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Gilbert White 300

Gilbert White 300: A Writing Competition.

This year sees the 300th anniversary of the birth of Gilbert White, one of the greatest British naturalists, often credited with being the first ecologist. His letters to interested and informed friends detailing his observations of the natural world were published as “The Natural History of Selborne” in 1789. They haven’t been out of print in all the time since.

We are just down the road from Selborne and we have always had a large stock of the many editions of White’s book. We wanted to mark the anniversary and so we are inviting you to take part in a writing competition by following in Gilbert’s literary footsteps.

Write a letter to an informed and interested friend detailing an encounter with or an observation of the natural world. It should be no longer than 500 words long and may come at the brief from any angle. We are asking for non-fiction, but that doesn’t mean your writing shouldn’t be creative.


We are delighted to say that we have two guest judges to help us choose our winners.

Tiffany Francis-Baker, naturalist, nature-writer, author of books on foraging, on British goats and most recently, on our relationship with the dark and the night. Tiffany has been a Forestry Commission, Writer in Residence and is also an illustrator, columnist and blogger.

Emma Mitchell, naturalist, nature-writer, crafter, photographer and illustrator. Emma’s writing centres around the theme of how our relationship with the natural world can improve our mental health. Emma runs regular sold-out workshops in which participants cast small items from nature in silver, a technique she has demonstrated on the BBC program Countryfile.


A winner and two runners-up will be chosen. The winner will receive a valuable edition of The Natural History of Selborne and all three winners will have their letters illustrated by Tiffany Francis-Baker, they will receive the originals of those illustrations as part of their prize. The winners and selected other entries will be published in a small booklet and will also be used to create an evening of readings and other material to be performed in the shop on the evening of Thursday, July 30th.




  1. Write a letter to an informed and interested friend detailing an encounter with, or an observation of, the natural world. It should be no longer than 500 words.
  2. Send your letter as a Word file attachment to with full contact details at the end of the document. Put “Gilbert White” in the title of your email. Alternatively, you may hand a physical copy in at the shop or post it to us (The Petersfield Bookshop, 16a Chapel St, Petersfield, GU32 3DS) in which case your contact details should be on the printed version of your letter.
  3. Entries received after midnight on 30th June will not be entered in the competition.
  4. By entering the competition, you give permission to The Petersfield Bookshop to use your entry both for one-off publication and for performance. Copyright remains with the author.
  5. Winners will be announced on Gilbert White’s birthday, 18th July, on twitter and on our website. Winners will be notified beforehand.


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