Article published on April 27, 2015.
Farmer and writer John Lewis-Stempel was 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.
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.”
John Lewis-Stempel is a writer and farmer. His many previous books include The Wild Life: A Year of Living on Wild Food, England: the Autobiography and the bestselling Six Weeks: The Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War. He reviews books for the Sunday Express, for whom he also writes a regular column, and is a regular speaker on radio and at literary events and book festivals. He lives on the borders of England and Wales with his wife and two children.
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.
Meanwhile, a special commendation for a lifetime of nature writing was given to the late Professor Oliver Rackham. Primarily an academic, Professor Rackham was based throughout his adult life at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, but his passionate thirst for the truth, his total absorption in trees, woodlands and their history and his robust challenge of sentimental nonsense meant that his books were widely read and his opinion regularly sought. His last book, The Ash Tree, was longlisted for the Thwaites Wainwright Prize 2015.
Meadowland: the Private Life of an English Field will be Book of the Month in both National Trust shops and Stanfords throughout May.
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