The call of the wild

© Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

The call of the wild:
New collection of writing spotlights urgent need for wildlife recovery

The call of the wild: 

New collection of writing spotlights urgent need for wildlife recovery

  • Writers’ organisation 26 joins forces with grassroots nature movement The Wildlife Trusts to highlight the wildlife crisis, and the urgent need for nature’s recovery.
  • From hazel dormouse to blue shark, writers tell the stories of our disappearing British wildlife through poetry and prose.

Wildlife is under threat. Animals from our earliest childhood memories are at risk of disappearing from the natural world. Writers’ organisation 26 has partnered with The Wildlife Trusts in a special project that uses the power of words to promote awareness of the need for nature’s recovery.  

Fifty-two writers were each paired by The Wildlife Trusts with an endangered species to write about, spanning the length and breadth of the UK. 26 also tasked an additional four members with writing about an overseas species. The writers spent 10 weeks researching their animal, taking time - where possible - to visit wildlife spots near to them, or connect with their Wildlife Trust to produce a creative, as well as factual, response to what they learned.

Surrey's piece is about the rare heath tiger beetle and is written by local writer Simon Prichard, with contributions from Trust Living Landscapes Manager Mike Waite and Thames Basin Heaths Conservation Manager Ben Habgood. A talented copywriter, Simon works closely with the Trust and is a regular writer for Surrey Nature magazine. 

The pieces have been published online throughout September 2020 and started with the beaver and ladybird spider on Thursday, 3 September. The aim is to help raise awareness about the ongoing concerns around nature’s decline and its capacity to recover, if only given the chance.

The project offers a unique, literary aspect to The Wildlife Trust’s call for 30% of the UK’s land and sea to be managed for nature; a step that would set nature’s recovery as a priority. Today, the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and The Wildlife Trust’s ambitious target is much needed to help tackle the triple, interlocked, crises of climate chaos, nature’s decline and our public health emergency. 

Nature, writing and poetry go hand-in-hand, and writers were encouraged to explore  both the loss of their matched species through their writing and also the potential routes to recovery. From the humble hazel dormouse to the cuckoo and the long-eared bat to the harbour porpoise, each writer has produced a 100-word poem - a ‘centena’ - imagining a world without their matched animal, alongside a longer article (400 words) that allows writers to discuss more of the facts and bring in a positive message about the potential for their recovery. 

John Simmons of 26 said: “Who doesn’t have fond childhood memories that are intertwined with nature, be it getting dirty outdoors, or reading a favourite book? At 26, we believe in the power of words and we are honoured to help support The Wildlife Trusts in highlighting the issues and their vision for a wilder future. Nature’s recovery  is vital not only now, but for future generations.” 

Gillian Burke, Natural History television producer and presenter comments on the project: “UK wildlife is experiencing a catastrophic decline with several species on the brink of disappearing from Britain altogether. #26Wild is an incredible project by 26 helping to promote the work of The Wildlife Trusts and bringing together the power of language and storytelling to shine a light on the plight of the natural world. The right stories, told in the right way, is a captivating way of championing endangered species, both in their struggles and in their occasional triumphs as is the case for the humble beaver. Beavers were hunted to extinction in Britain over four hundred years ago but now they are back, with a lot of help from some true conservation heroes in the Wildlife Trusts and beyond. Samuel Crosby will recount the dramatic highs and lows of these fantastic creatures as they stage one of the greatest comebacks these shores have ever seen!"

Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, CEO, Surrey Wildlife Trust adds: “As we struggle through the worst global pandemic in memory, the need for a strong connection to nature has been sharply felt. Everyone’s lives have been changed by coronavirus, giving us yet more reason to reflect on humanity’s relationship with nature. And, even though so many of us have been able to find comfort and inspiration from nature during lockdown, we know that millions of adults and children are still disconnected from what living in a vibrant, flourishing natural world really feels like.”

Sarah Jane continues, “We are thrilled that 26 chose to highlight UK wildlife’s plight. Writing is such a wonderful tool to both educate and motivate; this inspiring project will help bring people even closer to nature, so we can turn this dire situation around together.”

Centenas will be published from 3 September at 12pm at 26project.org.uk. Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #26Wild.