Book celebrates beauty of island

Pupils from South Walney Junior School have put the beauty of their island into words and pictures in the latest edition of a much-anticipated book.

Lost Words of Walney is a compilation of poetry and watercolour illustrations to celebrate the unique wildlife and plants of Walney Island.

It has been created by Year 6 pupils at the school on Amphitrite Street under the guidance of deputy headteacher Michelle Banks and is the third edition.

She said the project had been inspired by The Lost Words by best-selling author Robert Macfarlane, who aims to keep alive words from nature in the language of children. It combines nature and its wonders through spell poems and illustrations by artist Jackie Morris.

Mrs Banks said the project had first started in lockdown when children were confined to their home or local area.

“We were looking for opportunities to keep them engaged with writing and, as they were being encouraged to go for walks, it was a brilliant way of getting them interested in the local area and to write for a purpose.

“At first the children didn’t understand what a special place Walney is but you can see how that changed through the phenomenal poetry and artwork they produced so we decided to continue the project each year.”

The book includes poems about grey seals, oysters, the ringed plover, egrets, shelduck, Walney geranium, viper’s bugloss and protected natterjack toads. Artist Hannah Willetts helped the children with their watercolours.

Following its publication, Mr Macfarlane saw the book on social media platform X saying: “What magic you make together with the children Mrs Banks. This is so beautiful to see; the attention, imagination and creativity is thrilling.”

Since it was published, the school has been contacted by award-winning gardener and landscape designer Nicola Hills who invited them to get involved in her latest project to develop a garden at YMCA Lakeside.

Mrs Banks said there is now an after-school club for Lost Words of Walney which was so popular it had to be split into two groups.

Mary, who takes part in the club, wrote a poem about oysters for the latest publication.

“When I found out about the project I thought I would give it a go. I was flabbergasted that many words we use for nature are not in the English dictionary and this helps children to learn them.”

Max, who penned a poem on his favourite grey seals, said: “My family is very interested in nature and I really love wildlife so this was a great project for me.”

The children will be working on the YMCA south campus project over the next year helping develop ideas for a new garden in the woodland to celebrate species native to Windermere including marsh marigold, artic char, turkey tail mushrooms and golden saxifrage.

South Walney Junior School is a member of South Cumbria Multi-Academy Trust.

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