UK National Parks recognise outstanding volunteers in Awards shortlist

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Published: 5 November 2018

The UK’s 15 National Parks are delighted to announce the shortlist for our National Park Volunteering Awards 2018, which are sponsored by Columbia Sportswear. The awards recognise the outstanding contribution that volunteers make in helping us to care for these precious landscapes and inspiring others to safeguard them for future generations to experience and enjoy.

There are four categories of award: individuals, young people, groups and projects. The judging panel this year was made up of the volunteer coordinators from all of the National Parks and they made the following statement:

“Judging these awards is a humbling experience as it gives us the opportunity to learn about so many people and projects that are making an the immense contribution to the 15 National Parks across the UK. It was a difficult choice this year as there were so many inspiring entries. We’d like to congratulate those who have been shortlisted and we would like to thank everyone who is volunteering to help our staff look after National Parks!”

The winners of each category will be announced at the Kendal Mountain Festival on 17th November 2018. All winners will receive great prizes provided by Columbia Sportswear and £1000 bursary is given to the group and project winners to help their volunteer work.

The National Park Volunteering Awards 2018 shortlisted entries by category are:


  • Leo Hunt (Cairngorms National Park)
  • Keira MacFarland (Cairngorms National Park)
  • Debbie North (Yorkshire Dales National Park)
  • Emma White (Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park)

Young Person - 25 years or younger

  • Clara Baier (North York Moors National Park)
  • Struan Burch (Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park)
  • Osian Wilson (Peak District National Park)

Groups - For a group or organisation, large or small (minimum three people)

  • Dartmoor National Park Junior Rangers (Dartmoor National Park)
  • Eastern Moors Youth Rangers (Peak District National Park)
  • Peak District MTB (Peak District National Park)
  • Yr Ysgwrn volunteers (Snowdonia National Park)


  • The Border roads project (Northumberland National Park)
  • Historic signpost project (Exmoor National Park)
  • Parishscapes (Dartmoor National Park)


Leo Hunt and Keira MacFarland (Joint nomination from Cairngorms National Park)

Their nomination says that Leo and Keira “made an outstanding contribution on July 14th in saving the life of Ken Cooper, a husband and father to a 7 year old boy who was visiting the area. Ken collapsed outside the visitor centre with a cardiac arrest. Leo and Keira had no hesitation in using the AED machine close by and performing CPR to get his heart started again. Thanks to their quick thinking, courage and calm actions Ken has made a full recovery. Both Leo and Keira deserve to be acknowledged for their work, time given and outstanding performance particularly on the 14th of July. I hope that maybe they could be put forward together as a joint individual as they made a superb team in a crisis and they have both inspired a lot of people to have confidence in using their first aid skills.

Kenneth Cooper with Keira Macfarland and Leo Hunt in the Cairngorms National Park

Debbie North (Yorkshire Dales National Park)

Her nomination says: “Debbie is a natural volunteer, her passion for the outdoors and about making them accessible to all, has led her to get involved in many different ways. Debbie uses a wheelchair and over the past five years she has fundraised for an all-terrain wheelchair in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, given us expert advice on routes to be made accessible, begun an annual audit of the promoted accessible routes, attended shows and events to showcase the work of the Yorkshire Dales, provided expert videos of accessible routes with the aid of the Outdoor Guide, helped to train National Park staff on disability awareness. Debbie’s ‘can do’ attitude has changed the way we think about disabled access in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. There is nothing she won’t attempt. This has meant that we have had to look at access in a different way and think outside the box.”

Emma White (Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park)

Her nomination says: “Emma applied to join the Park as a Volunteer Ranger in September 2013 when she was unable to work due to depression. Since those brave first steps Emma has contributed over 100 days of her time. Helping with a huge variety of tasks and projects, including greeting and inspiring visitors to discover and explore all there is to see and do, being an ambassador for the Park at local events. More recently Emma has taken on further responsibilities by welcoming new volunteers and guiding them through induction, giving presentations on her volunteering experience and arranging social occasions, training and field trips for other volunteers. All of our volunteers are brilliant and we appreciate any time that is given to help us. However Emma shines brightly and lights up any room she comes into. We are always confident that she can do any task she sets her mind to and trust her with guiding and mentoring our new volunteers to find their feet and take those tentative first steps she took those years ago.”

YOUNG PERSON - 25 years or younger

Clara Baier (North York Moors National Park)

Her nomination says: “Over the 7 months that Clara has volunteered with the North York Moors National Park she has had an impressive and inspiring work ethic towards education and the protection of the natural world. Clara’s time with the North York Moors National Park was due to involve assisting education leaders with academic education activities. During the 7 months Clara has volunteered she has made her efforts invaluable to the park and not just the education team. Clara has taken every opportunity to help staff and the National Park in any way possible and has become a valued member and friend of the wider team.”

Struan Burch (Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park)

His nomination says: “Struan joined the LLTNP volunteer programme because he wanted to make use of his gap year. His love for nature and wildlife motivated him to seek out opportunities to engage with nature and he has developed a true passion for surveying and recording wildlife and nature. Each of the projects which Struan is involved with relies heavily on volunteers to make the difference. His enthusiasm for helping to survey and monitoring elusive species, sometimes in very remote and inaccessible locations, has really helped to give a clearer picture of the critical population dynamics and fluctuations.”

Osian Wilson (Peak District National Park)

His nomination says: “Osian has been volunteering with the Eastern Moors Partnership for the past 2 plus years, helping to look after 14 square miles of upland habitat owned by the Peak District National Park. Osian, who is autistic, started as a Youth Ranger and now comes almost every day. During his time as a volunteer he has built drystone walls, repaired paths, pulled ragwort, cut bracken, planted trees, felled trees, litter picked and carried out ecological surveys. Osian spends at least 9 hours a week volunteering and has made himself an integral part of the Eastern Moors team, looking after the National Park for people and for wildlife.”

GROUPS - For a group or organisation, large or small (minimum three people)

Dartmoor National Park Junior Rangers (Dartmoor National Park)

Their nomination says: “Groups of 15 12-16yrs have for the past four years ( i.e. 60 young people) completed an annual 10 month programme of conservation, exploring and discovering . Working with rangers and the education service, connecting them with the special qualities of Dartmoor, promoting messages of care, active enjoyment and wise use. Tasks include spillway repair, leaf clearing, coppicing, footpath maintenance, caring for historical sites, recreational issues as well as outreach events at local shows, meeting the public and helping with activities/events. The young people have led by example and the first group quickly recruited friends to join in subsequent years. Those who have returned have worked as mentors for the new Junior Rangers and helped to pass on lessons learnt with enthusiasm and commitment.”

Junior Rangers from Dartmoor National Park

Eastern Moors Youth Rangers (Peak District National Park)

Their nomination says: “Eastern Moors Youth Rangers group was set up in 2013 and has gone from strength to strength. There are now well over 20 young people registered as Youth Rangers, aged 11-18 and come from rural and urban communities surrounding the 14 square miles of upland known as the Eastern and Burbage Moors. They help look after this special part of the Peak District National Park, working with ranger, wardens, and the project officer to carry out practical conservation tasks, visitor infrastructure repairs and improvements, wildlife monitoring and events. The Youth Rangers are ordinary youths demonstrating all that is fabulous about young people! They give up their time and come out to the moors in all weathers to help look after a place for the benefit of people and wildlife.”

Peak District MTB (Peak District National Park)

Their nomination says: “The Peak District MTB Maintenance Team has been out on the trails again this year. Working to preserve and enhance the reputation of the Peak District as one of the best places to ride a mountain bike in the world. Peak District MTB volunteers participate in a number of activities to protect, pro-mote and preserve mountain biking in the national park. In addition to working with authorities and landowners to discuss the activity, Peak District MTB and our members have spent many hours in the last year working on path maintenance, drainage and development to preserve access, protect the area and promote good relationships across user groups. We proactively and voluntarily work with our partners Peak District National Park Authority and Derbyshire County Council to carry out sensitive repairs to many of the most popular trails in the Peak District. In addition, we actively campaign for responsible riding and respect of other groups. Our group is made up entirely of volunteers who spend their time extolling a positive message both within and beyond the mountain biking community.”

Yr Ysgwrn volunteers (Snowdonia National Park)

Their nomination says: “Yr Ysgwrn volunteers help to run this extraordinary cultural heritage site on a daily basis. The newly conserved and developed site saw over 12,000 people visit in 2017-2018 (our first year). Some man the reception, selling tickets, coffee, cake, books and the obligatory pencil. Whilst others guide visitors in the house, sometimes over 100 people a day, telling the story of Hedd Wyn, the First World War and managing to stop people from breaking valuable objects. Two fight with the Trawsfynydd rain (unlike any other rain) and shuttle people from building to building. A few prefer the quieter life, looking after the admin and historical research of the collections. One young man comes every day to make sure that the paths and gardens are tidy for visitors. There are 15 volunteers in this group and they are simply the reason why Yr Ysgwrn has gone from strength to strength in the first year, why the site has been nominated for several awards, including the Kids in Museums award. Additionally, they are wonderful examples of how volunteering helps, not only a small heritage site, but them as individuals and they will often be our best recruiters.”


The Border roads project (Northumberland National Park)

Their nomination says: “The Cheviots are the major landmark of the borders, consisting of rolling summits and outlying ridges extending north and south. As well as just being ways to pass through the countryside, they have been used for activities like trading, driving livestock and moving troops – as well as smuggling and raiding. These are the Border Roads. They are the relics of connections between England and Scotland. They show how people used and negotiated the landscape for thousands of years. In just a couple of hours, if you know what to look for, you can see Bronze Age hut circles, Iron Age camps, Romano-British settlements, medieval field systems, defensive towers, nineteenth-century whisky stills and abandoned farmsteads.  But all too often people are unaware of this. In 2014, with funding from the Northumberland National Park and HLF we started researching, documenting and communicating the rich set of archaeology along these old tracks. We have attracted a wide range of volunteers – some 90 at the last count – who have engaged in activities that include archival research, walking, surveying, photography, excavation, lecturing, school engagement, designing and writing.”

Historic signpost project (Exmoor National Park)

Their nomination says: “The Exmoor Historic Signposts Project is a two year project funded through the Heritage Lottery fund (HLF), Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) and Somerset County Council (SCC). The aim is to record, refurbish, celebrate and explore the history of Exmoor National Park’s traditional cast iron signposts. The project was prompted by the concern of local communities about the state of some signposts in their areas and a desire to preserve and celebrate the distinctive character of the historic signs that are a much-valued part of the Exmoor landscape. By the end of the project Exmoor will have a fully restored heritage asset in better condition and better managed. 30 posts remain to be refurbished and our moorland roads already look better cared for and loved.”

Mike Neville and Stuart Lawrence from the Historic signpost project in Exmoor National Park

Parishscapes (Dartmoor National Park)

Their nomination says: “Parishscapes is part of Dartmoor’s Moor than meets the eye (MTMTE) Heritage Lottery Fund-supported Landscape Partnership Scheme. Parishscapes is a community heritage project that has been telling the story of Dartmoor from a parish perspective since January 2015. All parishes within the project area are involved and over the last few years, have collectively developed and delivered a staggering variety of volunteer-led initiatives that explore each parish’s heritage in a range of creative and innovative ways.”


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