Alicia Hayden on “Every Dune is a Mountain”

Alicia Hayden

For me, nature is a solace in times of stress and turbulence – exploring the intricacies of your local patch can help reduce anxiety and improves your mood, yet so many of us barely explore our local wild spaces – so for the last year, I’ve been working on a series of illustrated mini-collections, with the aim of inspiring people to reconnect with the wilderness on their doorsteps.

Sand dunes, in particular, feel wild and untethered from the rest of everyday 9-til-5 society. There is something fascinating about their enormity– their mountainous appearance – when you consider they are made of something as light and transient as sand. When I started work on “Every Dune is a Mountain” as part of the Dynamic Dunescapes project, I wanted to delve into the wilderness of our sand dunes: there are so many weird and wonderful species which call these ephemeral mountains home – picking just a handful to focus on was a difficult task!

A watercolour painting of a sand dune with blue skies

I worked with Tish Cookson, formerly the Dynamic Dunescapes Engagement Officer at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, to virtually explore Lincolnshire’s sand dunes. Using videos, photos, and audio recordings, as well as online resources such as their species list, I was able to write poems as if I had seen the sand dunes in person.

Whenever I’m compiling a collection of poems, the order in which they are placed in the collection is extremely important to me. “Approaching” felt like a natural opener; something which guides the reader in, introducing them to the dunes as if they are just walking up the path and seeing them for the first time, in all of their vastness.

a soft watercolour painting of yellow dunes with green grasses

I enjoyed doing a few species-specific poems, namely “Marram Grass”, “The Grey Seal”, and “The Northern dune tiger beetle” – giving some of the organisms who call sand dunes home a personality was a lot of fun! The idea of marram grass marching over the dunes like a well-coordinated artillery seems fitting; marram grass is so tough and hardy, and I really wanted to reflect this in the characters of the poem – particularly through the tone and rhythm.


Marram Grass

We’re Xerophytes

And we’re here to fight

For everything we hold dear.

The waves may crash

But we will lash

Against every wave, and every tear.


We’re Ammophila

We like good weather –

Just kidding! We like extremes.

Throw us salt and sand,

A small patch of land,

And we’ll grow for reams and reams.


We’re children’s swords,

And fit for lords

Who duel upon the beach.

We’re tough as nails,

Through sun, snow, and hail,

Growing to heights you’ll never reach.

A watercolour illustration of marram grass

As an artist as well as a writer, I adore creating illustrations to accompany my writing. Watercolours felt like a natural choice for a poetry collection which was exploring the sea, and I tried to use soft colours which wouldn’t distract from the writing itself. I also wanted to create some smaller ink sketches, which would sit throughout the rest of the collection – one of my favourite illustrations is the tiny flock of ink oystercatchers, which can be found flying through a few of the pages in the collection.

three oystercatchers in flight painted in black ink

I also wanted to bring the poetry collection to life with readings and music! Will Pearce is a talented nature musician, so he and I co-wrote a song called “Dynamic Dunescapes” for the collection – the piano music is included in the book, and a recording of Will performing the song is available on the audio book. The audio book was created by fellow Wildlife Filmmaking MA student Jacob Burley and I – Jacob has read all the poems in the collection, which you can listen to here:

I hope that by making “Every Dune is a Mountain” more multi-disciplinary, more people feel inspired to connect with nature and sand dunes – be that due to the poems, illustrations, readings, or music!

A smiling woman with brown hair holds a copy of her new book in the sunshine

“Every Dune is a Mountain” is available to buy for free through Alicia’s online shop: and you can read all of the instalments in Alicia’s mini-collection series here:

A smiling woman with brown hair holds a copy of her new book in the sunshine

About the Author

Alicia Hayden

Alicia is a wildlife artist, writer, filmmaker, and photographer, with a background in Biological Sciences – currently studying for a MA in Wildlife Filmmaking at UWE. Alicia self-published her first illustrated wildlife poetry book “Rain before Rainbows” in 2020, with 50% of profits going to the wildlife hospital Tiggywinkles; in 2021 she won DSWF’s Wildlife Artist of the Year Human Impact category for her piece “When the Whale Sang”.


Instagram/Facebook/TikTok: @aliciahaydenwildlife

Twitter: @aliciahaydenart