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.

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One thought on “Celebrating unsung heroes of environment movement

  1. This sounds like a great day for the winners and for the environment. The legacy of Octavia Hill should be celebrated and her achievements recognized even more widely. I come to Octavia Hill from another direction, social housing but also one of her campaigns that turned disused graveyards into ‘open air sitting-rooms’ for the poor in London. I have written a blog on this particular aspect as i walk through one of these disused graveyards often and I appreciate the benefits of these green spaces, especially in London. http://wp.me/p3B8xy-cV
    I enjoyed reading this and the National Trust is great. I wish we had one in Albania!!

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