Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Sunday Interview – Getting to Know You with #children’s #wildlife author Denzil Walton

Please join me in welcoming children’s and wildlife author Denzil Walton who has recently published his latest in a series of wonderful books for children to encourage them to participate more in the natural world.

We will find out more about Denzil’s motivational writing a little later.. but first more about the author himself.

I am a freelance writer living near Leuven in Belgium. Originally from the UK, I have lived in Belgium for over 30 years. I am the author of four “Nature Walks Near Brussels” books and the creator of the popular Discovering Belgium blog. Most of my writing work is in the industry sector, but I am now working on a series of books under the theme “Encourage A Child”. The first ones focus on nature study, with titles such as Encourage A Child … to watch birds, study wild animals, enjoy creepy-crawlies, learn about trees, care for the planet.

Time to find out which of the questions Denzil has selected

Welcome to the blog Denzil and can you tell us about your craziest experience

When I was 22 years old I was unemployed, living in Manchester in an old and cold rented house, while trying to make a living as a freelance journalist. I wrote to my sporting hero, the Manchester United and England footballer, Steve Coppell, asking if I could interview him. To my total surprise not only did I get a reply, but he agreed to meet me! We met in the Old Trafford Grill Room, where we were served a pot of tea and scones. Mr. Coppell turned to me and said “Shall I be Mother?” and poured me a cup of tea. Sitting opposite my idol, drinking tea from fancy teacups and eating buttered scones was just too overwhelmingly surreal for me. I totally froze, and had great difficulty getting my questions out and noting down his replies. It wasn’t a total disaster though. The article was published in the Manchester Evening News and was one of my first journalistic successes.

Describe your worst online experience?

My day job is a technical copywriter, which involves, among other tasks, writing product brochures. Occasionally I will ask permission from a client to display a brochure on my website as an example of my writing skills. One particular client gave his permission for a certain brochure, which I put online. The next day he rang me up. He was furious! I had put the wrong brochure online. Instead of a brochure of an older product, I had put online a brochure I had just written – of a product that had not yet been launched! He was so angry because that product was due to be launched at a major – and expensive – press event; not on a freelance writer’s website. There would also be problems if the competition were to see it too. Of course I immediately removed it from my website, but getting Google to remove it was another thing altogether. Actually it was a nightmare. I had visions of being sued for millions of euros of lost sales. Thankfully the brochure eventually disappeared from online searches, without too much harm being done. But I had more than a few sleepless nights!

What is your favourite childhood song and why?

It’s the theme tune to my favourite children’s TV programme, “Tales of the Riverbank”. This involved live animals such as Hammy the Hamster and Roderick the Rat enjoying various adventures on toy boats or cars, with their voices narrated by the great TV presenter Johnny Morris. The original series ran from 1960-1963, and was in black-and-white. What’s interesting about the theme tune is that it’s not what you now normally associate with a theme tune for a children’s TV programme (i.e. something jolly, upbeat, with kid-friendly rhymes). It was a lovely piece of classical guitar music! Enjoy:

Do you prefer cats, dogs, or neither?

Dogs, most definitely, mainly because cats can be extremely harmful to the environment! Harsh words, but let me explain. The Mammal Society estimates that cats in the UK catch up to 275 million prey items a year such as mice, voles, shrews and birds. This is an extraordinary figure, and only relates to the number of prey items known to have been caught: not the additional number that cats didn’t bring home. I am not referring to house cats that seldom set foot outside, but to the ones that roam outside for much of the day. These are natural born killers, and their predative instincts are causing havoc to native wildlife. For this reason I will also take the opportunity to encourage parents to really think seriously before buying a cat for their children.

What is your favourite music genre and why?

Recently I rediscovered my love of music from the Alternative/Indie scene. I used to listen to a lot of bands in this genre when I was younger, but over the years I lost touch with the music scene. Now though, thanks to Apple Music and a pair of Bluetooth headphones that one of my daughters bought me for my birthday, I have been able to get up-to-date with the latest groups in this genre, which I love for its freshness, energy and vitality, as well as its originality. On my playlist at the moment are Tennis, Young The Giant, The Wandering Hearts, Local Natives, Real Estate, The Strumbellas, Saint Motel, and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, whom you can see in this video:

Encourage a Child to Watch Birds

“What’s that bird?” asks a child. “What’s it doing? Why are its feathers so colourful? Can we feed it? Where does it nest?” You would love to encourage the child in their interest … but you are not a birdwatcher, so how can you? Or an older child wants to learn birdsong, or study owls – but you are lost for ideas.

This is why “Encourage A Child To Watch Birds” is so valuable. It includes 10 Non-Screen Ideas to inspire a child to discover nature through watching birds. From studying the ducks in the park, through which books to read, how to choose a pair of binoculars, what food to put out for garden birds, why nest-boxes are necessary, how to listen to and learn birdsong, discovering what owls eat and other topics, you will now be able to inspire a child in the fascinating hobby of watching birds.

Why are the ideas “Non-Screen”? Children are active on screens for an increasingly large proportion of their lives. This book aims to activate children, sharpen their senses and show them the fun to be had AWAY from the screen.

Putting the ideas in this book into practice could help to develop a child’s powers of observation, improve their aural skills, introduce them to ecological concepts, teach them basic nature conservation practices – and increase their enjoyment of the natural world.

The book is backed up by Resources on the Encourage A Child website for each of the 10 Ideas, including photographs, hints & tips, links, reading lists etc.

One of the early reviews for the book

This little gem of a book is designed to help adults encourage children to get away from their computer screens and outside to watch birds. The book gives some good, basic facts about the birds you and your child might see and provides questions you can ask to encourage the child to watch the birds and talk about what they’ve seen. I know a bit about birds and still learned new facts, but this book makes it easy to start even if you know nothing at all about birds. The activities and discussion points are open enough that they’re suitable to use with a child of any age and you don’t need to live in the countryside to use this book – it focuses on parks and gardens, even apartment buildings. It begins with the easiest of activities – watching ducks on a pond – and progresses to things like how to use binoculars and dissecting owl pellets! The book is well-written, easy to understand and there is a sense of great enthusiasm for the subject throughout the pages. Thoroughly recommended to share with a child.

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And on Amazon US:

Read more reviews and follow Denzil on Goodreads:

Other books in the series available on Smashwords

Connect to Denzil Walton.


My thanks to Denzil for joining us today and I am sure he would be delighted to receive any questions and comments.. thanks Sally