Outstanding achievement of National Park projects celebrated at a time of crisis in our countryside

11 July 2019

Our British countryside contains some of the most iconic landscapes in the world but they face many challenges. Two ground-breaking projects have been celebrated for their work to improve the Yorkshire Dales and Pembrokeshire Coast National Parks as part of the Government’s Year of Green Action and Campaign for National Park’s Park Protector Awards.

The People and the Dales and SWEPT projects were awarded the Year of Green Action Award and the Park Protector Award in a parliamentary reception attended by Ministers and MPs as well as representatives from across the environment sector.

People and the Dales wins the Year of Green Action AwardPeople and the Dales received the Year of Green Action Award from Lord Gardiner. Photo credit: CNP

People and the Dales, from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), introduces under-represented communities to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, including asylum seekers and inner city communities. The project stood out to judges for its work connecting people and place at a time when that relationship is at risk.

Judy Rodgers, YDMT Community Development Worker, said: “It is a pleasure to receive this award on behalf of all the refugees and asylum seekers we have worked with over the last 10 years.

“It has been amazing working with such resilient, hard working and cheerful people despite the trauma and adversity they have experienced. Their stories have enriched my life and the lives of those that they have met.

“In a small way I hope that the visits they have made to the Yorkshire Dales through People and the Dales have given them hope for a better life, respite from the waiting for acceptance from the Home Office, and an opportunity to experience a warm welcome from people who live in this amazing landscape.”

More than 10,000 people have taken part in People and the Dales, which has previously been recognised for its work with BAME groups, refugees and asylum seekers.

SWEPT winning the Park Protector Award

SWEPT winning the 2019 Park Protector Award along with Tegry Jones and Paul Harries of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority. Photo: CNP

SWEPT, a project measuring pollution in the waters around the Pembrokeshire Coast took home the Park Protector Award for their innovative work at the same reception. The project is training volunteers to measure pollution levels from agricultural run-off in the National Parks, protecting land and marine ecosystems.

Sue Burton, from the project said: “We feel incredibly honoured that our project could be awarded the 2019 Park Protector Award, especially considering all the worthy projects shortlisted.  It is testament to all those out there that not only care about their patch but feel urged to take action to do something positive rather than simply stand by and watch the degradation that is happening all around us.”

“Our natural world is becoming less natural, and the imbalance not only threatens wildlife but also human existence.  The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is famed for its beautiful coastline and rich wildlife – from puffins to porpoises - but even in the National Park it is under threat. “

“There are many people out there who are not content to watch our environment deteriorate; there is plenty that can be done by anyone.  In Pembrokeshire we’ve trained a range of different people to pick up a water testing tube and easily collect vital data.  This data tells us about agricultural pollutants that put the wildlife of Pembrokeshire, on the land and in freshwater and seawater, at risk.  Intensified agriculture is one of the key drivers of wildlife loss and which we are all responsible for.  This data is helping us to do something about it.  Including local people in local environmental issues aids awareness and understanding of human impacts and this provides real impetus for environmental protection.”

Defra Minister Lord Gardiner said“It is a great pleasure and a privilege to recognise those people making a difference in our Year of Green Action. The two projects receiving awards today have worked admirably to restore the habitats of some of our most endangered species and show people who would not normally consider going to a National Park that these wonderful green havens are for everyone to enjoy.

“Seventy years on from their establishment, National Parks retain an exceptional ability to connect people and nature. These two schemes are testament to that spirit.”

More than 10,000 people have taken part in People and the Dales, which has previously been recognised for its work with BAME groups, refugees and asylum seekers.

In the Pembrokeshire Coast, SWEPT volunteers used surveys to generate more than 2,100 photos, 847 water sample test results for both nitrate and phosphate pollution, and information on marine litter, non-natives and other pollution threats such as oil or fly tipping.

Zach Haynes addresses the reception

Youth Ambassador for the #IWill Campaign, and environmental campaigner Zach Haynes addressed the reception about the urgent need to tackle the wildlife crisis in National Parks. Photo credit: CNP

The Awards come midway through the government’s Year of Green Action: the year people, business’ and organisations pledge to take the actions needed to reverse decades of environmental decline, connect people to nature and set the foundations for achieving the goals set out in Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

Andrew Hall of the charity Campaign for National Parks said: “This has been a truly special year for our competition. It’s been a delight to celebrate projects not only through the Park Protector Award but also with the Government’s Year of Green Action Award. Everyone there last night was inspired by the dedication and hard work of everyone striving to make our National Parks even better for everyone to enjoy.”