Wainwright Prize celebrates books which inspire us to explore the outdoors

Wainwright Prize celebrates books which inspire us to explore the outdoors

Now in its ninth year, the James Cropper Wainwright Prize is named after much-loved nature writer Alfred Wainwright and is awarded annually to the books which most successfully inspire readers to explore the outdoors and to nurture a respect for the natural world.  

Earlier this month, the winners of the three categories of the prize were announced at a ceremony at the London Wetland Centre. 

The ceremony included panel discussions with the shortlistees across all three award categories, before the winners were announced by their respective Chairs of Judges – TV presenters Ray Mears, Charlotte Smith and Gemma Hunt.  

A £7,500 prize fund will be shared by the authors/illustrators of the three winning books, with each receiving a specially commissioned original artwork by talented paper artist, Helen Musselwhite.  

Dramas of an avian predator’s nest 

In wildlife cameraman James Aldred’s acutely observed lockdown nature diary, Goshawk Summer, Aldred captures, in minute detail, the day-to-day dramas of an avian predator’s nest, celebrating the wonder of the natural world and inspiring readers to explore and protect the nature on their own doorsteps.  

Commissioned to film the lives of a family of goshawks in the New Forest at the start of 2020, Aldred was granted permission to stay when lockdown struck, offering him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the ancient forest at an ‘extraordinary time’ – empty of people, but filled with new life.  

Amidst the fragility and the fear, there was silver moonlight, tumbling fox cubs, calling curlew and, of course, the soaring goshawks.  

“There was a stunning collection of books to choose from on our shortlist. So much so, that we felt compelled to highly commend not one, but two great books,” said Chair of Judges, TV presenter, Ray Mears.

“In the end we decided to hand the prize to a beautiful, inspirational tale set in an extraordinary time.

“Nature is abundant all around us, if only we could take the time to REALLY look for it. This wonderful book shows us how.” 

The future of our planet

From BBC Radio 4 Food Programme presenter Dan Saladino, this ‘highly original,’ radical and hopeful investigation into food biodiversity – Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them – spans the globe to uncover the stories of these foods.   

All human history is woven through these stories, from the first great migrations, to the slave trade, to the refugee crisis today.

But Eating to Extinction is about so much more than preserving the past; the future of our planet depends on reclaiming genetic biodiversity before it is too late.  

This is a captivating and urgent exploration of some of the world’s most endangered foods which reveals a world at a crisis point.  

“Our winner is encyclopaedic in scope, the result of a staggering fifteen years of research,” said Charlotte Smith, Chair of Judges and BBC Countryfile presenter.

“We felt it was at turns, highly original, engrossing, fascinating and very clever.

“It offered enormous insight into where food comes from on a global level and offers clear, gently expressed solutions – it gave us enormous hope for the future.” 

Inspiring younger readers to make the world a better place

Rob and Tom Sears’ fun, highly original, fact-packed and beautifully illustrated book, The Biggest Footprint: Eight Billion Humans. One Clumsy Giant, reimagines the whole of humanity as one massive giant, using statistics to present the challenges of climate change in a new light.  

The Biggest Footprint tells the story of the mega human, a 3km-tall blue giant made of all humanity ‘smooshed’ together, who, despite not being the smartest of creatures, is beginning to understand the problems it has created for Planet Earth’s future, and how it might be able to fix them.   

Writer/illustrator brothers Rob and Tom Sears take a revelatory look at the damage humanity has inflicted on the planet and how we might begin to rectify it, in an empowering story that will inspire younger readers to make the world a better place. 

“This totally unique and highly innovative book captured all our imaginations,” said Chair of Judges and CBBC Presenter, Gemma Hunt.

“It’s an empowering, insightful tale that helps us all, at any age, understand and take ownership of the biggest threat of our lifetime.

“Such a clever and original book that feels totally deserving of our inaugural prize.”

The beauty and power of nature

This year, the Prize has been rebranded the James Cropper Wainwright Prize following a multi-year commitment from the Lake District papermaker as the headline sponsor.

Having made fine papers for publishing, premium print, art and luxury packaging since 1845 in the very town where Alfred Wainwright lived and worked, the partnership underpins the shared history and purpose of the two organisations.  

The rebrand news comes as James Cropper continues to create solutions for the publishing sector which leave little to no trace on the planet through its FibreBlend Upcycled Technology. 

“We would like to congratulate and thank all the shortlisted authors for everything that they are doing to educate and inspire us to create a better world,” said Mark Cropper, Chairman of headline sponsors, sustainable paper manufacturer, James Cropper.

“This year’s winners make some of the biggest issues the natural world faces today incredibly accessible, while conveying the beauty and power of nature, through such innovative and skilled writing.

“Telling stories through paper is something our business has done for nearly two centuries, and it is a joy to see all the authors doing that very thing in such a meaningful way, encouraging us all to embrace and protect what our environment has to offer.” 

The prize was founded and is still supported by both the Alfred Wainwright Estate and Frances Lincoln, publisher of the Wainwright Guides.  

This year’s visual campaign for the Prize is produced in partnership with the talented paper artist, Helen Musselwhite, who lives in Manchester and whose work is inspired by the British countryside.


  • Louise Rhind-Tutt

    Writer, editor and restaurant reviewer Louise was brought up close to the hills of the Peak District. A longtime keen walker, and recent enthusiastic convert to hiking mountains, she is at her happiest when going uphill.

Louise Rhind-Tutt

Writer, editor and restaurant reviewer Louise was brought up close to the hills of the Peak District. A longtime keen walker, and recent enthusiastic convert to hiking mountains, she is at her happiest when going uphill.

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