Making the most of nature

A homemade nature badge
Using a small piece of scrap card and double-sided sticky tape, you can stick small natural objects such as feathers, leaves, seeds, petals, stones and shells. to create a miniature work of art

Highams Park author Michael Holland has written a children’s book about enjoying nature

Did you know there are more living things in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on planet Earth? Or that a giant bamboo can grow one metre in a day, making it the fastest growing plant in the world? And did you know that only about 5% of plants in the world are edible, which means that 95% of them are poisonous?

These are just some of the amazing facts about the natural world that have inspired me to write a book. I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast was published by Flying Eye Books in late March and is a compendium of plants aimed at young people and families. It has been beautifully illustrated by Tokyo-based artist Philip Giordano and took around five years from start to finish.
I wrote the majority of it on my iPad on my Victoria Line commute from Walthamstow Central to Victoria – to and from work at the lovely Chelsea Physic Garden where I was head of education for many years.

After describing what plants are, how they relate to each other, and how they operate and survive, my book zooms into the many ways we use plants in almost every aspect of our lives – fabrics, cosmetics, food, furniture, games, sport, music and much more. This is the science of ethnobotany, or cultural botany, which has fascinated me for decades. It’s peppered with DIY activities to try for yourself, such as corn flour slime, a plant maze, powering a lightbulb with potato, and more!

I live in Highams Park and it’s great to be able to get out and about, and enjoy the variety of local green spaces on our doorstep, including the amazing Epping Forest, Walthamstow Wetlands and smaller local parks. I feel blessed that Waltham Forest has so much green space from which to choose. During lockdown I’ve been using my own garden as an actual and online outdoor classroom as well as a source of inspiration and photo opportunities for wildlife.

Buy a copy of I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast: