A FAMOUS gardener has thrown his support behind a new book about Swindon icon Richard Jefferies.

Gardener's World presenter Monty Don has written the foreword for a fully-illustrated tome which delves into the life of the Victorian nature writer whose home near Coate Water is now a popular museum.

It shows off the wonders of the natural world and stresses the importance of working in harmony with the environment instead of destroying it.

Museum director and historian Mike Pringle wrote the book, Wild Life, during the pandemic's lockdowns to give an overview of Richard Jefferies' life, which began in 1848 and ended in 1887.

The hardback highlights quotes from the author alongside photos of artefacts from the museum as well as hundreds of pictures of nature and wildlife taken in the Swindon area by Elmar Rubio, Phil Messenger, Robert Slade and Rosie Tozer.

The book officially launched on what would have been Mr Jefferies' 173rd birthday at the community centre next to Christ Church, where his relatives are buried.

Mike asked Monty Don to write a piece for the project and the BBC show's star said he would be honoured to do so because he is a big fan of the nature lover.

Monty added: "The changes to agriculture and Jefferies’ landscape, even in my lifetime, have been huge and often vandalistic.

"But reverence for the natural world and the need to acknowledge both its fragility and significance is growing.

"We are learning that we need that world in all its sublime complexity much more than it needs us. This was Jefferies’ subject and it has never been more pertinent to the way that we live.”

Climate economist Graeme Maxton praised the book, whose title comes from the fact that Jefferies’ 1879 book Wild Life in a Southern County is given as the earliest example in the Oxford English Dictionary of the phrase being used in a nature context.

He said: “Deep down, of course, we all know humanity is making a pig’s breakfast of it all. We know that nature is suffering and that almost everything we do is to blame.

"What is delightful about this book is that it sidesteps all that. It punctures the reader’s stupor like a knitting needle shoved between the ribs.

"The gentle tone of the words and heart-warming photographs ensnare unwittingly. Then, from within the easy-to-digest text comes that powerful thrust to the chest. ‘Listen!’, it shouts. ‘We must change!'"

Swindon-born zoologist Desmond Morris added: “Jefferies wrote about the magic of engrossing oneself in nature and, in so doing, became a pioneer of animal conservation and the understanding of ecology.

"In this, he was way ahead of his time, so much so that he is often overlooked. This splendid new book will serve to correct this and let his voice be heard more clearly in the 21st century.”

Mike Pringle wrote: "Richard Jefferies shows us a world where birds, insects and wild flowers existed in numbers that now we can only imagine.

"He warns us that nature holds no special place for human life and will ultimately win any battle we care to have with it.

"He reminds us of the incredible depths of wild life living in every hedge and patch of grass.

"He tells us that the Earth can provide all that we will ever need, if we can only develop the better sides of ourselves, push aside greed and share the abundance.

"And he extols the life-giving properties of simply being in nature, now."