The Outrun (Canongate), Amy Liptrot’s debut account of reconnecting with her native Orkney, has been named winner of The Wainwright Golden Beer Prize 2016, a £5,000 award to celebrate the best UK nature and travel writing.
Publisher Frances Lincoln, in association with the National Trust, made the announcement at a special BBC Countryfile Live event in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, in front of a public audience.
First published in January this year, The Outrun follows the author’s return to Orkney after more than a decade away. Now thirty, she finds herself washed up back home, standing on an unstable cliff edge, trying to come to terms with all that happened to her in London. Spending early mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, and the days and nights tracking Orkney’s wildlife, she makes the slow journey towards redemption.
Chair of judges Dame Fiona Reynolds said:
“We felt bowled over by the quality of the entries this year and this year’s shortlist is the best yet. We struggled with the task of judging it and although our winner was our unanimous choice we were torn by the process and commend all the shortlisted authors for their contributions.
“Our winner, Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun, is brave and searingly honest. Profoundly contrasting London’s underbelly and Orkney’s wild, windy and remote harshness, Amy discovers herself and her route to freedom through nature, including through its harshness, grit and honesty. She writes bravely, unsettlingly and with a self-revelatory exposure that can shock; but she also writes beautifully. Amy’s is an unforgettable voice: she did not seek nature but nature sought her, and her spare, lyrical prose is both powerful and tender.”
Having earned considerable critical acclaim, The Outrun was a unanimous choice of the judges, despite an extraordinarily strong shortlist that spotlighted the continued resurgence of nature and travel writing in the UK and the staggering breadth of personal issues explored through the genre, with The Outrun sitting alongside Rob Cowen’s journey into parenthood set within his exploration of a square-mile of Yorkshire woodland (Common Ground), Katharine Norbury’s account of a life spent walking Britain’s glittering rivers (The Fish Ladder), James Rebank’s memoir of shepherding in the Lake District (A Shepherd’s Life), Robert Macfarlane’s meditation on words and landscape (Landmarks); and Michael McCarthy’s moving memoir of childhood trauma that offers a rallying cry for protecting our environment (The Moth Snowstorm).
The prize was judged by a panel comprised of chair Dame Fiona Reynolds; Julia Bradbury, TV presenter; Sally Palmer, publisher of National Trust Magazine; Bill Lyons, executive producer of Coast & Countryfile; Dan Lewis, Marketing Manager of Stanfords; and Fergus Collins, editor of Countryfile Magazine. Assisting in the judging process are Eric Robson and Jane King from The Wainwright Society.
Now in its third year, the Wainwright Golden Beer Prize awards £5,000 annually to the work that best reflects renowned nature writer Alfred Wainwright’s core values of celebrating the great British outdoors.
The prize is sponsored by Wainwright Golden Beer, the iconic brand celebrating its namesake’s inspirational and determined approach to overcoming challenges, and supported by partners Stanfords and The National Trust. Previous winners of the prize include Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel (2015) and The Green Road into Trees: A Walk Through England by Hugh Thomson (2014).