Nature writer returns to his home town

One of Britain’s leading nature writers has spoken of his fears for the future of the wilderness which inspired his childhood passion for the countryside.

Mark Cocker will return to his home town to speak at Buxton International Festival’s literary series about Lightwood – the open land behind his family home where he grew up in England’s leading spa town.

The author, broadcaster and campaigner has been invited by Buxton Civic Association which cares for much of the woodland and other natural areas around the Peak District town to discuss his work, which includes highly praised books such as Birds Britannica, Crow Country and Claxton, writings about the Norfolk fens where he now lives.

He has travelled to 50 countries to study birds and their relationship with human beings, but it all started with an adventurous childhood in the countryside at the end of his garden on Lightwood Road.

“This was the inspiration for it, a childhood that was deeply feral – it was wild in the best sense,” said Mark.

“We enjoyed encounters with aspects of natural history. From my bedroom window I could see lapwings and grey partridge when we were children.”

Much of his work is about birds – how human and natural history overlap in myth, magic, literature and landscape – and demonstrates how much we stand to lose if we fail to protect these animals which have inspired mankind for so long.

Mark will say that many of the birds he saw from his window have gone – as have the jack snipe which could once be seen feeding on the local rubbish dump.

“I want to talk about the importance of Buxton as a place,” he said.

“It is surrounded by wildlife, but we probably take it for granted. Changes in agricultural practices are having a big impact on Buxton. It’s astonishing, the changes in Lightwood and the wildlife.”

Too much development had also had an effect on the town, said Mark, who marries precise scientific observations with a writing skill which has won praise from former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion among many others.

Mark Cocker in conversation: Lightwood – the Making of a Nature Writer, takes place on Saturday, July 22, 9am to 10am, St John’s Church. Tickets £10.50. To book, ring 01298 72190 or book online at http://www.buxtonfestival.co.uk