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18 November 2023

Posted by Claire Hillier

Junior Writers - week 3 - Nature Writing [trees/plants/flowers]


We started with our group check in, describing our week so far as a plant/tree/flower - what would it be, and why?

  • Claire - Ivy, climbing everywhere

  • Lyla - a Monkey Puzzle Tree, lots of branches

  • Hamish - a Rhododendron, many flowers

  • Marissa - Bamboo, spread quickly

  • Indy - a Coconut Palm Tree, days falling quickly

Followed by a round up of what we are reading this week, and what we like about these works;

  • Stig of the Dump [a novel by Clive King]

  • Letters from the Lighthouse [historical mystery set in WWII times by Emma Carroll]

  • Alice in Wonderland [a novel by Lewis Carroll]

  • Bunny vs Monkey [comic book series]

  • The Phoenix [a weekly magazine]


Then we played a game of FOREST FAMILY PORTRAIT. The class split into 2 groups, one became a ‘Family’ of Trees, the other became a ‘Family’ of Birds. Everyone had to pick their character’s role in the family - and write from that character’s perspective.

The group were given the opening sentence: The day the Spaceship landed in the Forest…

Their challenge was to continue the story from their chosen ‘family member’s’ point of view.

We then shared our work with the group. Having different characters observe the same event in different ways helped us think about good dialogue and point of view in narrative storytelling.

After a quick round of ONE WORD STORY we moved on to our example poems on this week’s theme of Nature Writing. We had a discussion about who can do nature writing [everyone], and why it’s important [to connect us to our environment, help protect it, and appreciate it]

Example: Poetry Book The Lost Words, by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

“Shortlisted in 2017 as one of Britain’s favourite books of all time on the natural world. These ‘lost’ words were due to be removed from a children's dictionary, because they were not being used. What are the 20 lost words? The list of these included acorn, adder, bluebell, dandelion, fern, heron, kingfisher, newt, otter, and willow.”


Bramble is on the march again,

Rolling and arching along the hedges,

Into parks on the city edges.

All streets are suddenly thick with briar:

Cars snarled fast, business over. 

Moths have come in their millions,

Drawn to the thorns. The air flutters.

Bramble has reached each house now,

Looped it in wire. People lock doors,

Close shutters.

Little shoots steal through keyholes,

To leave - in quiet halls,

Empty stairwells - bowls of bright 

Blackberries where the light falls.


Cabinet-maker, could you craft me a conker?

Oil it’s wood, burnish its veneer, set it glowing 

from within?

Never. Not a chance. No hope at all.

King, then, could you command me a conker?

Compel its green spikes to grow, its white plush

To thicken? Impossible. Impractical. Inconceivable.

Engineer, surely you could design me a conker?

Refine its form, mill its curves and edges?

Manufacture me that magic casket?

Unfeasible. Unworkable. Unimaginable.

Realize this (said the Cabinet-maker, the King and, 

The Engineer together) conker cannot be made,

However you ask it, whatever word or tool you use,

Regardless of decree. Only one thing can conjure

Conker - and that thing is tree. 

This led on to today’s writing exercise: Write our own Acrostic Nature Poems


  • DAHLIA and ROSE by Lyla Rose

  • CHERRY TREE by Indy

  • CHRISTMAS TREE by Marissa

These were all fantastic poems, full of excellent imagery and evocative sensory writing.


We then looked at a story [Run Wild by Gill Lewis] that helped us think about different forms of Nature Writing, including fiction and novels, and how we can bring wildlife, wild and urban environments and environmental issues to life with our writing.

“Gill Lewis’ Run Wild is the story of Izzy and her friends, and what happens when they stumble across an urban wilderness and an injured wolf that desperately needs their Help.

Izzy and Asha really want a space they can call their own where they can practice skateboarding and escape from bullies and the issues they’re facing at home. When they stumble across a derelict gasworks it looks like they’ve found the perfect spot. But the site is home to more than they bargained for and Izzy, her younger brother Connor, and Asha are soon confronted with a wilderness they never expected and a lonely, injured Wolf.”


Our final example was from another book [Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin]. A much-loved classic of nature writing from an environmentalist. This is non-fiction journal writing, structured like a diary, including memories and things the author learns about the Element of Wood and different cultures' connection to it. We talked about this as another way to approach Nature Writing.

“I’m lying in the Shepherds hut on a wooden bed under a boarded roof like a pine tent, between walls panelled with pine, tongued and grooved horizontally. Each time a nail has pierced the deep amber wood it has bled a black rusty stain that has crept along the grain and blurred, as though the wood or the wagon itself were traveling at speed. A woodpecker shrieks across the field. A wasp worries the window pane, then zigzags above the bed and eventually blunders into the outer air. The door frames a wall of green: the hawthorn, maple, blackthorn hedge, the dipping wands of an ash, nettles, graceful flowers of grasses. All stir in the hot breeze.

The author goes into detail about his younger years spent studying and observing in the New Forest. Specifically a campsite at Beaulieu Road. He describes the native local plants and wildlife in amazing detail. 

“Roger Deakin’s unmatched exploration of our relationship with trees is autobiography, history, travelers tale and inclusive work of natural history. It will take you into the heart of the woods, where we go ‘to grow, learn and change”.


We then talked about optional homework:

  • To continue writing [develop any of the pieces of writing done in class]

  • To continue reading

  • To look for inspiration

  • Take a walk, step outside. Make a journal entry about what we saw/felt.

The theme for next week is Nature Writing [Seasons & Wildlife].

  • we will be looking at examples

  • playing more games

  • and doing some writing exercises on this topic.


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