Ten things to do before your book launch.


1st annual gardening garden party

Raise an army to help with your book launch. (sample army only, not for hire)

You’ve been writing that book for just about ever and lo and behold, against all the odds, you have found yourself a publisher. Your book is going to be out there on the shelves and the launch has been planned like a military operation. The nerves are kicking in and if one more person tells you to, “just enjoy it.” you’re going to scream. Follow my ten point plan to make sure you survive your big night and make it one you remember for all the right reasons.


  1. Firm up the details of your launch with the venue, publishers and your agent.
  2. Raise an army of helpers to lay out glasses, put up road signage and greet guests.
  3. Visit the venue with a friend to practice your speech and readings. Make sure your guests can hear you from everywhere in the room
  4. Buy a dress, get a haircut, do what it takes to feel confident that you look your best on the night.
  5. Designate a driver so you can enjoy your own hospitality and a photographer so you can remember the event if you’ve enjoyed the hospitality a little too much.
  6. Go Pilates, meditate, wander in the flowers, drink cider by the river. Get into your zone in whatever way does it for you. ( I did all four)

    32 towards St Cuthberts Island

    Get into the zone, just don’t forget the cider and the designated driver.

  7. Try to get some early nights and no doubt fail as everyone suddenly wants to spend time with you.
  8. Bathe in the good wishes of friends (they really are excited for you.)
  9. Get sage advice, a pep talk and a hug from a friend you love and trust to calm your nerves.
  10. Go out, smile and yes, enjoy it. After all, you have earned it.

A Good Read – Thorne Moors, Catherine Caufield with photos by Fay Godwin.

Thorne Moors Catherine Caufield

This little book published by The Sumach Press captures the sad story of Thorne Moors, a peat bog classified as a SSSI which supports 4000 species of plants and animals and is one of our rarest habitats in this country.

For many years man’s impact was minimal. Digging peat by hand created a variety of mini habitats which actually increased the diversity of the moors but then, through a series of, possibly illegal, manoeuvres by wealthy individuals, the moors stopped being common property and became owned by one company, which since 1963 was Fisons, a company which made Levington compost.

In the years prior to selling the moor to another horticulture company Fisons destroyed much of the areas wildlife value by draining, surface milling and putting roads through the moorland and all so people could grow larger tomatoes in its peat rich compost.  This book tells a familiar tale of big business raping the countryside but also a great story of how one eccentric amateur expert William Bunting fought to have the wildlife value of the moor recognised and the area protected.

I’m not sure they make William Buntings any more. Born in 1916 this was the original eco warrior. He set up his own group of direct action protestors, Buntings Beavers, who set out each weekend to damn the drains that Fisons were cutting. Bunting also stalked the moors with an old revolver tearing down barriers placed across footpaths. He was by all accounts crotchety and didn’t suffer fools. I hope I have half his courage to fight for what is right.

William Bunting taught himself Latin and Middle English in order to fight Fisons through the courts. He managed to get footpaths re-instated and forced the company to allow some of his dams to remain in place. Fisons were forced to give a passing nod to conservation interests after bad publicity and eventually gave 8000 acres of peatland to Natural England. Thorne Moors is the story of how one man with enough determination can make a difference.

The Dark Side


Many people want a job in wildlife conservation but not all will work to protect what they love.

Like many people when I am angry about something which I care passionately about my views can become polarised. My opinions can be black and white about ‘them’ and ‘us.’ So when I see the continuous destruction of our countryside in the current rush of development there are only two types of Environmental Consultant, those on the light side and those on the dark. Those whose love and knowledge of wildlife is used to protect species and enhance the natural world and those who use their knowledge to aid companies who wish to cover our planet in concrete. I have often spoken of people who work for consultancies whose main work involves aiding development companies to remove wildlife and destroy habitat as soulless.

This spring, however, I have a man volunteering with me who works for one of the consultancy firms I see as being on the dark side. This man has a love of wildlife, he is a better birdwatcher than me and spends much of his free time surveying wildlife for free, should I really condemn him because he wants to work full time with wildlife and there aren’t enough jobs on the light side to go round? Like so many issues it is harder to shoot down the ‘enemy’ when you meet them and talk to them.

The problem is too many people are coming out of countryside management courses and off apprentice schemes and find that the only job available is ‘dark side’ consultancy work. Maybe some of these people begin thinking that what they are doing is ok. I myself have translocated species but only when the project will have an overall benefit for wildlife. Much of the work done by consultancies has no benefit for wildlife and is ill thought out and not followed through.

If development companies were forced to provide adequate compensatory habitat for that destroyed and pay for it’s long term management then maybe I would be more in favour of translocation. Maybe if developers were made to do this then they would be more willing to renovate some of our existing empty buildings and former industrial sites instead of building new ones on wildlife rich habitat. Instead companies move species to inappropriate locations already packed to the rafters with other translocated creatures and do no follow up monitoring to understand whether their work has been a success.

But could I personally do more to help people like my volunteer by taking on staff of my own? I potentially could if there didn’t seem to be so many barriers in the way of doing so. If the Government didn’t penalise small business’s wishing to offer people paid experience by making the whole business of taking someone on such a nightmare of legal constraints, tax issues and insurances. Giving people the sort of work a small business can manage seems to be frankly illegal and way, way too complicated to bother with.

My volunteer wishes to move on from doing work for developers. He wants to work for one of the good guys and I could give him the experience he needs to do so but, while the laws regarding small business’s are so top heavy and restrictive, he will have to continue to do so in his spare time for free and, like many others, will be tempted to stay in the dark.