The Lost Words for Oxfordshire and Oxford Poetry Library present a competition inspired by the spellbinding book, The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris – and you have just over a month to enter!

Macfarlane and Morris wrote this collection in response to the 2007 edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary which introduced new words such as “broadband” and “blog” while words from the natural world (acorn, wren, otter, willow, to name a few) were lost. They recognized this as a sure sign that children are losing touch with nature.

Enter ‘The Lost Words’! This is a magical collection of acrostic poems by Robert Macfarlane, gorgeously illustrated by Jackie Morris, which re-conjures these words, brings them back to our hearts and minds, and helps children to discover the natural world around them.

In 2019, The Lost Words for Oxfordshire ran a crowdfunder campaign to get a copy of The Lost Words in every primary, infant, and special school in Oxfordshire. The target was achieved and surpassed, meaning that secondary schools, charities and prisons also received copies so the book could be enjoyed by an even wider audience.

Oxford Poetry Library has run a series of workshops based on The Lost Words with local ecologists introducing children to the natural world all around them, with participants having the chance to write and illustrate their own Lost Words poem about a plant, bird, creature, or minibeast that inspired them. They’ve also just created three Activity Packs for anyone to create these workshops in their own home and local green spaces!

Now, The Lost Words for Oxfordshire and Oxford Poetry Library are inviting you to submit your own Lost Words spell, created using one of these Activity Packs, to be in for the chance to win your own copy of The Lost Words, its sequel The Lost Spells, or your own led Lost Words workshop.


Prizes and Judge

Robert Macfarlane will judge the competition. Not only is he the author of The Lost Words poems, he has written a number of other prize-winning books. Mostly for grown-ups, his writing about landscape, nature, and place includes The Old Ways, Landmarks and most recently Underland. He has also just completed The Lost Spells, a sequel to The Lost Words illustrated by Jackie Morris, as a more pocket-sized companion to discovering nature through poetry which will be published by Penguin in October 2020. He now lives and works in Cambridge as a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

The competition has two categories: 7-10 year olds, and 11-14 year olds. Prizes will be the same in both age groups:

First prize: A led workshop for up to 6 people, a copy of The Lost Words, and a copy of The Lost Spells

Second prize: a copy of The Lost Words and The Lost Spells

Highly Commended: a copy of The Lost Words OR The Lost Spells


How to enter

Choose one of the Activity Packs from the Oxford Poetry Library website on plants, birds, or minibeasts. These are absolutely free to download, can be printed out and completed on paper or done from a mobile device or computer.

Follow the pack, which will instruct you how to write and illustrate your own Lost Words spell! If you’d like to get some inspiration or to see the sorts of spells which have come out of previous workshops, explore some of the images here.

To submit your entry, scan or photograph your poem and artwork and email to

Or post it to the following address:

The Lost Words Oxfordshire Competition
Flat 1
242a Barns Place
Barns Road

Please download and fill in this form and include it with your submission (a scan or photograph of the form is fine!).

Please note that all entrants must be between 7-14 years old, and must be temporarily or permanently resident in Oxfordshire at the time of submission.

The closing date is 2 November 2020.

For queries or more information, email

We can’t wait to see your spells!


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