The John Muir Award in the UK’s National Parks

  • Contributor information: CNP

Rob Bushby, John Muir Award manager from the John Muir Trust talks about how you can encourage people to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places.

The John Muir Trust is proud to have a presence in all 15 UK National Parks through its engagement initiative, the John Muir Award.

From families in Pembrokeshire exploring the headlands and beaches of the UK’s only coastal National Park, to school pupils making nesting boxes for the rare Exmoor dormouse; from Loch Lomond & The Trossachs Visitor Policy and Engagement team walking, cycling, getting muddy and stung by nettles to experience the places they promote, to groups on Outward Bound residential courses clearing invasive species in the Lake District – thousands of people enhance their experiences of National Parks with the John Muir Award.

National Parks are some of the most special landscapes in this country and the John Muir Award is a great way to understand more about them – Richard Leafe, chief executive, Lake District National Park

Launched by the Trust in 1997, the John Muir Award encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places. It’s widely used to highlight the special qualities of National Parks, supporting a ‘respect, enhance and conserve’ agenda and helping to link outdoor experiences to curriculum outcomes. And it helps to bring the legacy of John Muir – considered to be the founding father of the National Parks movement – to life.

View from the top copyright Moorside School Cumbria Outdoors

A key aim of the John Muir Award is to ensure that social circumstances aren’t a barrier to opportunities to experience wild places. Each year at least 25% of take-up is by people experiencing disadvantage of some kind. The John Muir Award can be a catalyst for getting audiences into National Parks that don’t normally do ‘the environment’. It can stimulate more activity, more sharing, more curriculum links, more understanding of what National Parks are all about.

Many of the pupils involved had never done anything like this. One student lives five miles away from the National Park and didn’t even know it was there – David Gemmell, Stirling SEBN Support Service


Throughout 2015 we monitored the amount and type of activity carried out to meet the Conserve aspect of the John Muir Award. We did this UK-wide, and summarised activity in National Parks. Across the UK’s 15 National Parks, over 12 months, 10,270 John Muir Award participants made a positive difference via 52,116 hours of Conserve activity, valued at £225,395. The Conserve Audit demonstrates Citizen Science, volunteering, youth social action, as well as how partnerships with the John Muir Trust can contribute to the Government’s 8 Point Plan for England’s National Parks. It captures the range of meaningful ways in which people are getting hands-on in National Parks, doing their bit to help nature flourish and contributing to National Park plans, priorities and initiatives.

The John Muir Award helps to inspire a new generation to care about nature. Getting them involved with our local issues enables them to give something back to the Lake District, whilst providing them with valuable life skills, as well as supporting them in their chosen future careers – Catherine Johnson, ranger, Lake District National Park

With National Parks bringing their engagement priorities into sharp focus – connecting with diverse audiences, demonstrating curricular relevance, promoting wellbeing – there’s lots of exciting potential yet to be explored.

It’s been a real pleasure to stop and take time to be fascinated and enjoy the details of totally different environments. I’ve been landscape connected, I’ve been sense of place connected – I’m now more nature connected – Maggie McCallum: A volunteer’s John Muir Award experience

Find out more

John Muir Award – Introductory information

National Perks – An article featuring in the Autumn 2014 edition of the John Muir Trust Journal about our relationships with National Parks.

The John Muir Award in our National Parks – A four-minute film set in the Lake District that celebrates how people experience the wonderful places found in National Parks across the UK.

Resource Guide – National Parks – A guide that provides further information about National Parks and highlights useful websites.

Activities to help tune in: Mission:Explore John Muir (free to download), Mission:Explore National Parks  (£5).

Partnership with The Outward Bound Trust and Lake District, Snowdonia National Parks