slaves from all races. Their masters, almost exclusively humans, have conquered the lands surrounding their city region by region.
  • Aeonia – The wider empire controlled by the city of Aeona. Surrounding the central sea it consists of the Aeonian peninsula, Saltford province to the north, Gloomwood to the north-west, Caburgh to the south west, and Khoffey to the south-east.
  • Mechanican – a magically created creature blending organic with mechanical parts. Treated as a slightly superior slave they are designed to serve in the army as auxiliaries doing the worst or most difficult jobs, such as taking on the front line at the start of battle and reconnaissance behind enemy lines. They are fewer in number than human soldiers but considered more expendable. No other races serve in the Aeonian army.
  • Tira Fawr – (Pronounced Ti-ra vow-r) a wild land which remains independent from Aeonia and would like to stay that way. The people are a broad mix of humans, dwarfs, and elves, with the ubiquitous goodfolk and a few other races for good measure.
  • Oliriond – the largest town in the Kwrann Isles. Situated on the island of Ig Mawr.
  • Gallobana – triple headed deity of the city of Oliriond and the island of Ig Mawr


Birth of a Legend

Zanna carefully inserted a probe into the lifeless body before her. This body: partly mechanical partly organic, the two elements fused using powerful magical rituals forming a more complex whole, belonged to a warrior in the Aeonian army. A mechanican, forged by artificers to wage war. Specifically it was a Phi unit, with the number Φ-47824 engraved on a chest plate. It was a scout, built for stealth, able to survive for long periods in the wilderness, requiring no sleep, making use of natural cover in order to carry out detailed reconnaissance on enemy positions.

The procedure now being carried out by the gnome artificer was a delicate one, requiring the precise location of a series of tiny crystals, each to be placed in the correct location, while the correct incantations were spoken. A single mistake could be catastrophic. It was, therefore, inconvenient in the extreme that, just as Zanna inserted the last crystal, an excitable and overeager kobold bounded in carrying a tray of drinks, knocked Zanna’s hand, and spilled a quantity of hot tisane into Φ-47824’s main control panel.

“Nickel!” Zanna hissed.

It was unfortunate that at that very moment the Aeonian overseer happened to be coming in that direction on his rounds. Humans, even the nice ones, saw gnomes as scarcely better than rats, and kobolds ranked lower still. Zanna swiftly closed the cover on the chest cavity and made a noise implying that she was satisfied with her work. Nickel, the blundering silver kobold mopped up the spilled drink.

“Is that Phi unit ready yet?” the supervisor barked. “We need every mechanican in the field, especially scouts.”

“I, just need to make some more checks,” mumbled Zanna looking desperately at the floor to avoid meeting her master’s gaze. She was a competent artificer, heck even Nickel was better at this kind of work than most heavy-handed humans. But humans didn’t need to get their hands dirty when there were slaves to do everything.

“If you needed more checks, why were you closing up?”


“Get it up and operational. And stop wasting time!”

“Yes, master.” Zanna kept her eyes averted. Looking directly at her human master was not a career move that an intelligent gnome would wish to pursue. Beside her, Nickel also said nothing. She knew that you don’t speak unless you are told to or have been asked a direct question.

Reluctantly Zanna moved her hands in a complex motion muttering “Ballutu Nepesu Abru.”

The mechanican’s eyes glowed, fingers twitched, the head moved, and it raised itself from the workbench. It looked at Zanna and then took in the huge artificers’ laboratory.

“Come on you. Got a mission for you.”

Φ-47824 followed the human who was wearing a red and silver striped tunic. A simple garment that told a complex story. Firion Blackdrake wore the red stripe which showed he was entitled to respect purely by reason of his family name. The Blackdrakes were one of the founding families of Aeona and were entitled to wear this stripe. He added to this by his achievements. Silver denoted success as a military commander. The only greater honour was success in the world of politics. Firion was standing for election to the senate. If successful he would wear the gold stripe and be permitted to advise the emperor.

Firion led the mechanican to the barracks where he produced crudely drawn maps and explained the situation. He failed to notice anything unusual in the behaviour of Φ-47824. It was natural to assume that it was paying full attention to the briefing. They were built purely to obey orders; tireless and naturally armoured, they were the perfect soldiers. However, the mechanican paid scant attention. Instead his eye was drawn to something that had never interested him before. Something he had never noticed before because it had no significance to his purpose. A spider was working away building a web. The intricate mathematical precision began to fascinate the machine. For the first time it noticed the sun as something more than a source of light. It noticed how it glinted and sparkled on the silvery strands of silk; how it focussed and crystalised through a tiny dew drop at the corner. And then the mechanican’s eyes adjusted their focus again as a new phenomenon entered its field of view. A dark shape flashed in front of the sun; the antithesis of the bright yellow immutable circle, a dark angular shape shifting strangely, like a shadow moving across a rough surface. As it moved across the sky, framed against the bronze-blue, it resolved into a falcon. Φ-47824 had seen falcons, of course. Clerics would watch the flights of birds, especially raptors, before battles. A favourable flight might mean certain victory, an unfavourable one would see the generals decide to change their tactics or postpone battle entirely. Φ-47824 gave just enough attention to the briefing to understand that it was a mission to reconnoitre the lands to the west which had, so far, held out against the Aeonian empire.

Φ-47824 walked out, into the Aeonian sun and looked at the horizon with new eyes.


Flight of the Falcon

Tira Fawr is a substantial peninsula of land jutting out into the western ocean. A rocky landscape with ridges of high steep hills which never quite reach the status of mountains, its people matching its statuesque rugged grandeur: tall humans, broad shouldered, competitive, proud: stocky dwarfs, stolid, beetle browed, with flowing beards, and calm resolve: graceful elves, lithe, beautiful, with memories of a time when they ruled the world. Beyond the border and the final ridge of the highest hills it slopes down to the coastal plains of Caburgh province, to the south, Newport, to the north-east, Caburgh city.

The vast human-dominated empire of Aeonia had spent its resources heavily in the north-east, shoring up defences against a possible incursion from the dark realm of Krizshuma. The Pompeian wall had taken ten years and thousands of people in its construction. Named for the emperor who built it, Pompus Aenus, although he had barely set foot anywhere near the site of construction except to lay the first stone, and to declare the edifice completed. Slaves carried out much of the physical labour, but the engineering expertise was the preserve of the human army and the founding families, including the Aeni. The army was needed, also, to protect the builders. Still, many disappeared. Nobody was quite certain, but there were stories. No mechanicans ever disappeared. If they were attacked and destroyed the bodies were left where they had died. Humans were the most likely to disappear, their bodies never recovered. Other races fared better by varying degrees. Reptilians like kobolds and dragonborn being almost as likely to be found dead as mechanicans. Not that being found helped the corpse much; it allowed, at least, for a proper ritual to help them into the next world. The few survivors gave descriptions as best they could. But there were very few survivors.

Φ-47824 moved surprisingly quietly for a creature with a metallic exoskeleton. It was a testament to the craftsmanship of the slave artificers. They were among the only users of magic permitted to practice their arts in Aeona. The others being paladins and clerics, whose magic was a gift from the gods. Wizards and druids, if they existed in the eternal city at all, did so secretly and in constant fear. Warlocks were even more hated by the empire, their powers coming from forbidden demonic sources. The even rarer sorcerers were lumped in with warlocks and were anathema.

There was a small encampment about a mile ahead. A few circular huts with reed roofs, the walls made from woven sticks and compressed dried animal dung. A large campfire smouldered in the middle of the group of huts. The smell of roasting meat wafted over. Φ-47824 had no need for food but the smell interested him. This was not a full permanent settlement. It would be occupied at certain times of the year as a base for hunting parties. In the depths of winter, the hunters would retreat to larger fortified towns and scattered farming villages.

A falcon flew right to left across the sky. A good omen. Φ-47824 stood up, exposing itself above the skyline. It walked forward, following the bird’s arial trajectory from its lowly position on the ground. Φ-47824 began to run, flapping its arms, and skipping every few steps, as if attempting to take flight. He ran, and ran, tirelessly, surefooted on the rough terrain.

A small band of hunters from the encampment watched as the mechanican cavorted like a child, the sun glinting off polished steel and bronze, his eyes glowing brighter than they had ever glowed. And a sound came from the mechanican that had never come from one of his kind before. It was a strange stuttering sound, somewhat musical yet strangely metallic. Like someone blowing a series of short blasts through a trumpet. As if a trumpet player were attempting to make a sound like, like human laughter.

“Falcon! Falcon, come to me! I am you and you are me!” another trumpet laugh emerged.

“I am Falcon,” the mechanican cried to the gods as he stopped and turned around on the spot, his arms stretched wide in a great big metallic T.

“I … AM … Falcon!”

And then a hand axe, expertly thrown by the hunter, hit Falcon on the back of the head causing him to tumble over, falling thirty feet down the rocky slope.


Broken Spear

Falcon awoke at night. Or at least that was his first assumption. It was dark in the hut, but tiny slivers of daylight showed through the walls and filtered through the heavy leather skin hanging in front of what he presumed to be the door.

“It’s activated.”

Falcon turned his head towards the voice. A shaggy-bearded creature was watching him through black eyes. He was partially covered with animal furs, crudely trimmed, and stitched into a jerkin that left the arms bare. Dark tattoos snaked down both arms disappearing beneath plaited leather bracers. Falcon identified the creature as a dwarf. Two more humanoids, one human and one elf, pushed the heavy hanging leather door aside and the hut flooded with light leaving Falcon momentarily blinded. The smell of sweat mingled with the woodsmoke from the small fire inside the hut. Falcon was used to incense burners, and the heated floors of Aeonian houses, although he had a better tolerance for temperature changes than any human, and smells were simply an input, so it didn’t matter. It was just a new sensation to add to his database of knowledge. The humanoids were talking.

“If they’ve sent a scout, that means they are planning an attack.” The human began.

“Correction,” interjected the elf, “it means they are gathering knowledge to decide if they should plan an attack. Any attack plans would require substantial troop movements. Gatherings of legions on our borders. We’ve seen no evidence of that.”

“And we’ve captured their scout so it can’t report back. So we’re safe, right?” the dwarf added.

“Of course we’re not safe.” The human retorted. “We’re never safe. If you listened to the histories, instead of drinking too much and falling asleep, you would know that Aeona exists to conquer. One land at a time. Their leading families literally rise to power and wealth through conquest. They have left Tira Fawr alone while they marched into Saltford. The elves fled to the deepest forests or to places like here,” he glanced at the elf. “or to Rude Island, or Ourland, places that were still independent. They captured Khoffey and the whole Dusk River valley and only stopped at the mountains because it was easier to trade with the dwarfs than conquer them. They only built a wall along the Scarwood River because even the Aeonians aren’t crazy enough to fight Krizshuma. Logically Tira Fawr is the next land they want to take over and they won’t stop with us. They will carry on until they have taken the Kwrann Isles as well. After that, I suppose they will roll up Ourland and Rude Island before turning back to the south and bringing the mountains and the rainforest into their empire.”

“You give the human empire too much credit, Falor. The dwarfs won’t roll over so easily in the mountains. I’ve been to those citadels. You humans would get lost before you even met a dwarf soldier, and you would regret it when you did.”

“Don’t lump me in with Aeonia, Gusti, not all humans, OK?” the human identified as Falor said.

“Yeah, yeah. Not all humans. Right.” The dwarf, now identified as Gusti, replied.

“So what do we do with this mechanican scout?” the elf focussed on the immediate problem.

“Destroy it. They’re no use to us unless we can control them. We can’t let it report back.” Falor said.

“Please?” Falcon muttered, in a voice that sounded almost human.

“See, it’s begging to be smashed up. There’s something not right about a machine with organic bits inside. Something fiendish. I’d sooner turn my back on a goblin horde than trust one of these things.”

“I am not a thing. I am Falcon, and I want to fly with the birds.” Falcon sounded almost ethereal.

“Can a machine go crazy?” Gusti wondered aloud.

The elf looked quizzical. “Before today, I would have said no. But …”

“I’m not crazy. I am … Falcon.”

“Well, Falcon also known as …” Falor read off the number on Falcon’s chest plate, “circle with a line through it-47824, you will shortly be the dismantled and defunct Falcon-symbol-47824 and we can get on with getting the harvest in.”

“After I am dismantled, will your artificers rebuild me? I don’t want to be reset.”

“Artificers? I shouldn’t think so. But your arms might make me a better pair of bracers, and I daresay I could beat your head out a bit bigger to make a serviceable helmet. So, in a sense, yes, we’ll rebuild you.”

“But then I would no longer be me.”

Again the elf looked thoughtful. “But there’s no ‘you’ to be. You’re just a machine.”

“I have a soul. I feel it.”

“I’ve had enough of this,” Gusti grunted. “Isn’t there some sort of off switch?”

“No, wait. Allow an old elf a little curiosity. It’s only a scout so it can’t do any real harm unless it escapes and gets back to report.”

“What are you suggesting, Aeschalos?”

“Leave the scout with me. I promise not to let it escape. I want to find out more about this mechanican. And who knows, perhaps I may find out something of use to our people as well.”

“I don’t know,” Gusti began.

Falor interrupted. “Aeschalos is a ranger. Even if the scout escapes, he can place a mark on it, so he would be able to track it even if it leaves no trail. And maybe if this … Falcon … really has a soul, then perhaps it has a conscience as well?”

“Maybe,” Gusti agreed. “Perhaps Aeschalos you can get the bird to sing? Or screech at least!” and he laughed a laugh out of all proportion to the quality of his joke.


Moving in Circles

A year had passed since Falcon had declared his desire to fly with the birds. He had not done so but he had spent hours every day learning everything the elf knew and telling the elf everything he knew. Alas, for the elf, nothing remained in his memory of past missions. Falcon could recall nothing at all regarding his activities as an Aeonian mechanican scout. Nor could he explain why. All his other data seemed intact, and he had been adding to it under the tutelage of Aeschalos. He could now identify any tree that he had been seen, regardless of the season. Aeschalos reached up and pulled a branch down. It bore lobed leaves and small yellowish-brown nuts held in tiny cups. He looked at Falcon.

“Easy one for you.”

“The Western oak, or Tiran oak.” Falcon began, “It has a large trunk with a tight straight grain, useful for making planks and beams for building large structures like houses and ships. Also good for making handles for tools and weapons. Too many uses to make a complete list. Off-cuts and dead wood burn slowly and can produce hot embers, ideal for cooking. The sunlight filters through its crown on hot summers days in the manner of light glittering off a precious jewel. The oak is a home to an unknown number of tiny creatures as well as woodland fairies. Mosses and many different mushrooms grow on its trunks and branches, mistletoe grows high in the crown and ivy climbs its trunk. Its leaves, acorns, and bark, as well as the mosses, mistletoe, and mushrooms, provide food for a huge range of animals from the smallest birds or mice, right up to boar and even giant elk. In autumn, the leaves turn to shades of amber and brown, as the life drains from them and back into the tree. When they fall, they carpet the ground and provide shelter for more creatures, they store up moisture when it rains, and they scrunch pleasingly underfoot when you walk through the forest on a cold winter’s day. It is the king of trees and its god Duru is the king of the tree gods. The oldest oaks can provide a doorway to other worlds if you know the secret magic to find it.”

“You are the master of the full and complete answer to a question, Falcon. It is remarkable.”

“I sense that it was once better. At some time before now.”

“I think you covered everything there. How could you have done better?”

“I think Aeschalos, that if you had asked me to identify this tree a year ago, I would not have spoken of the glittering of tiny jewels, but I would have named at least the most important small creatures living on the tree. I might not have spoken of the crunch of leaves in winter and would, instead, have been able to name many of the most common mosses and mushrooms. I fear my answers are becoming more … poetic … if I may use that word? and less precise.”

“It is that poetry that has led me to bring you here. Precision is all very well, but there are few elves and even fewer humans if you want my opinion, who have as much natural affinity for the forest as I have seen in you. Let me introduce you to some friends.”

Falcon, usually a highly perceptive creature, had completely failed to notice they were approaching a group of humanoids, he noted a mix of elf and human, one dwarf, a goodfolk, and a gnome. They wore voluminous robes of undyed wool trimmed with greens and browns. Each carried a large staff, taller than a man. Well, apart from the dwarf, whose staff was as tall as a man, and the goodfolk and the gnome who carried rather smaller staffs befitting their stature.

The group stared at the interlopers and Falcon, for his part, tried to stand still while his feet took two more steps, resulting in him leaning back at a bizarre angle. He had never actually seen druids, but this group of beings appeared to fit the descriptions he had heard. Other things he had heard included that they dabbled in a dark and mysterious magic, that they could grow the roots of trees into your brain to steal your thoughts, that they could make the skies fall down and the earth open and the seas rise up. It was said too, that when either of the twin the moons were full, they would transform into beasts, bloodthirsty boars, ravenous wolves, terrifying bears, and worse. Falcon was not the only one who did not relish this meeting.

A sinewy human stepped forward, thinning grey hair showed beneath a pale hood. “What have you brought here, Aeschalos?” Fearful eyes, a watery blue, watched Falcon with deep suspicion. “A mechanican? From the empire? Here in the grove? Have you turned against us Aeschalos?”

“No, no, of course not, Damos. Far from it. I have brought you a new recruit.”

Damos looked at the elf with stunned incomprehension. Eventually he recovered a little composure. He looked past Falcon and said, “Where is the child?”

“Here.” Aeschalos indicated Falcon.

“You can not be serious!” Damos turned away but Aeschalos grabbed his arm.

“Give him a chance.”

“Him? It’s a machine, not a person. And a machine that will see our way of life destroyed!”

Damos tried to pull away, but Aeschalos held firm and spun him back to face Falcon.

He …  is as much a person as you or me. Falcon, tell Damos here about these trees.”

Falcon looked up at the canopy where sunlight danced through onto the leafy ground below. “We are standing in a grove of oaks, the oldest of these was an acorn long before you, Aeschalos were born. It will have witnessed the rise of the empire from a humble city on the banks of the Tanus River. It was a stout sapling before the Colossus was built in Rude Island. It lived during the time when priest kings ruled Khoffey on the Dusk River. In their lifetime, these trees have drawn up enough water to fill the great central sea to the brim. They have grown and dropped enough leaves to cover the desert in three feet of mulch. They have provided homes and shelter for thousands of plants and mushrooms, and for a thousand times a thousand animals. Duru is the king of the forest gods, but within just one of his trees there are hundreds of demigods and spirit guardians. Or did you want more specific facts and figures?”

Damos could not hide that he was impressed.

“But … he is made of metal. No druid wears or uses metal.”

“You know Damos, I am but a humble ranger, but I have always thought it was more of a guideline that an actual rule.” The druids had simple huts, like the ones in the hunters’ encampment. Circular constructions of wattle and daub, with thatched conical roofs. Aeschalos moved nonchalantly over towards them.

Damos followed, protesting vehemently, “It’s a hard and fast rule. We druids don’t use metals. Leather armour is allowable, a wooden staff, you see?” He waved the staff as if to demonstrate. Aeschalos moved closer to the hut and approached the fire pit where a big iron pot simmered and bubbled emitting a delicious aroma or stewing meat and vegetables.

“No metal?” He tipped the pot up with his foot, beginning to pour some of the stew onto the fire which smoked unpleasantly.

“Stop, stop, stop! Look, be reasonable, even a druid needs a cooking pot.”

Aeschalos stepped inside the hut. “Nice sickle! Oak is it?”

“You know it’s gold!”

“Knowing you it’s gold plate on steel.” He looked closely at the blade, “Gallobana’s heads it is! You cheapskate Damos!”

“Well, you can’t keep an edge worth a damn on solid gold. I always regild it before cutting anything.” Damos saw the elf’s expression. “Look, have you ever tried cutting mistletoe while you’re fifty feet up a bloody tree with half a dozen acolytes waiting below with a bull’s hide?”

“Hmm … I can’t say I have. I’m sure I would remember. Oh look, is this a scimitar? Now that is definitely steel. You can’t keep an edge worth a damn on beech or ash, or so I am led to believe.”

Damos tried without success, to take the sword away from the elf. Falcon watched from outside the hut.

“The handle is yew. It’s the handle that matters, not the blade. Druids can’t come into contact with metal.”

“So how do you clean the blade?”

“Prestidigitation of course.”

“Look, all I am asking is you give Falcon a try. If he doesn’t take to it, you’ve lost nothing. He certainly won’t dob you in to the empire. He’s glad to be away from them. Something’s gone a-cock with is works and he’s … well … he’s almost human, poor sod.”

Damos looked as though he was giving it serious consideration.

“I’ve taught him everything I know.” Aeschalos added.

“Oh thanks, so he’s coming to us stupider than when he met you then?” Damos said with barely any trace of a smile.

“I knew you wouldn’t let me down.” Aeschalos said. “Falcon! You’re to join this band of tree huggers and do everything they tell you, got that?”

“I didn’t say yes, yet.”

“Yet? I’ll take that to mean that you will. It’s a deal then”

“Will they teach me to fly like a falcon?”

“You have a bit to learn before you can fly,” Aeschalos told him, “but … yes … eventually, you could learn to fly, if you choose the right path.”

Falcon’s eyes glowed brighter.

“Oh Noxos,” the druid muttered, resigned to his fate.

“Oh, I should pay you for your trouble, Damos.” Aeschalos pulled a pouch from his waistband. “Here’s a bag of gold … on no, wait! Gold’s metal.” He tossed it in his hand a couple of times, and then threw it to the old druid. “I guess you will find a way to use it without touching it!” and he laughed as he turned away and disappeared into the forest.



Falcon had lived with the druids for another year. They went back to basics, teaching him the most fundamental aspects of druidic lore. He learned their language and secret rituals. He even  learned a few very simple spells, cantrips really, nothing too demanding or exhausting to cast. From there, gradually moving on to learn some slightly more powerful magic giving him the power to charm the beasts of the field, to heal the sick, or control the elements.  Falcon felt something that no mechanican  had ever felt before. Falcon was happy.

The other acolytes were mostly adolescent humans, the youngest still children. There were two dwarfs, and an elf who did not seem much older. Falcon had scarcely any memories of events from before he had been worked on by the gnome artificer, but he had his core knowledge base intact. He knew, for example that elves and dwarfs lived longer than humans. He knew that, in theory at least, a mechanican like him could live at least as long as elves. He had no idea how old he was. In a sense, he had been reborn, so he was a little over two years old. Internally he chuckled. If he were a human or elf, he would be walking uncertainly and saying a few words. As a dwarf he would barely be crawling.

The other druids and acolytes treated him with varying degrees of acceptance. Some passed food and drink to him until they realised that he needed none and could not eat it even to be polite. A few found ways to keep away from him but without being openly hostile. It was perhaps odd that the only acolyte who seemed openly hostile was Bract, a young goodfolk lad who was small even for goodfolk. Bract would keep as far from Falcon as he could, and every time Falcon happened to glance in his direction it seemed that he had a special scowl reserved just for the mechanican. The friendliest of the acolytes was a human youth name Ysgarwn. A willowy youth with downy tufts of hair growing unevenly on a soft rounded face. Ysgarwn took Falcon under his wing in the early weeks, helping him to fit in and defending him from criticism from those acolytes less willing to accept a mechanican among their ranks.

It was the month of Zimen, snow dusted the forest floor, sprinkled where it had fallen between the branches, and clumped where it had gathered on branches and fallen off in lumps. The end of the old year approached and the three-day Hivernacht festival beckoned. Falcon stood with a group of acolytes holding a large circular white cloth stretched out beneath a tall oak tree. High up in the branches the sounds of grunting and what might have been muttered swearing drifted down, along with bits of bark and debris as a druid who was, frankly, too old for this shit, attempted to get into a position where he could cut some mistletoe down. Eventually, satisfied, he raised the golden bladed sickle and swept it against the epiphyte’s stem. A good clump fell towards the waiting acolytes who caught it soundly in the sheet. Another druid gathered the cuttings together while the arborist above continued hacking away. Eventually enough mistletoe had been gathered to satisfy the druids and the party gathered everything together to head back to the camp.

“I wonder how Bract is getting on?” one of the acolytes said aloud.

“He’ll ace it. It’s not like he does anything else but study.”

Bract was away taking one of the exacting tests that the druids would make the acolytes undergo to prove they had absorbed all their lessons. These tests involved reciting lengthy histories, lists of deities, properties of trees and plants, and all sorts of druidic lore. This was made al the harder as the whole had to be conducted in druidic, although at least it was written in poetry which made it easier to remember. Bract had earned a reputation for being studious, distant, and aloof.

“Does anyone know why he hates me so much?” Falcon asked.

This elicited a brief discussion.

“I think he hates everyone.”

“I know what Falcon means though. When he looks at any of us he just looks bored, but there’s real malice in his eyes when he looks at Falcon.”

“I dunno. I saw him smile at Falcon the other day.”

“More likely got something trapped in his teeth. Are you sure it wasn’t a grimace?”

“Well, I dunno for sure. He’s a devious little bugger.”

“Maybe he was smiling because he’s got some evil plan.” This was Ysgarwn.

“Going to poison Falcon’s food?”

Everyone laughed, even Falcon made the sound that everyone now accepted as his laugh. It was strange to hear a mechanican laugh, even for people who did not spend much time around the mechanical soldiers.

The laughter was shattered as a flurry of arrows flew out from the surrounding trees. Two acolytes were struck down in the first volley. Aeonian soldiers emerged from the undergrowth reloading for a second shot. Mechanicans accompanied them.

“Bract!” one of the acolytes cried, and everyone else had mentally thought the same thing. Bract had done something awful. They knew that Falcon was really a scout from the Aeonian army, that the empire was probably keen to recover him and, presumably reset him. Nobody wanted that. Ysgarwn had discussed Falcon’s history at length. He had assured Falcon that he would keep him safe from the empire. How could Bract have turned traitor on the entire circle?

From high in the oak tree a streak of icy energy shot into one of the attackers. They ceased moving as a chill enervated their body, arcing from them to the nearest fighters who were lacerated by shards of super-chilled ice. The soldiers were approaching up the slope from the east. The druids were hopelessly outnumbered and out-armed.

Another druid fired off a spell which withered and died as it was cast. He looked towards the approaching soldiers and knew immediately why. The mechanicans were carrying anti-magic field generators. These were artificer designed devices that could cut off any spell within their field of effect. He grabbed the nearest acolytes and dragged them with him, screaming to the rest to run for their lives. Another volley of arrows screamed through the frigid air and acolytes went down on all sides as Falcon ran. From the oak tree another ice-knife ripped the air, carefully placed behind the anti-magic field generators it struck its target taking them down and seriously injuring two more soldiers.

“Keep running, I’ll slow them down.” The druid turned and threw down a handful of sharpened twigs to the ground.

“Sparn alwian!” he muttered as he drew shapes in the air causing the twigs to grow into viciously sharp thorns that covered the ground between them and the soldiers. Then he turned to follow the acolytes. Falcon looked back as he saw the soldiers reach the wicked barbs. The first of them screamed in pain as they could not avoid running into the thorns. Then the mechanicans caught up and their anti-magic fields dissolved the spikes to nothing.

Archers aimed high into the oak tree taking down the druid who had been so effective up until now. More arrows took out the other druid, as well as more acolytes until there was only Falcon left. He glanced back again seeking his friend Ysgarwn. Was he dead already? If not, could he be saved? Dozens of soldiers were moving across the landscape. Falcon knew that he had no option but to run and not stop until he was far away from this place. But then he realised he had to try and warn the rest of the circle. He could run at least as fast as any soldier, especially as they were stopping to shoot arrows at him. Luckily for him the cover of the trees, and his superior knowledge of the terrain meant he was able to get a clear lead.

Arriving at the main druid camp brought worse news. Roundhouses were ablaze, druids lay dead in the melting snow all around. The traitor Bract was among them. Damos lay a few feet away. None had been spared. As he darted from body to body he realised, to his horror that the elf ranger Aeschalos was also among the dead. He must have been visiting Damos. Falcon felt another sensation he had not felt before sadness. Falcon had nothing, no friends, no reason to continue his existence, only the few utilitarian, functional possessions that he had with him. He plucked a feather from one of Aeschalos’ arrows and put it in a small storage cavity in his chest. He found a backpack with some supplies including food he didn’t even need. He had his staff which acted as a druidic focus, and the druid robes he wore although he didn’t really need them either. He knew that the soldiers would still be tracking him. He had to get well away from here. West was the obvious direction. The soldiers had attacked from the east. But then, he reasoned, they would be drawn to the main town. There would be enough warriors to fight them off, but at what cost. He headed south.

Falcon had one advantage that gave him a real sense of hope. He knew all their tactics and techniques, but they knew none of his. He was built for stealth, it was wired into his very being. And yet, now, having become as one with these forests, he was more adept at hiding than any creature he knew about. He had lichen growing on parts of his scoured abraded exoskeleton. He wore a cloak made from fabric that was dyed using the actual plants surrounding him. Nettle green, soft and mottled. He also knew every nook and cranny of the forests. He knew hidden pathways that were used by deer and boar, where he could pass unfettered through the densest undergrowth silently and unhindered. Providing he could keep going for at least an hour without detection he would almost certainly be safe.

After what seemed like several hours, he decided to find somewhere to hide and take some rest. He climbed a gnarled old beech tree that had been coppiced many times before being left to itself. High in the branches, Falcon moved into a position where he was quite invisible from the ground. He had been extremely careful not to damage the bark of the tree or disturb any climbing plants. Not just because he wanted to preserve nature but also because such things were like a painted sign to a good tracker. As he lay invisible to anyone on the ground he watched as, to his horror, he saw Ysgarwn leading a party of Aeonian soldiers in search of him. Falcon almost cried out in anger and frustration. They had all suspected Bract, the surly young goodfolk. Yet all this time, the person he had thought was his best friend was the real traitor. Falcon had a reason to live. He swore that he would become the most powerful druid ever and one day he would find Ysgarwn and destroy him. For now, he had to keep quiet and escape.

Some months later, having escaped from the Aeonians, and travelling largely in disguise, Falcon made his way to the small town of Oliriond and the Kwrann Isles. He didn’t dare reveal his true identity but, by keeping his hood up, and not saying any more than he had to, he was able to pass for human. Somehow, he needed to find another druid circle that would take him in. For the time being, he would seek out adventuring work and try to keep out of trouble.



In the town square of Oliriond stands a large statue to the town’s patron goddess Gallobana, her three heads, represent her wisdom and her perceptiveness. She stands there to protect the town and the temple built in her honour. Behind her, the temple itself has a series of steps leading up to a row of columns in front of the great oaken doors. To the left on the square is the meeting hall and behind it the town hall where Maior Costi, a dwarf, attempts to run a town with at least two-thirds human population, a few dwarfs, and even fewer elves and goodfolk. Other races are either unknown or unwelcome here.

Opposite the temple is a row of shops including Cethi’s apothecary shop and a coffee shop owned by Maior Costi. To the right of the temple is the rather elegant but expensive Harlequin and Cask Inn, next to Vica’s bookshop. Overlooking the town is the keep which is at the highest point. The river estuary lies to the south of the town and flows west into the sea. Oliriond is the very last vestige of civilisation, if you can call it that, before you sail west into a seemingly endless ocean. It was, as far from Aeona as it is possible to be, both in geographical terms and also, arguably, in a socio-economic sense.

Falcon felt empty. He looked at the statue of the goddess and at the temple behind her. He had no right to pray to a deity. Deities were for organic sentient creatures, not machines, no matter how magically created. Yet he had nothing. He had not felt happiness or sadness either since his time in Tira Fawr. He wondered if the emotions still existed within him. At one time, he had been convinced that he had a soul. Now, he felt more uncertain than ever before.

Some unseen unsensed force drew him to walk up the steps. His druidic robes sweeping the worn and weathered stone, his hood hiding his true nature. He walked quietly towards the great marble altar at the front of the large open room. He had seen humans in Aeona supplicate themselves to deities in temples. Not often, but often enough. He knelt down and bowed his head. He tried to think of what words to say. ‘Oh mighty Gallobana, please help a poor machine to find purpose in life?’ it all seemed a bit stupid. Unsurprisingly, nothing happened, and Falcon wondered if he could just stay here kneeling before the goddess until he rusted and fell to pieces. It would be simpler for everyone.

“You seem troubled, child.”

Falcon turned. He knew the priest was named Galrean but nothing more. He kept his head deep in his hood. “I … don’t think there’s anything you or the goddess can do for me,” he admitted.

“Gallobana can help anyone who seeks her aid with an honest and pure soul.” Galrean assured him.

“I think I fall down on at least one of those prerequisites.”

“Are you dishonest?”

Falcon thought. He had heard that clerics were supposed to keep secrets about devotees to their gods. Perhaps if he were open and honest, then the lack of an actual soul might not be such a barrier. “I have to admit that while I have not lied, I have not been entirely open.” He glanced around to ensure that nobody else was in the temple and then pulled back his hood revealing his lichen covered metallic head.

If Galrean was surprised he hid it well. “You are perhaps the  most unusual devotee to come before the goddess.”

“I don’t think I have a soul to be honest and pure with.”

“Well, I have a little test. Come with me.”

The cleric led Falcon to one side at the back of the temple. Here there was a carved relief of a face. It looked fierce, almost demonic. The mouth was carved out deeply, so that you could not see the back of it, just a black gaping hole.

“Anyone who places their hand in the mouth of the beast must possess an honest and pure soul.”

“What happens if they do not?” Falcon asked.

“The beast will bite the hand off.”

Falcon looked at the face. It reminded him vaguely of the commander of his unit back in Aeona. He wondered how much it would hurt to have his hand bitten off. He knew that he could feel pain. It was a built-in defence mechanism. Any creature which could not feel pain would not withdraw from it and could therefore be killed before they knew they were under attack. He clenched his jaw and thrust his hand into the hole. He held it there, eyes half closed in anticipation. Nothing happened. Time seemed to stretch out. After what seemed like an hour, Galrean said, “Gallobana has judged you to be in possession of an honest and pure soul.”

Falcon relaxed and his eyes glowed brightly. He felt happiness again for the first time since he was in the woods.

“Where are you staying?” Galrean asked.

“I’ve been sleeping in the woods outside the town.”

“It’s not the safest of places. Why don’t you stay here at the temple until you have got yourself established?”

“I …”

“You have proved yourself worthy. Whatever you were in the past, in the here and now you are a creature of honest and pure soul, beloved of the goddess.”

“But, what if the people do not accept me?”

“Your secret is safe with me. Come, I will show you where you can stay.”

Falcon had a soul. That much was beyond question. He was safe, at least for now, from the Aeonian empire. But  he still had a long way to go before he could avenge the druids and the elf ranger Aeschalos.