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Philip Pullman reveals new writing for our woodland creature competition

Children have been creating their own woodland-inspired dæmons for a Nature Detective’s competition judged by internationally acclaimed author, Philip Pullman.

In Pullman’s books, dæmons are characters’ animal counterparts, following them wherever they go and an important part of who they are. The competition encouraged children to explore and celebrate their love of woodland wildlife – and we were thrilled to have Philip Pullman work with us.

Greta the badger, Frankie Browne's winning entry (Image: WTML)
Greta the badger, Frankie Browne's winning entry (Image: WTML)

Once-in-a-lifetime prize

The author of the His Dark Materials trilogy and The Book of Dust had the hard task of selecting the winners from two age categories, 0-10 and 11-16. More than 100 drawings were sent in by talented, imaginative children with a clear passion for wildlife.

In a once-in-a-lifetime prize, each winner’s dæmon has been brought to life in a unique piece hand-penned by Philip Pullman.​


The lucky winners were 10-year-old Reuben Cowell from Newport, who sketched an owl called Strix, and 14-year-old Frankie Browne from London, who drew a badger called Greta. The bespoke texts have made beautiful and very special prizes – needless to say Frankie and Reuben are delighted with them!

Frankie said: “I was so happy that I won but the best thing is I’ve created a character which has been brought to life by my favourite author in his own writing.”

Rueben said: “I was really excited to open the parcel from the Woodland Trust and so pleased to win the competition. It was great to receive a piece of writing from Philip Pullman about my dæmon, a grey owl called Strix. It was fantastic that Philip Pullman liked my drawing, I am a big fan and I am currently reading the Amber Spyglass in his trilogy His Dark Materials.”

Reuben Cowell's winning drawing of Strix the owl (Image: WTML)
Reuben Cowell's winning drawing of Strix the owl (Image: WTML)
The unique prizes written by Philip Pullman (Image: WTML)
The unique prizes written by Philip Pullman (Image: WTML)

Philip has planted trees with us over several years, and recorded a podcast among some of them to celebrate a poetry competition winner in 2016.

Nurturing children’s love of nature

Woods and trees are great for children and adults alike. As well as being climbing frames, adventure playgrounds, secret dens and artwork inspiration, studies have shown that visiting woods can make us physically healthier, improve mental wellbeing and increase quality of life.

We encourage and nurture children’s love for nature and wildlife with Nature Detectives. They get their own exciting post packed with seasonal adventures, crafts, wildlife facts and competitions. It's a great way for youngsters to learn about our natural world, while helping us protect it for future generations.

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