‘Landfill’: Author Tim Dee shares an extract from his brand new book

Foreword by the author:

Landfill is a book about gulls and people who watch them and also about the various places gulls can be seen these days.  It is therefore a book about rubbish and the sifting and sorting and reworking of rubbish and rubbishy places that the gulls are doing in Britain today.  It is therefore also a book about the organising of things: birds, rubbish and people, and it is interested in how, as they have moved among us in the last one hundred years, gulls have come to occupy and to feed different places in our minds.  What we think of them has changed as they themselves have changed how they live.  Did they choose to do this or did we make them?  This question plays across Landfill.

The following edited extract comes from near the end of the book.

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Landfill and Lichens: Community Walks with Land Lines @ Being Human Festival, Bristol

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Land Lines are delighted to announce that we will be hosting three community walks at Lamplighters’ Marsh in Bristol, as part of the national Being Human Festival. The walks will take place on Sunday 18th, Wednesday 21st and Saturday 24th November from 11am to 12.30pm, and will be led by experts on the flora and fauna of this unique environment, including Steve England, Rupert Higgins and Ed Drewitt, and by Dr Pippa Marland from the ‘Land Lines’ team, who is researching cultural responses to the resurgence of nature in urban edgelands. For the second two walks, the acclaimed nature writer and author of Landfill, Tim Dee, will also accompany the groups.

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Lamplighter’s Marsh, the location of the upcoming community walks. Image by Katie Marland

Lamplighter’s Marsh Local Nature Reserve lies next to the tidal River Avon in Shirehampton, near the M5 bridge at Avonmouth, where the river flows into the Severn estuary. It forms part of an important wildlife corridor as well as providing a rich range of habitats for nationally-rare plant species. As Tim Dee writes, in the face of climate change and species depletion, the edgelands of cities “might come to the centre of our lives and mean as much to us as any wilderness ever might have done”. This is an opportunity to come and fall in love with one of Bristol’s hidden gems – a place already treasured by the Friends of Lamplighters’ Marsh, the Shirehampton Community Action Forum, and ‘A Forgotten Landscape’, who are helping to host the events.

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Lamplighter’s Marsh. Image by Katie Marland

The walks are part of a 10-day national programme of big ideas, big debates and engaging activities for all ages, brought together under the banner of the Being Human Festival. The Festival aims to demonstrate how the humanities help us understand ourselves, our relationships with others and the challenges we face in a changing world. In 2017 Being Human encompassed a programme of 330 events in 56 towns and cities across the UK, with a total estimated audience of 31,000. The 2018 festival  promises to be even bigger, with an exciting, entertaining and thought-provoking programme which features something for everyone in our diverse communities across the UK.

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Lamlighter’s Marsh. Image by Katie Marland

The walks are free of charge but places are limited so booking is essential.

How to book:

Booking is via Eventbrite and each walk has a separate link.

To book for Walk 1, on Sunday 18th November, click below:

To book for Walk 2, on Wednesday 21st November:

To book for Walk 3, on Saturday 24th November:


Call for Papers: Nature Writing’s Future Pasts (Land Lines Conference, 28th February–1st March 2019)

We are very pleased to release the Call for Papers for our upcoming conference, Nature Writing’s Future Pasts, that will bring the Land Lines Project to its close in Spring 2019. If you have any queries, please get in touch with us via email: The deadline for abstracts is 1st December 2018.

Nature Writing’s Future Pasts – Land Lines Conference Call for Papers

British nature writing can be understood as both a product of and a challenge to a western-style modernity that has created the conditions for its own unravelling. The tense that best captures these conditions is the future anterior. Scottish writer Kathleen Jamie, wandering through Bergen’s Natural History Museum, marvels at the ‘decaying bones of twenty-four cetacean skeletons crowded under the ceiling’. One whale skeleton alone, that of a gigantic blue, is ‘less an animal, more a narrative’. The different cetacean narratives add up to a devastating commentary to which even words such as ‘waste’ and ‘slaughter’ and ‘holocaust’ and ‘shame’ cannot do full justice. Jamie duly joins a team of conservators who lovingly polish up the bones, dedicated to preserving a future past.

What are the futures of nature writing, in Britain and elsewhere? What are its pasts? And how might these be brought together? This two-day conference, held at the University of Leeds, will examine the different temporal registers of modern British nature writing, from the foundational work of Gilbert White in the late eighteenth century to the present day. Topics will include, but are not restricted to: deep time; the effects of temporal scales; predictions and prophecies; the workings of environmental memory; and the conflicted relationship between nature writing, natural history and changing conceptions of ‘nature’ itself. Attention will also be given to the relationship between hope and despair in modern British nature writing; to the transnational and global contexts within which it operates; and to the anticipated losses –– but also the alternative futures –– it confronts.

The conference dates are Thursday 28th February and Friday 1st March 2019. We especially invite proposals for papers from Postgraduate and Early Career researchers. Alternative formats are welcomed (pre-formed panels; discussion groups based on 5-minute position papers; roundtables, etc). We anticipate that the conference will also be open to interested members of the public, either as presenters or audience members, numbers allowing.

Our confirmed keynote speakers are Patrick Barkham (author of Islander, The Butterfly Isles, Coastlines, and environment correspondent for The Guardian), Miriam Darlington (author of Otter Country and Owl Sense, and Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Plymouth), and Richard Kerridge (author of Cold Blood and leader of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University). As well as delivering keynote talks these speakers will also be giving a reading at Leeds Library open to both conference delegates and the public on the evening of the 28th February.

To submit your proposal please email a 250 word abstract to by 1st December 2018, with ‘Land Lines Conference’ in the subject bar. Please attach your proposal as an anonymised document and also paste it into the body of the email. If you are interested in attending but not presenting please also email us by this date so we can calculate numbers.

‘Land Lines’ is a 2-year, AHRC-funded research project working on the history of British nature writing, the main output of which will be a book for CUP (2019). Led by Professor Graham Huggan at the University of Leeds, the team also includes scholars from the Universities of Sussex and St Andrews.

Twitter: @LandLinesNature


This time it’s political: A Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife and The Peoples Walk for Wildlife

By Pippa Marland


Of all the literary genres, nature writing has perhaps more than any other, and sometimes with good reason, been characterised as an apolitical form – as conservative with a small c, reluctant to engage with the politics of landscape and its entanglement with questions of class, gender and race, and slow to call out the larger political and economic forces implicated in the degradation of the natural world.

In this respect the genre has witnessed some extraordinary events in the last week: A Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife was released – edited and curated by three nature writers: Chris Packham, Robert Macfarlane, and Patrick Barkham – and The Peoples Walk for Wildlife, instigated by Chris Packham, marched on Downing Street to deliver the Manifesto. As it states in bold in the opening pages of the document, ‘This Manifesto is Political’. Of course these editors are not only nature writers: Chris is also a well-known TV personality, one of the presenters of the hugely popular Springwatch, and a renowned wildlife campaigner; Robert Macfarlane works tirelessly beyond the page as an ambassador and catalyst for the cultures of nature; and Patrick Barkham is a greatly respected environmental correspondent and commentator for The Guardian. Nevertheless, this might be seen as the week in which nature writing and radical environmental politics unequivocally joined hands.

The document is structured around substantial and (in the long-form version) fully-referenced chapters written by a kind of fantasy Cabinet of expert ‘Ministers’, augmented by additional material from a range of wildlife campaigners. It was put together both to provide a focus for the Peoples Walk and to stimulate further action. It is not only political per se, but is an attempt to draw together the sometimes disparate political voices of conservation organisations, ecologists, environmental lawyers, cultural critics, farmers, urban dwellers, and, perhaps most significantly, the young people who are in the process of inheriting Britain’s massively beleaguered nature. As the Introduction to the Manifesto reminds us, according to the State of Nature Report, 2016, ‘we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world’. The situation is so dire that we appear to be waging, to use Chris Packham’s phrase, a ‘war on wildlife’. In the face of such destruction, concerted collaborative action is essential.

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Finding the sea inside: events at the Living Seas Centre, Flamborough

by Pippa Marland

Prof. Graham Huggan introducing Philip Hoare (Photo: Pippa Marland)

On the 14th and 15th September, Land Lines and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust hosted a series of events at the Living Seas Centre, Flamborough, entitled ‘The Sea Inside: Memories, Feelings and Experiences’. The events began with an inspirational talk by the acclaimed British nature writer, Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan, The Sea Inside, and, most recently, Risingtidefallingstar.

Philip Hoare by Andrew Sutton
Philip Hoare (Photo: Andrew Sutton)

In his talk, Philip described his transformation from a person who had feared the water from an early age and couldn’t swim until he was 29, into the committed sea swimmer and impassioned champion of whales and dolphins he is today. It was seeing the captive orca, Ramu, at Windsor Safari Park as a child that imbued Philip with a deep conviction that keeping these intelligent and social animals in captivity was both cruel to them and demeaning to us as humans. It was a moment of epiphany for him – one that instigated his lifelong devotion to cetaceans.

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A Day of Two Halves: South Walney Nature Reserve Writing Workshop by Geraldine Green


It was a day of two halves. Set off from home around 8.45am amid squally rain, wind, wind, rain, more squalls and did I mention rain? … headed off to  South Walney, Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Nature Reserve that lies at the very southerly tip of Walney Island, northwest England. I was leading a full-day outdoor poetry workshop – oh yes, us poets do crazy things! And I’m thinking: will anyone turn up? Well, if not, I know I’ll enjoy myself at Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Reserve, whatever the weather flings.


People did turn up. Poets I know from other workshops I run, mainly my monthly Write on the Farm ones. They came from Bolton, Rhos-on-Sea, Ripon, Sedbergh, France (by way of Grange-over-Sands) and Kirkby Lonsdale, with apologies from writers from Warrington, Kendal, Richmond and Lancaster.

Each of us had a tale to tell of the cattle we’d met on the track as we drove in. A herd of 60 or so, fine looking cows, frisky calves and a magnificent bull, complete with brass ring, that stood rock-still on the narrow road to the reserve.  Bellowing, frisking, ponderous older cattle, wind-excited youngsters.

Would they bother us? Should we be concerned? In a moment of synchronicity the farmer turned up in his Landrover, to ask if Sarah the Warden of the reserve was around. She wasn’t, but a couple of other staff were there in her place. I took the opportunity to ask the farmer if the cattle were, umm, friendly? “Couldn’t get a gentler lot of cattle than these,” he said… well, OK!

I’d planned the day to coincide with the high tide of 1.50pm, knowing from past experience that grey seals swim into Lighthouse Bay (though I call it Seal Bay), to fish and play on the incoming tide. We gathered around in a huddle of over-trousers, waterproof boots, kags, hats, gloves, flask of hot drinks – yes, for although it was 16th June, sweeping rain and wind pouring in off the Irish Sea, plus the misty sea-fret, made for a chilly day.

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Arthur Ransome: Nature Writer? Guest Post by Shelly Dennison

There was really only ever one book that I was going to nominate in the Land Lines nature writing poll – Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I first read the novel. However,  the memory of reading the books is inextricably linked with the memory of a row of hardback books in Whitehaven library. I probably loved the Jonathan Cape covers as much as the stories, with their simple, one-colour design filled with black and white illustrations – fragments of the story to come.  That memory provides the clue to my age – I must have been less than ten years old as that was when we moved away from Cumbria.

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A young Shelly Dennison in the Lake District (Photo author’s own)

This is the immediate thing that strikes me about Swallows and Amazons as my choice. It’s deeply nostalgic, both for the books themselves (and indeed the library), and an early childhood that cannot possibly have been as I remember it (all walks by the lake and sunny weather). For one thing, the west coast of Cumbria is no rural idyll – there are harsh realities about poor public transport and a lack of opportunities that ten-year-old me simply didn’t grasp. Nonetheless it is, in part, this fantasy of childhood that makes rereading Swallows and Amazons so magical to this day. The gap between the Walkers, the Blacketts and me felt quite slight – those were the adventures I could have had. This feeling was of course heightened by familiarity with the landscape – these were places I knew, right there on the page in front of me. To a child, there’s something quite thrilling about that.  Ransome’s Lake Country is a mixture of Lake Windermere and the area around Coniston Water – allowing him to mix up lakes, islands, woodlands, mountains, moors and streams as necessary – and I recognised all of these elements.

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