Atlantic Woodlands project across Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks scoops top Park Protector Award

A project to help conserve some of the nation's rarest lichens and mosses has scooped the Campaign for National Parks' top Park Protector Award and a bursary for £2,000.

The project, Make the Small Things Count, is run by charity Plantlife and is based across the South West's Atlantic Woodlands. Judges felt it stood out for its innovation and best practice and ability to engage with other organisations.

Julian Woolford, Campaign for National Parks chief executive, said he was delighted with innovation and the level of engagement with National Parks, land managers and volunteers shown by the two winning projects.

"Make the Small Things Count" initiative will also provide information for land managers about our state of the environment. Mosses and lichens found in the Atlantic Woodlands are excellent environmental indicators: they tell us not only how clear or dirty our air is but also how the climate is changing. In effect, they can be seen as an early warning system to climate change.

"We are grateful for the support of the Park Protector Group and our sponsors HF Holidays and the Ramblers Holiday Charitable Trust, who have made this possible,” he added.

Tim Wilkins, Plantlife Lichen and Bryophyte Coordinator, said the project, which has also received backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund, aimed to generate a greater pool of wild plant heritage and skills across Exmoor and Dartmoor. It would also provide opportunities to learn about and conserve threatened Atlantic Woodland for key species.

One of the main successes so far of the project has been the establishment of England’s first Lichen Apprenticeship Scheme, which has been set up by the project, to increase knowledge and awareness of the significance of rare species on Exmoor and Dartmoor. The scheme includes five days of expert tuition by the British Lichen Society plus survey days, provision of resources and equipment and information on how to report findings.

Blue jelly-skin lichen

Plantlife is working with both park authorities and land managers to create a toolkit for woodland owners, which is designed to enhance understanding of the best habitats for the mosses and lichens. The toolkit, workshops and training days have helped widen the project to include the Quantocks, North Devon Coast and Mendip Hills.

Mr Wilkins said: “The emphasis of this project is to try and raise awareness of key species that are easy to identify and typical of Atlantic Woodland. In doing so, we hope that new sites will be discovered and monitoring at existing sites improved. Species such as “Witches Whiskers” are highly distinctive and protected, yet we lack a sufficient means of monitoring them at landscape scale. Site manager, landowners and volunteers can help us with this task.”

The runner-up prize and a bursary for £1,000 went to the North York Moors National Parks Authority for their innovative "Buildings at Risk" survey app. The scheme, which was a pilot study grant aided by English Heritage, has involved the development and use by volunteers of the app.

The app was loaded with historic data, photos and past survey results to help the volunteers locate each listed building. Volunteers then collated fresh data on the latest condition and use of each building. Data was then synchronized to a database, reducing the need for any duplication of data.

Beth Davies, North York Moors National Park Authority listed building officer and project coordinator, said the cost effective and efficient scheme had been a great success.

It was the only pilot study to develop a bespoke app and as a result English Heritage is now developing a toolkit which will include reference to the app for volunteers to use across the country.

"The success of the app and the use of volunteers will revolutionise how this data is collected and make nationwide collection feasible," she said.

 

Notes to Editors

Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust (RHCT) is pleased to have sponsored the Park Protector Awards from the Campaign for National Parks. The two winning entries identify innovative and imaginative contributions to National Park management. RHCT is funded by Ramblers Worldwide Holidays and supports projects promoting the benefits and enjoyment of walking and exploring the natural environment.

HF Holidays offers a range of guided holidays and short breaks that see guests join groups led by experienced leaders on a choice of walks from short rambles to longer more strenuous treks – both in the UK and worldwide. Through its holidays and charitable work, HF Holidays champions the great outdoors and works with various organisations to ensure that the UK’s national parks continue to remain special.

HF Holidays was one of the founding sponsors of the very first Park Protector Award, and the projects this year were of the highest quality yet.

HF Holidays has 19 Country House properties across the UK from St Ives to Glen Coe, many situated in the heart of national parks. One of the winning projects in Dartmoor is based near the HF Holidays’ Country House, Moorlands, close to Haytor Rocks, and future guests are sure to benefit from the investment the “Make the Small Things Count” project will receive. With three properties in Yorkshire, HF Holidays is delighted that there will be further research to protect buildings in the North York Moors National Park. By the very nature of its holidays, celebrating and exploring the great outdoors, and the location of its properties in the heart of national parks, HF Holidays relies on the efforts of organisations such as the Campaign for National Parks which puts so much into maintaining and improving the parks.”

More information about the Park Protector Awards can be found here

Further information and photos linked to the winning projects are available from CNP’s Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Manager Tony McDougal (Tel: 07766133788).