The Last Interview with… Dr Amy-Jane Beer

THE naturalist and writer on winning the Wainwright Prize and struggling with the menopause ahead of her talk at the Shaftesbury Book Festival.

The last piece of nature I wrote about was some wonky rowan trees growing in a local estate tree nursery.

The growers want straight, tidy saplings for sale, but this whole cohort of a few thousands little trees has said, ‘Nah, we’re doing it this way’, and is growing with 30 to 90 degree bends.

I wish we didn’t expect nature to conform to stereotypes.

The last thing to really annoy me was losing our NHS dentist.

And the total incompetence of almost all banks, utilities and service providers in supporting people trying to sort out the affairs of people who’ve died – my husband is having to go this to support his elderly mum after her husband passed and honestly, it’s a farce.

Pretty much everything this corrupt zombie government and its enablers and puppet-masters say and do.

The last time I visited my hometown was 2021. I don’t really have one, as an army brat I moved a lot as a child.

Perhaps that’s why I feel most at home in nature.

The closest thing to a hometown is Wokingham in Berkshire, where I spent most of my teen years, but I have no family there anymore and most of my school friends moved away.

It’s changed so much, they’ve even moved the station, and almost every scrap of green space in the centre has been built on.

But by far the worst thing was visiting my old house and discovering the magnificent oak in the front garden had just been felled.

The sawdust was still thick on the ground.

My bedroom window used to overlook that tree.

It was a true friend. I sobbed – I mean really sobbed.

READ MORE: Award-winning lineup for adults and kids at Shaftesbury Book Festival

The last thing to make me celebrate was seeing the first celandines of spring and the first bumble bee, they both made me do a little dance.

I try to make celebration part of everyday life.

The last piece of advice that resonated with me was from my amazing friend and Right to Roam colleague Nadia Shaikh. She occasionally reminds us when we’re considering big strategic or policy recommendations to think; who might this hurt?

So, for example when we talk about legislation to regulate dog ownership – which we are in favour of – I think of a homeless man whose dog was shot by police in front of him last year.

Usually there’s a group or several groups who get forgotten.

It tends to be the same ones over and over; those who hold least power.

Describing them as ‘hard to reach’ is a cop out.

The truth is usually their perspectives don’t exist in the decision-making ecosystem.

The last time I felt embarrassed was forgetting something, as I have bad perimenopause brain at the moment.

Some are minor, familiar words elude me, others can be significant, like names of people I know well, appointments, things I’ve said or done.

It’s completely random and for a while it really wrongfooted me as I previously had an excellent memory.

I’m getting used to warning people and explaining that I’m not actually losing my mind.

And that’s helping with the embarrassment, but it’s still disconcerting.

The last accomplishment I’m proud of is winning the Wainwright Prize, a genuine career high.

But I also came to understand that awards are, or should be, a team game, where the recipients aren’t the only winners.

The Wainwrights are about promoting the genre and the cause of nature – it’s a collective celebration and so I’m proud to have won, but also grateful to be part of such an amazing, urgent and resurgent creative sector.


Dr Amy-Jane Beer will be talking at the Shaftesbury Book Festival between 10am and 11am on Saturday, March 16. For more information, visit

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