Betjeman Poetry Camps

Founded in 2006, the Betjeman Poetry Prize promotes literacy, fosters creativity and provides a platform for new voices from the next generation.

Branching out, literally, into the woods, Betjeman Poetry Camps aim to give young people an experience they will never forget. Living together under canvas, cooking, talking, walking, learning and writing, participants work with nature experts and poets to build knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • Health

  • Community

  • Environment

  • Education


In his book Last Child in the Woods (2005) US author Richard Louv writes: “The human costs of alienation from nature include diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.”

Louv is quoted in the National Trust Natural Childhood Report written by acclaimed nature writer Stephen Moss, the original producer of BBC’s Springwatch. The National Trust commissioned this report in response to what they saw as deterrents to a natural childhood:

  • The danger from traffic, and how this severely limits children’s ability to venture outside their homes.

  • The issue of Health and Safety, and how an obsession with trying to achieve a ‘zero-risk’ world is severely limiting children’s freedom.

  • Parental fears of ‘stranger danger’, and its consequences for children’s freedom to roam in the wider environment.

  • The negative attitudes of some authority figures, who regard children’s natural play as something to be stopped rather than encouraged.

  • The past and sometimes present role of nature conservation organisations which should now know better.


Betjeman Poetry Camps, in line with the National Trust aims and objectives, provide opportunities for children and young people to learn and develop in response to the natural environment.

  • Education - Participants engage in workshops, reading and writing, discussion and performance of poetry, developing their literacy skills.

  • Health - Participants take exercise, breathe fresh air, prepare and learn about healthy food, have valuable time away from screens.

  • Community - Participants learn to live in a group, socialise, meet a diverse range of young people, co-operate and contribute.

  • Environment - Participants learn and understand about the natural environment - bird watching, crop identification, woodland walks, discussion.

We are extremely grateful to the Rothschild Foundation for providing the space and funds for this project to grow.

2018 Betjeman Poetry Camp

The 2018 Betjeman Poetry Camp took place during May half term at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, courtesy of the Rothschild Foundation and the National Trust.

As well as playing football, keeping their tents tidy and washing up in teams, 2017 BPP finalists Amineh and Ftoun Abou Kerech, Daisy Foley, Shanelle Furtado, Nell Gardiner, Sammy Loehnis, Alex Maltby, Niamh McCarthy, Joseph Murphy and Jemima Webster participated in poetry workshops with poets Kate Clanchy and Paul Lyalls. The young poets worked hard, supporting each other, and produced, between them, thirty pages of new poems.

Paul Lyalls writes: “The BPP Camp is a unique experience unlike any other I have had before in my 20 year plus history as a working poet. The camp removes the distractions of everyday life (parents, deadlines, screens and the 'I must do this'), enabling all those who gather to really free themselves in readiness for a truly different adventure in words. The camp adds a new dimension to ways that poetry can be made - still allowing the children to draw on their own day in day out experiences and memories, but also forcing them to explore and entwine with full on perceptions of nature, elements and the history/era of the Manor itself. Another massive success story of the camp is that it allows poetry to happen almost non-stop. Phones are replaced with word games, poetry performances and writing time - and none of the participants could escape too far when I wanted to give them that extra tip or piece of advice.”

"I learnt many new styles of poetry that I’ve never written before, like Haikus.” Daisy

"The camp has taught me more in 4 days than 3 years of English classes has." Sammy

“Alex was inspired and [the camp] reminded him – during the grim years running up to GCSEs – that there is more to life than exams.” Alex’s mum

“It’s the best thing I’ve done since I’ve been in England.” Amineh


2017 Betjeman Poetry Camp

The 2016 BPP finalists attended a poetry camp held by kind permission of the  Rothschild Foundation at Windmill Hill, Waddesdon Manor on June 2nd-4th 2017. The young finalists, who arrived from Kent, Oxford, Manchester and London, spent the weekend writing, editing and reading each other's work, supported by poet Paul Lyalls. They visited the Colourscape Festival and the Waddesdon Manor, explored the woods and slept under canvas.

Describing the event, Paul said: "Brilliant young poets, working in the most amazing setting, with golden time to write, befriend like minded others and to get a first real tangible reward for their poetic efforts.  As a long standing poet I have seen many opportunities arise for young poets who are trying to get their work out into the world and develop their voices, but I do have to say that the Betjeman Poetry Prize Camp at the inspirational Waddeston Manor took it to a another level.  It was inspiring across the board. The young poets really mined my advice, tips and guidance. working solidly over two days to produce work as stunning as their environment.  I too - as a working poet, wandering my way to work beneath swooping Red Kites,  dreamy Waddeston turrets and rolling Buckinghamshire beyond – felt a sense of a reward for my long hours of developing my craft and performance sharing of it with others.  Long may it reign and may it never rain on such a celebration."

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