Wainwright Prize 2021

Covers of the Wainwright Prize 2021 shortlist

Now in its eighth year, the Wainwright Prize is awarded annually to the book which most successfully reflects the work and ethos of renowned nature writer Alfred Wainwright. The 2021 winners have now been announced – find out more below.

We've supported the Wainwright Prize since it was first launched in 2014 to celebrate the year's best writing on the outdoors, nature, the environment and UK travel. To this day the Wainwright Prize seeks to inspire readers to explore the outdoors and nurture a respect for the natural world.

Since 2020, the competition has been split into two categories, with prizes awarded for both UK Nature Writing and Writing on Global Conservation. 

The Wainwright Prize 2021 winners’ ceremony took place on 7 September 2021 at the London Wetland Centre in Barnes run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) – the UK’s leading wetland conservation charity.

The 2021 winners

Drawn from two strong shortlists which reflect the breadth and range of contemporary nature writing, the two winning books both exemplify the core aim of the Wainwright Prize: inspiring readers to explore the outdoors and to nurture a respect for the natural world. 

English Pastoral by James Rebanks is the winner of the UK Nature Writing Prize
Cover of English Pastoral by James Rebanks
English Pastoral by James Rebanks is the winner of the UK Nature Writing Prize

UK Nature Writing Prize winner: English Pastoral by James 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 all of us.

Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake is winner of the Global Conservation and Climate Change Prize
Cover of Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake
Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake is winner of the Global Conservation and Climate Change Prize

Global Conservation and Climate Change Prize winner: Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake

In this radical and hopeful book, Sheldrake 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.

The 2021 shortlists

In the face of a global pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis, this year’s shortlisted books emphasised how nature writing continues to blossom, both in the UK and around the world.

UK Nature Writing prize

  • Seed to Dust​ by Marc Hamer​ (Vintage)
  • English Pastoral: An Inheritance​ by James Rebanks​ (Penguin Random House UK)
  • The Wild Silence​ by Raynor Winn​ (Michael Joseph)
  • The Screaming Sky​ by Charles Foster​ (Little Toller Books)
  • Thin Places​ by Kerri ní Dochartaigh​ (Canongate Books)
  • I Belong Here​ by Anita Sethi​ (Bloomsbury Plc)
  • Featherhood​ by Charlie Gilmour​ (Orion Publishing Group)

Writing on Global Conservation prize

  • Entangled Life​ by Merlin Sheldrake​ (Vintage)
  • Under a White Sky​ by Elizabeth Kolbert​ (Vintage)
  • A Life on Our Planet​ by David Attenborough​ (Penguin Random House UK)
  • Net Zero: How We Stop Causing Climate Change​ by Dieter Helm​ (HarperCollins)
  • Islands of Abandonment​ by Cal Flyn​ (HarperCollins)
  • Fathoms​ by Rebecca Giggs​ (Scribe)
Browse the shortlists on our online shop

Meet the judges

TV presenter Julia Bradbury returned as chair of the judging panel for the 2021 UK Nature Writing prize, while BBC Countryfile's Charlotte Smith led the team of judges for the 2021 Global Conservation prize.

They were joined by a host of expert judges from the worlds of writing and conservation, including National Trust Director of Communications and Campaigns Mark Funnell.

The judges for the UK Nature Writing prize were: Geoff Duffield, Wildlife Trust volunteer and former publisher; Jessica J Lee, Editor WillowHerb Review; Mark Funnell, Communications and Campaigns Director, National Trust; Patrick Neale, Bookseller Jaffe & Neale; and Andrew Willan, Wealden Festival Director. They were also joined by TV presenter and author, Ray Mears.

The judges for the Global Conservation prize were: 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.

" I'm thrilled to be involved with judging this year, it's a very strong shortlist indeed. And this at a time when people have been turning to nature, more than at any time in living memory. The Wainwright Prize is going from strength to strength, and the National Trust is proud to support it."

The prizes

A £5,000 prize fund will be shared and presented to the authors of the winning books. Run in partnership with the National Trust, the prize is sponsored by James Cropper Paper and supported by Frances Lincoln Publishers, publisher of the Wainwright Guides, and the Wainwright Estate. 

Last year’s Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing was won by Dara McAnulty for Diary of a Young Naturalist, and the Global Conservation prize went to Benedict Macdonald for Rebirding.