Volunteer of the Year nominee: Bob Slater - North York Moors National Park

As the vote for our Park Protector Awards 2022 Volunteer of the Year gets underway, we spoke to one of the shortlisted nominees Bob Slater from North York Moors National Park - about his work and why National Parks matter to him.

How did you start volunteering in the National Park?

After retiring from my organic vegetable growing business l decided l would like to volunteer in the North York Moors National Park as a thank you for the many enjoyable days l've had walking in and exploring the area. I became a voluntary Ranger in 2017, and from there I got involved helping the Maintenance Rangers - work which I found really rewarding. I was then asked to be a task day leader and after the appropriate training l started leading volunteer groups doing general maintenance plus schedule monument, conservation and forestry work. I also lead groups doing drystone walling and fencing work.

Tell us about the volunteering you did in 2021 and what difference you think it's made...

After a late start in 2021 due to lockdown, we were given a large amount of work for our volunteers. There were many site visits to assess the work. Along with the regular footpath maintenance l led groups clearing churchyards, helping at a garden run by an autistic charity and doing wildflower meadow cutting and weeding. The Forestry group were involved in butterfly and water vole conservation projects as well as monument clearance and wildflower meadow cutting and raking. And then there was the peat depth measuring on a recently felled forest site, which involved regular volunteers plus Duke of Edinburgh students. I also worked with the woodland restoration group removing tree guards. I have led groups doing car park maintenance and towards the end of the year some drystone wall repair jobs too. So all in all, a very busy year.

It's hard to quantify the difference our efforts make. Some things are clearly better: the improving wild flowers in the meadows we cut and raked, the footpaths that can now be walked without obstacles, the walls that are now stock proof and the peat areas left to become bog again. Other things will take time to show improvement, but with regular attention the butterflies, water voles and trees will all thrive. 

How does it feel to be nominated and shortlisted for this?

I guess l'm really proud to be nominated - if a little embarrassed. I look upon it as an honour for the volunteer task leaders who put in a huge amount of time and effort and the volunteers who turn up in all weathers, cheerful friendly and capable.

What would you say to anyone else thinking about volunteering in a National Park?

To people contemplating volunteering in a National Park l would say my experience has been entirely positive. The salaried staff are always helpful, keen to share their knowledge and grateful for our efforts. The volunteers are a joy to work with. Their enthusiasm, good natured comments and conversation always makes for an enjoyable day. If you fancy working in a wonderful outdoor environment, give it a go.

Why do you think National Parks are important?

I read a comment somewhere that the National Parks are the lungs of the country. The way they are managed in the main make their existence really important in these environmentally challenging times. And, as importantly, they give people a chance to get out into some magnificent and awesome countryside.

You can cast your vote for Bob, or any of the other shortlisted nominees for Volunteer of the Year HERE - deadline 30 June 2022.