National Park Protector Award winners 2023 revealed

  • Contributor information: CNP

Today saw the celebration of individuals and groups who have gone above and beyond in National Parks in England and Wales. In an event hosted in Parliament by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, we met with incredible people who truly are at the heart of our Parks. From grassroots campaigning in Dartmoor to small-scale farming in local communities in Bannau Brycheiniog, this year’s National Park Protector Award nominees have shown a deep dedication to Protected Landscapes that deserve to be celebrated.

Our National Park Protector Awards have been a valuable opportunity to speak with MPs and Lords, National Park Authority Chief Executives and leading civil servants to share the wealth of experience and passion our nominees have for our Parks.

2023 Winners

National Park Nature Award winners 2023The winners of the National Park Nature Award, sponsored by WWF-UK and presented by Landscape Minister Trudy Harrison, are:

South West Peatland Partnership, for landscape scale nature recovery – The South West Peatland Partnership is a collaboration between local and regional government agencies, charities, landowners, commoners, contractors and farmers working to restore over 2,500 hectares of degraded peatland across West Penwith, Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor by 2025.

On winning Morag Angus from the South West Peatland Partnership said: “It’s really nice to get that recognition on behalf of the whole partnership and everyone who’s been working hours and hours for years and years behind the scenes, to get this Award and get the recognition for peatlands in National Parks.”

And, Nick Sanderson, for community nature recovery – Just beyond the sailing boats and canoes at Barton Turf Adventure Centre in The Broads National Park, a muddy path leads visitors to a hidden nature reserve. Nick Sanderson saw the potential for the wonderful site and began an ongoing partnership with Centre Manager Di Smith, The Broads Authority and many other stakeholders. The aim was to provide low-cost outdoor experiences and make a real difference for nature.

On his win, Nick Sanderson said: “It’s really nice to get recognition for the team, this is a team award, I’m just the guy who stands here and gets the award. It’s really about the team, about the volunteers, the staff and the young people who’ve been involved who are really making a difference to nature conservation and hopefully been inspired by it as well.”

This year’s National Park Nature Award runner up is:

Our Food 1200 / Ein Bwyd 1200 – Our Food 1200 is working to secure 1,200 acres of land across the region for modern regenerative horticulture, creating a network of small-scale commercial farms serving local communities.

This scale of change will be transformative, building the foundation for a vibrant low-carbon local food economy that reconnects people with the landscape and helps tackle the growing issue of food security.

New Perspectives Award winner 2023The winner of the New Perspectives Award, sponsored by Natural England and presented by its Programme Director Caroline Cotterell, is:

Sameed Asghar – Sameed is the founder of Summit Special, who are known as the BAME Mountain Leaders. He is one of the first UK-qualified mountain leaders who works full time introducing not just BAME groups but also those with several barriers to accessing the outdoors. Since 2005, he has volunteered for various charities and mosques trying to promote and organise their challenge events. Consequently, he has encouraged people to fundraise for good causes and has also introduced thousands of people from BAME backgrounds to the great outdoors. This has also led to a recent rise in affinity groups of people from these groups.

Every weekend for the past year, Sameed has led diverse groups in the outdoors with approximately 30 to 50 participants on each trek.

On his win, Sameed Asghar said: “This award is a huge honour, it’s an amazing feeling and I’m absolutely buzzing and very happy.”

Runners-up for the New Perspectives Award are:

Echoes Within the Earth – Echoes Within the Earth is an inspiring initiative that has brought to life our connection with nature through the evocative power of dance.

Choreographed by the talented Chris Pavia, who became the first choreographer with Down’s Syndrome to make a dance piece for national touring, the work is inspired by Chris’ childhood experiences of woodland in the South Downs.

Roots to Recovery – Roots to Recovery is a people-led project about the restorative powers of Pembrokeshire’s amazing outdoors and especially its National Park.

Their activities are designed to be accessible, fun and sometimes relaxing, with the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new friends. A typical programme might include walks, arts and crafts, volunteering and more.

Changemaker of the year award winner 2023The winner of the Changemaker of the Year Award, sponsored by Cotswold Outdoor, chosen in part by a public vote last month and presented by Alex Sobel, Labour Defra Minister is:

Matt Staniek / Save Windermere – Matt has been working tirelessly for two years to highlight the issue of water company pollution in Windermere and its impact on the water and wildlife in the lake.

Matt has built, from nothing, a movement that has steadily put a local issue onto the national stage. Around that he has expanded his campaign team, and on limited funds is furthering his reach by engaging with local communities and community events.

On winning Matt Staniek said: “Fundamentally we need change on the ground and that’s what this campaign is trying to do. By winning today it gives me the opportunity to then extend that message to a wider audience and today it was talking directly to ministers who can actually make a difference.”

Runners-up for the Changemaker of the Year Award are:

The Stars Are for Everyone – The Stars Are for Everyone is an incredible grassroots campaign to protect the right to wild camp responsibly in the outdoors in Dartmoor National Park and extend that right to other National Parks in England and Wales. The campaign has grown out of the decision of a wealthy landowner to seek legally to stop people camping responsibly after decades of precedent and many more years of accepted access.

Virtual Walks Volunteers – The Virtual Walks programme is a fantastic initiative to enable everyone to access the North York Moors National Park. Four volunteers (Jim, Davy, David & Alison) record and prepare walks to present to groups who work with vulnerable adults who are either no longer able to get out or may not have the confidence to.

On judging the Awards, Lucy Lee, UK Chief Advisor – Conservation Programme, WWF-UK said: “It’s been a privilege to judge the National Park Protector Awards. Nick Sanderson’s work and that of the South West Peatland Partnership are fantastic examples of what can be achieved by a passionate individual or team. They show that no matter what your budget and resources, nature can be supported to recover. It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate such projects that are ensuring National Parks are teeming with life today and for future generations.”

Judge Tegryn Jones, Chief Executive of Pembrokeshire National Park Authority, said: “It was a pleasure to judge the entries for the Park Protector Awards. With so many excellent projects being undertaken across the country it was a very challenging process and all the winners and shortlisted candidates deserve high praise.“

On Matt Staniek’s win, judge Saima Bibi said: “For Matt to be able to have made the change he has, getting a following and organisations involved represents his commitment, determination and dedication. Campaigning against an issue where our landscapes are in danger against such large organisations who quite happily will continue to carry on to the benefit of their profit and to the cost of the environment surrounding them. This is an example for us all that we can contribute and achieve change in different ways.”