UK National Parks Volunteer Awards winners announced

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Published: 23 December 2015

National Parks UK is delighted to announce the winners of the 2015 Volunteer Awards, reflecting the very best of the hundreds of people and projects that work tirelessly to protect and improve Britain's breathing spaces.

The quality of this year's candidates was exceptionally high. In the words of Helen Steer, one of the Volunteer Awards judges, all the nominees are "credits to their families, their communities, and, most of all, to themselves."

The annual awards are a way of saying "thank you" for the thousands upon thousands of volunteer hours put into the UK's 15 National Parks. All of this year's winners are also strong testament to the incredible benefits of volunteering, with two of the winners finding greater confidence as a result of their hard work, a project helping people earn qualification, and a group helping to instil young people with a sense of purpose and direction.

The awards are presented in four categories: Individual, Young Person (under 25 years old), Group, and Project. Winners of the individual categories will each receive their choice of kit from outdoor specialist and National Parks UK brand partner Merrell. Whereas winners in the group and project categories will receive a £1,000 bursary toward future volunteering efforts.

The winners

Including highly commended nominees, the Volunteer Awards acknowledge efforts from volunteers spanning the British landscape, with the Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, Lake District, New Forest, Peak District, Pembrokeshire Coast, and Yorkshire Dales all represented.

Frances Bland, a volunteer in Yorkshire Dales National Park, was named as the winner in the Individual category. A strong advocate of volunteering, she walked more than 170 miles of Yorkshire Dales footpath as part of her work. Highly commended in the category were Tony Carpenter, from the New Forest, and Tricia Brown of the Lake District.

All three nominees in the Young Person category impressed the judges, with New Forest's Karl Epps ultimately being named winner. A wheelchair user, Epps has worked with New Forest National Park to better ensure inclusiveness at national park events. Highly commended were Ollie Barnett of Exmoor, and Adam Philip-Philips of the Lake District.

In the Group category, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority Youth Rangers were named as winners. The group is comprised of nine young men and women who are shaping up to be models of their community. Highly commended was the Brecon Beacons-based Discover Llangorse and Bwlch Alliance.

The winning Project in 2015 was the Fit for Work scheme taking place within the boundaries of Peak District National Park. Targeted at individuals from outside the traditional national parks audience, the project helps participants earn NVQ certificates in countryside management. Highly commended in the category was the Friends of the Lake District's Fell Care Days project.

To learn more about the winners and those highly commended, as well as view the short list and full nominee list, visit:

www.nationalparks.gov.uk/volunteerawards

The judges for this year’s awards each brought a unique perspective. Television presenter Julia Bradbury is well known for her love and support of the outdoors and has served as a judge for the Volunteer Awards since their inception. National Parks UK Director Kathryn Cook, meanwhile, has played a pivotal role in the Volunteer Awards since she helped establish them in 2012. Explorer HQ Director Helen Steer was new to the judging panel this year, bringing to it her expertise in encouraging young people to engage in wild spaces.

"All the nominees for the 2015 Volunteer Awards have gone above and beyond the expectations for volunteering," said Cook. "We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to be amongst so many inspiring and dedicated efforts. They are at the heart of the National Parks ethos."

Volunteering is an important part of securing Britain's breathing spaces for future generations. To learn more about how and where you can get involved with the UK's National Parks, visit:

www.nationalparks.gov.uk/aboutus/jobs/volunteering

The 2015 Volunteer Awards are supported by Merrell and Natural Resources Wales.