Climate-crisis journey wins Wales Book of the Year

Tom Bullough with mountain in the background
Tom Bullough walked the Roman road from Neath to Caerhun which inspired him to write the book [Tom Bullough]

A book exploring the impact of climate change has been named Wales Book of the Year.

Tom Bullough's Sarn Helen takes the reader on a walk along the old Roman road running from Neath in south Wales to Caerhun in Conwy county, and on the way examines the past, present and future of Wales.

Climate and ecology experts are woven into the journey and explain the possible and immediate effects of the climate emergency on Wales and the world.

The Welsh-language award went to Mari George for her fictional work, Sut i Ddofi Corryn, which translates as How to Tame a Spider.

Speaking on BBC Open Book in 2023, Mr Bullough said lockdown made him feel "desperation" for a different landscape.

While walking he was "passing through communities which had suffered unprecedented flooding during the spring and were still struggling to recover as they were struggling to recover from Covid-19".

At the same time he walked through "magnificent landscape" that was "bereft of life and stripped of its biodiversity" and was struck by the contrast to the "remains of the age of saints, which was the roots of Wales".

Alongside Wales Book of the Year, it was also named 2023 Waterstones Welsh Book of the Year.

Sarn Helen book, A journey through Wales, past, present, future by Tom Bullough with illustrations by Jackie Morris
Sarn Helen follows the journey of Tom Bullough as he explores the past, present and future of Wales [Tom Bullough/Jackie Morris/Granta Books]

Speaking at the Award Ceremony, judge Dylan Moore said: "[Tom] magically portrays this country as a microcosm of planet Earth, through precise place and across historical time.

"In this unique book, the climate emergency is faced full-on, and Tom lays out in the starkest terms, the gravity of the situation faced by all of us."

The first prize for Welsh language went to Mari George, from Bridgend, for her book about a woman on a journey to find a cancer cure for her husband.

Mari George
Mari George's Sut i Ddofi Corryn won first prize for Welsh language book at the competition [Mari George]

The Wales Book of the Year Award has four categories in both Welsh and English - Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction and Children and Young People.

Each category winner takes home a prize of £1,000.

One category winner in each language goes on to win the overall Award, earning a further £3,000 and claiming the title, Wales Book of the Year.

Although it has existed in some form since the 1960s, Wales Book of the Year has been run by the literature development charity, Literature Wales, since 2004.