Five innovative conservation, heritage and amenity projects in England and Wales shortlisted for our Park Protector Award

Five innovative and important conservation, heritage and amenity projects are in the running for the Campaign for National Parks’ prestigious annual Park Protector Award, sponsored by the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust.
They have been shortlisted following judging of a total of 15 projects that were nominated. The winning entry – to be announced at the end of the month, will receive £2,000 at a parliamentary reception in London on 21 October.
Fiona Howie, Campaign for National Parks Chief Executive, said she was delighted by the variety and impressed with the quality of projects entered this year: “We have had some excellent, innovative projects which have shown how working in partnership with others can have a real and lasting positive impact on communities across our National Parks.”
Award sponsors, Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust judge Dr Jeremy Colls added he was pleased with the range of projects nominated this year: “These are generally strong projects which reflect well on the diversity and utility of work within the National Parks.”
The five shortlisted projects are:
• Brecon Beacons Dark Sky Reserve
• Fell Futures – Lake District National Park
• Fen Raft Spider Project – The Broads
• Hay Time Project – Yorkshire Dales
• Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners – Pembrokeshire Coast
The Fell Futures project, led by the Lake District National Park Authority in partnership with the National Trust, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and Newton Rigg College, aims to provide traditional rural skills in the Lake District. Supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, the project addresses a nationally identified skills shortage in the Lakes. It has helped train 12 apprenticeships and 30 new volunteers in skills such as dry-stone walling , habitat conservation, forestry, lime mortaring and upland stone pitching. It has a 100% track record of getting apprentices into employment with 90% now working in Cumbria. The initiative has seen 5,350 days committed by apprentices, volunteers and members of the public, delivering practical heritage projects valued at £260,000.
Protecting one of the last remaining pockets of truly dark sky in the UK was key to the success of a joint campaign by the Brecon Beacons Park Society and the National Park Authority in creating the Dark Sky Reserve. Research had shown that in just seven years, light pollution had increased by 25% and was threatening the environment. Working with local universities, astronomy supporters and tourism groups, they managed to secure International Dark Sky accreditation (only the fifth place in the world to do so). This led to free advertising in national and international media and a substantial increase in dark sky related tourism and overnight visits. It has also led to the creation of dark sky community based festivals in the Park, the establishment of 54 Dark Sky ambassadors and vitally, a 10% reduction in light pollution. The Society and Authority are working on creating a National Parks Cymru Dark Sky Alliance, which will involve Snowdonia and the Pembrokeshire Coast, and help spread the benefits of the project across all three Welsh National Parks.
Northern upland wildflowers and grasses that are characteristic of this area have been reintroduced into around 450 hectares of degraded meadows in the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland over the past nine years thanks to the Hay Time Project, run by local charity the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT). The initiative has raised awareness of the urgent need to protect and restore the few remaining traditional wildflower hay meadows and their importance for upland farming, pollinating insects and other native wildlife, landscape and climate change mitigation. The project officer has supported farmers in accessing agri-environment funding and engaged local communities through meadow and bumble bee themed educational events and activities for residents, visitors and school children.
Volunteer divers are making a huge difference to the marine environment in estuaries and the sea bed just off the Pembrokeshire Coast as they clear rubbish and retrieve tackle nets and lobster pots that are “ghost” fishing and killing creatures for years on end. Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners (NARC) volunteers spend much of their time in the Marine Conservation Zone waters off Skomer and work with fishermen to raise awareness of the problem. Over the past few years they have also removed a whole host of domestic rubbish, including car batteries, laptops and phones. NARC has strong links with Keep Wales Tidy, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and angling clubs.
A high-tech project using pioneering DNA techniques and foster parents has helped save one of Britain’s largest, rarest and most beautiful spiders from the brink of extinction. The Fen Raft Spider Project, which involves a strong working partnership between the Broads Authority, Natural England, three Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, Nottingham University, zoos and the British Arachnological Society, has established three new populations in the Broads, with the spiders thriving in the restored water habitats. The project pioneered methods to obtain DNA from moulted skins and used new test tube rearing techniques developed at the John Innes Centre, Norwich. Foster parents from 11 zoos reared thousands of spiderlings and the project received valuable promotion from ZSL London Zoo. It is one of the conservation invertebrate success stories in terms of meeting the UK’s 2020 Biodiversity Action Plan targets.
Dr Colls added that all of the shortlisted projects have important aims: “Hay Time is restoring one of the most missed features of rural environment.  Fell Futures is attempting to maintain traditional craft skills on which the character of our National Parks depends.  Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners is tackling an unglamorous and largely unseen but very harmful blight on the littoral fringes of a coastal park.”

Notes to Editors
The Park Protector Awards recognise, reward and celebrate exceptional projects or individuals that have made a lasting contribution to the protection, restoration or conservation of the National Parks of England and Wales.
Images of the shortlisted five projects are available from Communications Manager Tony McDougal (Tel: 07766133788) or email
The Park Protector Awards are sponsored by the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust. The Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust is a registered charity supported and funded by Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. It sponsors projects promoting walking, protecting footpaths and encouraging a greater awareness of the natural environment for the benefit of all who want to explore the great outdoors. The Awards are also supported by the Park Protector Club. More information on the Awards can be found at