Stanfords welcomed authors and guests on Tuesday night as we played host to the Wainwright Prize shortlist party. In its fourth year, the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize celebrates the best books about nature, the outdoors and UK travel.
Here are the seven shortlisted books:
Love of Country by Madeline Bunting
On the outer edge of the British Isles and facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Hebrides form part of Europe’s boundary. Because of their unique position in the Atlantic archipelago, they have been at the centre of a network of ancient shipping routes, which has led to a remarkable history of cultures colliding and merging. Over six years, Madeline Bunting travelled to the Hebrides, exploring their landscapes, histories and magnetic pull. Bunting considers the extent of the islands’ influence beyond their shores, finding that their history of dispossession and migration has been central to the British imperial past. Perhaps more significant still is how their landscapes have been repeatedly used to imagine the British nation.
The Otters’ Tale by Simon Cooper
Otters are the most secretive yet also the most popular mammals- they are found in every country but are so rarely seen that they have been raised to mythical status. When Simon Cooper bought an abandoned water mill that straddles a small chalkstream in southern England, little did he know that he would come to share the mill with a family of wild otters. He developed an extraordinary close relationship with the family, which in turn gave him a unique insight into the life of these fascinating creatures. Cooper brings these beloved animals to life in all their wondrous complexity, revealing the previous hidden secrets of their lives in this beautifully told tale of the otter.
The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel
Traditional ploughland is disappearing. Seven cornfield flowers have become extinct in the last twenty years. Once abundant, the corncrake is all but extinct in England. And the hare is running for its life. In an era of open-roofed factories and silent empty fields, The Running Hare tells the story of ploughland through the eyes of a farmer who husbanded a field in a natural, traditional way to create a place where our wild animals and plants can rest safe.
Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel
The unique story of the British soldiers of the Great War and their relationship with the animals and plants around them. This connection was of profound importance, because it goes a long way to explaining why they fought, and how they found the will to go on. At the most basic level, animals and birds provided interest to fill the blank hours in the trenches and billets. But perhaps more importantly, the ability of nature to endure, despite the bullets and blood, gave men a psychological, spiritual, even religious uplift. Animals and plants were also a reminder of home. It is in this elemental relationship between man and nature that some of the highest, noblest aspirations of humanity in times of war can be found.
Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss
The newspaper headlines tell us that Britain’s wildlife is in trouble. It’s not just rare creatures that are vanishing, hares and hedgehogs, skylarks and water voles, even the humble house sparrow, are in freefall. But there is also good news. Otters have returned to the River Tyne; there are now beavers on the River Otter ; and peregrines have taken up residence in the heart of London. Stephen Moss travels the length and breadth of the UK, from the remote archipelago of St Kilda to our inner cities, to witness at first-hand how our wild creatures are faring and ask how we can bring back Britain’s wildlife.
The January Man by Christopher Somerville
The story of a year of walks that was inspired by a song, Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’. Month by Month, season by season and region by region, Christopher Somerville walks the British Isles, following routes that continually bring his father to mind. As he travels he describes the history, wildlife, landscapes and people he encounters, down back lanes and old paths, in rain and fair weather, and illustrates how on long-distance walks, we can come to an understanding of ourselves and our fellow walkers.
The Wild Other by Clover Stroud
Clover Stroud’s idyllic childhood in rural England was shattered when a horrific accident left her mother permanently brain-damaged. Just sixteen, she embarked on a journey to find the sense of home that had been so savagely broken. Travelling from gypsy camps in Ireland, to the rodeos of west Texas and then to Russia’s war-torn Caucasus, Clover eventually found her way back to England’s lyrical Vale of the White Horse. The Wild Other is a gripping honest account of love, loss and the healing strength of nature. Powerful and deeply emotional, this is the story of an extraordinary life lived at its fullest.
Charing the judging panel is Julia Bradbury who will be joined by the television presenter Matt Baker and other judges. The winner will be announced on 3rd August at BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace. For more information see Wainwrightprize.com.