Dr Jess French is an author, broadcaster, presenter, mother, NWT trustee, and veterinarian. She lives with her family in Norfolk and is passionate about the environment and sharing her knowledge in an accessible way with children.
Jess speaks about her Norfolk hotspots, her writing process, and why spending time in nature is so important.
What do you love most about Norfolk and its landscape?
It’s a funny thing to love, but I grew up in flat ol’ Norfolk and now I never really feel at home unless I can see for miles in every direction!
What flora and fauna do you always look out for when exploring?
Swallowtails! I still get a massive buzz from seeing them. As for plants, I’m always on the lookout for bee orchids. We have loads of really rare and endangered orchids in Norfolk – it’s a special place.
Where are your favourite places to go walking and why?
When I need time to think, one of our incredible beaches. Don’t make me pick one, there are too many extraordinary spots along the Norfolk coast! If, on the other hand, it’s a wildlife adventure I'm after, then it would have to be one of the NWT reserves, maybe Hickling Broad. I also have fond childhood memories of exploring Mousehold Heath in Norwich with my dog.
My family has several of your books, and we love them. Tell me a bit about your writing process. How do you start? What inspires you?
With my non-fiction books a lot of the process is sitting and reading and researching the topic in great depth before starting to put the words to paper. But next year, my debut novel is coming out! It’s an exciting and terrifying time! The book is set in a totally fictional world, with lots of imagined landscapes and beasts. My inspiration for that has come from all over – from Norfolk walks, from my world travels, from nature documentaries, from people I’ve met...
How does your writing and educational work inform your practice as a veterinarian and vice versa?
I’m not sure my writing has a massive impact on my work as a vet, although maybe it makes it easier for me to explain complex veterinary issues in more user-friendly vocabulary. But my work as a vet is hugely helpful to my writing – particularly for the books I have written about pets and how to be a vet!
You’ve spoken in the past about the importance of children being out in nature and I read the book ’The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative’ which talks about how learning in nature helps children with ADHD with concentration. It was of interest on a personal note as both my son and I have ADHD and feel so much calmer and relaxed outside. Why do you think it’s so important for all children to experience nature?
We are part of nature! We are not something separate and removed from plants, animals, and the environment – we are very much a part of that ecosystem. Spending time in nature is reconnecting with our roots and sliding back into our place in the natural world. We need soil and grass and fresh air and birdsong on so many levels, but the most superficial of those is just that they make us feel so much better.
Credit – Matt Keal
What books, TV shows or podcasts would you recommend for people interested in learning more about conservation?
Isabella Tree & Charlie Burrell - Rewilding, Mikaela Loach - it's not that radical.
We are organising a community project called Conservation X Conversation to encourage people to come together to engage in conservation work and have discussions around waste. Are there any areas you think we should focus our attention on first?
Community garden/growing projects, conservation over convenience, biodiversity loss.
And finally, what are the most impactful small changes we can make in our daily lives to be more sustainable?
Think about the entire life of an object before purchasing. How was it made? From which materials? Using what kind of energy? Do you really need it? How long will you use it for? What will happen to it once it is no longer useful to you? Could you buy another version with less packaging or less environmental impact?