Natural History Section, Leicester Literary & Philosophical Society

About us

Natural History Section

In view of current Covid situation, we have decided not to hold a summer outdoor programme of walks in 2020. We hope you understand why it has been necessary to take these difficult decisions. In the meantime, our blog and Facebook group (see below) will be regularly updated - stay in touch with us there. 

The Natural History Section exists to further the study of natural history and the recording of local wildlife in Leicestershire and the surrounding counties. The Section was founded more than 50 years ago as an off-shoot of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society. Members of the Section have a wide variety of interests and expertise in various areas of natural history, but you don't have to be an expert on natural history to join. We meet with kind permission and support from Leicester City Council Arts and Museums Service in The Lord Mayor’s Room at New Walk Museum. Twice a year, members receive a programme of forthcoming events, and a copy of the Newsletter which reports on Society activities and contains other items about natural history. From October to March you are very welcome to come along to an indoor meeting as a guest and see if you like it. 

Contact Us

Membership enquiries:


Indoor Meetings are usually held on Wednesday evenings once a month from October to March. Meetings consist of a talk on some aspect of natural history by a knowledgeable speaker, either an invited expert or a member. Most talks use slides as illustrations, and sometimes include specimens or recordings. All talks are aimed at the amateur naturalist, since even those members of the Section who are experts in one area may know very little about another. All indoor meetings are held with kind permission and support from Leicester City Council Arts and Museums Service in The Lord Mayor’s Room at New Walk Museum, Leicester. Car parking is available at the Museum (sat. nav. users - Princess Road West, LE1 6TP) and on the adjacent streets, and the Museum is within walking distance of the railway station and major bus routes. Unless otherwise stated the meeting room is open from 7.00 p.m. and proceedings finish by 9.30 pm. Members are invited to bring exhibits. Disabled access only is via the ramp at the side of the building where cars park.

Outdoor Meetings are usually held on Saturdays or Sundays between April and October. Meetings usually start at 10 am for a morning or all-day visit, and at 2 pm for an afternoon visit. Distances covered on foot vary, but 1-2 miles for a half-day meeting and 2-3 miles for a full day meeting would be typical, and shorter alternative routes are often available for those who prefer this. All outdoor meetings are by private car within reasonable driving distance of Leicester. Lifts can easily be arranged for those without their own transport. New members are very welcome at outdoor meetings, but this needs to be arranged in advance.

Forthcoming events

Meetings in 2020/21 will be held online via Zoom. Natural History Section members will be sent details via email. Non-members are also welcome to join these events - see the NatureSpot Events Calendar for joining details.

Wednesday October 7th 2020 7.30pm
Biodiversity in Leicestershire in 2040 - what, where, why and how. 

More, bigger, better connected - and messy? Beavers, boar and bison? John Clarkson, Head of Conservation for Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust gives us his vision of the future for Leicestershire and Rutland: "In the world of nature conservation, we are on the cusp of perhaps the most exciting times of the last 50 years; once again we can perhaps look forward with positivity to some commitment to change from the power-brokers and decision-makers that ultimately define the world that we live in. I want to go beyond the usual talk of rewilding - of species reintroductions and the like - as the future of nature conservation and to explore our future relationship with biodiversity in Leicestershire and Rutland over the coming decades."
You can watch the recording of this talk is here:

Wednesday November 4th 2020 7.30pm
Garden Moth Trapping – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly?

Garden moth trapping is in the ascendancy at the moment. What is the appeal and how does it contribute to our knowledge of moths in the county? Adrian Russell, VC55 County Moth Recorder and 37 year veteran of garden moth trapping, will explain.  If you would like to join us online via Zoom at 7.00pm on Wednesday 04.11.2020, please register here:

Wednesday 2 December 2020 7.30pm
Are there any saprophytes in the British flora?

Dr Richard Gornall, Director of the University of Leicester Botanic Garden.
The nature of saprophytism and the applicability of the term to plants in the British flora will be discussed. Two native plant species, both newly discovered in Leicestershire, are highlighted, and are used to illustrate the origin and evolution of carbon-acquisition through non-photosynthetic means. If you would like to join us online via Zoom at 7.00pm on Wednesday 02.12.2020, please register here:


Wednesday January 6th 2021 7.30pm
The Challenging World of Plant Galls

Chris Leach, British Plant Gall Society
Plant galls are growths on plants that provide food and protection to the organisms that induce their development. Galls are therefore also potentially desirable residencies for a large number of non-gall causing organisms and it is not surprising that gall causers are under constant attack from potential lodgers and parasites. This presentation will include a wide variety of gall causing groups including wasps, sawflies, fruit flies, aphids and mites and will show the extent to which these groups have developed strategies to ward off potential attacks and inclement conditions. The strategies are as diverse as producing physical barriers, recruiting mercenaries, training a protecting work force, making glue and producing jumping galls!

Wednesday 3rd February 2021 7.30pm
The Orchid Hunter: a Summer in Search of our Tresses and Twayblades

Leif Bersweden, Author and Botanist
In one of the strangest gap years you’ve heard of, Leif Bersweden spent a summer hunting down all 52 species of wild orchid native to Britain and Ireland. He discusses his book, The Orchid Hunter, which tells the personal tale of this summer long quest. As he travels all over the country, from the shores of the Channel Islands to the grassy pastures of the Brecon Beacons, from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to the wind-swept coasts of the Outer Hebrides, Leif teaches us about some of our most extraordinary native plants, the history of orchid hunting in Britain as well as sharing stories of his childhood growing up to love plants. 
Leif Bersweden is an author and botanist with a lifelong interest in nature, focusing on wild plants from the age of seven. He grew up in rural Wiltshire where he taught himself how to identify the local flora and now regularly leads plant identification training courses for The Species Recovery Trust. Leif graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in Biology and recently finished his PhD at Kew Gardens, where his research focused on orchid genetics. In a world where an interest in botany is becoming increasingly rare, he wants to help put plants back on the map and is endeavouring to do this through his teaching, research and publications.

Monday 8th March 2021 7.30pm
Impacts of Modern Agriculture on Birds (joint lecture with parent body)

Professor Ian Newton OBE FRS FRSE
This talk will discuss the major changes in agriculture that have occurred in Britain since the mid-20th century, and the effects of these changes on bird populations. Crucial changes have included the massively increased use of pesticides and fertilisers, the switch from spring-sown to autumn-sown arable crops, the increasing growth of silage, and the loss of mixed farms due to increasing specialisation. The majority of bird species that live on farmland have declined over recent decades, some by more than 90%. Causal factors include the loss of habitats and food-supplies, and the greater destruction of nests and chicks within crops. 
Professor Newton has a long and distinguished career as an ornithologist, publishing extensively on a wide range of bird species. He has been chairman of many societies including the RSPB and held the post of Visiting Professor of Ornithology at the University of Oxford, and was the Senior Ornithologist at the Natural Environment Research Council. His work has been recognised by many honours and awards. 

Wednesday 3rd March 2021 7.30pm
Bringing Dormice Home

Ian White, Dormouse and Training Officer, People’s Trust for Endangered Species
The dormouse reintroduction programme started in 1993 when 49 dormice were released in a woodland in Cambridgeshire. A reintroduction was done every year, releasing dormice in different woods in different counties in the hope that these animals would then start to disperse into the wider landscape. The programme changed in 2013 when three reintroductions were done in three woods in close proximity in Nottinghamshire. Here the aim was to work with local landowners to improve the hedged connections between the woods to enable the dormouse populations to meet up in the future to create a larger metapopulation. We’ll hear how well that project has been working and look at implications for further reintroductions.