My name is James Watson and I’m a teacher from Oxfordshire in England.
A special place
On the outskirts of Oxford is one of South East England's most unique environments. Otmoor is 4000 acres of wetland fen and grazing floodplain untouched by modern life - despite raging development all around, there are still no roads and no houses here.
A quarter of Otmoor is an RSPB nature reserve, half is protected by law with sites of special scientific interest and the rest is farmed using traditional methods passed down for generations. As a result, Otmoor is a unique habitat of ponds, meadows and reedbeds home to 60 rare and protected species including wildflowers, invertebrates and birds.
As well as wildlife, Otmoor has been the inspiration for many artists. Lewis Carroll wrote Alice Through The Looking Glass while looking out over Otmoor; "For some minutes Alice stood without speaking, looking out in all directions over the country....I declare that it is marked out like a large chessboard!"
But Otmoor is now under threat. The government has proposed to build a new motorway, the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, right thought this unique environment. It is one of three possible local routes, all of which cut through greenbelt countryside and ancient woodland. Despite requests by the city council, the RSPB and a parliamentary petition, the government refuses to hold a public consultation and will soon make a secret decision on the future of this road.
A group of friends was wondering how we could help the campaign against this motorway. As well as the usual media articles, petitions and protest events, we thought something creative could be done to raise awareness of this issue and spread the word in a fun and innovative way.
We all love books, so to help we’re creating a chapter book for children, The Cuckoo Will Call. Set locally, it tells the story of a young girl, Alice, who meets The Man of the Moor, a mythical giant. The Man defends Alice's home against the roadbuilders, with a little help from all the creatures of Otmoor. The cuckoo is a key part of the story, as it is a summer visitor to Otmoor, but numbers have decreased by well over 50% and the bird is on the Red List as globally threatened.
Alice could not breathe. She stepped back from the gate. On the lane the giant stood above her as tall as two houses, with legs longer and thicker than the church tower. He was made of the same things as the moor – trees, soil, hedgerows, grass, moss and reeds - all mashed together to construct this gigantic man; The Man of the Moor.
The Man stood for a moment in the stillness of the night, his head turning this way and that, taking in the moor and then the night sky. He gazed at the stars and sighed, and it sounded like a happy sigh. The giant looked down at Alice and his bright, green eyes shone even brighter. She could see a mouth in the thicket of his face, but he did not speak. He just stared at her and nodded his head, once, slowly. She surprised herself by nodding back. She knew what he meant - he had arrived to protect the moor. The cuckoo had called him, and he had come. The Man of the Moor turned to the south and the ground shook as his enormous legs stepped away across the fields.
Please help raise awareness of the potential destruction of Otmoor by supporting this story. I am personally making nothing from the book, but funds raised will go to pay the wonderful team of independent creatives who are helping with all aspects of production (and working at reduced rates!), including; Illustration - Gary Wing - garywingillustration.com; Film and music - Gordon Francis - thelostartduo.com; Editing and design – Clementine Watson, Alex Hemus - standoutbooks.com; Printing – Robin Hanks - holywellpress.com. If the project fully funds at 100% the publishing of the book will break-even. Any profit over this will be used to campaign against the Expressway, wherever it is built.
The story is written and is currently being edited. The illustrations are in production. The finished product will be a children's chapter book of 5,000 words across 80 pages, with 11 beautiful pen and ink drawings in a 20cm x 13cm perfect bound book. It will look and feel exactly like any other children's paperback book. It is aimed at 6 to 9 year olds, although hopefully will be enjoyed by children and adults of all ages!
As well as signed copies of the published book, there are also options to get involved in the editing of the book and to fund copies for schools, libraries and hospitals, as well as a signed print of the promotional poster and a walking tour of Otmoor including lunch.
One of the most interesting pledges is The Book + Draft Editors Text PDF (£17 + postage). When the Kickstarter is fully funded we will email you the Draft Editors Text, which is the latest version of the text that the editing team are working on, with a survey. You will be able to read the text, suggest any changes and answer some questions about the story. Your changes may be incorporated in the final book and your name will be added as an Editor. We want to involve as many people as possible in the book making process, so that we can all learn and have fun, while doing something that matters.
Not just Otmoor
Why do we need another motorway? Otmoor is already surrounded by the M40, the A34, the A40 and a train line. And this isn’t just about Otmoor. Wherever this motorway is built it will destroy greenbelt land and decimate ancient forests, all the way from Oxford to Cambridge. We simply don't need another motorway anywhere, when there are already road and rail links which could be upgraded. Many people think it just won't happen, that the government won't be mad enough to build this road. But let's not take the chance.
Once we destroy unique habitats they are lost forever. So, wherever you are in the world, please help the natural world and fight back against reckless development. Visit the websites below, sign the petition and support the book. And please tell your friends of the threat to Otmoor. With your help we can save this special place.
Risks and challenges
I have never published a book, but the rest of the team supporting this project thankfully have! There is a risk that we don't complete publication to the timelines stated if any of the contributors misses a deadline finishing the various tasks of illustrating, editing and printing. However, they are all proven professionals, and the timelines have been planned with buffer time. If unforeseen delays do occur we will notify you at once.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)