Wainwright Prize 2023: ‘staggering’ nature book wins award

Wainwright Prize 2023: ‘staggering’ nature book wins award

by Suswati Basu
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The 2023 James Cropper Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing has been awarded to Amy Jane Beer for her exceptional work, “The Flow.” Published by Bloomsbury Publishing, this masterpiece of nature writing takes readers on a profound journey of rivers, water, and wildness.

What is the Wainwright Prize?

The James Cropper Wainwright Prize, often referred to simply as the Wainwright Prize, is a prestigious literary award in the United Kingdom that celebrates outstanding nature writing. It is named in honour of the renowned British fellwalker and nature writer, Alfred Wainwright. The prize recognises authors who have made significant contributions to the genre of nature and environmental writing.

There are typically several categories within the prize, including awards for Adult Nature Writing, Children's Writing on Nature and Conservation, and sometimes a Conservation Prize. The winning books in these categories often reflect a deep connection to nature, exploration of environmental themes, and the ability to inspire readers to appreciate and protect the natural world.

The Wainwright Prize is considered one of the most prestigious accolades in nature writing, and winning authors often receive recognition for their profound contributions to the field of literature and conservation.

Nature writing winner looks at fascination with water

“The Flow: Rivers, Water and Wildness” begins with a poignant visit to the rapid where she lost a cherished friend, reigniting her profound love for rivers. This unexpected event sets her on a remarkable expedition of natural, cultural, and emotional exploration. From the torrents of the West Country to the serene landscapes of the Levels and Fens . Not to mention, from rocky Welsh canyons to the salmon highways of Scotland and the chalk rivers of the Yorkshire Wolds, Beer follows springs, streams, and rivers to delve into tributary themes of wildness, wonder, loss, healing, mythology, history, cyclicity, and transformation.

Read: Edinburgh Book Festival urged by 50 authors to drop sponsors for suspected greenwashing

The foundation, which awards winners £10,000, said “The Flow” is not just a book; it’s an immersive experience that intertwines places and voices from across Britain. In addition, it invites readers to reflect on their personal and ecological connection to nature, fostering a deeper understanding of our place in the natural world.

Beer is a biologist turned naturalist and writer, with over two decades of experience as a science writer and editor. She has contributed to more than 40 books on natural history and serves as a Country Diarist for The Guardian, a columnist for British Wildlife, and a feature writer for BBC Wildlife magazine. Beer also advocates for equal access to nature and collaboration between farming and conservation sectors makes her a prominent voice in the environmental community.

Read: Sustainability in publishing: unveiling the greenwashing debate

Alastair Giles, the director of the prize, lamented the timeliness of Beer’s book, stating that it is unfortunately relevant to current issues. He also expressed the unanimous admiration of the judging panel for her work, highlighting the exquisite level of detail and the personal experiences conveyed through her elegant and beautifully poetic prose. The panel responsible for judging this category was led by Charlotte Smith, the presenter of BBC Countryfile.

Conservation writing award focuses on rainforests

In recognition of his outstanding work uncovering “The Lost Rainforests of Britain,” Guy Shrubsole was awarded the 2023 James Cropper Wainwright Prize for Conservation. His work sheds light on the forgotten rainforests that once thrived in Western Britain, emphasising the potential for their restoration and the significant benefits this would bring to our ecosystem.

Children’s Writing on Nature recipients explore climate change

The 2023 James Cropper Wainwright Prize for Children’s Writing on Nature and Conservation was presented to bestselling writer Kiran Millwood Hargrave and illustrator Tom de Freston for their book “Leila and the Blue Fox,” published by Hachette Children’s Group. This enchanting story of a young fox and a girl embarking on an unforgettable Arctic adventure is based on the true account of a fox’s remarkable journey from Norway to Canada. The judges also praised Kiran’s exceptional writing and Tom’s hauntingly beautiful illustrations, recognising that this book will inspire young readers to connect with the natural world in the face of climate change.

“The interplay between Kiran’s profoundly affecting writing and Tom’s hauntingly beautiful illustrations is  uniquely potent, plunging us into the intertwined worlds of family relationships and nature obsession with a  visceral impact that readers won’t forget.”

Mark Funnell, National Trust Chair and Communication and Campaign Director

The Children’s Writing prize, now in its second year, aims to inspire young readers to explore the outdoors and nurture a respect for the natural world. Kiran and Tom were shortlisted last year for their first collaborative work, “Julia and the Shark.”

The 2023 James Cropper Wainwright Prize winners have once again demonstrated the power of literature to deepen our connection with nature and inspire us to protect and cherish our environment. These exceptional authors have illuminated the beauty and significance of the natural world through their remarkable works.

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