Volunteer of the Year nominee: Jack Walmsley - Snowdonia Society

As the vote for our Park Protector Awards 2022 Volunteer of the Year gets underway, we spoke to one of the shortlisted nominees Jack Walmsley, volunteer with Snowdonia Society - about his work and why National Parks matter to him.

How did you start volunteering in the National Park?

I’ve always been a keen volunteer, starting with the Scout Association in my home city of Hull when I was a teenager. After that, I joined the local TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) branch for Hull, East Yorkshire, & North Lincolnshire when I started my Countryside Management BTEC at college. I started university at Bangor in 2018 and I knew that I wanted to continue volunteering. My search led me to Cymdeithas Eryri (Snowdonia Society), who ran practical task days on the doorstep of my university throughout Eryri. I’ve continued as a regular volunteer ever since!

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

During 2021, Eryri was facing a noticeable change in visitor numbers and behaviour during the time when Wales was coming out of a COVID-19 lockdown. The pressure on ‘honeypot sites’, particularly on and around the main footpaths up Yr Wyddfa, was evident by increased erosion and litter. In response, the partnerships responsible for managing the park announced the Caru Eryri scheme. The main responsibilities that I held as a volunteer were to pick litter, help maintain footpaths, and speak to visitors. I completed over 120 volunteer hours over the summer of 2021, collecting bags of rubbish and maintaining meters of footpath, but despite these outcomes, I feel the biggest impact I made was through speaking to visitors and emphasising the qualities of the National Park. From the unique, yet sensitive, environment, to the vibrancy of i’r iaith Cymraeg (the Welsh language). I believe that getting people to understand and value such qualities is how we can help to reduce pressures on the park as people may begin to think and act more considerably in and around it, whilst still enjoying their visit.

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

I feel very honoured to be able to represent Eryri and promote its special qualities to a large audience. I also feel proud to share information about how we as visitors can help to reduce the pressures the park faces. The more people prepare before attempting a walk up Yr Wyddfa (or any of the other mountains in Eryri as equally spectacular!) the less litter we will find, the less accidents are had, and the more enjoyment people get from their visit.

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

Sign up and give it a go! The beauty of volunteering is that there’s usually no commitment. You can volunteer once or every other day and you’ll still be making a positive difference. It also benefits you by providing a social activity and developing skills you can use to take forward in both career and home life. I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today if I didn’t volunteer, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities to do so!

Why do you think National Parks are important?

They provide a connection between society and our environment. They’re a place where you can observe how we impact the planet and can have a powerful effect in helping us to realise environmentally considerate changes we can make in our everyday lives. Eryri in particular is rich with cultural heritage. You can visit and see a fantastic landscape, but you are also provided with an opportunity to interact with a different way of life, with an ancient, but very much living language, different arts, foods and so on; parallels which run through every National Park in the UK.

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