The Lost Words for every Sheffield Primary School

by Joanna Dobson in Sheffield, England, United Kingdom

The Lost Words for every Sheffield Primary School
We did it
On 14th June 2018 we successfully raised £3,520 with 117 supporters in 35 days

To provide a copy of The Lost Words, by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, to every primary school in Sheffield

by Joanna Dobson in Sheffield, England, United Kingdom

Update: 8 June 2018

Vernon Oak has hit the target six days early! But Vernon and team haven't finished yet! The project is still open for donations until 14 June and we'll be putting all the money we raise from now on towards copies for Sheffield's public libraries (currently there are only two library copies for the whole city), and for some local dementia charities that want to use the book in their work.

With just a few more days to go until the appeal closes, we hope you can help us make this wonderful book freely and widely available across the city (we think quite a few adult borrowers would enjoy it too!).

Thank you

Joanna Dobson,  Sarah Deakin, Margaret Peart and Susan Unwin
On behalf of Vernon Oak

A huge thank-you to all our backers, and to Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris for incredible support. Many thanks too to Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, the Teach Wild Network, The Woodland Trust and Rhyme and Reason bookshop. We couldn't have done any of this without you!

This is a crowdfunder with a difference. It’s being run by a tree!

The tree in question is the magnificent Vernon Oak, which stands in a street in south-west Sheffield and is thought to be at least 150 years old.

Vernon, with the help of some human friends, wants to raise enough money to buy a copy of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris for every primary school in Sheffield.

Why? Well the book is about words that are disappearing from children’s vocabularies. Words that are the names for beautiful, wild things like otters, kingfishers, bluebells and newts.

In The Lost Words, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris take twenty of these words and infuse them with new life through brilliant writing and glorious illustrations. The book is a magical way of summoning the words back into children’s lives. It’s been described as ‘breathtaking’ (The New Statesman); ‘exquisite’ (The Guardian); ‘hauntingly beautiful’ (The Washington Post), ‘luminous’ (The Times), and ‘wonderful’ (The Telegraph).


Vernon Oak knows a thing or two about disappearing. Vernon started life in a Derbyshire field, then little by little the fields round about disappeared. 

As the fields disappeared, so did many trees and birds, butterflies and flowers. In their place, houses and streets were built. Now Vernon is the only tree in Vernon Road, a precious link between past and present.


But appallingly, Vernon Oak is also in danger of disappearing. Vernon is one of 17,500 street trees that are earmarked for felling in Sheffield. More than 5,000 healthy trees have already been destroyed.

Vernon and some of Vernon’s friends want to bring some joy to Sheffield at this difficult time. They believe this extraordinary book has the power to enchant children with the beauty and wonder of the wildness that is right on our doorsteps.


What’s more, the first word in the book  is ‘acorn’ – a word very close to Vernon’s heart! Vernon was an acorn when Queen Victoria was on the throne! 

Vernon Oak and friends aim to raise £3,200 to buy a copy of The Lost Words for every primary school in Sheffield. The sum is enough for 150 books. It includes an allowance for sending most of the books out by post, but we hope that many will be hand-delivered, or collected for free. In that case, we’ll use the surplus to purchase more books and donate them to Sheffield’s public libraries.

The first book will be presented at Sheffield’s first ever Street Tree Festival, to be held on 29 September 2018.

Robert Macfarlane’s wonderful acorn spell in The Lost Words speaks of the deep connections between good and wood.  


Please help Vernon Oak and friends bring some good to Sheffield. We believe that The Lost Words can open children’s eyes, light up their imaginations, and help them grow up into adults who care passionately about the natural world around them.

You can follow Vernon Oak on Twitter @SAVEDORETREES


Humans working with Vernon to organise this crowdfunder include Vernon’s agent, Joanna Dobson (Twitter: @JoannaCDobson); Sarah Deakin (@raringtoread), co-founder of the Street Tree Art Sheffield project, and Vernon’s neighbours, Margaret Peart and Susan Unwin (@sjunwin). And it’s all being done with the help of Sheffield’s excellent independent bookshop, Rhyme and Reason at Hunter’s Bar.

Supported by the Sheffield Teach Wild Network and Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust.

Also supported by The Woodland Trust.

Huge thanks too to Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris for allowing us to use their words and images and, of course, for creating such a beautiful book.

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