Now I have all 5 books printed, I wanted to take them out and show them to some booksellers and venues to see if they’d like to stock them (obviously) but also to get some feedback. As mentioned before, booklets struggle as they can’t be displayed spine-out on a shelf, so need to be full frontal and this requires some sort of stand or holder otherwise they topple. Some shops are more geared up for this, either because they have tables or a gift selection where the booklets can be presented in a way other than on shelves – Much Ado are using a basket – but that doesn’t always chime with the aesthetic or vibe of the shop.

I made my way to Battle to visit Rother Books. I had messaged the owner, Ian, and he had said that booklets didn’t really work in the space but I wanted to pop in as frankly, any excuse to visit a bookshop. I had a look at the wildlife section and decided to buy something non-fiction for a change: I got a crime novel as I am staycationing this year…as are most of us. I showed Ian the booklets and he really liked them so it was brilliant to get that feedback and he said he would love to stock them sometime just not at the moment, so that was a really nice visit.

I drove to my friend Paul’s who lives in Winchelsea as we were heading on to historic Rye, but we had a quick look at the swifts nesting in Winchelsea church – it is a ‘swift town’ and boxes have been put in the putlog holes in the stonework, as well as in some houses in the vicinity. We are both beekeepers and smirk somewhat as at least one of the swift boxes has honey bees living in it. The swifts swooping and diving overhead are amazing: such a sound of summer.

We went on to Rye, and popped in to see Jake at The Rye Bookshop who was really helpful and encouraging, and we also saying about the disadvantage of booklets. They are expanding their range of local books however, so said they would be very interested in a Rye birds booklet, which is extremely fortuitous, as you will see. Again, lovely to get such great feedback about the books themselves, and Paul and I also spotted an idea for the bellybands:

Hmm. Thinking cap ON.

We then went to our prime location: Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, run by the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Oh wow, what a place.

We finally managed to speak to Liz, who we’d been in contact with over the booklets but due to various technical issues, had not managed to properly connect with! She loves the logbooks and they will be stocking the Town & Country, Ponds, Coast and Farm booklets, but they also really want the Birds of Rye Harbour. This is brilliant as of course it can be sold in The Rye Bookshop, and again, so brilliant to get such positive feedback. We discussed displaying the books but there is lots of room in the cafe and shop so it is less of a hurdle to overcome; we will use perspex display units on the shelves and tables. I am putting together a list of suitable birds, as we sat and had a cold drink at the incredible new Discovery Centre which has huge windows with bench seats along them giving a terrific viewpoint over the saltmarsh. I had a bit of a moment when I suddenly realised I was looking at avocets!! I’ve not seen them before and hadn’t realised they were breeding in Sussex. Ok so this was filmed on my phone so it’s not going to win any awards (!) but that pale blob is a feeding avocet…honest.

There was also a shelduck, curlew, crows, starlings, skylarks, oystercatchers and I think a redshank. It will be such a lovely collection, and having looked at their Instagram and Twitter I now have a list of 22 + 5 birds to go in to the logbook. I will discuss with the warden to make sure he feels it’s the right blend, but I am excited to paint a spoonbill and a marsh harrier.

I am incredibly pleased to be working with the Wildlife Trust at such a special place. I am a naturalist and first and foremost, and I am thrilled if my little books encourage people to spot some of the different species that the Trust have worked so hard to encourage. Here are some photos:

It was a great day out!

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