Rewild Yourself Champion 2024/

Nicola Chester

Nicola is a Nature writer, school librarian and “imperfect community activist”! From her “leaky rural cottage” in rural West Berkshire, she writes on belonging, protest, access and connection to Nature, with compelling prose that will have you reaching for both your binoculars and a protest placard. Nicola has written regular columns for the RSPB, Guardian and others, contributed essays to numerous anthologies, and last year published her beautiful memoir, ‘On Gallows Down’. She still finds time to run writing workshops and for “activism in the gaps of life”, passionately promoting causes such as a responsible Right to Roam and Wild Service.

How does time in Nature, and feeling connected to Nature, help you personally?

“I think it’s everything. My best memories are all outdoors in Nature. Being alone in nature also gives me inspiration. If I’m struggling on what to write,  it’s just because I haven’t managed to get outside yet. I think it’s the rhythm of walking,  looking at things, just being out in the fresh air, that does it.  It’s something everybody should have equal access to. I’ve had some of the most incredible Wildlife encounters right on my doorstep. I haven’t travelled very much, I’m ashamed to say, but I can walk out into fields behind my house and call a barn owl to me, which is pretty magical”.

What advice do you have for people looking for a better connection with Nature?

“I think it’s about slowing down, opening your senses, noticing things you might not normally be aware of, or  looking twice at something that catches your eye.  It’s that childhood feeling of being an explorer again. I think there’s a connection with arts and creativity too,  looking at something and wondering “how would I describe that to somebody else?”.  You can even tap into things that are familiar to you. If you sew for example, you might describe something as stitching  through the hedgerow. Or if you’re a painter, maybe you just focus on describing the different colors. It’s important not to worry at first about names or knowledge. That doesn’t matter yet, you are an explorer!”


What changes would you like to see to help more people access Nature and build positive, nurturing relationships with it? 

“I think there is a lot of good stuff already happening, like the Nature GCSE, Black Girls Hike and Muslim Hikers, but the idea of access to Nature, a responsible, reciprocal Right to Roam in service to the wild are also vital.  I think there needs to be action on a  community level everywhere. If any council is thinking about building a car park over any green space, or cutting down any trees, they really need to think again. We need to have Nature core to every single piece of  policy. In everything that we do, it has to come first, because If we don’t, we’re just hastening our own destruction. But there’s such a massive divide, so we need to work out different ways of pulling people in.“


Find out more about Nicola Chester and her work:

Nicola’s Website

Nicola’s Publications
On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging
• Winner for the Richard Jefferies Award 2021 for Best Nature Writing
• Shortlisted for the James Cropper Wainwright Prize 2022 for Nature Writing – Highly Commended

Right to Roam movement (Wild Service)


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