Richard Jefferies (1848-1887) is the purest and most sensitive nature writer produced by a country that has prided itself on the strength of its nature tradition. Jefferies died prematurely of tuberculosis, aged 38, yet produced an astonishingly rich and varied body of work. The Award is given, by The Richard Jefferies Society and sponsored by The White Horse Bookshop, to reflect the heritage, content and spirit of Jefferies’ countryside books.
2018 - WILDING - Isabella Tree
The judges voted on 16 May 2019 to award the prize to Isabella Tree. The appeal of this book was summed up by one of the judges saying that it was a publication that Richard Jefferies himself would have strongly supported.
The short-list was agreed on 13 January 2019 as follows:
Kings of the Yukon: an Alaskan river journey by Adam Weymouth, (Particular Books)
The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Kate Bradbury (Bloomsbury Wildlife)
Wilding by Isabella Tree (Picador)
Our Place, by Mark Cocker (Jonathan Cape)
Isabella Tree gave an illustrated talk about her prize-winning book at St Mary's Church, Marlborough to a capacity audience of 180 people on Thursday 25 July 2019 (the hottest day of the year) and was then presented with her award by Barry Sloan, Chair of the Richard Jefferies Society.
Professor Sloan wrote:
We were delighted when Isabella expressed her readiness to travel to
Marlborough to receive her prize in July, and further excited when it became
apparent that the demand for tickets quickly exceeded the capacity of the
Bookshop. In the event, St Mary’s Church provided the venue for an audience of
just under 200, representing a wide range of ages, who gathered on the evening
of the hottest day of the year and were captivated by Isabella Tree’s riveting
account of the extra-ordinary project she and her husband have overseen on
their estate at Knepp, West Sussex, since 2000. She used a wide range of
photographs and video clips to illustrate the radical changes to the
agricultural landscape that have taken place and to show how cattle, ponies,
deer and pigs now enjoy freedom and space to roam and live almost entirely
without human intervention. This, how-ever, is not all: the wilding of the
estate has led to the return of seriously endangered species such as turtle
doves and butterflies and the land is now host to all species of British owls
and bats and provides a rich environment for wild flowers, a number of which
are also struggling to survive elsewhere.
The questions from the
audience after the talk not only showed how Isabella had fired people’s
imaginations, but also their interest in how the project at Knepp might be
taken forward in other locations―even at small-scale local level―and it was
good to hear that there is a plan to produce a practical handbook to wilding to
encourage more people to get involved.