Park Protector Awards 2021 Volunteer of the Year Shortlist

  • Contributor information: CNP


We were blown away with the quality of applications for our first ever People’s Choice Volunteer of the Year award – part of our annual Park Protector Awards. We received nominations from National Parks across England and Wales for a huge range of volunteering efforts – from litter picking and conservation work to helping with communications and visitor engagement.

It wasn’t easy to narrow the list down, but we did it and here are the 5 shortlisted volunteers. It’s over to you to decide who will win the overall title of Volunteer of the Year and a 3-night stay walking holiday in the Lake District, courtesy of Ramblers Worldwide Holidays.

Shortlisted volunteers (in no particular order):

David Bird Snowdonia National Park

Since first volunteering with the Snowdonia Society in May 2019, David has given countless hours to physical, practical conservation of various habitats of Snowdonia National Park. He has planted trees, cleared out drains, maintained footpaths, helped build a stretch of stone-pitched path, collected tree seeds, replaced steps in a woodland, cleared gorse to improve habitat for adders, repaired fences…the list goes on.

A key volunteer in the Park, he met, welcomed and advised countless visitors over eight three-day weekends when lockdown was lifted, picking up hundreds of bags worth of litter from mountains, beauty spots and roadsides; he gave an amazing sixteen days over eight weekends in a row, in searing heat as well as pouring rain. On top of this, he has also been delivering prescriptions to people across the National Park and working at a coronavirus vaccination centre.

He has given so much time and manual labour to looking after Snowdonia National Park – its land and people. He has also encouraged many others to considering practically helping to look after the Park through his very example. And he has a great impact on staff morale – with staff’s faces lighting up when they see David’s name on the rota.

Jessica Davison Northumberland National Park

Jessica, 20, stayed on as a volunteer in Northumberland National Park after completing the ‘Young Volunteer Ranger’ scheme in 2019, in which she undertook footpath surveys, waymarking and helped replace a footbridge. She’s gone on to undertake several ecological surveys – including lichen surveys – and support a peatland restoration project.

She also undertook 12 walkover surveys across multiple 2 km quadrants to map (clean) air quality in Northumberland National Park, making a big difference to the air quality records for the National Park.

During lockdown, Jess contributed to the successful #outdoorsindoors online campaign, completing several engaging blog posts sharing her placement experiences and love for being outdoors in the National Park. She’s also been uploading photographs of past wildlife sightings to the iNaturalist platform to contribute to a new wildlife recording project.

Jessica has been adaptable, engaged and committed throughout her volunteering with Northumberland National Park. Her volunteering involvement has adapted around the constraints and context of the coronavirus pandemic, shifting from on-the-ground surveying to online content creation, to early involvement in a new wildlife engagement and recording project – making a significant and varied contribution to the National Park in the last year.

Rod Gentry South Downs National Park

Rod is a voluntary Woodland Warden for Forestry England in South Downs National Park and runs the Friends of Friston Forest Facebook page.

Rod has been instrumental in helping to balance the needs of the rising number of visitors (many of them first-time) and the needs of the forest. He has fostered a sense of community among diverse user groups: horse riders, dog walkers, runners, cyclists all have a voice, and through Rod carefully mediating the chat to keep it local and relevant, people find a common ground, a shared respect for the forest and the wider National Park and a desire to look after it. From the everyday lost keys, dogs and wellies, to the routine car park, trails and toilet queries, Rod has become the go-to person.

He has run Facebook campaigns advising against littering, illegal camping and fires and dangerous parking. The public got on-board with the messages and helped by sharing information about anti-social behaviour. People reported fly tipping, branches down and illegal motorbikes. Many fires were able to be extinguished before they became a problem. Problems were able to be sorted out before they got out of control, making the forest a safer and cleaner place.

Vicky Pearson Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Vicky co-ordinates (and participates in) the conservation work parties for the Friends of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park: 45 hours in 2020, 150 hours in 2019, 65 hours in 2018, 160 hours in 2017. She also volunteers for the Wildlife Trust (60 hrs in 2020, 150 hours in 2019, 100 hours in 2018, 160 hours in 2017).

She cleans Druidston Beach, solo, every week: 57 hours in 2020 (106 bags), 90 hours in 2019 (175 bags), 77 hours in 2018 (110 bags), 88 hours in 2017 (104 bags). She is a superb organiser and totally committed to the cause of conservation in this National Park.

Most of the main season, the work party was unable to operate – as is clear from the data – but Vicky has remained committed. She was able to continue uninterrupted with her solo beach-cleaning at Druidston every week. And she was able to re-start the work parties she organises and leads in the autumn when lockdowns eased, cleaning ivy from the town walls in Pembroke for the Town Walls Trust. She was also able to recommence her work for the Wildlife Trust, where she volunteers many more hours of her time.

David Bream  North York Moors National Park

As a Volunteer Task Day Leader who trains staff and volunteers to be Task Day Leaders, Dave has been absolutely vital in helping to get groups of volunteers back out into North York Moors National Park during the pandemic, at a time when staff are stretched. Without his hard work and dedication, so many volunteers wouldn’t have been able to get back out this past year.

David usually trains people face-to-face, but, being so adaptable, he has taken to doing this over Zoom and has put a lot of time and effort into learning how to use this platform in the best way to provide this training.

David is also part of many other services across the Park, helping the education youth team with their activities, as part of the conservation team as well as helping with various projects, and he does a great amount of survey work. It would probably be easier to list what David doesn’t do!

Many jobs across the Park would have fallen by the wayside if it wasn’t for David’s willingness to go out during this hard time, and many other volunteers would have been unable to get back out.

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