“The Richard Jefferies Society and White Horse Book Shop Literary Prize” is awarded annually to the author of the publication considered by the judging panel to be the most outstanding nature writing published in a given calendar year. The winning work will reflect the heritage and spirit of Jefferies’ countryside books.
An annual prize of £1,000 will be awarded for any length or format of writing on themes or topics broadly consistent with the work of Richard Jefferies. It has to be published (not re-published) within the calendar year. First English translations of works are eligible. E-books are excluded from the award.
Nominations may be made by anyone. Decisions about the Prize will be made by the Society's Executive Council and will be final. The right not to make an award in a given year is reserved.
The closing date for nominations is 31 December. Please send your nominations by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include as much covering information as possible.
The short-list was:
· The Nature of Autumn, by Jim Crumley, published by Saraband.
· The Running Hare, by John Lewis-Stempel, published by Doubleday.
· Six Facets of Light, by Ann Wroe, published by Jonathan Cape.
· Walking Through Spring, by Graham Hoyland, published by William Collins.
· The Wood for the Trees, by Richard Fortey, published by William Collins.
At an event at The White Horse Bookshop on 3 June 2017, the prize was awarded to British palaeontologist, natural historian, writer and broadcaster Richard Fortey for The Wood for the Trees (William Collins) and 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.”
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.”
2015 winnerThe short-list was: Common Ground, by Rob Cowen, published by Hutchinson; Gods of the Morning, by John Lister-Kaye, published by Canongate; and The Moth Snowstorm, by Michael McCarthy, published by John Murray.
The final decision of the Panel was that the prize should be awarded to John Lister-Kaye (pictured left), for Gods of the Morning.
This book was felt to be lyrically written, with a true naturalist’s eye for the changing seasons and times of day; the hardships experienced by man and beast in the harshest winters; and his own personal encounters with a wide range of wildlife from ravens to young spiders. The extensive studies of rooks – (from the bathroom of Lister-Kaye's house!) – reminded the judges of Richard Jefferies' observations on the same species; observations brought together into one book by an enterprising publisher. Gods of the Morning is a book by a man who is as familiar with his local Scottish wildlife and countryside as Richard Jefferies had been with his Wiltshire local environment; and both authors also had the ability to describe some of the local human population in deft terms. An outstanding first winner of the Richard Jefferies Society Writers’ Prize, Lister-Kaye is able to convey the joy of nature in an uncomplicated and eloquent fashion.