Derek Niemann has spent 28 years as a volunteer and professional communicator in nature conservation, making up for a lost childhood in which he was “an enthusiastic, untutored and inept naturalist”. In November 2014 he leaves the RSPB to become a freelance writer and editor, after spending 16 years as editor of the RSPB’s youth magazines. He has been a fortnightly Country Diarist for the Guardian since 2005 and is also a regular contributor to BBC Wildlife. He has written a number of wildlife books for children, as well as Birds in a Cage, the true story of POW birdwatchers. Derek lives in a county that its own council used to undersell spectacularly on road signs that proclaimed: “Welcome to Bedfordshire – central to the Oxford–Cambridge Arc”.