2016 winner of best nature and travel writing announced

Amy Liptrot, Wainwright prize-winning author of The Outrun
Published : 27 Jun 2016 Last update : 05 Aug 2016

The Outrun (Canongate), Amy Liptrot’s debut account of reconnecting with her native Orkney, has been named winner of The Wainwright Golden Beer Prize 2016.

We teamed up with publisher Frances Lincoln, who announced the winner, at a special BBC Countryfile Live event at Bleinheim Palace, Oxfordshire.

The author was awarded £5,000 to celebrate her book, judged to be the best of UK nature and travel writing in 2016.

Jacket cover for The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
Jacket cover for The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
Jacket cover for The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

The Outrun follows Amy Liptrot’s return to Orkney after more than a decade away in London. At the age of 30, she finds herself washed up back home, standing on an unstable cliff edge, trying to come to terms with all that has happened.

Spending early mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, and the days and nights tracking Orkney’s wildlife, she makes the slow journey towards redemption.

The judges’ view

Dame Fiona Reynolds, chair of judges and our former director-general said: ‘We felt bowled over by the quality of the entries this year and this year’s shortlist is the best yet. We struggled with the task of judging it and although our winner was our unanimous choice, we were torn by the process and commend all the shortlisted authors for their contributions.

‘The Outrun is brave and searingly honest. Profoundly contrasting London’s underbelly and Orkney’s wild, windy and remote harshness, Amy discovers herself and her route to freedom through nature, including its harshness, grit and honesty. She writes bravely, unsettlingly and with a self-revelatory exposure that can shock; but she also writes beautifully. Amy’s is an unforgettable voice: she did not seek nature but nature sought her, and her spare, lyrical prose is both powerful and tender.’

Alongside Dame Fiona Reynolds, the judging panel included Julia Bradbury, TV presenter; Sally Palmer, publisher of National Trust Magazine; Bill Lyons, executive producer of Coast & Countryfile;  Dan Lewis, Marketing Manager of Stanfords; and Fergus Collins, editor of Countryfile Magazine. Assisting in the judging process are Eric Robson and Jane King from The Wainwright Society.

Strong shortlist

The Outrun was a unanimous choice of the judges, despite an extraordinarily strong shortlist that spotlighted the continued resurgence of nature and travel writing in the UK.

Other shortlisted titles include:

•    Rob Cowen’s journey into parenthood, set within his exploration of a square-mile of Yorkshire    woodland (Common Ground)
•    Katharine Norbury’s account of a life spent walking Britain’s glittering rivers (The Fish Ladder)
•    James Rebank’s memoir of shepherding in the Lake District (A Shepherd’s Life)
•    Robert Macfarlane’s meditation on words and landscape (Landmarks)
•    Michael McCarthy’s moving memoir of childhood trauma that offers a rallying cry for protecting our environment (The Moth Snowstorm).

Now in its third year, the Wainwright Golden Beer Prize awards £5,000 annually to the work that best reflects renowned nature writer Alfred Wainwright’s core values of celebrating the great British outdoors.

Previous winners of the prize include Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel (2015) and The Green Road into Trees: A Walk Through England by Hugh Thomson (2014).

Highlights from BBC Countryfile Live, including interviews with the shortlisted authors, will be shown on BBC One’s Countryfile in August.