Spies and Snakes – A Charming Story

Maxwell Knight was an adventurous and insatiably curious field naturalist (and MI5 agent-runner). “Naturalists, to be any use at all, must be curious above almost anything else,” he’d say. “They must ever be asking: Why? How? When? Where?” His curiosity would often lead him to conduct experiments to look at some of the unsolved myths…

“I may not be able to draw, but I can sew!”

As a boy scout, Maxwell Knight was influenced by Robert Baden-Powell’s teachings, which insisted that the study of living things was one of the single most important features of everyday scout life. He was trained to be highly observant and the foundations of a great amateur-naturalist were firmly established. He learned with varying degrees of…

WORKING WITH INTELLIGENCE

“Intelligence is MI5’s currency,” according to mi5.gov.uk – “Collecting and analysing covert intelligence is at the centre of what MI5 does, and roles in these areas are critical to our mission of keeping the country safe.” Much has changed since Maxwell Knight’s (M’s) time; however, if he was still with us today, I’m sure he’d agree…

Keep nature on the Agenda – post Brexit

“We can only hope that any future government will be continually alert and that the warnings of many top scientists about the necessity for full and extensive tests on any form of pesticide, or spray, for dealing with plants will be heeded.” – Maxwell Knight (The Frightened Face of Nature – 1964). Post Brexit, we must…

What makes a good Field Naturalist? 

“A good naturalist must be healthy, alert and tough,” writes Maxwell Knight in The Frightened Face of Nature (unpublished). “Think of some of our own naturalists today (1964): Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, Eric Hosking and Peter Scott. Remember that those who are inclined to make fun of naturalists are usually those who by jeering are trying…

True conservation is as impossible as…

…trying to produce a “balance of nature”.  The best we can hope for, therefore, is our best attempt at nature conservation – to help the maximum number of desirable species reproduce and thrive in any given region.

“Be a Nature Detective”

I  have  in  front  of   me  a  “withdrawn”  library  book  written  by  Maxwell  Knight entitled “Be a Nature Detective” (Frederick Warne & Co 1968). On 24 June 1968 – some five months after the author of the book died – the book was borrowed from Derbyshire County Library for the very first time. I…

A new generation of Nature Detectives

John Cooper first heard Maxwell Knight’s iconic broadcasts as a child because his family listened to Nature Parliament in the afternoons, at ten past one on the Home Service. After the News, it would either be Country Questions or The Naturalist, which was introduced by three curlew calls. After attending several of Knight’s talks, in…

Was Maxwell Knight Ian Fleming’s “M”?

To many, “M” might seem like a random letter plucked from thin air by Ian Fleming during a spell of writer’s block; a fictional character. It was, of course, anything but, as the two men (Ian Fleming and Maxwell Knight) were in the security service at the same time, and “M’s” talents as a spy…