Five minutes with...Patrick Barkham 


Prepare to be enthralled as award-winning author, Guardian columnist and Norfolk lad Patrick Barkham takes you on a tour of some of Britain’s most intriguing – and surprising -  small isles in his new book Islander.

It’s great news that you are coming to Jarrold to talk about your new book Islander, what can people expect to discover?

I'm going to take people on a tour of some of Britain's most intriguing small isles, in words and photographs. We'll travel from a large small island - the Isle of Man - to ever-smaller islands, ending on Ray Island in Essex's Blackwater estuary - a beautiful but little-known East Anglian island. I'll tell stories about some of the strange birds and beasts and eccentric inhabitants of our tiny islands.

You were born in Norfolk and you still live here, where did you grow up and does the county provide you with the inspiration to write?

I grew up on the edge of Reepham and my childhood in the Norfolk countryside left me with an indelible love for it. I was stuck in London for 15 years but escaped back to Norwich, and Norfolk, as soon as I could. I'm a massive Norfolk patriot, our county is genuinely unique rather like small islands are unique - because it is away from the centre of things. It makes Norfolk an inspiring and creative place for artists, writers and people who simply appreciate its space and peace.

What sparked your initial interest in natural history?

I actually studied politics at university but I've always been an enthusiastic amateur naturalist. I spent much of my 20s working as a journalist all over the place but missed the countryside and eventually decided to seek out every species of British butterfly in one summer, writing a book, The Butterfly Isles, about it. This helped rekindle my connection with the natural world. I now try and write about nature all the time. I think we all recognise that there will be no human life if we don't save the natural world on which we depend.

Your book Badgerlands won the East Anglian Book Awards – an annual event which is coming up later this month – what advice do you have for this year’s shortlisted authors?

East Anglia turns out so many brilliant books each year, I hope every shortlisted author will have fun, enjoy the night and take it as a huge compliment to be nominated. When I won a prize at the Awards a few years back, I realised it was the first prize I'd won since I scooped a Jarrolds’ colouring competition aged 10!

Give us three interesting facts you discovered on your journey across the British Isles when writing your new book?

 Until recently, Bardsey off the coast of Wales had a modern-day hermit. Alderney in the Channel Islands is the only patch of British soil to once contain a Nazi concentration camp. And Neolithic Orkney islanders were buried with the bones the Orkney vole - a very cute rodent which survives today but is found nowhere else in Britain.

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