Winners Announced: Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing and for Global Conservation Writing

The winners of the much-loved Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing and for Global Conservation Writing were announced this week at a live award ceremony at the London Wetland Centre. The award winners are English Pastoral by James Rebanks and Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake.

Named after nature writer Alfred Wainwright, the prizes are awarded to the work which best reflects Wainwright’s core values and includes a celebration of nature and our natural environment, or a warning of the dangers to it across the globe. Still in the midst of recovering from the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic and with our landscapes under threat, nature writing has flourished. 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.

The two shortlists reflect the breadth and range of contemporary nature writing both in the UK and around the world. The titles selected showcase a diverse group of writers and celebrate the wonder and awe of green spaces and nature’s creatures through the prism of the author’s lives.

Rebanks’ English Pastoral is the story of an inheritance. It tells of 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. This is a book about what it means to have love and pride in a place, and how, against all the odds, it may still be possible to build a new pastoral: not a utopia, but somewhere for us all. It comes at a fitting time, as we navigate a post-pandemic landscape. With the past year causing so much turmoil and uncertainty, many of us took to residing in family homes and nature. Perhaps this meant rebuilding and finding serenity.

Sheldrakes’ Entangled Life is a radical and hopeful book. He engages us in the hidden world of fungi, a miraculous web of connections, interactions and communication that changes the way we need to look at life, the planet and ourselves. The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them. Sheldrake reveals how these extraordinary organisms – and our relationships with them – are changing our understanding of how life works.

This year’s Nature Writing judging panel was chaired by TV presenter Julia Bradbury. Her fellow judges were: Geoff Duffield, Wildlife Trust volunteer and former publisher; Jessica J Lee, Editor WillowHerb Review; Ray Mears, TV Presenter and Author, Mark Funnell, Communications and Campaigns Director, National Trust; Patrick Neale, Bookseller Jaffe & Neale and Andrew Willan, Wealden Festival Director.

The Chair of Judges for the Global Conservation Prize was BBC Countryfile presenter, Charlotte Smith. She was joined by Adrian Phillips, Environmental Professional; Dr. Craig Bennett, CEO UK Wildlife Trust; Rachel Woolliscroft, sustainability expert; Anita Longely, Chair, Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability and Nigel Roby, Community Energy Enthusiast and Strategic Advisor.

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