Auction for The Lost Words, Gloucestershire

Tidying up my studio, I found this.

It is completely unique, so hard to put a value on.

To help, it has this.

The jigsaw is wooden, small pieces, with some special shapes, whimsies. And, because I am tidying up I am offering it up for auction to raise money for Yellow-Lighted Bookshop’s initiative to put a copy of The Lost Words in every school in Gloucestershire.

I’m going to run the auction until Tuesday, around mid day. All bids need to be made in £ sterling. When the auction closes I will let the winner know and the money can be donated straight into the crowd funder. Happy to post anywhere in the world. Bidding starts at £50, and to bid, simply leave a comment. ( All comments have to be actioned by me and I will try to keep on top of things, but there may be some cross overs, so please be patient with me.)

Please share.

And if you want a

you can send £32 to the appeal and email me with your address to post to.

( The jigsaw is made by Wentworths, who are in Gloucestershire, about 15 mins away from Tetbury. You can buy others from Solva Woollen Mill. Desperately need some new designs.)

This Auction is Now Closed.

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The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

Inspired by the Scottish initiative to raise money to put The Lost Words in every school in Scotland Hereward Corbett has decided to see if the same can be done for Gloucestershire.

When The Lost Words was born on 6th October 2017, within days, I spent a day with Hereward in a school in Bristol, my very first experience of working in a school with the book. In the evening we did an event in the most beautiful church near Tetbury. Early days. The school in Bristol had purchased a copy for their library, by the end of the day they had purchased 14 copies, one for each class.

Hereward has set up a crowd funder. To show my support I have just spent the happiest of times in conversation with paper and ink. I’m struggling to find time to paint at the moment. There seem to be so many other things that need doing, and so many letters coming from schools about Tell me a Dragon, and interviews, and I struggle to find those quiet moments to just think, draw, paint.

Anyway, otter.

Made from ink and water. Thinking it needs a flash of gold, but maybe just a labyrinth on the stone?

This one is for sale for £1000 and all of the money will go direct to the crowdfunder

Also, I still have small and fragile pieces of gold leaf from stones. You can read more about these here. In the past I have asked people to contribute £32 to the Scottish Crowd funder and leave a comment here if you would like one.

This time I ask if you might do the same to the Gloucestershire crowdfunder.

Leave a comment and I will email you to ask for your address.

Otter is now sold. They do seem to swim quickly to their natural habitat of other people’s walls. If you would like a small and fragile thing leave a comment, and I will email instructions..

Thank you. Please share.



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The Lost Words in Scotland.

Thank you to everyone who has been part of this adventure.

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The Lost Words in every school in Scotland

This is now 98% funded on the stretched target.
When the Lost Words was first published Jane Beaton had the idea to put a copy into every school in Scotland. She felt that the book could re-engage children with nature, and help teachers. It seems like a long time ago now, but it was only 18 weeks.
It’s a curious thing to do to ask people to donate money to buy your book. Please understand that Robert and I do not profit from this. The books have been offered at an extra high discount to Jane by Penguin as an acknowledgement and in support of her aim. And I do believe that there are many many books that should be in every school, which is why I am a passionate supporter of school libraries. School libraries, public libraries, these are places that should be protected. And not just libraries as ‘ a room filled with books’, but libraries with librarians who help to guide those through that maze of shelves to find the right book, the one that might just change a life.
In crafting The Lost Words Robert Macfarlane and I worked closely with Hamish Hamilton and all the team there. They helped us to realise our vision. The artwork and words are exhibited side by side at The Foundling Museum in London until May, then from 19th May-2nd Sept they will be at Inverleith House in the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.
In the meantime it would be wonderful to see this reach the extended target. The funder is open until 7pm this eve ( and much thanks to Crowdfunder who extended the time period which enabled us to not only meet, but exceed the target.
For all who have given already I thank you.
Please leave comments with suggestions for other titles that you feel should be in school libraries.
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The Otter; and a very big thank you.

To all who have contributed towards the crowd funding initiative in Scotland, to buy a copy of The Lost Words for every primary school in Scotland, whether that contribution was £1 or £3000 you have my heartfelt thanks.

The target has been met and is now extending and with a fair wind we may get a copy in to all the secondary schools too.

Now Jane Beaton has the enormous task of accepting delivery of the books and distributing them. BUT, the fundraiser doesn’t close until Thursday 3 pm. If you contribute you are entered into a draw to win Lark, watercolour by me. 

You can donate here.

And by way of a thank you here, in a few words, is an otter, by Kenneth C Stevens


The otter is ninety percent water

Ten percent God.

This is a mastery

We have not fathomed in a million years.

I saw one once, off the teeth of western Scotland,

Playing games with the Atlantic –

Three feet of gymnastics

Taking on an ocean.


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Otters, stones, books.

Home, from London, tired. It is a long way. With the sun shining I decided to walk on the beach and paint inky otters.

The crowd funding is almost done. Five Days left. And I want to play with ink.

Today I painted, conjured, two otters, using Japanese ink. So dark. A beautiful texture on the paper. Fluid. The yearning for ink came at the Foundling. I drew a pair of otters with pencil, while speaking the otter spell. But liquid is my first language, water-colour, and others are muscle and blood and bone but they are fluid. So today I played.

Both were to be offered for sale at £1 000, for a short time only. The offer closes on 9th Feb at 6.30, and payment needs to be made, on exchange of emails, direct to the crowdfunder.

But the first, the running otter, sold before I could even blog the idea, and payment has already been made.

The second, ‘Ever dreamed of being otter’, holds in its paw a labyrinth stone which I will gild tomorrow. It will be sold to the first person who leaves a comment on the blog post with an offer of £1 000. I will post a picture of the piece finished tomorrow. Waiting for the ink to dry. There will also be a line for the otter to stand on. A fine line of gold.


Stones have been painted too, so I have more gold fragile things to post and stones to leave as wild gifts.

In between times I walked on the beach with Ann, to whom The Lost Words is dedicated. I joked that given the success of the book I should dedicate all my books to her. Ann taught me the names of things, and the name I love most of all that she taught me is the silver-y moth. And we left a stone.

I gave her a stone and she placed it beside the pond in her garden, sent me a picture later.

Meanwhile, outside my studio there is a pile of curious creatures.

Still reeling from the brilliance that is Kerry Andrew, who brought a room to tears with her setting to music of Mr Macfarlane’s bluebell spell. She enchanted the whole room. More on that later.

So, if you feel that the otter with the stone wishes to live with you then leave me a comment and I will be in touch to let you know the next step.


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This was my day.

Reading, Fugitive Pieces, before walking with dogs on the wide, tide out beach, taking a stone, visiting another.


Further along the beach I went to look for the stone in the carved hollow by the smooth rocks.

I fished it out from the pool, a sliver of gold still clinging, less than a week in the water, many a change and turn of the tide. Then we walked on, looking at the rocks.

Loving the texture of stone, the living rock.

At the end of the beach, where the ghosts dwell the water swirled and light fell.

Home then, to paint a wren and wrestle emails, and think.

I do love old bird books. The St Kilda Wren is such a small delight of a barred creature. And love this film with the sound of the sea. No people live on St Kilda now, to disturb the lives of wrens. Such beautiful birds.

Arkive video - Adult St Kilda wren foraging, feeding chick

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Lost Words, Hidden Words, Otters, Banks and Books

Let me tell you something, about otters and money, books and banks.

Wonderful news today as Jane Beaton’s crowd funding initiative gets an extra couple of weeks to raise it’s target. And because in the process of this learning curve Penguin Books came on board in a massive way that target has been massively reduced. Half way there. Hoping to push through to funding to see a copy of The Lost Words brought to every school in Scotland.

To celebrate I want to auction this absolutely unique proof of the silk otter scarf, produced by Beckford Silk for Compton Verney. (It’s printed on paper, not silk. There may still be scarves for sale at Compton Verney. You could wrap yourself in otters.)

Anyway, this is a big piece of work that repeats three times the double page spread of tumbling otters from The Lost Words.

The image is 33 cms high, so you can imagine how long it is. Colours are not true to the original, but it’s a curious and unusual thing. If the price gets high enough I will doodle a pencil otter or two in, and of course, sign it. It would look wonderful framed, although it is big.

To bid, please place a comment on this posting. I will close the auction on 5th Feb, not sure what time.  Sorry if the process is a bit ramshackled. I have to action the comments, so it takes time, and I’ve so much t do at the moment. Bids should be in £ sterling, but I am happy to post anywhere in this world and you can donate from overseas. You just have to do that before 8th Feb.

If you win the auction I will ask you to donate the money directly to Jane’s amazing initiative to place a copy of The Lost Words in every primary school in Scotland.

And if the bidding is outside your range then have a look at this way to contribute. For £32 you could get a small piece of gold.

Here are some more images of the piece.

Now, the initiative is for schools in Scotland, but there are some who would like to roll this out into the whole country. In Scotland, by coincidence, there are otters on the ten pound note. Two otters curling in play. I tried to find the name of the artist who drew the otters and found a whole back story about what is the most beautiful bank note I have seen. So many artists and crafts people worked on these notes, under the leadership of The Nile Team. Such attention to detail, even the tweed pattern is called the Dog Otter Tooth. Wild money. Why not use it to rewild the language of children.

And the Scottish note has poetry and hidden lost words that are only visible under uv light. The first lines are clear,

The cork that can’t be travels –

Nose of a dog otter.

The second two become visible only under uv light.

It’s piped at, screamed at, sworn at

By an elegant oystercatcher.

Poetry against forgery.

So please, bid generously. Leave your bid in the comments below, but be sure to read first. All bids have to be actioned by me, so sometimes there are cross overs.

Otters are amongst my favourite animals, and both Robert and I were delighted to find ourselves on the shortlist for the Nations favourite Nature Book. I was especially pleased to be there alongside Tarka.

Please share. And do have a look at the links to the otter’s story on the notes. It’s fascinating.

Bidding starts at £100.

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500 words

The 500 word short story competition is once more open for entries.

In the past these stories have been one of the sources used by the lexicographers of the Oxford Junior Dictionary. The words used in these stories are one of the sources for the words that are chosen for inclusion in the dictionary.

There’s an online petition to restore the ‘nature words’ removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.

Now, one way to restore these words, perhaps the best way, is to get the words back into the hearts, the mouths and the minds of children. Perhaps by using The Lost Words as a catalyst for the 500 word story competition. Because it is the frequency of the appearance of words in these stories that shapes the Oxford Junior Dictionary.

The seeds of the Lost Words began with a letter, sent to the dictionary, to question the editorial decision of the lexicographers. This letter highlighted a problem that has been growing in our population. As a child I remember being shocked that my contemporaries couldn’t recognise a wood pigeon from a wren. All this life around us, and to some one tree looks just the same as another. Why does this matter? Well, I think Robert Macfarlane says it best in the Newsnight program. It’s about knowing and naming.

And rather than continue to petition the dictionary, who defended their decision, our hope is that we could make a book that would enchant the mind and eye and bring these words back to heart and mind and mouth.

500 words, in stories. I wonder. At a time when children can name more Pokemon characters than they can British Wildlife, can we change this? Pokemon cost money, watching wildlife is free. Listening to the song of birds, is free. 

And it’s not a case of city versus countryside. On Saturday morning I woke in a hotel room in London near Kingscross. The first sound I heard was a blackbird singing the light into the world. On the train journey home, glancing out from the train window I saw a peregrine hunting two rooks against the background of a brutal factory wall, near Bicester. At Bicester Station a family of long-tiled tits gathered in a silver birch tree, so delicate. It still held gold leaves on its dark twigs. Last summer, in the heart of Edinburgh, I watched a family of bluetits clinging to a highrise in a rainstorm. We live surrounded by wildness, and all we need to do is open our eyes, to see, to look up from the screens that increasingly dominate our lives.

So, if you are a teacher then enter your children into the 500 word story competition. It’s a great way to get them writing. Frank Cotterrell-Boyce is giving great writing tips on twitter. And perhaps introduce them to other ways of seeing, using Robert Macfarlane’s words.

Don’t force, just plant the seeds and see if they grow. Rewild the mind of the child.

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The movement of stones.

Let me tell you something, something about a stone.
I picked up a red stone in Druidstone, at the beach. I gilded it in the Roundhouse.
By firelight, by candlelight, I added leaf to stone.
I walked, later, at Whitesands.
I put the stone on the blue rock, in a place where once I found a seal’s child, born late in the season, resting.
Today, almost a week later, I walked the wide and lonely beach.
We sheltered from the wind, Ivy, me, and Pi, and from the hail, so sharp, and then walked down to the end where the rocks are alive with creatures, and sculpted by time and tide.
Walking back I looked in pools to see if the stone I had left the day before had been taken, by wave or human hand.
It was gone.
I walked to where the seal child’s sheltered curve of sand was.
There I found a red stone, and thinking, that doesn’t belong there I lifted it and turned it.
Faint on the skin of the stone, the traces of gold, from a labyrinth.
Twenty times the tide must have turned since the day the stone was left on the rock.
And even in that short time the sea and tides have smoothed its face, wiped away the gold, sanded some of the cracks.
The same stone.
How curious.




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