Park Protector Awards 2022 shortlist revealed ahead of awards ceremony

  • Contributor information: CNP

Muslim hiking groups, wetland restoration projects and a one-woman mission to cycle to all National Parks in the UK are just a few of the people and projects shortlisted in Campaign for National Parks’ Park Protector Awards 2022. 

Nominations were received from every National Park in England and Wales for this year’s awards, which recognise and reward the efforts underway to protect and improve National Parks for people, nature and climate. Winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony in Parliament next week (Monday 11 July 2022).

The shortlist features 21 nominees across three awards: the main Park Protector Award, Volunteer of the Year and New Perspectives Award to recognise work to amplify the voices of those least heard in National Parks. It builds on the National Parks: New Perspectives bursary scheme which supports young storytellers to share their stories.

Campaign for National Parks’ Chief Executive Dr Rose O’Neill said: “We’ve seen first-hand the incredible work that goes into caring for our National Parks and were absolutely blown away by this year’s nominees and had a really tough job shortlisting.

“Every person, team and project on this shortlist has demonstrated incredible commitment, determination and creativity in their approach to protecting and improving our National Parks and we’re really excited to share these stories in the hope of inspiring others – including politicians – to step up and do more to help our National Parks.”

Main Park Protector Award Shortlist 

Abbie Barnes: Spend More Time In The WILD (all National Parks) 

During 2021 Abbie cycled the length of the UK visiting all 15 National Parks and producing a series of films document the journey. Abbie, a born storyteller, inspires others by weaving discussions around nature and climate and health and wellbeing into her films. Her nominator, from Exmoor National Park, said: “I think Abbie has done a great deal to get people talking about National Parks, and is working tirelessly to try and make them more relevant to people today. She is always asking the questions and, as an employee of a National Park Authority, she really helps to push me to think more about what we can do to engage people with outdoor places and break down barriers.”

Anita Kerwin-Nye (all National Parks in England) 

Anita is Executive Director of YHA (England & Wales) and was the driving force behind Generation Green, which has created opportunities for over 100,00 children and young people – from work experience and apprenticeships to day visits and residentials and built new connections with schools. A lifelong campaigner on access to the outdoors, she set up Access Unlimited in 2020 to bring together the 10 English National Parks with five national charities who all deliver residentials for young people in National Parks: YHA, Field Studies Council, Outward Bound, Girlguiding and Scouts. Outside of YHA, Anita set up the ‘Every Child Should’ campaign promoting access for young people to opportunities including nature and landscapes, and she continues to write, blog and campaign widely on these issues, including bringing her own lived experience to bear on the subjects on which she writes.

BBQ-Free New Forest (New Forest National Park) 

Local campaign with national impact. The BBQ-Free New Forest campaign launched in 2020 following a series of devastating fires, some of which were believed to have been caused by disposable BBQs. Led by the National Park Authority, the campaign has seen 50+ retailers stop selling disposable BBQs in the Park, including four major national supermarket retailers, and a public awareness campaign reaching almost a million people online. The New Forest National Park has seen a 40% decrease in wildfires since the campaign was launched. With local New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis originally bringing the matter up in Parliament, High Peaks MP Robert Largan is now sponsoring a Private Members Bill to prohibit the use of disposable BBQs on open moorland and to give local authorities the power to ban the sale of disposable BBQs in their area.

Campaign for National Parks’ Peatlands Statement calls for a ban on the sale of disposable BBQs.

EcoDewi (Pembrokeshire Coast National Park)  

EcoDewi’s work is focused on developing local solutions for global problems – tackling the climate emergency – through a broad range of activities. This includes pioneering Great Big Green Week, engaging 1,000 people to take action; running a programme of beach cleans; leading a ‘plastic-free peninsula’ campaign; launching a repair café; supporting residents to create mini meadows;AND creation of a new community garden at St Davids Cathedral. Their nominator said of the volunteer group: “It’s about local people helping with local issues and benefiting the local natural environment. Actions and benefits that have a much wider reach, complementing other action to support our county, nation and the planet. EcoDewi is an excellent example of how a small group can galvanise a local community to contribute towards tackling the nature and climate emergencies.”

Fix the Fells (Lake District National Park) 

Nominated multiple times, the Fix The Fells team play an integral role in caring for one of the UK’s most-visited National Park’s well-used paths. A team of around 175 people from all walks of life, including 135 volunteers, brave all types of weather to put in thousands of hours over 2021 to monitor, maintain and repair 400 miles of path in the UNESCO World Heritage site. With 15.8 million visitors to the Lake District every year, the paths get really eroded. Without the work of Fix the Fells, which has been operating for over 20 years now, erosion would develop rapidly into the huge scars of the past, resulting in loss of vegetation, soil, stone, habitats, species and landscape beauty, and adversely affecting rivers, lakes and the flood-risk in the valleys below.

Matt Staniek (Lake District National Park) 

Matt has been campaigning to stop water pollution in Lake Windermere; bringing together relevant organisations to get actions in place. As part of his self-funded grass roots campaign, Matt secured 110,000 signatures for a petition, gained high profile press coverage, garnered political support and set up a Windermere Lake Recovery Community Interest Company help save Lake Windermere. Using his expanded knowledge from relevant stakeholders, water quality data sets and understanding of the big picture, Matt has created a plan involving water treatment works and private septic tanks, which will ensure that the local water quality will be improved imminently and for years to come.

Plastic Free Exmoor (Exmoor National Park) 

Plastic Free Exmoor is a grass-roots campaign headed by Peter Hoyland, that has brought people together to drastically reduce the consumption of single-use plastics throughout Exmoor National Park. Peter works part time as an Information Advisor at the Dunster Exmoor National Park Centre and co-ordinates this work, tirelessly, in a voluntary capacity. To-date, 20+ plastic-free allies have taken a Plastic Free Pledge to reduce or completely remove single-use plastics from use in their business/organisation and 20+  new water refill stations have been created across the National Park. Around 500 people took part in beach cleans last year, removing tonnes of marine debris. Following years of joint effort Exmoor was recently declared the first UK National Park to be wholly awarded ‘Plastic Free Community’ status.

Robert Mayhew (Northumberland National Park) 

In his role as Head of Conservation and Environment at Northumberland National Park Authority and Lead officer for the National Park Trees and Woodland Officers Group, Robert led a campaign to change the approach to forestry in National Parks with the concept of ‘The Right Tree in the Right Place’. This has been adopted by all National Parks and other designated landscapes as well as Government and ministers. It has led to a re-think on the approach to planting and re-planting on deep peat and was one of the stimuli behind the recent Defra-led review of the regulations in this area.

Water, Mills & Marshes Land Management Project (The Broads) 

A collaboration between RSPB and The Broads Authority, this 3-year project supports landowners to restore local wet grassland habitats, restore important breeding wader populations (notably lapwing and redshank), increase the level of landowner knowledge, providing support/confidence between conservation and farming sector to do more for water sustainability and deliver a wider suite of ‘public goods’. The project has worked with 43 farmers and landowners and improved wet grassland condition over 4586ha, with over 54km of wet features restored or created, with wader numbers have increased by up to 200%.

New Perspectives Award Shortlist 

AKA Health, Wealth & Oneness (Peak District National Park) 

An incredible initiative helping to drive community cohesion, physical and mental wellbeing and open up access to the outdoors. Working across communities in Nottingham, three friends make up AKAWHO – Anton, Kevin and Antwon – working tirelessly to help more people connect with the Peak District National Park. Last summer the AKA team delivered new experiences for over 250 people in the Peak District National Park, all who come from inner city communities in Nottingham, from all walks of life, bringing together a mix of gender, age, race to open up their eyes to the opportunities in our National Parks.

Alinah Azadeh: We See You Now (South Downs National Park) 

We See You Now, devised and led by British Iranian writer Alinah Azadeh, has brought together emerging and established Black Asian and Minority Ethnic writers to explore stories of migration, identity, climate, biodiversity and renewal, while also reimagining more equitable landscape futures. ‘We See You Now’ has so far taken 38 writers of colour from intersectionally marginalised backgrounds through writer retreats resulting in 33 new creative works. This is not just about addressing the lack of diversity and representation in rural landscapes – it has also explored some of the most vital issues facing countryside today, including climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

Benji Grundy (Yorkshire Dales National Park) 

Benji started working with Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust as part of the Green Guardians project, which supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds access the countryside. Since then, he has steadfastly attended Young Rangers, led the Youth Environment Forum and is now doing an apprenticeship with the rangers at Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. His nominator said: “Benji is a kind and committed young person, without whom, our projects would not be what they are today. He has mentored and supported other young people to be their best selves, while also pushing and developing his own fantastic environmental ideas.”

Cameron’s Cottage Project team (New Forest National Park) 

Cameron’s Cottage is a new RSPB Lodge based in a nature reserve in the New Forest. Built in memory of Cameron Bespolka – a sixteen-year-old naturalist – Cameron’s Cottage provides a residential base from which groups of teenagers and young adults, charities and educational institutions can take part in fun and/or educational pursuits in nature – from wildlife surveys to nature-based team building activities. The cottage is completely off grid, resourcing its power from solar panels on the roof and is kitted-out with swift bricks, house martin nests and bat boxes.

Haroon Mota: Muslim Hikers & Peak District National Trust (Peak District National Park) 

Haroon Mota set up Muslim Hikers to empower people from diverse communities to not only access to the outdoors but to feel comfortable and welcome while doing so. He teamed up with the Peak District National Trust staff and volunteer team to host a Ramadan Walk and Iftar at Ilam Park and a Christmas Day hike on Mam Tor. For many hikers this was their first experience of a National Park and the legacy of this event reached far beyond the Peak District National Park. Thanks to the power of social media, and how the event caught the imagination of the public, the overriding vision of inclusion and diversity reached and inspired communities in and around other National Parks, areas of open countryside and urban spaces right across the UK.

Northumberland National Park Authority Engagement Team (Northumberland National Park) 

Northumberland National Park Authority’s Engagement Team designed a programme to enable the ‘hardest hit’ groups during the pandemic to recover in nature in 2021. They worked with local organisations such as Newcastle West End Refugee Service and Headway Arts, to co-create visits and remove barriers to access, including transport issues. Activities included nature and wildlife walks, art workshops and outdoor activities. Beneficiaries included young people, families from urban areas, asylum seekers, people with additional health, access or neurological needs and older people at risk of isolation.

Up Skill Down Dale (Yorkshire Dales National Park) 

Up Skill Down Dale is a successful youth volunteering programme run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. It supports 18-29’s looking to learn new green skills and aims to provide a route to employment in the green economy through shared experiences, expert mentoring and career development opportunities. Of the 12 volunteers recruited to take part in its pilot year, 4 have gone on to secure full time jobs in the green economy, 2 are in long term volunteering placements with the National Park and a further 2 sit on the influential National Park Management Plan Steering Group.

You can read the Volunteer of the Year shortlist here, voting has now closed.

The main award (sponsored by WWF-UK) and New Perspectives award (sponsored by Natural England) will be decided by a judging panel comprising Campaign for National Parks Trustee Sue Beaumont, and Ambassador Jessica Davison, Chair of National Parks England and Peak District National Park Authority Andrew McLoy and scientist and TV presenter Dr Anjana Khatwa; the Volunteer of the Year award (sponsored by Original Cottages) is being decided by a public vote.

The winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony in the Houses of Parliament on Monday 11 July 2022 with Lord Benyon and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch.

Dr O’Neill added: “A big thank you to everyone who nominated and voted in our Park Protector Awards 2022 and to all our sponsors and judges – we couldn’t do this without you. Perhaps the biggest thanks goes to the brilliant people who dedicate so much time to caring for and improving our National Parks, we’ll keep on fighting to ensure they are better protected and more accessible and can deliver more for people, nature and climate.”

Keep your eyes posted on our Twitter channel on Monday 11 July 2022 for live updates from the ceremony, and pop back here on Tuesday 12 July to find out who won!