Festival celebrating nature

Natural poet. Poet laurete and patron of Niddfest Carol Ann Duffy.
Natural poet. Poet laurete and patron of Niddfest Carol Ann Duffy.
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Niddfest – the unique literature festival that celebrates books, nature writing and the landscape – returns next weekend. Yvette Huddleston reports.

Returning for another three-day celebration of books and nature, Nidderdale’s literature festival Niddfest takes place in venues in and around Pateley Bridge next weekend.

Last year’s inaugural festival was a huge success with its combination of author interviews, talks, outdoor events and family-friendly activities – all set in the stunning landscape of Nidderdale, officially an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. “We drew in people from across the country and got a lot of good coverage.,” says Festival Director Kit Peel. “And, of course, it does help that the festival takes place in Nidderdale – it is such a beautiful part of the world.”

The line-up of writers this year includes appearances from poets Imtiaz Dharker and Carol Ann Duffy, who is also the festival’s patron, garden writer and broadcaster Christine Walkden and novelist Ali Shaw who will be talking about his new novel The Trees – set in a post-apocalyptic world it has been described as ‘doing for trees what Hitchcock did for birds’.

Activist, editor and writer Satish Kumar, famous for his peace walk in the 1960s, will be speaking about his new book Soil, Soul and Society which expresses his hopes for environment, spirituality and humanity, while former head of Friends of the Earth Tony Juniper will be talking about the state of our planet.

“I think the reason people are interested in books about nature is that there is quite a lot of apathy out there in terms of what societies around the world are doing to deal with climate change and loss of wildlife habitat,” says Peel. “We are not a political organisation but it is good to have those conversations.”

As well as showcasing the very best in nature writing and the work of world-class poets and authors, the festival seeks to encourage people to engage with nature, the environment and the landscape. So in addition to the literary programme there are a number of outdoor events including an early morning bird walk with professor Nick Davies and the Nidderdale birdwatching group, a walking tour of Nidderdale’s meadows, wild swimming and den building.

“One of the things we are most excited about is the stargazing,” says outdoor events co-ordinator Astrid Wynne. “Nidderdale is trying to get itself classified as a dark sky area, so we have someone coming from the astronomical society in York.” Telescopes will be provided.

The children’s programme has been extended this year with a children’s tent for indoor activities on the banks of the river Nidd – and there will be plenty of outdoor activities allowing children to explore nature in a safe and fun environment. The major family event, which sounds like great fun, is a recreation of the Brambly Hedge Wilfred’s Birthday Party with children’s author and illustrator Helen Stephens.

“We wanted something really fun for families,” says Peel. “There will be face painting and costume making and we are inviting people to bring their own picnic and homemade cake.”

NiddFest, August 5-7. Details and to book www.niddfest.com