UK National Parks announce Volunteer Award winners

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Published: 19 January 2017

The winners of the UK National Parks Volunteer Awards have been announced. Both the Individual and Group category awards for this year went to volunteers from the Brecon Beacons National Park with the Project category award going to New Forest National Park volunteers. The annual awards give recognition and thanks to all the volunteers who work hard, helping protect the special landscapes of Britain’s 15 National Parks each year.

Jo Minihane, has won the Individual award category after volunteering in the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales for around 18 months. In that time Jo has undertaken a wide range of volunteer roles including practical work carrying out footpath repairs and ground maintenance work as well as project work with a local MIND eco group.
He adds: “I am volunteering up to seven days a week but to me this is not work. I enjoy the different experiences and varied projects immensely and always look for a new opportunity. Every day is different and I have learned so much. The people I meet are wonderful and I will continue my life as a volunteer for as long as possible.”
Jo is a strong testament to the incredible benefits of volunteering and he also wins £100 worth of outdoor equipment. Highly commended in the Individual category was Graham Ryan from Northumberland National Park for his invaluable contribution to helping protect the Vindolonda Excavations for over a decade.

Also from the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Nepalese Community Footpath Group were the Group award category winners. The group are recognized for the incredible work they carried out to restore a footpath in their home town of Brecon.  Television presenter Julia Bradbury has served as a judge for the Volunteer Awards since their inception and is well known for her love and support of the outdoors - she commented; "Having restored a footpath along the River Usk, the Brecon Nepalese Community has worked to make the area accessible again to both locals and visitors. A multi-cultural community working at it's very best - this is an inspiring example of a community convergence driving to maintain the condition of their environment for everyone to enjoy. I know many other people will agree that the work done here is absolutely fabulous.”  

Gurung Guptaman, Volunteer Coordinator from the Brecon Nepalese Society responded; “It is a huge honour and privilege for me and the Nepalese community that our hard work has been recognised with such an award. We started the project with a simple objective in mind and that was to help us integrate into the local community. We never imagined receiving this kind of recognition or getting awards. I am sure the whole community will be overwhelmed with the breaking news and it will motivate us further for bigger and better projects in the future.”

Winners of the Project award category are The Pondhead Conservation Trust from the New Forest National Park in Southern England. Volunteers from the local community have successfully created and are managing the New Forest’s first community woodland. The once overgrown hazel woodland has been restored to its former glory and is now fully sustainable through the production of charcoal.

Derek Tippetts, Trustee and Hon Treasurer, Pondhead Conservation Trust said; "We were delighted to hear that we had won the National Parks UK Volunteer Project Award. It is a fitting recognition for all our volunteers who have worked so hard on this community woodland restoration project. Since our first conservation event in October 2014 they have provided nearly 7000 volunteer hours and the difference they have made is clear for all to see. Not only has it enhanced the woodland wildlife habitat, it has also greatly improved its amenity value for the local population."

Every year the Volunteer Awards, which are supported by Natural Resources Wales, highlight the wonderful things people do to help look after Britain’s Breathing Spaces. The Group and Project award winners will both receive a £1000 bursary to go towards continuing that fantastic work.


ENDS


This release has been issued on behalf of National Parks UK for whom the contact is Kathryn Cook, UK Director: kathryn.cook@nationalparks.gov.uk
For further details about the individual National Parks contact:
For the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority: clarissa.price@beacons-npa.gov.uk
For the New Forest National Park Authority: press@newforestnpa.gov.uk