|From the left: Angus Maclennan, John Price and Richard Fortey|
The Richard Jefferies Society and The White Horse Bookshop Writer's Prize has been awarded to British palaeontologist, natural historian, writer and broadcaster Richard Fortey for The Wood for the Trees (William Collins). From a short list of five, the panel judged that the book best met the criterion of reflecting themes or topics broadly consistent with Jefferies’ writing.
John Price, Chairman of the Richard Jefferies Society said: “With a strong sense of place in Fortey's recording of the passage of the year in the woodland, we felt that the book was a worthy successor to Jefferies' writing.”
Angus Maclennan, Manager of The White Horse Bookshop added: “In this golden era for nature writing we are delighted to award Richard Fortey for his intimate portrait of our environment and our place within it. It strikes the perfect balance between science and sensibility.”
The £1000 prize was announced on Saturday 3rd June at The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough.
Following his retirement, Fortey bought 4 acres of ancient beech and bluebell woodland in the Chilterns, near Henley. The book chronicles, month by month, his developing relationship with the wood, investigating the range of species living in his territory, then expanding to consider the socio-economic history of the area, and issues involved in the maintenance of the woodland as a thriving ecosystem. The author's academic background allows for scientific accuracy in recording species, and the holistic approach to describing the woodland echoes Jefferies' approach to writing about the area around Coate, near Swindon.
Jefferies (1848 – 1887) last published work was an introduction to Gilbert White's Natural History of Selborne. He wrote: “I did not come across Mr. White's book till late in the day, when it was in fact, too late, else it would have been of the utmost advantage to me.” John Price said: “We feel that this could also apply to Richard Fortey's book, so all budding naturalists, and would-be nature writers should be alerted. White, Jefferies, and Fortey, all demonstrate the enormous interest that can be obtained from the study of a relatively small area of land over an extended period.”