Reading the Land

THE new Shaftesbury Book Festival, running from 11th to 13th March is Reading The Land, an invitation to share in the passion, experience and insight of our authors as we explore the best of nature writing.

​The theme reflects the experience of so many of us, through nearly two years of lockdowns and the restrictions of the Covid pandemic, adjusting to limitations and exploring lanes and paths closer to home in a bid to find new ways to stretch our minds (and legs!).

For some, it has been a chance to reconnect with nature, while for others it has proven an opportunity to examine more closely the natural world around us.

The festival, which has the distinguished nature writer Richard Mabey as its patron, aims “to stimulate positive ways of living with nature, and encourage the audience to share our passion for the landscapes, coasts, and flora and fauna.”

The writers taking part, many of them based in the West Country, include biographer Keggie Carew, historian, musician and folklorist Tim Laycock, broadcaster and ornithologist Stephen Moss, wildlife gardener and bee expert Brigit Strawbridge Howard, and environmental campaigner, arboriculturalist and ukulele player Robin Walter.

Richard Mabey’s first book Food for Free came out in 1972 and has become a classic of the genre. Since then he has impressed all who love nature with his thoughtful and challenging writing in more than 30 books, many television films, radio, writings and talks. The Unofficial Countryside (1973) and Weeds (2010) explore the bits and pieces of land and the plants that purists failed to ’see’. His biography of Gilbert White (1986) won the Whitbread Biography Prize while Flora Britannica (1996) celebrated plants in popular culture. From Nature Cure (2005) and Beechcombings (2007) to the Cabaret of Plants (2016) his reading of the land has always opened our eyes to new ways of looking and caring about our surroundings.

For bookings and more information, visit

Pictured: Richard Mabey; Brigit Strawbridge Howard