Jay Armstrong is delighted to be sharing her passion for the natural world through her Elementum journal. By Emma Joseph

The natural world has always been something of a passion for Jay Armstrong.

Growing up in Scotland, she spent her time monitoring spiders in the garden, and surveying pond life.

So, after life got in the way for more than 20 years, she is delighted to have finally come full circle with Elementum, a journal of new writing and visual arts exploring the natural world.

Jay, who now lives in Sherborne, works with a team of artists, writers and photographers to produce the striking publication, which is currently stocked in select outlets, including Winstons in Sherborne and Ryder & Hope in Lyme Regis, as well as Foyles in London and at the Tate Modern.

“The first one came out in August 2016 and was called Calling, which was quite apt considering my journey for myself,” explains Jay, who spent seven years in the Army and time as a freelance photographer before starting an MA in professional writing in 2014 while she was living in Cornwall.

“The first edition focused on the whale. We look at man’s history with the whale and also the folklore. The second edition is Gap – all about spaces and edges and the coastline is always changing.

“We’ve got some phenomenal artists. It’s a mix of photos and artwork. We’ve created something quite beautiful.”

The third edition, Roots, was produced in October 2017, after Jay moved to Dorset with her husband Scott and their nine-year-old daughter Esme, and she is now hoping to publish three issues a year.

“It’s a journal of natural history, folklore,” she explains. “I don’t do politics or religion. We are trying quite a gentle line in many respects. But I think whether you believe in God or the universe or if you’re Atheist, I think you need to be reminded that there’s something out there that’s bigger than you – as in a storm, or an earthquake, or the sun.”

Given Jay’s love of the natural world, it seems fitting that she is creating a product which shares that passion with a wider audience. But the idea came about almost by accident.

“When I started my MA, everyone knew why they wanted to be there except me – they all had a book to write,” she remembers. “On this course I had to come up with an idea. I didn’t have a clue. I realised the coastal landscape inCornwall was very reminiscent of Scotland. I saw a differentside to it. There’s an ancient landscape there that’s got its own special culture, it’s own language, it’s own sense of independence.

“My question was – ‘where is the publication that reflects that?’ People got very excited by it.”

Jay eventually wrote a screenplay on being a military wife for her final project, but the seed had been sown and she realised that had to follow her true passion.

“I just had this sudden realisation. I was in Waterstones in Truro researching something. I went to the natural history section, and just saw these booksthat I would pore over as a child. I just had this moment, like a pins and needles moment. The penny dropped.

“I realised that was my utter passion, but because I was quite arty at school, and academic, I went down the art and English route.

“So that moment I was like ‘Oh my God, that’s what Elementum is about’. I had chosen the title first – it’s Latin for element, it’s the root of the root, it’s back to basics, back to the original, which was what I did myself – I went back to what made me tick.”

The next issue, which is due to be published late spring/early summer, will have a focus on the theme of shape – looking at fossils and how landscape shapes our character.

“I come from Scotland,” says Jay. “The Celtic nationals have got a good sense of national identity, particularly associated with their history and folklore. Our readers want more folklore.

“I do wonder if England is missing that identity. I think we need to connect to our place. I do think there’s an interest in older stories. That’s where I think geology is so important.”

Jay and her family have funded Elementum with their own money and are delighted it has so far been so well received. As well as the local and national stockists, the £15 journal is sold via the website to over 20 countries, particularly Canada, the US, Norway and Australia.

She is now looking to put the publication, which is ad-free so is funded purely by subscriptions, online so readers can download it as part of a subscription package, as well as arranging courses and podcasts.

“We are doing something quite simple, but it’s honest,” says Jay. “Having spent 20/30 years looking for what I want to do and finding it, this is really precious to me. It’s really important.”