Updated: 01.12.2021

Welcome to the Natural History Section of the Leicester Lit & Phil Society

The aim of the Natural History Section is to advance awareness of the natural history of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. We organise a series of talks (all welcome) during autumn, winter and spring, and a series of field meetings for members only. The Leicester Literary & Philosophical Society is a Registered Charity (number 1047498).

If you would like to join Natural History Section, please email: leicesternaturalhistory@gmail.com

Subscription rates:
Single Membership £12, Joint Membership £18
Discounted rate for members of parent body – Single £10; Joint £14
Membership benefits:
Free entry to all Natural History Section events, twice-yearly members newsletter, exclusive access to our programme of field meetings.

Natural History Section Committee
H. Graves (Chair), R. Hayes (Secretary), R. Parry (Treasurer), P. Khodabakhsh (Newsletter Editor), R. Graves (Winter Programme Secretary), A. Cann (Internet Editor), N. Bashforth, C. Drummond, J. Harris, P. Thompson.


Natural History Section Constitution (12-11-2020)

Facebook Group

YouTube Channel

Summer Walks 2022

  • May – Prior’s Coppice – Hazel and Richard Graves
  • June – Everards Meadows – Russell Parry
  • July – Fleckney – Geoffrey Hall
  • August – Hick’s Lodge

As always, walks are for members only and Section members will be sent details prior to each. For membership enquiries please email: leicesternaturalhistory@gmail.com

Our Winter 2022/2023 Indoor Programme will be a mixture of online (Zoom) and in-person talks at Leicester Museum. Full programme details and booking links will be made updated as soon as they are available, but you can put these dates in your diary now.

5th October 2022
Steve Woodward
“More than Meets the Eye – the Wildlife of Grace Dieu”

Steve Woodward will give a summary of a Loughborough Naturalists’ Club recording project, during which a compact area near Thringstone, Leicestershire, including the ruined priory of Grace Dieu was explored. Very long lists of flowering plants and fungi were accumulated. The coverage was consciously broadened to embrace the less popular groups of plants and animals: algae, wasps, millipedes, woodlice, thrips and soil mites.
Steve has been a section member since 1982. His first interest in Natural History was moths followed by an interest in landscape history, particularly its influence on wildlife. This led to his first two books, on Groby Parish and Swithland Wood. Natural history interests broadened to include mosses, liverworts, bees, wasps and lacewings. He has paid most attention to flowering plants (encouraged by section member, Edith Hesselgreaves), and has participated in the last three national atlas projects sponsored by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI). In 2018 the BSBI appointed him as Joint Recorder for Leics & Rutland.

2nd November 2022
Henry Stanier, Great Fen Monitoring and Research Officer, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust
“Stonechat research at the Great Fen”

Bird ringing is a tried and tested method of gathering important data about our bird populations. At the Great Fen, Henry and his team work to see how they can generate, as well as use, scientific knowledge, about wildlife, and apply it to habitat management, and so enhance the conservation work they are doing. This is the story of how a colour ringing project for Stonechats was conceived and developed, including the latest about the bird and the exciting development at the Great Fen.
Dragonfly expert and bird ringer, Henry has responsibility to design, deliver and refine a full programme of monitoring at the Fen, including training volunteers in ecological survey skills. Henry set up the Ecology Groups, and for the past six years has been focused on the Great Fen. 

7th December 2022.
Ben Devine, Senior Nature Conservation Officer, Leicester City Council / Samantha Woods, Project Manager
“Saving the Saffron Brook River Restoration Scheme”

A major project to protect and restore a major tributary of the River Soar in Leicester, this Project hopes to improve the heavily-degraded river ecosystems along the whole course of the Saffron/Wash Brook which runs through the south of the city from neighbouring Oadby and Wigston. A programme of conservation, restoration and repair works along with community engagement designed to get local people involved is planned. The Saffron Brook and surrounding catchment area act as a key wildlife corridor in the region linking the centre of Leicester to rural Leicestershire and beyond.

4th January 2023
Elliott Kean, Engagement Officer with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
“Beavers at Idle Valley NR: The Story So Far”

What’s all this fuss about beavers!? Beavers are quite a novel animal to most people, so what makes them so special? Why are they known as a keystone species and ecosystem engineers? Is it true what people say about them eating fish and causing flooding!? Idle Valley Nature Reserve is home to Nottinghamshire’s only beavers and the largest enclosed trial reintroduction in the UK.
Join Elliott Kean to learn about beavers, why they have been reintroduced to Idle Valley NR and what they’ve been up to so far. We’ll also talk about what the future holds for beavers in the UK and why they are so relevant in the 21st century, key allies mitigating issues such as climate change, flood risk, biodiversity collapse and water pollution.

1st February 2023 (online via Zoom)
Ian Evans
“The North Coast of Sutherland: a botanical odyssey”

Ian will give us an account of the botanical recording he has carried out with friends along the north coast of Scotland (from Cape Wrath in the west to the Caithness border in the east), and inland from it, since 2015, for the next BSBI Atlas, with excursions into other natural history topics. Ian is the current BSBI Recorder for West Sutherland (VC.108), but his interests are much wider than higher plants, and he and his friends are also now concentrating their efforts on the wildlife of the parish of Tongue, in the middle of that stretch of coast. Ian is an active member of the Assynt Field Club, especially associated with the Wildlife Project).
Ian is still a member of the Natural History Section and follows the news and Newsletters of the LLPS.NHS with great interest, since he was the first editor of the latter and persuaded the Museum Designer, Ray Lee to design the badger logo.  He was an officer of the Section (Hon. Sec., Chairman and President) between 1960 and 1991, when he and his wife Pat emigrated to Sutherland.  Professionally, he was Keeper of Biology, Assistant Director (Natural Sciences) and County Ecologist, with the Leicester and later Leicestershire Museums Service for the whole of his working career, Chairman of the Leicestershire Flora Committee and Scientific Officer for the LRWT.

1st March 2023 (Joint Meeting with Leicestershire Entomological Society)
Richard Jones
“Wasps — much more interesting than boring old bees”

Fear and fascination set wasps apart from other insects. Despite their iconic form and distinctive colours, they are surrounded by myth and misunderstanding. Often portrayed in cartoon-like stereotypes bordering on sad parody, wasps have an unwelcome and undeserved reputation for aggressiveness bordering on vindictive spite. This mistrust is deep-seated in a human history that has awarded commercial and spiritual value to other insects, such as bees, but has failed to recognize any worth in wasps. It’s time to put this straight.
Richard Jones is a nationally acclaimed entomologist, a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, fellow of the Linnean Society, and past president of the British Entomological and Natural History Society. He has been fascinated by wildlife since a childhood exploring the South Downs and Sussex Weald in search of plants and insects. He now writes about insects, nature and the environment for BBC Wildlife, Gardeners’ World, Countryfile, The Sunday Times, New Scientist and the Guardian and has regular television and radio appearances. Richard has written several books on science and wildlife including Nano Nature, Extreme Insects, The Little Book of Nits, House Guests: House Pests, Call of Nature: The Secret Life of Dung, Ants: The Ultimate Social Insects and the Beetles volume in the New Naturalist series.

20th March 2023
Joint Lecture with the Main Lit & Phil Society
Dr Felicity Crotty
“Understanding the importance of soil health”

This talk will aim to provide listeners with an overview of the fascinating life found within the soil, how soil management changes the structure, chemistry and biology of the soil, and overall what this means in regards to “soil health”. This talk will also include how changing land use and climate change will have an impact on healthy soils, maintaining food security and improving biodiversity within the soil habitat.
Dr Felicity Crotty is a Senior Lecturer in Soil Science and Ecology at the Royal Agricultural University. She has been researching soil biology and soil health for the last twelve years focusing on understanding the linkage between sustainable agriculture and soil health. Utilising her expertise within soil biology (earthworms, springtails, mites and nematodes), and how agriculture has an impact on this in relation to soil quality, physics and chemistry, within both livestock and arable sectors.

Wednesday 5th April 2023 7.30pm
AGM and Members Evening

Members are invited to share their Natural History experiences with other Members of the Section.



Recent videos on our YouTube channel:

November 2021: Don’t Stop the Rot – Steven Falk

October 2021: An Update on Dragonflies in Leicestershire & Rutland – Ian Merrill



Newsletter 111

Our Newletter is sent to all members free of charge twice a year.
Past Newsletters are made available here so that you non-members acan see what they are missing! 

Edition 111 – NHS Newsletter Autumn 2020 – Members only
Edition 110 – NHS Newsletter Spring 2020 – Members only
Edition 109 – NHS Newsletter Autumn 2019
Edition 108 – NHS Newsletter Spring 2019
Edition 107 – NHS Newsletter Autumn 2018
Edition 106 – NHS Newsletter Spring 2018
Edition 105 – NHS Newsletter Autumn 2017
Edition 104 – NHS Newsletter Spring 2017
Edition 103 – NHS Newsletter Autumn 2016
Edition 102 – NHS Newsletter Spring 2016
Edition 101 – NHS Newsletter Autumn 2015
Edition 100 – NHS Newsletter Spring 2015
Edition 99 – NHS Newsletter Autumn 2014


The Sowter Memorial Lecture

Each year one autumn lecture of the Natural History Section of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society is dedicated to Frederick Sowter, F.L.S. (1899-1972), one of our early members, a very important botanist in the fields of bryology, lichenology and flowering plants, especially in VC55. He was also extremely active and influential in the developing field of conservation. It has been traditional to introduce each of these with a full tribute to Frederick Sowter, but as an alternative it has now been decided that it would be more fitting to place on the Natural History Section website the following tribute written by Ian Evans following Sowter’s death in 1972, and published in the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society Transactions. The introduction to “Our Diminishing Flora” published in 1960 is also included. In this way attendees can learn more detail about this important past member than would be suitable as an introduction to a lecture evening.
Here is: A Tribute to F.A. Sowter