Schools Writing Competition 2023



The Society holds a Schools Writing Competition every two years. The theme for the 2023 competition was 'Nature, the Seasons and the Natural World', with entrants to choose from either of these titles: ‘Nature and the Changing Seasons’ or ‘Flights of the Mind’.


We are pleased to publish the winning entries below. It is regretted that for privacy reasons the Society is unable to give here the names of the winners. In addition to the winner's prize, the school to which they belong is also awarded £500.



2023 Competition Results


Winner, £100

The Tiffin Girls' School, Kingston-upon-Thames

Runner-up, £50

Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith

Runner-up, £50

Bancroft's School, Woodford Green, Essex



2023 Winning Essay



The Tiffin Girls' School, Kingston-upon-Thames


'Ochre Feet'


With the appearance of snowdrops always comes great sadness. Heads drooped to the ground, a mourning for the frost lost, melting into the cracks in the ground, pooling beneath leaves and soaking through moss carpets. The pastoral green of velevty buds replacing the gnarled fingers of tree branches, the robin opening his mouth, hymns and melodies erupting from his throat. The tenor thrum of the woodpecker, a chaffinch's soprano warble harmonising.


The short winter days had stretched forever: full of warm fires, sticky buns and mitten-clad hands. The pond had long been iced over, hairline cracks and the occasional skating moorhen, feet outstretched in a clumsy ballet the only disturbances. The fir trees shivered with strong boughs snow covered, those too young to bear the onslaught of winter felled to the ground for firewood.


The feather duster tickles the ornaments as snow blows through the window, settling on the nose of a china dog, lodging between the wings of a glass angel, head forward in prayer for the new season's start, watching the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon.


The shafts of light that fell between the planks of the roof of the old barn highlighted the contours of the grain store, sacks lying like fat bumblebees, drunk on nectar. The midwinter sun bore endlessly down on the snow-covered ground, still too weak to obliterate the white carpet.


Sombre eyes of foxes watch on as the pochard starts to gather the sticks for her nest, and the mating calls of geese ebb away. The vixen prepares herself for hard work ahead; the beginning of motherhood, the more mouths to feed and the shortening of shadows as the sun warms the earth. She watches the trees transform from gaunt figures to fully clothed oaks and birches, buds bursting out towards the sun.


Twitching noses emerge sniffling and snuffling, as the once hibernating hedgehogs test the air for warmth. Their slender bodies quiver in the new-found light, spines rippling in the sunshine as the search for insects begins. A squirrel scurries down a tree, her stash of autumnal delicacies abandoned, the scents of fresh food lessening the memories of months of gathering work, feet pattering on the rejuvenated ground, grass springing where before lay only frozen earth.


The pond joined the woods to the house, a link to the known and the unknown, now back to its usual state, reeds poking up at the edges, pebbles piled haphazardly and a small blue boat bobbing gaily in the middle.


The ducks gathered in an assembly of colour; muted and monochrome meeting iridescent blues and greens, with yellow bills and ochre webbed feet. They debated the current issues, and discussed the arrival of spring, sharp quacks punctuating their every sentence. Indeed: spring had come, as it came every year, with the mourning of time passed and frost lost and the celebration of life to come.






2023 Runner Up



Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith


'Nature and the Changing Seasons'


Like a cocoon, life arose from its husk.

Blossoms bloomed in the golden sun

Their pale pink petals like watercolour stains

Reaching out to absorb the sun's emerging rays.

As if it were a kaleidoscope, the flowers

Yawned in anticipation of the sun's warm hue.

Birdsong: tweeting chicks, the cattle, and –

The leaping foals and lambs. O spring had arrived.


The emerald blanket spread to the horizon.

Luscious trees gossiped in the light summer breeze.

Like paper cutouts, the vibrant butterflies dance,

Their fluorescent wings – a glimmering motif.

Sweet nectar diffused the air into a fresh haven

Of botanical aroma and fruits. The azure satin sash

Draped beneath the golden medallion, whilst

Thrushes and swallows swept the rolling hills.


Like a serpent shedding its skin, the leaves fell,

Flares of crimson and amber flaking off.

Their purpose now fulfilled, they lay adrift

As if unwanted. Squelch. Decaying like a corpse.

Yet the pumpkin and bark remained pungent,

Penetrating the comforting quilt of orange.

Oak nuts and cones dropped like gnats,

Flowered bulbs shrivelling into drooping sacks.


Suffocating life in a cloak of frost, the cold –

Engulfed all nature, crystallising foliage into

A million diamonds. All went quiet, like a moth.

An ivory moth fluttering around a beam of light.

Songbirds hid, and the gray wolves prowled,

Their silver fur leaping between slender trunks.

The hush of midnight crept up on the last bud,

Before the forest floor went dormant like fossils.

Only to be woken by Nature's soft warm breath.






2023 Runner Up



Bancroft's School, Woodford Green, Essex


'Flights of the mind'


I drift through a kaleidoscope sky, a rainbow of colours shining in the summer sunset. The breeze pulls me along, soothing me into the rhythm of the summer season. I am led by the radiant light that warms my wing. I soar past big trees and stunning flowers, flying past the green canvas that the flowers paint with their shining pigments. A million colours, combined into a shard of life and nature. Just a figment of the beauty to unfold when spring comes again. Each petal a story of light and colour, of nature and life. The blinding light comes closer and I close my eyes.


When I open them again, I'm staring at a flickering flame. The spark is weaving in and out of reality, and as it burns and it fades, I watch its hypnotic beauty. I let it drop onto my hardwood floor, and it erupts. Flames climb up the wall, dancing to the beat of the leaf fall. Their vibrant beauty encases the room in an inferno of colour and light, beautiful and lethal. The flames quell and fade into a magnificent forest. I bound through the falling leaves, soaking up the autumn melody. My hand drifts past a bare branch, stripped of the leaves that brighten a summer day. It brushes the dry bark, feeling every groove. With each slip, I feel myself fall in and out of this reality.


I feel the chicanery of my mind plucking me out and lulling me into another world. In this world I am small. I hear the crunch of something below me, and feel the wondrous cold. It is snow. I leap across the meadow, a white kingdom sprinkled with powdery snow. The flurry is drifting onto my white coat, the winter weather overcoming my senses as I feel the early morning winter sun warm my frosted fur. All I can see is snow. All I can feel is calm. All I can hear is the lullaby of winter's warmth. I run, and now I'm in a cavernous rabbit hole, my awareness exploding into the tunnel system ahead.


I twitch uncontrollably, fighting the pull into—


Sitting in the home that I've been in my whole life. It is beautiful, but it feels wrong, like it should be open, like it should be seen. Then an eruption of sound as my cage begins to weaken! I'm encapsuled in a red corral, all the light blocked by the looming walls that meet above my head the vibrant prison is all I know, but I feel it unfurl as the first ray of light shines down on me. The walls fall down, and I can see – it's a field – as far as the eye can see. The flowers are blooming, dancing to the spring tune, I'm dancing with them. A sea of green becomes a sea of vibrance and colour. The sea of light and beauty.






There are two other entries that we think worthy of mention. The first is from James Allen Girls' School, London, and is particularly notable for the painting that accompanied it:


'Summer hours'


Unlike the stillness of winter, the summer mornings brought on cool damp air and the moisture clung to the foliage and grass. Even though it was still so early in the day, the sun was already radiant and dappled through the trees onto the earthy woodland below. There are very few months in England where the heat grew unbearable towards the middle of the day. So, in those rare months the mornings were alive with animals, insects and birds, each one darting, scuttling and swooping with a purpose to fulfil before the scorching heat of the summer day began. Bird song rang out through the trees, clear and precise. Down on the ground buttercups nestled on the woodland floor, either side of the dirt path, yellow petals tightly curled, holding their breath, waiting for the sun.


Towards midday, I came to the end of the woodland path; it opened out to a vast field, an expanse of chartreuse grass bordered with dry hedgerows and field margins. After the early hive of activity in the woodland, the field was comparably silent and motionless. However, a distinct low hum indicated that, throughout the parched vegetation, there was still life. I lay down, the coarse ends of the grasses prickly against my skin. In the corner of my vision, I could see a beetle, small and dark ebony, with a shiny armour-like shell. The sky was blue and cloudless. The blazing sun shone relentlessly down onto the field with a piercing midday heat.


By the evening I had made my way to a meadow, it seemed as if it had been scarcely touched by the heat of midday. The ground was carpeted with long yellow grasses, scattered with wildflowers, a random yet striking tinge of colour, their brightly hued heads atop spindly stalks. The air was saturated with the tune of crickets, which formed an orchestra of sounds alongside the other insects. Similar to the morning, the low sun created slim, long shadows. However, the sun's colour differed and was deeper than in the early morning, a richer tint of yellow, nearing orange. It appeared for only an instant, before just remnants of the sun remained, and the summer's day ended.



Tabitha James Allen Girls School






The second is another entry from Bancroft's School, Woodford Green, Essex:


'Nature and the changing seasons'


A soldier stumbled through the deserted field. The howling winter wind snapped at his frostbitten ears and clawed cruelly at his cracked skin. At long last, he reached a fence. It stood proud, guarding the mark between forest and field. His legs collapsed beneath him, and his helmet struck a pillar of the fence. Far beyond the point of caring that his proudly polished helmet had been snagged on the fence, the soldier wheezed, bittersweet slumber suffocating him. With his final breath, he drifted into a numb oblivion, of which he would never emerge.


The Sun was joyous, casting its radiant beams over the bustling field. Birdsong echoed throughout the trees along the north side of the fence and a flock of pigeons decorated the sky, soaring amongst the candly floss clouds.


Balanced on one of the lone surviving pillars of the fence was a rusted helmet. Rust had long since gnawed away at the uniform shine and the ivy, that crept up the post it rested upon, had smothered it throughout the years. Mould had eaten away at the oak post of the fence, leaving it vulnerable to the impartial wildlife that dwelled in the shrubbery. Under the cover of night, a mouse dashed through the matted grass by the fence. An owl swooped through the skies, its glaring eyes locking in the target. The owl dived, eager for its next meal. The mouse slid down into a hole into its burrow, thanking for its temporary safety. Livid, the owl perched on the oak fence. A loud crack startled it and it disappeared into the night in high dungeon [sic]. The helmet that had once balanced precariously on the fence fell to the ground.


There it lay. Days, months, then years passed. The trees shed leaves and gained leaves alike, the ground frozen and thawed, wildlife sauntered past, and the harmony of the birds grew greater, and so it went, an endless cycle. Once more, spring unfolded, the earth awakened from its frozen dreams by cheery birdsong. A walker ambled past, not [a] particularly exceptional occurrence for people had begun to inhabit the isolated cottages just under a mile from the fence, quaint country life now being preferred to the polluted city lifestyle.


A squirrel hurried past, where the post of the fence once was, catching the walker's attention. The walker smiled to themselves and braced themselves to continue, until they caught a glimpse of something peculiar. For a split second they frowned in confusion. The helmet was leaning against the trunk of a tree. Curious, they walked over to the helmet to examine it. The walker smirked at their discovery and lent forward to pick it up, eager to show it off to others. To their dismay, it crumpled in their hands, having endured the brutality of nature for over a century. The remains of the helmet were placed on a nearby tree trunk. There it rested, a mere reminder of its former glory.