Recognising the heroes connecting young people with nature

Today marks the start of a two month search for the heroes connecting young people with nature across the UK.

The Wild Network and BBC Countryfile Magazine are spearheading a search for the volunteers, professionals and groups who are committing time, energy and resource to sparking young people’s interest in nature and the outdoors. Continue reading

Octavia Hill Awards Ceremony

This week saw the second annual ceremony for the National Trust’s Octavia Hill Awards.

Pastel drawing of Octavia Hill

The event welcomed both the runners-up and winners of its three prestigious award categories; Natural Hero, Green Space Guardian and Love Places.

Fergus Collins, Editor of Countryfile Magazine was on hand to host the awards, while the National Trust’s Director General, Helen Ghosh, reflected on the work of our volunteers. Read what she had to say: Continue reading

Celebrating unsung heroes of environment movement

A group of green space guardians marking their silver jubilee, a red squirrel champion and a passionate birdwatcher are this year’s green heroes celebrated in the National Trust’s Octavia Hill Awards.   

The three winners, who saw off strong competition to claim the ultimate accolade, feature in the July issue of Countryfile Magazine, with an awards ceremony for all of the shortlisted finalists in the autumn.

The awards are named after Trust founder and social reformer Octavia Hill who died in August 1912. They are being run in partnership with Countryfile Magazine.

Helen Timbrell, Volunteering and Community Involvement Director at the National Trust and one of the judges, said: “Being a volunteer is in our national DNA and it’s great that these awards recognise and celebrate the commitment, passion and determination of the people that care for the green spaces that matter so much to them. 

“The standard of nominations for the Octavia Hill Awards this year was really high and shows that the spirit of volunteering is alive and well.”

The 2013 winners are:

- “Green Space Guardians” – Stroud Valleys Project in Gloucestershire – Now into its 25th year the Stroud Valleys Project works with a variety of volunteers to ensure green spaces and unused land is taken care in the area. This year it has launched a ‘Get Growing’ project in 23 local schools and they’re now looking to improve 25 wildflower meadows, and if they can’t find enough, are willing to create them.

Runners up: Friends of Russia Dock – London; Gunton Woodland Community Project – Suffolk.

- “Love Places” – Allan Davies, County Antrim in Northern Ireland – Having walked 20 long-distance footpaths, taking him around the whole of the UK and thoroughly enjoying the experience, Allan felt that having retired, it was time to give something back.  Now, a volunteer at Cushendun for almost three years, Allan has been proactively working to increase the number of rare and much loved red squirrels on the site, creating a better habitat for them, and helping to improve disabled access.

Runners up: Dianne Lang – Lake District; John Weeks – Somerset.

 - “Natural Hero” – Mike Barrett in Norfolk – At 89 years old, Mike has been interested in nature all his life.  He ran a 15-acre nature reserve at the power plant where he worked and has helped with the Marsh Harrier Monitoring project at RSPB Titchwell Marsh reserve.  Today Mike is still volunteering at Titchwell Marsh, four half-days a week helping people with wildlife queries and hands-on reserve management.

Runners up: Margaret Sweet – Birmingham; Martin Woolner – Berkshire.

The awards attracted more than 140 entries and a final shortlist was selected by a panel of judges. Sitting on the panel were Helen Timbrell, Volunteering and Community Involvement Director at the National Trust, Fergus Collins, Editor of Countryfile Magazine, Grahame Hindes, Chief Executive of Octavia House, Julia Bradbury, Countryfile presenter, and Matt Smith, who were both winners of a 2012 Octavia Hill Award.  The public then voted, in their thousands, for the shortlisted entries.

Fergus Collins, editor of Countryfile Magazine, said, “If it wasn’t for an army of volunteers offering their skills, energy and spare time for free, we would have significantly fewer beautiful, wild green spaces in both countryside and cities. From conservationists to craftspeople, campaigners and gardeners, these people are the unsung heroes who deserve all of our thanks.

“Octavia Hill understood the enormous value of green spaces for the physical and emotional well-being of local communities. She would certainly have been proud of this year’s winners.”

Each of the winners will receive a specially commissioned bowl made by Tony Alderman who works at the National Trust’s Chartwell in Kent. The bowls have been made using English elm, oak and yew collected from woods near to Crockham in Kent where Octavia Hill lived.

Unsung ‘Green Heroes’ recognised

A prolific drystone waller, an intrepid volunteer youth worker and famous TV walker are among the green heroes celebrated in the National Trust’s first Octavia Hill Awards.

The six winners were announced today at a special awards ceremony in London.

The awards are named after Trust founder and social reformer Octavia Hill who died in 1912. They are being run in partnership with Countryfile Magazine.

Nominated by the public and then put to an online poll that saw nearly seven thousand votes, each winner is keeping the spirit of Octavia alive – standing up for precious natural spaces and places.

The winners are:

Patrick Frew from Country Antrim, Northern Ireland is the ‘Growing Hero’

By involving everyone from toddlers to pensioners in his local food project Patrick has turned a one-acre site into a diverse growing space. Young children enjoy visits to the site to reconnect with nature. And elderly residents are treated to home deliveries of compost and easy salad plants ready to make their own DIY ‘Doorstep Allotments’.

Roger Parkinson from Wakefield, West Yorkshire is a ‘Natural Hero’

Roger is an inspirational tree conservation leader, regularly sharing his knowledge and passion as a public speaker and field teacher.  But he doesn’t just talk tree conservation, as a practitioner he’s helped restore a five-acre arboretum with more than 150 tree species. And he’s helped individuals and groups with their own woodland creation projects – bringing people together, bridging the age gap and changing lives.

Matt Smith from Bootle, Liverpool is the ‘Inspirational Hero’

Volunteer youth worker Matt is tackling anti-social behaviour by getting young people into the outdoors. Not afraid to push himself he joined a month-long expedition down the Amazon aged just 15. Now six years on Matt uses his experiences in his work with children.  As a volunteer he organises nature hikes, camping and self-sufficiency trips that educate, inspire and sometimes change lives.

Julia Bradbury was voted ‘The People’s Campaigner’

Julia picks up the award for someone in the public spotlight who’s championed an issue or cause. Her passion for walking began at an early age and she was formerly President of the Ramblers Association.  Her public profile as a popular TV presenter gives her the chance to champion and promote the landscape she loves.

The Friends of King Henry’s Walk Garden in North London are the ‘Green Space Guardians’

A scrap of wasteland in North London is now a tranquil community garden thanks to this group. King Henry’s Walk Garden is enjoyed by the many families who don’t have outside space. The Friends, all volunteers, organise workshops, fetes and education programmes. Local people can rent space to grow their own produce, and wildlife is also well catered for with a pond, bat and bird boxes.

 

Eric Shorrocks of Arnside Knott, Cumbria wins the ‘Love Places’ Award

A self-taught professional drystone waller, Eric can look back proudly on 23 years of volunteering and 2,500 metres of drystone wall. And he’s passed on his skills, training up at least 20 others in the craft. As a National Trust volunteer he’s been dedicating his free time to everything from litter picking and path clearing to saving precious limestone grassland from scrub invasion.

The Awards attracted more than 160 entries and a final shortlist selected by a panel of judges with a wide knowledge of green and social issues. Sitting on the panel  alongside Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, were Fergus Collins, Editor of Countryfile Magazine, academic and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts and journalist and writer Candida Lycett Green.

The public then voted, in their thousands, for the shortlisted entries.

Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, said: “These awards have shown that the Octavia Hill story resonates strongly today. As a nation we have a love for green spaces and see their value in providing refreshment for the mind, body and soul. And we’re still prepared to stand up for them.

“The winners and runners up show extraordinary achievement and real pride in their work. They fully deserve this recognition for their passion, endeavour and determination.”

Fergus Collins, editor of Countryfile Magazine, said, “There are many, many people out there who understand the value of the green outdoors for our mental and physical health, and they’re working, often against the odds, to protect them – usually in an unofficial capacity.

“Anyone who gives their hard-won time, energy and expertise to benefit the wider community and environment has my sincere thanks and the winners of these inaugural Octavia Hill Awards are particularly inspirational.”

Each of the winners will receive a specially commissioned bowl made by Tony Alderman who works at the National Trust’s Chartwell in Kent. The bowls have been made using English elm, oak and yew collected from woods near to Crockham in Kent where Octavia Hill lived.

They also win the opportunity to be mentored by a Trust expert and will be profiled in Countryfile Magazine.

About the Octavia Hill Awards:

The judges chose three shortlisted nominations in each of six categories. The public vote determined the overall winner in each category, giving a total of six winners in all.

Growing Hero – for someone who’s set up a community growing scheme, or saved allotments and made a real difference.

Runners up: Kenneth Radford – People and Gardens, Saint Austell, Cornwall.

Veronica Barry, Laura Davis and Helen Sneyd – Growing Opportunities Initiative, Sandwell, West Midlands.

Natural Hero – for individuals working for community spaces that matter to people and wildlife – in woodlands, nature reserves or orchards.

Runners up: Anna Townend – Dwarf Orchard, London.

Peter Oakenfull – The Commons Local Nature Reserve, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Inspirational Hero – recognising someone, perhaps a teacher, youth worker or ranger/warden, inspiring and nurturing the next generation of enthusiasts.

Runners up: Edgar Hoddy – Broads Authority Norfolk.

Yvonne Witter – Mosaic Community Champion, Sheffield.

The People’s Campaigner – celebrates a person in the public spotlight who has done something amazing to champion an issue or cause.

Also nominated: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Richard Mabey.

Green Space Guardians - for a group or organisation, big or small, that has created a lot of noise (locally or nationally) to champion green spaces and places.

Runners up: Bankside Open Spaces Trust, South London.

Groundwork London.

‘Love Places’ award – specifically for National Trust volunteers, individuals or groups, who have enabled local communities to benefit from the open places that are important to them.

Runners up: Clive Atkins – National Trust, Hatfield Forest, Essex.

Susan Hodgson – National Trust, Standen, West Sussex.

The awards recognise work carried out between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2011.

  • Throughout this year the National Trust is celebrating the life of one of its remarkable founders, Octavia Hill. As someone who played a pivotal role in the housing reform movement, was a passionate campaigner for green spaces and numbered John Ruskin among her supporters, her relative anonymity is surprising. But this is about to change.

To mark the centenary of her death (in 1912) a range of events will give people the chance to find out more about a woman who typified the passion, vision and hands-on approach of the National Trust.