James Rebanks and Merlin Sheldrake have won this year's Wainwright Prizes for nature and conservation writing.
The winners were announced at a live ceremony on 7th September at the London Wetland Centre. Rebanks triumphed in the nature category with English Pastoral (Allen Lane) while Sheldrake scooped the conservation award with Entangled Life (Vintage).
Now in its eighth year, the prize is awarded annually to the books which most successfully inspire readers to explore the outdoors and to nurture a respect for the natural world.
Rebanks’ work explores how rural landscapes around the world have been brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things are being lost. Chair of the nature writing panel, Julia Bradbury, said of Rebanks' work: "His message of respect for the old ways and understanding of the complexities of farming for the future make this a really important book. And it's all couched in beautiful prose. The writing is accessible, heartfelt, and poignant and it conveys a message of achievable change. Rebanks' passion will carry any towny through the joy and hardship of fell farming. It’s seminal work which will still be celebrated in 50 years."
Sheldrake’s book looks at the hidden world of fungi — a web of connections, interactions and communication that changes the way we need to look at life, the planet and ourselves.
Charlotte Smith, chair of the conservation panel, said Sheldrake's book "blew us away". She said: "Astonishing to find a book which after reading, forced us to think about our world view of conservation every day. It contains extraordinary descriptions of how extraordinary nature is, and the implications around soil carbon and fungi as a plastic replacement are huge. Beautifully polished, it is a very important piece of work. Fungi can provide an awful lot of solutions to the problems the world faces.”
The judging panels also highly commended Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh (Canongate) in the nature prize and Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs (Scribe) in the conservation category.
It was also announced that next year's prize will include the launch of a third prize for children’s writing on nature and conservation. Earlier this year the prize also announced the agreement of a three-year deal for headline sponsorship with James Cropper, a paper making company based in the Lake District.
The prize is supported by Frances Lincoln Publishers, publisher of the Wainwright Guides, the Wainwright Estate and in partnership with the National Trust. The £5,000 prize fund will be shared and presented to the authors of the winning books. Last year’s winners were Diary of a Young Naturalist (Little Toller) by Dara McAnulty and Rebirding (Pelagic) by Benedict Macdonald.