Adam Nicolson has won 2018's Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize for The Seabird’s Cry (William Collins), a celebration of seabirds and a stark warning humans could be driving certain species to extinction.
The winner of the £5,000 prize, rewarding the best writing on the outdoors, nature and UK-based travel writing, was announced by MP Michael Gove and BBC Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison at the National Trust Theatre at BBC Countryfile Live in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire on Thursday (2nd August).
Chair of judges Julia Bradbury said The Seabird’s Cry was "a truly worthy winner", praising its combination of "captivating stories" and "insightful research" as "magnetic".
In the book, a chapter is dedicated to 10 different birds, each illustrated by Kate Boxer. But as well as telling the story of these birds - following their ocean paths to the coasts and islands of Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Americas - it also highlights their plummeting numbers, having dropped by two thirds since the 1950s.
The book triumphed on a shortlist that included the first ever children’s book to be shortlisted for the nature writing prize, The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton), and The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (Michael Joseph), about one couple coming to terms with loss by walking the 630-mile South West Coast Path. Despite losing out on the top prize, both received a special commendation.
Also in contention for the award had been The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell (Tinder Press), Hidden Nature by Alys Fowler (Hodder & Stoughton), Outskirts by John Grindrod (Sceptre) and The Dun Cow Rib by John Lister-Kaye (Canongate).
"I am delighted that The Seabird’s Cry has won the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize; this outstanding book shows you the world through the eyes and lives of ten seabirds. Adam’s telling of the captivating stories and lives of these birds alongside insightful research is magnetic. You’ll wail aloud as you learn about their plummeting numbers and the wider implications of this tragedy," said Bradbury.
"The judges felt this was a truly worthy winner – a passionate book which celebrates the natural world in a way that will enthuse and delight nature lovers and book lovers alike. The aim of this prize is to enthuse and encourage people to get out in nature and appreciate it. The Seabird’s Cry is a unique plea that demonstrates the urgent need for us all to lessen the impact of human life on the natural world
"As usual the judging panel struggled to hone down the selection to just one book from such a strong long list but we also wanted to give special commendation to The Lost Words and The Salt Path, two beautiful books which will live long in the natural world category.”
Bradbury judged the prize alongside TV presenter Megan Hine, Waterstones non-fiction buyer Bea Carvalho, National Trust publisher Katie Bond, chair of Gardener’s Question Time and the Wainwright Society, Eric Robson, and ex-Chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England Peter Waine.
The prize is supported by White Lion Publishing, publisher of the Wainwright Guides, Wainwright Golden Beer, the Wainwright estate and in partnership with the National Trust. The winner receives a cheque for £5000, a keg of Wainwright Golden Beer and a set of Wainwright Golden Beer glasses.
Bookshops and libraries are now invited to tweet images of their Wainwright shortlist and winner displays to enter the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize Display Competition before 31st August. The bookshop or library that puts on the winning display will win 10 National Trust Family Day Passes and 24 bottles of Wainwright Golden Beer.