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Newbury nature writer reaches shortlist of prestigious Wainwright Prize

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CONGRATULATIONS to Inkpen writer Nicola Chester, who has made the Nature Writing shortlist of the James Cropper Wainwright Prize with her first book On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging. Named after much-loved nature writer Alfred Wainwright, the aim of the prize is to inspire everyone to connect with nature and embrace the outdoors.

Nicola, who writes the Newbury Weekly News Nature Notes column, said: "I'm amazed and thrilled that On Gallows Down has been shortlisted for the Wainwright prize! In a life wounded by standing up for nature(yet ever hopeful) this is validation, encouragement and an absolute honour."

She thanked her publisher Chelsea Green and her many supporters. "This is immense."

Nicola Chester
Nicola Chester

The three shortlists, in Nature Writing, Conservation and the inaugural Children’s Writing on Nature and Conservation Prize were announced yesterday (Thursday).

The winners will be announced on Wednesday, September 7 at a ceremony at The London Wetland Centre.

This year’s shortlisted books reflect the "astonishing range and depth of nature writing, with titles that confront difficult, yet vitally important issues around climate change, food supplies and the decline of insects, stressing urgency of action while offering hope for the future, celebrating the wonder of life everywhere – from our back gardens to the Arctic Circle - and illuminating the healing power of nature through stories of personal connection and discovery".

Wainwright Prize shortlisted book
Wainwright Prize shortlisted book

The 2022 James Cropper Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing shortlist is:

• Goshawk Summer: A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other, James Aldred (Elliott & Thompson)
• On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging, Nicola Chester (Chelsea Green Publishing)
• Shadowlands: A Journey Through Lost Britain, Matthew Green (Faber & Faber)

Now in its ninth year, the Nature Writing Prize judging panel is chaired by TV presenter Ray Mears.

Nicola Chester Ref: 34-0321
Nicola Chester Ref: 34-0321

Nicola's book won the Richard Jefferies Award earlier this year and when she learnt she was on the Wainwright longlist, she said: "It’s such a prestigious award - one I’ve long dreamt of being associated with - and hot on the heels of winning the Richard Jefferies Award, too,"

As a school librarian at John O’Gaunt School, Nicola said they also really appreciate the addition of a new Children’s Book Award category for nature too, "It’s important and timely, so we’re watching that, too - and the school ‘family’ are rooting for me.

"Reading and writing is such a powerful force for change, celebration and action, in this case, for nature."

On Gallows Down is strongly rooted in Nicola's background and formative years in the Newbury area, a period that included the Greenham Common Peace Camp and Newbury bypass protests, followed by her own family life in cottages on the Highclere and Inkpen estates. It is filled with gentle protest and hope. It begins with the rewilding of Greenham Common and reflection on the Women’s Peace Camp and then moves to the Newbury Bypass protest, and through other environmental battles along the way, loosely charting Nicola’s children growing up. It is about the fierce desire to protect the nature and landscape that Nicola loves.

"It's about family, rural working class life, writing, reading and influencing what you do not own," she said.

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