Top nature writers visit Dales for family-friendly NiddFest

Writer Mark Cocker.
Writer Mark Cocker.

The Harrogate Advertiser Series is supporting an exciting new family-friendly festival this weekend in the form of NiddFest which presents top nature writers in various natural settings in the Dales.

As well as sponsoring a talk by award-winning Harrogate author by Rob Cowen about his acclaimed book Common Ground in Pateley Bridge this Sunday, the ‘Advertiser’s Graham Chalmers will be chairing an event this Saturday with Mark Cocker, one of the world’s greatest living writers on birds.

The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks.

The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks.

That talk at St Chad’s in Middlesmoor will see Cocker escorting the audience on a real-life bird-watching ramble across the moors before talking about his new 600-page masterpiece Birds and People.

It’s this which makes NiddFest different. Running from tomorrow, Friday to Sunday, it’s more than just a feast of top authors, it’s a celebration of the glory of the Dales.

The aim is to encourage visitors to step beyond the traditional festival venues in a fun and friendly way and explore the dramatic landscapes of the Dales.

As well as Mark Cocker’s talk and walk, other highlights of NiddFest’s outdoor programme this weekend include a morning of foraging with wild food expert Chris Bax, a walk along the banks of the River Nidd and a safari to the upper reaches of Upper Nidderdale to explore the wild moorland.

Run by a team of book-lovers based, in part, at the King Street Workshops in Pateley Bridge, main organisers Kit and Megan Peel are keen the first NiddFest attracts not only book lovers of nature lovers but families, too.

To that end, the festival is inviting children, too. This Saturday will not only see the NiddFest children’s poetry prize for Yorkshire awarded by NiddFest patron Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, there is also a series of events designed with youngsters in mind.

A morning of arts, crafts and face painting with ‘Best Bug’ awards for the best crafters will take place on Saturday morning.

After lunch, anyone between five and 11-year-old can come to a thrilling afternoon in the woods, including woodland games and activities, a lesson in building the perfect outdoor den and hot chocolate and marshmallows around the campfire.

Leading children’s authors Piers Torday and Michelle Harrison will also be reading from their award-winning books the same day.

Other highlights of the three-day festival include:

Friday, July 24: An intimate opening evening of words, wine and music hosted by Carol Ann Duffy and national poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke.

Saturday, July 25: Writer Katharine Norbury, author of The Fish Ladder, on her river-themed novel by the banks of the River Nidd.

Saturday, July 25: Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy reads from her famous collections with musician and actor John Sampson.

Sunday, July 26: Jackie Bennett, author of The Writers Garden, talking about the gardens which shaped some of the world’s greatest writers.

Sunday, July 26: A talk and tasting session with TV chef and forager Valentine Warner, author of Nature’s Larder.

For the full NiddFest programme and ticket details, visit