On The Front Cover!

Recently I was very pleasantly surprised to see an email in my inbox from the editor of Pay Our Planet magazine asking me to write a feature for them. I hadn’t heard of them because it was going to be the very first issue. I leapt at the chance and decided to write about red squirrels, which are an animal very close to my heart. During my time at university I was lucky enough to have some very up-close encounters with red squirrels in Lockerbie, and can now spot them quite regularly in the forests near where I live.

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I was particularly taken by how environmentally aware Pay Our Planet is. Studies have shown that mangrove trees store carbon at a rate of four times that of mature tropical forests, so Pay Our Planet have partnered with the Eden Reforestation Project to plant mangrove trees in Madagascar. For every subscriber of the digital magazine, Pay Our Planet plants 15 trees each month. This makes that subscriber carbon positive, meaning their actions remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they put into it.

It’s been such a privilege to share the story of one of Britain’s most well-loved species to an international audience. I’m so grateful to Pay Our Planet for giving me the opportunity to not only write a feature for the magazine but also for putting my photo on the front cover!

Winter Walks in Hertfordshire

I am so pleased to announce that I have another article published in Hertfordshire Life magazine. This piece was inspired by wintery walks around the county and focussed on three Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust sites in particular: Lemsford Springs, Amwell and Stocker’s Lake. During my visit to Stocker’s Lake, I was treated to an incredible kingfisher sighting – my first glimpse of the bird that wasn’t just a zoomy blue blur dashing up the river. I also spent the afternoon watching great crested grebes, ring-necked parakeets and shovelers.


Other avian highlights at these reserves include green sandpipers, fieldfare, redpolls and spew, a particularly striking bird that overwinters from Russia and Scandinavia. I learnt so much researching this article and it’s such a thrill to see it in print. For anyone living in Herts, get yourself a copy and get inspired during these chilly winter months!

6) Herts Life Jan 1

New Leaves

This year I am dedicating a lot of my time to something I have wanted to do for many years: write a novel. I often write fictional scenes and enjoy creating characters and I wanted to set myself the enormous challenge of extending those elements into a book. I’ve read that while many authors swear by detailed outlines and believe that spontaneity is recipe for disaster, others encourage new writers to see where their imagination takes them. I’m trying the latter technique. I have a protagonist and several themes I would like to focus on, but so far my plot is far from finalised. The following is a passage I’ve written as a scene-setter that introduces both the location and my leading lady. 


The snow fell heavier than it had in a hundred years. There was no wind – the land lay still, muffled under six inches of brilliant white. Evergreens buckled beneath the weight of their silvery coats. Even the river had succumbed to winter; it lay motionless beneath a slab of ice, arranged in a winding, serpentine fashion between hills and mountains. It was late February – there was just over a month left of the winter that spanned half the year, but the coldest season still had a firm grip over the land. In March, the climbing temperatures would start to melt the snow into large freshwater pools and reawaken sleeping giants eager for the salmon run in July.

Halfway up a sprawling larch tree perched a teenage girl. She was small for her age, but agile and nimble. With her back pressed against the trunk, she had the perfect vantage point over the land. Before her the forest sprawled as far as the eye could see. Thousands of trees stood beneath snow and ice, their skeletal branches brittle in the cold.

Vanya’s breath rose from her lungs in icy shards, tumbling from her mouth in clouds of grey mist that swirled upwards into the sky. An eagle cried far away, her voice transported many miles over the sleeping land. Vanya had lived in the taiga forest her entire life, but gazed upon its sweeping scenery with the same wonder as the first time she saw it. It was a paradise of silver beauty. The silence was so thick she could feel it, heavy and palpable in the air. It was an anticipative silence that made the hairs on her neck stand on end. There was change in that silence – something new just beyond the horizon.

Despite her thick furs, Vanya soon began to feel the cold as the sun weakened. While she still had the light to see, she descended from her tree, scrabbling down the trunk with impressive confidence before dropping the last six feet to the soft ground. She padded down the hill, sinking into the snow with each step. Behind her lay a long trail of boot prints, already softened at the edges by fresh flakes. Frost clung to her eyelashes, brushing her cheeks with cold strokes and fringing her vision with a white vignette. Snow rustled in the folds of her coat and crunched beneath her feet. If undisturbed, the snow would fall and rest in utter silence. Only when it was touched did it begin to whisper and crackle. In the heavy air, the sounds were deafening.

When she reached a dense thicket of pine trees, Vanya slowed her pace and gazed skywards, scouring the canopy for birds. Snow clogged the gaps in the branches, concealing all manner of wild creatures. A sudden commotion cut through the silence like a knife. Vanya’s eyes flicked to the sound, freezing on the spot as a flurry of fine powder drifted down. The branch trembled, sending more snow to tumble from within its stiff needles. In moments the raid was over and the culprit emerged at the trunk. It was a young male sable, perhaps from last year’s litter, with dark brown fur and a splash of dusky orange on his neck. A small, carnivorous mammal, the sable belonged to the marten family. The animal cascaded deftly down the tree with agile limbs and keen claws.

Landing with a soft thud on the forest floor, he immediately looked up at Vanya, who had sunk down onto her knees to watch. The sable was clutching a stolen egg in his mouth, razor sharp teeth sunk into the shell for a better grip. Confidently, he trotted over to Vanya, dropped the egg and began sniffing her coat. Vanya extended a hand to the animal, noting the way his sleek fur rippled with each movement. The sable studied the girl’s face briefly before clambering onto the open hand, his nose twitching furiously. Vanya ran the backs of her fingers along his fur, delighting in its buttery softness. After a few more moments in her hands, she set the animal back down onto the snow, where he snatched up his egg. With a brief backward glance, the sable lolloped away to cache his prize.

To anyone else, this behaviour was unheard of. Sables, like many mustelids, could be notoriously aggressive towards humans, especially when food or kits were involved. Vanya was an exception to the rule. Since birth, she had truly understood animals. They were not stupid or cruel, like humans, but sensitive and respectful. Vanya saw no reason not to behave equally, and in response any animal she interacted with was fascinated by her. They sensed goodness in her; a quality that they had learned was absent in most humans. Instead of fearing her, they immediately trusted her.

Vanya studied the sable’s prints in the snow. In less than a minute, the snow obscured the impressions the tiny pads had made. In five minutes, they had disappeared completely. Her interaction with a wild sable might never have happened. Vanya was alone, and yet surrounded with life.

Inspired by a Blowfish

Last weekend I stayed with my grandmother at her lovely house in Frome, Somerset. I love my mini holidays there; my bedroom window overlooks a meandering river, and on the other side is a bustling market and a glimpse of the library through the overhanging trees. I was particularly excited on Saturday morning to discover there was a Christmas fair in full swing. There’s nothing like a fair in late November to get you in the mood for Christmas. Although I still refuse to play festive music before December, a sprinkling of Christmas spirit is more than welcome, especially in such bitterly cold weather.

Once inside, we joined the throng. Shoppers shuffled along tables laden with all sorts of gifts and bric-a-brac. The Cats’ Protection were selling cat-themed stationary, while a young man at the Somerset Wildlife Trust stand was doing his best to sell membership to a middle-aged woman whose attention was slowly waning. I am a firm supporter of the Wildlife Trusts, but membership recruiters have a way of pulling you in for a short (thirty minute) chat and not letting go. Past experience taught me to avoid his gaze, and I spotted the table I’m always searching for: the one covered in books.

As always, there was a decent selection of dog-eared Maeve Binchy and Danielle Steel paperbacks, but amongst covers showing watercolour landscapes and female silhouettes staring wistfully into the distance was the tail of a fish. I tugged at the fish and my eyes fell on beautiful line drawings of an octopus, jellyfish, seahorses and more. It was such a satisfying cover, and the book was called “Blowfish’s Oceanopedia”. It was one of those dip-in books with titbit information: “extraordinary things you didn’t know about the sea”, it said. As a person who is fascinated by the sea but doesn’t really know anything worthwhile about it, it seemed the perfect read for me.

The price was even better. A brand new book, published last year at £17.99, and I was charged a pound for it. Books were amazing, but books for a pound were magical.


After finishing my loop of the fair – and winning a raffle Christmas present in the process – I returned to my grandmother’s house and instantly curled up in my favourite chair to begin reading. Within minutes I’d learned a decent thing or two about elephant seals. I am quite terrified of elephant seals, but as with my similar unease towards snakes and sharks, I’m also fascinated by them. The Blowfish revealed just how important the southern elephant seal’s “trunk” was to its survival. During the breeding season, males weighing up to 4 tonnes battle it out to win ownership of the harem of females. Understandably, this is a full time job, and prevents males from returning to the water to feed and drink. So, to avoid dangerous dehydration, males use the complex nasal passages and specialised blood vessels in their fleshy trunks to recover around 70% of the water vapour in their exhaled air. It’s a genius example of life-saving recycling.


This is the sort of book I dream of someday replicating; an instrument to share my knowledge and passion with like-minded people. At the moment I’m not an expert in any one field, but the idea of spending decades of your life learning about something and then teaching others in the form of writing is, to me, the perfect way to preserve your work.

The Blowfish, also known as Tom Hird, is a marine biologist who has a deep love for the ocean and life within it. He’s the perfect voice for a potentially complex subject matter, using humour and everyday situations to diffuse a tricky concept. Speaking in the same language as the layman is something some scientists find extremely challenging. I’m certainly not a marine biologist, but nor am I completely naïve to the science of the natural world, so I often feel my combination of knowledge gives me an advantage. I can understand a lot (not all) of what scientists do, but I also appreciate how that needs to be adapted to inform the public without dumbing down and insulting them. I’m sure there are hundreds of published papers on the adaptations of southern elephant seals which required many hours of hard work, but to the average Joe wanting to find out something interesting about wildlife, a book like the Blowfish’s will be a much bigger success. I believe the key to nature writing, or any writing for that matter, is finding the balance between informing and entertaining. The Blowfish’s Oceanopedia has been a source of great inspiration to me – a writer hoping to one day publish books of my own. The passion and enthusiasm in the author’s prose is infectious, and makes me want to jump in the sea right now and see for myself everything he has had the opportunity to witness.

Eleanor Oliphant Is What We Need

In 2017, 40-year-old author Gail Honeyman entered a story about a lonely and damaged young girl into a writing competition. Now winner of the Costa First Novel Award and scheduled to become Reese Witherspoon’s next film project, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine has become a triumph for modern literature.

Our heroine, Eleanor, is evidently not at all fine. She often goes home from work on Friday and doesn’t speak to another person until she arrives at work on Monday morning. She is a source of amusement amongst her colleagues, and many modern advances are completely lost on her. “D’you like a smoky eye?” The makeup assistant at Bobbi Brown asks, to which Eleanor replies, “I don’t like anything to do with smoking.”

At the background of it all, her manipulative mother is an ominous presence looming at the end of the phone, hinting at a darkness in Eleanor’s past that may be the explanation for her isolation and uniqueness.

When Eleanor and Raymond, an IT consultant in her office, witness an elderly man falling unconscious in the street, an unlikely friendship begins to form between them. Somewhat hesitantly, Eleanor opens up to the possibility that people genuinely want to spend time with her, and with Raymond’s friendship comes a growing sense of self-assurance.

As we are introduced to Eleanor’s quirky persona, she initially appears very hostile to strangers and speaks her mind with seemingly no understanding of the consequences: “You’ll die years earlier than you would have otherwise, probably from cancer…you’ve already got the smoker’s characteristically dull, prematurely lined skin.” However, as we spend more time with Eleanor it becomes very clear that she has had nobody to help her align with societal norms – she was a confused child passed from carer to carer until university at seventeen. How can anybody blame her for reacting how many of us would were it not for our awareness of social politeness? Not only that, but being surrounded by unkindness and ridicule, it must be a natural reaction to close up and use that barrier of separation as a form of protection.

While Eleanor’s confidently naïve observations of the world can be enormously funny, the humour is threaded with heartbreak. At seeing her reflection after a new haircut she thanks the stylist for “making her shiny”. Having been surrounded by damaging and neglectful people all her life, becoming introduced to kind individuals is a foreign but welcomed concept for her.

Honeyman has created a character that is somehow completely fresh and new among literary heroines, and yet can be related to in countless ways. It has been commented that chronic loneliness is a very real problem for elderly people, but it never seems to be addressed among younger generations. Why must age be a contributing factor to a feeling of isolation? Eleanor has had a very troubled childhood and adolescence, but even those of us with caring families are capable of feeling lonely. In fact, according to a 2018 report by the Office for National Statistics, almost 10% of people aged 16-24 said they “always or often” felt lonely. This statistic was over three times higher than for those aged 65 or more.

This novel undoubtedly speaks to many young people, including myself. I have struggled with loneliness in the past – a desire for new friends coupled with fierce insecurity in social situations has made meeting new people a real challenge, and it is something I continue to struggle with. Loneliness can be incredibly upsetting, and is often hard to recognise in someone experiencing it. Honeyman has succeeded in raising awareness of the issue with her original and deeply moving novel, outlining the importance of kindness and compassion.

I Need Your Help!

If you’re from the UK and have stories to tell about forests, I’d love to hear from you!

I’m writing an article about what forests mean to different people, and would love to include some personal stories about wildlife, family memories or anything in between. If you could take a few minutes to complete my survey, I’d be so grateful.

Click here to see the survey!

Photography in Cumbria

During my internship at Student and Graduate Publishing, I was asked to write a piece for Study International magazine. I thought it would make a nice story to reflect on my favourite photography spots in Cumbria, to show international students studying in the North West just how beautiful it is. 

Studying at the University of Cumbria, I get the best of everything. Carlisle is a bustling city with all the facilities and resources a student needs, but nestled amongst the city are pockets of forest, river and grassland. Drive just a few miles out and you have access to the coast, vast expanses of woodland and beautiful nature reserves.

So for a student like me who is passionate about wildlife photography and writing, Cumbria in the North West of England is the perfect place. If you’re an avid photographer or just enjoy a walk outdoors, have a read of my favourite spots to enjoy in this beautiful area. For more inspiration see VisitCumbria.

The Ennerdale Valley boasts some of the most vibrant natural environments in England, and has been part of one of the longest ecological restoration projects in the UK. The Wild Ennerdale Partnership is determined to minimise human impact on the landscape and ensure the valley stays as wild as possible, while still being enjoyed by responsible visitors. The restorative work in the valley makes it one of those few naturally wild places, and is breathtaking to see.

One of our first year trips was to Ennerdale Valley, and I couldn’t believe how untouched the landscape looked. The hills were a patchwork of different shades of green dusted with snow at the very top, and luckily we’d visited on a beautiful day so the sky was a vivid blue. Down at the water’s edge, we could see straight through to the rocks below, indicating just how clean and pure the water was. There were so many photo opportunities that day, and definitely a location I’d recommend for landscape shots! For more information on the work Wild Ennerdale is doing in the valley, check out their website.

With the Lake District attracting 15.8 million tourists every year, it’s easy to forget that, although the Lakes are beautiful and well worth a visit, there are other parts of Cumbria with just as much wildlife, stunning scenery and photographic opportunities.

Carlisle is the county town of Cumbria and amongst its high streets and residential areas, a lot of wild places can be found. The rivers Eden, Caldew and Petteril wind through the city, breaking up the drab grey and giving wildlife space to thrive. Otters frequent the River Eden, and although I’ve yet to see one out and about I’ve been lucky enough to capture photos using remote camera traps and see their footprints in the sand just metres from a busy pedestrian bridge.

Just outside the heart of the city is Watchtree Nature Reserve, where a diverse variety of mammals, birds and invertebrates can be seen. Roe deer stalk the forests, while brown hares bound at astonishing speeds across the fields. If you’re lucky you’ll see a glimpse of red foxes between the trees when the sun sets, perhaps accompanied by scruffy cubs during spring time. For a list of things to do at the reserve – from attending guided walks to hiring bicycles and enjoying the reserve at a faster pace – see Watchtree’s website.

The Whale and the Freezer

Here’s another article I wrote during my time interning at Student and Graduate Publishing. My colleagues were so interested in the whale project at Tullie House that they asked me to write a piece on my volunteering experience. 

I’ve just finished my second year studying Wildlife Media. It’s really quite a niche course and when I tell people about it I get a mix of surprise, curiosity and almost every time I’m asked if I’ll be the next Attenborough.

A career in wildlife media is seriously competitive, making work experience essential. If you’re interested in nature and conservation take a look at Conservation Careers for inspiration. A lot of wildlife-related opportunities aren’t paid, due to the charitable organisations offering them, so my first two years have been full of volunteering. The thing with volunteering is you never know what to expect, and my experiences have proven that anything can happen.

I’d probably say one of my volunteering highlights this year was cleaning whale bones, something I never thought I’d say. Back in 2014, a massive whale skeleton was found on a beach in Cumbria and taken in by the local museum. I joined forces with two of my course mates to take on the behemoth. There was flesh hanging off the bones and they smelt nothing short of pungent. Donning our glamorous all-in-one suits, wellies and goggles, we got to work scrubbing the bones clean.

Nearly half a year later, after three hours a week of funky odours and a ridiculous amount of disposable gloves, we said our farewells to the whale, who we’d both grown very attached to. The bones have been sent off for industrial cleaning, and will then be hung up in all their glory in the museum atrium. Have a read of the full story.

That wasn’t the end of my antics at the museum, however. A week after the whale left us, we began a new project: the freezer. Deep in the basement of the museum – think restricted section of the Hogwarts library – are all kinds of treasures, some beautiful and others less so. There’s a freezer containing several hundred frozen specimens, from bats that could hide in your palm to far larger animals like otters and barn owls. It was our job to work through the freezer and document the name, date, locality and donor of every specimen to put them all on a database.

A lot of people would feel quite queasy at the thought of handling frozen dead animals, the majority of which were roadkill and had seen far better days. Luckily, or perhaps tragically, my friend and I couldn’t get enough of it. I have a particular obsession with British birds, so getting to see hawfinches, bullfinches and waxwings up close was a real privilege. And not just birds: one week we found a large bin bag containing the very rare and elusive blue mink, a member of the mustelid family with otters, stoats and weasels.

In fact, my friend and I were both quite sad when we reached the bottom of the freezer. Although it was a real shame that the animals had arrived at the museum in freezer bags, it was incredible to see all those birds, mammals and a few reptiles far closer than we ever could in the wild. It gave me an even greater appreciation of wildlife and provided an unforgettable experience that’s a great story to tell.

Things to Do in the Lakes

For the past two weeks I’ve been on an internship at Student and Graduate Publishing. I’ve been writing non-stop for their three online magazines. This article on the Lake District was written for Study International. 

In July 2017, the Lake District officially became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it part of a group of iconic locations across the world alongside the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu and the Grand Canyon. There are sixteen official lakes in the Lake District, each surrounded by stunning scenery and with plenty of things to see and do. Whatever your interest, the Lake District has so much to offer. So if you’re studying in the North West of England, take a look at what you could be planning for your next weekend trip.

Coniston Boating

For the adventurous, there is lots of sporting fun to be had on Coniston Water. Stretching five miles long and watched over by a mountain called the Old Man of Coniston, the lake boasts a wide range of possibilities for boating. Enjoy the sights on a motor boat, or perhaps try a more hands-on approach with rowing boats, paddle boards or canoes. Take a look at the Coniston Boating Service to book online and find out more. There are also bikes available for hire, for those who’d rather stay on dry land.

All that time on the water is bound to build up an appetite. Situated right on the shore is the Bluebird Cafe, where you can enjoy freshly-made cakes, ice cream or hot drinks, depending on the weather.

Derwentwater and the Theatre by the Lake

Another of the beautiful Lakes is Derwentwater, a site that has been named a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) due to the wide range of flora and fauna that inhabit the water and surrounding shores. One species that resides in the lake is the Vendace fish, Britain’s rarest freshwater fish.

In addition to being able to walk the entire circumference of Derwentwater, there is also the Theatre by the Lake, situated right on the shore. A wide range of events are shown here, whether your interest is theatre, film or music. The annual Words by the Water literary festival takes place here too, where famous authors gather to discuss and sell their works. A brochure of upcoming events can be found on the Theatre by the Lake website.

Visit Beatrix Potter

Relive a classic from your childhood and visit the quaint 17th century farmhouse of Beatrix Potter, nestled in idyllic Ambleside. Beatrix Potter bought Hill Top after the success of her first few books, and her visits to the Lake District were spent sketching the house and garden for new stories. Infamous characters such as Jemima Puddleduck and Tom Kitten were created in this picturesque cottage, along with many landscapes that featured in her books.

Anyone who enjoys a bit of British history will love exploring the cottage, with its quaint interior and surrounding garden exploding with flowers, as well as fruit and vegetable patches where Peter Rabbit could be hiding.

Upon her death in 1943, Beatrix Potter left Hill Top to the National Trust, insisting that the site remained completely untouched. So as you wander through the entrance hall with a pot of tea waiting on the table, it almost seems as if Miss Potter is still living there. Read more information from the National Trust about this beautiful cottage and what there is to discover there.