These extraordinary books on English nature are by some of our best-loved writers. Some are winners or nominees of the The Wainright Prize, a major prize in nature writing. The prize is named after travel writer Alfred Wainwright. The prize was founded by the publisher of his books, and the winner (who can be from any country) must write on travel and nature (not guidebooks). You can find more nature award-winning books from young writers at The Nan Shepherd Prize, named after the author of The Living Mountain, a book about the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland.
Coronavirus has had a big impact on small publishers. And we don’t use them, we lose them. Then talented writers won’t be able to get published (apart from self-publishing with Amazon). So if you like a good garden read, either buy these from your local bookshop, click the link (to buy from Blackwell’s online bookstore – no Amazon on this site!) or order direct from the publisher/author.
Extraordinary Books on English Nature
- Underland: A Deep Time Journey is the 2019 winner (Robert also wrote The Lost Words: Restoring Nature Language). In this book, he takes us on a journey to the worlds beneath our feet: from the ice-blue depths of Greenland’s glaciers to the underground networks by which trees communication. From Bronze Age burial chambers to the rock art of remote Arctic sea-caves, this is a voyage into the planet’s past and future.
- The Easternmost House is the story of one writer who describes a year of living in a house on the Suffolk Coast, as it gradually gets closer to the sea, due to coastal erosion. Written at her kitchen table, this is a meditation on nature and on the changing seasons.
- Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It’s Too Late? is a radical examination of what we may lose. Although the British love their countryside more than anyone, it’s one of the least protected. Mark Cocker sets out on a journey from the flatlands of Norfolk to the tundra-expanse of Flow Country in northern Scotland, to solve this puzzle. And maps out a future in which this overcrowded island could be a place fit for its billions of wildlife citizens.
- Out of the Woods is by Luke Turner, who seeks refuges to his personal problems in the trees of London’s Epping Forest, where he seeks refuge. Away from a society that struggles to cope with anything different. Experiencing problems with depression and sexual identity; unlike the church he grew up in him, the trees accept him as he is.
- Thinking On My Feet is a beautiful book by wildlife TV presenter Kate Humble. For her, going for a daily walk is as essential as her first cup of tea, and she believes this is because she is responding to a natural need. She can solve all sorts of problems on her daily walk and encourages everyone to do the same. In this book, Kate explores the reasons why we walk; whether for creative energy, challenge, or therapeutic benefits. She also meets a man who takes addicts on journeys to climb mountains, and a woman who walked all 3700 miles of footpath in Wales, when she had cancer.
- Wilding is by Isabella Tree who tells of a pioneering project in West Sussex, which uses free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. An inspiring story of hope, she and her husband were forced to accept that intensive farming on their heavy clay land was economically unsustainable. So instead of selling it – they just let nature take over. Now they have free-roaming animals of all sorts, which has seen an extraordinary increase in wildlife numbers and diversity, in just over 10 years. Also returning are rare birds of prey and other birds, and even purple-emperor butterflies.
- Ghost Trees is the story of Bob Gilbert, who began to record the natural world in his new inner city home in London’s East End. He takes you on a personal journey around the local trees, and their relationship with local people. From wild woods to street trees, he explores how these ‘ghost trees’ have had a hidden influence on the city.
- Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore is told through a series of walks beside the sea. This is the story of the most beautiful 742 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland: their rocks, plants and animals; and the views and history, and people who have made their lives, within sigh of the waves. As the author travels along coastal paths, visits beaches and explores coves, Patrick reflects on the long campaign to protect our shoreline from tidal erosion and human damage. From migratory birds to bucket-and-spade holidays, this tells a profound story of our island nation.
- Wild About Britain is a new collection of nature and travel writings from Brian Jackman, who has won awards for his work. Not a guide book, this is an extended love letter to the British countryside with illustrations by Jonathan Truss, one of our leading wildlife artists, who himself has won the BBC Frozen Planet Wildlife Artist of the Year. From the barnacle geese on the salt marsh of an Islay loch to star gazing on Exmoor, you’ll also visit a seascape of headlands, cliffs and wave-smashed rocks at Land’s End, eagles on the Ardnamurchan peninsula and the autumn rut in the New Forest. Visit ancient oaks, red kites, huge mirror carp, and the oldest path in British.