Wildlife cameraman James Aldred, who has collaborated with David Attenborough, has been named the winner of the James Cropper Wainwright Award for nature writing, while the inaugural award for children’s writing went to two brothers who wrote about climate change.
Aldred’s book Goshawk Summer is a diary of his time spent observing a family of goshawks in the New Forest in southern England. Originally commissioned in early 2020 to film the lives of goshawks, Aldred was given permission to continue when the lockdown hit.
TV presenter Ray Mears, chairman of the judges, said the book was a “beautiful inspirational tale set in an extraordinary time”.
“Nature is abundant all around us, if only we could take the time to really look for it,” Mears said. “This wonderful book shows us how.”
Mears was joined on the judging panel by Hugh Thomson, a previous winner of the award; author Raynor Winn, who has been shortlisted twice; Craig Bennett, chief executive of UK Wildlife Trusts; bookseller Caroline Morris and TV presenter and author Sanjida O’Connell.
Judges highly praised Otherlands: A World in the Making by Dr Thomas Halliday, a story of life on the land, and On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging by Guardian country diarist Nicola Chester, about imposed political and environmental change on earth she loves it.
The award for children’s writing on nature and conservation went to brothers Rob and Tom Sears for The Biggest Footprint. Their illustrated book reimagines humanity as a massive giant and looks at the damage it has caused to the planet and how it can be fixed.
The book was described by chair of children’s judges Gemma Hunt, a presenter on CBBC, as “totally unique and very innovative”. “It’s an empowering and insightful tale that helps us all, at any age, understand and take ownership of the greatest threat of our lives,” she added.
Hunt was joined on the judging panel by John McClay, director of the Bath Children’s Literary Festival; Mark Funnell, director of communications and campaigning at the National Trust; bookseller Tamara Macfarlane; librarian Sarah Davis and ethical children’s clothing manufacturer Charlotte Morley.
The judges highly praised Katya Balen’s novel October, October, illustrated by Angela Harding, which won the Yoto Carnegie Medal this year.
Dan Saladino, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s food programme, won the prize for conservation writing with his investigation into food biodiversity, Food to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them.
BBC Countryfile presenter Charlotte Smith chaired the judging panel for the conservation award, which included Mark Cropper, chairman of main sponsor James Cropper; Anita Longley, former chair of the Institute for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability; children’s blogger Lizzie Carr; leading environmentalist Sir John Lawton and wildlife photographer and blogger Harry Skeggs.
Smith said Eating to Extinction had an encyclopedic scope. “It was at the same time very original, engaging, fascinating and very clever,” she said. “It provided great insight into where food comes from on a global level and offered clear, softly spoken solutions – it gave us great hope for the future.”
Highly commended in the category was Wild Fell: Fighting for Nature on a Lake District Hill Farm by Lee Schofield.
The winners, announced at a ceremony at London’s Barnes Wetland Centre, will share a £7,500 prize fund and will each receive a specially commissioned original artwork from paper artist Helen Musselwhite.
Past winners of the nature writing award include James Rebanks and Dara McAnulty.