Our Christmas store is now open

We’ve teamed up with some of our favourite brands to bring you six limited edition gift bundles – for explorers, botanists, campfire gatherers and all those in search of a bit of mystery 

The apothecary bundle

We’re delighted to team up with Kindred + Wild to offer a rejuvenating selection of balms and oils to keep the winter chills at bay. This bundle includes two copies of Ernest, a healing lemon + lavender balm, lavender + chamomile oil and one piece of ‘Holy Wood’, an incense stick derived from the Frankincense tree. £30

The lost explorer's bundle

For the intrepid at heart. We’ve teamed up withYorkshire leather crafters HÔRD to bring you a gift bundle inspired by the rugged topography of the Three Peaks. The bundle includes two copies of Ernest and a leather key fob with an etching of the contours of Ben Nevis, Snowdon or Scafell Pike. £35

The botanist's bundle

The perfect gift for an aspiring botanist, this gift set includes a copy of Ernest, an Art of Instruction paperback notebook (based on ‘Jung-Koch-Quentell’ charts, originally illustrated in the late 1800s) and Green Tea soap courtesy of our friends at Eastern Biological. £17.50

The Firepot bundle

Ernest is proud to present a gift bundle for those who love to peer down a misty mountain summit, raft through icy cold rapids or spend starry nights by a crackling fire. This bundle comprises two copies of Ernest and two pouches of slow-cooked grub courtesy of FIREPOT by Outdoorfood. (Meat, veggie or vegan options available). £25

The Mysterium bundle

Add a touch of the unknown to your Christmas stocking with a copy of Ernest and our brand new book The Mysterium: Unexplained and extraordinary stories for a post-Nessie generation. £20



The completish bundle

The perfect way to introduce your friends to Ernest this Christmas, this gift set contains issues 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, plus our first book The Odditorium and our latest book The Mysterium plus an Ernest gift card. £75 



The slow adventure calendar 2018

Plan a whole year of adventure with this A5 clipboard calendar, featuring 12 remarkable images taken for Ernest over the past year. The calendar comprises of a clipboard and hook for hanging on the wall, plus 12 sheets of recycled, uncoated paper. At the end of each month, you can cut out the  picture postcard and write home to share your adventures. £10

The slow adventure calendar bundle

A 2018 slow adventure calendar plus an Ernest Journal issue of your choice. £20

Winter expedition

Make the most of starry skies and frosty mornings this winter and get out into the wild. Wynnchester is your guide to three essential elements of adventure kit: your bed, your shelter and your pack 

Patrol Pack, £150

Patrol Pack, £150

Wynnchester was born out of a passion for beautiful design, a respect for simplicity and a love of nature. Today, they design heritage-inspired outdoors equipment for modern-day adventurers. Their customers include former and serving military, professional cowboys, scout masters and bushcraft instructors. Let's take a look at their expedition inventory:

Adventurer Bedroll


The bedroll is a simple solo shelter that sets up in seconds. Fully enclosable, it requires no ground sheet, no guy ropes and no pegs. Built to last, the bedroll is manufactured in the UK using only the finest, military-spec materials. The all-canvas construction is robust and durable, pre-treated for water, rot and fire resistance. Wynnchester’s bedrolls are used by hundreds of professionals and recreational campers the world over. £525

Adventure Tarp


Made from the same material as the bedroll, this tough canvas tarp won’t catch fire or be ruined by flying embers from your campfire or cooking stove. Measuring 3m x 1.85m, it is the perfect size for a one-man shelter. With a total of 10 reinforced attachment points, the setups are limited only by your imagination. £225

Patrol Pack


After many years restoring vintage Norwegian Army patrol packs in their workshops, the design was a natural choice for Wynnchester’s line of new-made bags. Their modern version, the 18L PATROL, remains true to the original and is constructed from military-spec canvas and 100% cowhide top grade leather.  Each bag in the limited edition run is individually numbered and available in a choice of a fully waterproof, modern dry finish or a traditional hand-waxed finish using Wynnchester’s own all-natural wax formula. £150

Get 10% off these items using code ERNEST10 online at wynnchester.com

The Atomic Gardener

Welcome to the astonishing world of Muriel Howorth, Britain's very own botanical particle physicist

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Far away from the cares of Britain’s Atomic Weapons Establishment, a pantomime cow was eating a radioactive lunch. A Geiger counter flashed and clicked as the cow stood up on her hind legs, rubbed her stomach and smiled. Moments later, a balletic Atom Man pirouetted, glided across the stage then squatted before Knowledge, a figure draped in parachute silk. “The cow should soon be a perfectly healthy animal”, Knowledge said.

It’s not clear if the ballet Isotopia: an Exposition in Atomic Structure was ever seen again after its debut in the Waldorf Hotel, in the heart of London’s theatre district. Writing in October 1950, a Time magazine journalist recalled 13 members of the Ladies Atomic Energy Club gyrating across the stage in long evening gowns, as they danced and mimed the peaceful uses of the atom to a rapt crowd of 250 other women. Isotopia was one of many creations of the club’s visionary founder Muriel Howorth: script writer, choreographer, wardrobe advisor, poet, science fiction novelist, former employee of  The Ministry of Information and atomic evangelist. “To lead women out of the kitchen and into the Atomic Age” was Howorth’s aim. “Not to know all about atomic energy and the wonderful things it can do is like living in the Dark Ages”.

Howorth wanted to take Isotopia to the Royal Albert Hall. She’d always been a fearless schemer, someone who knew how to marshall others’ efforts. Despite having no formal science training, she taught herself the rudiments of nuclear physics at her home in the English seaside town of Eastbourne. By 1948, she’d set up her Ladies Atomic Energy Club and was already writing to the great physicists of the time, asking them to endorse her efforts. Einstein graciously sent some encouraging words.

As early as 1949, when she presented a model of a lithium atom to a surprised mayor of Eastbourne, Howorth was staging atomic stunts in public. There was a Sunday lunch that she ate in 1959, even though the potatoes and onions were three years old. They’d been stored in the labs of Harwell, Oxfordshire, with a few grains of radioactive sodium – enough to kill any germs (and all the taste).

In 1960, Howorth embarked on her most ambitious venture. Her intentions became public when she posed for the local papers, tickling an extraordinary plant that was growing on her window sill. “Yesterday I held in my hand the most sensational plant in Britain,” wrote Beverly Nichols, gardening correspondent for The Sunday Dispatch. “To me it had all the romance of something from outer space. It is the first ‘atomic’ peanut.”

This plant had itself been grown from a remarkable peanut – a gift from Oak Ridge Tennessee (home of the Manhattan Project). Like Howorth’s onions and potatoes, this peanut had been irradiated. In this instance, all that atom blasting had done something extraordinary: it had disrupted the DNA of the peanut to create a mutant – a peanut that would grow into a giant plant, one with nuts as big as almonds. The plant itself wasn’t radioactive – its crop tasted good and was perfectly safe to eat, just like any other peanut.

In praise of the mutant vegetables 

With food rationing in Britain still a recent memory, it’s no wonder Howorth was drawn to the implications: take a large batch of seeds of wheat, barley, tomatoes or another foodcrop – irradiate them and, if you’re lucky, you will make some mutants. Some of those mutants might grow in odd colours, some might grow tall or twisted, others will wither and die. But if you’re lucky, you may find that one in a billion mutation: a plant that grows large enough to end world hunger. With her leadership, Howorth was sure the gardeners of Britain could work together to find this golden mutant.

Howorth instructed her husband Major Howard to set himself up as the sole European distributor of atom-blasted seeds from Van Hage Company, Holland. She also persuaded Harold Wootton to exhibit her specimens in his Wonder Gardens, a pleasure garden in Wannock, a few miles outside Eastbourne. Thus her experimental, atom-blasted allotment was visited by thousands of families on Sunday afternoons on their way to the model village and tearooms. 

Howorth opened the doors of her Atomic Gardening Society and asked for willing amateur gardeners to join her. This was citizen science on a grand scale, all handled through the Post Office. All you had to do was request some atom-blasted seeds from The Major and buy Howorth’s book, Atomic Gardening for the Layman, to jump into the atomic age. 

Seeds were posted to volunteers, along with instructions on how to nurture them, log their growth and report back on any interesting mutants. Finding the golden mutant was a game of chance. Every volunteer and every new planting improved the odds of finding the plant that could, in Howorth’s eyes, save humankind. The odds, however, were stacked against her. Howorth managed to recruit around 300 gardeners – but a thousand times that number would be needed to have any likelihood of creating even a handful of mutations, let alone the giant plant she longed for. To encourage the gardeners’ competitive spirit, Howorth announced the most promising mutant each year would be awarded the “Muriel Howorth Peanut Prize”. We don’t know if anyone ever took home the trophy. Despite her optimism, by the mid-1960s, the volunteers had little to show for their efforts. The Atomic Gardening Society quietly fizzled out. 

By this time, many plant scientists had abandoned atom-blasting, seeing it as a haphazard way to find useful mutants. They turned their attention to chemical methods of splicing the gene - techniques behind the GM crops of today. As atomic gardening historian Paige Johnson said to amusingplanet.com. “If you think of genetic modification today as slicing the genome with a scalpel, in the 1960s they were hitting it with a hammer”. Howorth never reconciled herself to this, clinging to the romance of the atom until her death in 1971.

As an atomic pioneer, Howorth was a visionary. Although she never found her giant mutant, in many other ways, her work was a triumph. Decades before the era of crowd sourcing, she demonstrated that anyone could set up and run their own scientific experiments, following their own interests rather than the agenda of established laboratories. Long before anyone had ever spoken about open source culture, she was already sharing scientific knowhow for the price of a few first class stamps.

Howorth would be delighted to know that atomic gardening is making a comeback. In tightly controlled experiments, crop scientists are growing plants in circular fields that are continually bathed in radiation. This comes from highly radioactive cobalt-60 – a source so deadly, it has to be dropped into a lead-lined sarcophagus before anyone can enter the field. Rapid genome testing lets them sift through thousands of results. In Atomic Gardening for the Layman, Howorth hinted at plans for her own cobalt-60 garden, something she never had the funds to bring to fruition. 

Howorth didn’t have the chance to study atomic science formally, yet she came up with experiments that were rationally designed and breathtaking in their ambition. She achieved so much on that windowsill in Eastbourne, in Slaymaker’s Wondergarden and in the pots of atomic gardening pioneers around the UK. Just think how much more she could have done if she’d been given the keys to the lab. 

Words: Russell Arnott

This featured in our book The Odditorium: The tricksters, eccentrics, deviants and inventors whose obsessions changed the world (Hodder & Stoughton, Oct 2016). Pick up a copy today.

Gift guide: gently rugged carry goods

We are proud to introduce one of our sponsors Rural Kind: makers of simple, functional and gently rugged waxed canvas and leather carry goods for everyday adventuring, handcrafted in the hills of Wales

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Key Carry
A sturdy and dependable strap for carrying your keys, with a brass stud fastening for attaching to a belt or bag. Handmade with oak bark tanned leather and solid brass hardware. £28

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Roll-top Rucksack
Rugged enough for the hills, handsome enough for the city. This refined roll-top design is made with heavyweight waxed canvas and Devon leather. £250

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Glasses Case
Be kind to your eyewear with this strong, refined and protective glasses case. Made by hand in our rural workshop from rich and characterful oak bark tanned leather. £89

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Utility Bag
For everyday adventures, carrying tools, loading with books or filling with fresh groceries. Strong, durable and handcrafted from waxed canvas and oak bark tanned leather. £190

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Card Wallet
A simple and functional two pocket wallet for carrying a few cards and some notes. Crafted from oak bark tanned leather and hand-stitched with a waxed linen thread. £36

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For city strolls, gentle rides and everyday rambles. This waxed canvas and leather cross-body bag is our gently rugged take on the classic cyclist’s musette. £129

To find out more about Rural Kind, visit our Directory

The Mysterium: Unexplained and extraordinary stories for a post-Nessie generation

We’ve got a new book out! Co-authored by editor Jo Keeling and David Bramwell, and designed by the Ernest team, The Mysterium explores 40 compelling mysteries, oddities and remarkable tales for the modern age.

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”
Douglas Adams The Hitch-hikers The Guide to the Galaxy

In 2015, Guinness World Record holder, Steve Feltham, hung up his binoculars and headed home. For 24 years, living in a loch-side caravan in Scotland, he had waited for a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster until reaching the inevitable conclusion that it was, in all likelihood, a catfish.

Nowadays, many of us feel nostalgic for a more innocent age when we pored over compendiums of ‘the unexplained’. Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World and Reader’s Digest Mysteries of the Unexplained beguiled us with tales of spontaneous human combustion and blurry photos of Nessie, flying saucers and Big Foot.

But while a lack of credible proof in our digital age casts doubt over such stories, The Mysterium: Unexplained and extraordinary stories for a post-Nessie generation (Hodder & Stoughton, 5 Oct 2017) sets out to prove that the world is just as mysterious as it ever was, it’s just a question of adjusting our gaze.

Co-authored by Ernest editor Jo Keeling and David Bramwell, with a host of guest writers and foreword by Dan Schreiber (No Such Thing As A Fish), The Mysterium delves into such tales as…

Strange fruit

Explore the stories behind trap streets and Mountweazels – fictitious entries hiding in dictionaries, maps and encyclopaedias. Investigate the meaning behind the Toynbee Tiles – 600 linoleum tiles embedded in roads across the USA and South America, bearing the message ‘resurrect dead on planet Jupiter’? And unravel the story of Panacea’s Box, which is said to contain the secrets of humanity’s future happiness; once opened, the problems of the world will dissolve. So why the heckers haven’t we opened it?

Reproduced with permission from Kendall Whitehouse. 

Reproduced with permission from Kendall Whitehouse. 

Ghosts in the machine

Eschewing the monsters and enigmas of the past, The Mysterium delves into new mysteries created in our interconnected, digital age, arguing that – rather than debunking mysteries – the internet has become a breeding ground for new mystery. Born of a 2009 competition to ‘create paranormal images’, Slenderman’s mythology manifested within the space of ten days. Five years later, a ghoul created entirely on the internet started claiming real-life victims. To lighten things up a touch, meet the trickster whose Gumtree ad – about a man in search of a tenant willing to dress as a walrus in return for free rent – inspired a horror film.

Are we not human?

Travel to the Melanesian island where residents worship Prince Philip as a volcano God. Ponder the rise of the mirage men – whether US government used mythology to cover up their advanced technology. And enter the bizarre world of Chuck Tingle – the cult, self-published, pseudonymous author who started penning stories about steamy encounters with dinosaurs and unicorns before moving on to anthropomorphised objects and even concepts.

Photo: Christopher Hogue Thompson

Photo: Christopher Hogue Thompson

Strange sounds & spooky transmissions

Tune in to mysterious coded transmissions on shortwave radio. Look into reports of the Hum – a low-frequency, untraceable buzz that has been plaguing residents of Bristol, Taos New Mexico and other cities around the globe since the 1940s. Meet The Residents, the world’s most mysterious band, and contemplate why the world’s worst orchestra threw in the towel.


If we see films as a cultural expression of our inner anxieties, then it’s clear that abnormal weather and mysterious atmospheric phenomena tap into a primal fear. Perhaps it’s down to the very real threat of climate change or the fact that so much of what happens in our oceans is still unexplained. Investigate geomagnetic storms that can blow up pylons and wipe our bank accounts; balls of electricity that appear inside plane cabins and float down the aisle and dark lightning that shoots gamma rays into space so powerful it can blind sensors on satellites and create anti-matter. Plus, the Bermuda Triangle of Space, rogue waves that slice freighters in half and cats that can predict death!

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

Mind games

According to the old playground proverb, sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. That proverb dates to the Victorian era, a time not noted for its emotional intelligence. Here in the hyper-connected 21st century, sticks and stones are seriously outgunned by the damaging power of words. According to one interpretation of a thought experiment called Roko’s Basilisk, simply hearing or reading about it will cause you to be unendurably tortured until the end of time. Meanwhile in Japan, a million youngsters are withdrawing from human contact. Explore strange tales of culture-bound syndromes, from semen-loss anxiety to Hikikomori. Plus, the disturbing story of 116 expatriated men from Cambodia, who died in their sleep within months of arriving in the USA.

The really creepy stuff

Why do human feet keep washing up on the same beaches in British Columbia? Will we soon be able to download our brains and live as a brain in a jar? And just to doubly make sure you don’t sleep at night – why not explore new ways of looking at our imminent destruction from a computer virus that could polish off the human race to self-reinforcing AI robots that could accidentally turn increasingly large chunks of the observable universe into paperclips. Sweet dreams.

Co-authored by Jo Keeling and David Bramwell. Foreword by Dan Schreiber (No Such Thing As A Fish). Designed by Tina Smith and Johnathan Montelongo. Guest writers John Higgs, Brendan C. Byrne, Matt Iredale, Leila Johnston, Jen Rowe, Mark Pilkington and Ian 'Cat' Vincent. 

Pick up your copy of The Mysterium: Unexplained and extraordinary stories for a post-Nessie generation on Amazon and in all good bookstores.