Farmer and writer John Lewis-Stempel has been awarded the Thwaites Wainwright Prize 2015 for Meadowland: the Private Life of an English Field – his lyrical account of a year in the life of a farmland meadow.
Worth £5,000, the annual book prize is awarded by publishers Frances Lincoln, in association with the National Trust, to spotlight the best books in UK nature and travel writing.
Meadowland: the Private Life of an English Field gives a unique and intimate account of a Herefordshire farm meadow from January to December. The book was a Sunday Times Top 30 non-fiction bestseller on its release last year.
Chair of judges, Dame Fiona Reynolds, said: “From an exceptionally strong shortlist, we found a book whose prose reached for perfection and which, combined with an authentic passion for a land the author knows to the depths of his bones, swung into the lead: Meadowland, by John Lewis Stempel.
“An utterly captivating book, we found Lewis-Stempel’s narrative original and inspiring. Bewitchingly beautiful, honest and effortless, this is a book that should make us all want to explore the wonders and realities of nature on our doorsteps.”
The announcement comes at a time of renaissance for UK nature and travel writing, with a host of non-fiction writers drawing inspiration from a variety of interactions with the natural world around them, something the Prize seeks to spotlight. Celebrating the legacy of renowned British nature writer Alfred Wainwright, the Prize reflects his core values of inspiring people to explore the outdoors, whilst engendering a love of landscape and respect for nature.
2015 shortlisted titles included: Running Free: A Runner’s Journey Back to Nature by Richard Askwith; The Moor by William Atkins; Claxton: Field Notes from a Small Planet by Mark Cocker; Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel; H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald; and Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden.
The Prize judges were chair Dame Fiona Reynolds, current Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and former director general of The National Trust; Katie Bond, publisher at the National Trust; Nigel Roby, chief executive and publisher of The Bookseller; Paul Evans, broadcaster and nature writer; Fergus Collins, editor of BBC Countryfile magazine; and Bill Lyons, TV executive editor of Countryfile, Secret Britain and Coast.
Sponsored by Wainwright ale, the UK’s best-selling golden cask beer, the 2014 prize was awarded to The Green Road into the Trees by Hugh Thomson.
Stanfords and the National Trust are official campaign partners with many of their retail outlets promoting the Prize. The National Trust looks after much of the iconic Lake District landscapes described in Wainwright’s guides.