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Efforts of passionate volunteers recognised at Woodland Trust awards ceremony

Hard working and passionate volunteers were praised for their contributions at the 2019 Woodland Trust Volunteer Awards which took place at Kelham Hall, Nottinghamshire on Sunday 17 November.

The awards ceremony, hosted by Trust chairman Baroness Young, celebrated all of the good work that volunteers had done in the past year. The Trust has 3,470 roles filled by volunteers who undertake invaluable work for trees, woods and nature across the UK. Without them its fight to protect and create woodlands would not be as strong.

Baroness Young said:

“The commitment shown by all of our volunteers is nothing short of outstanding. Their contributions are so valuable and we were delighted to host this event to recognise their work.

“We really value each of our volunteers who so generously give their time and skills freely to help us to achieve our aims. They give us so much practical support on the ground, where it is most needed, to help us manage woodlands, protect trees and raise awareness.

“The contribution made by volunteers should not be underestimated. They are passionate and hardworking. They are the lifeblood of many of our projects and their efforts make such a big difference.”

Speaking at the event, Trust chief executive Darren Moorcroft highlighted some of the major initiatives the charity is currently working on, including the Big Climate Fightback which aims to get more than a million people to pledge to plant a tree on the run up to a mass day of planting across the UK. Everyone attending the awards ceremony was presented with a native sapling which they were encouraged to plant as part of the initiative.

This year’s winners are:

Keith Wilkinson, volunteer warden, won the Bluebell award.

The Bluebell award is for volunteers that stand out for their work in our woodlands providing practical support and being the guardian of our woods and trees on the ground.

Keith has been a volunteer with the Woodland Trust since 1985 when he volunteered to help with the first Trust appeal to raise funds to buy the initial 25 acres of Nidd Gorge, which is now one of northern England’s key welcome sites.

Keith lives locally to the site and his passion and determination in caring for and protecting the site are second to none, which over the years has led to his name becoming synonymous with Nidd Gorge.

As well as being a Trust volunteer he was instrumental in setting up and leading Bilton Conservation Volunteers, a group that also carries out practical conservation work on the Nidd Gorge site.

In 1992 Keith took on a volunteer role as Woodland Trust champion, heading up the second successful Trust appeal to buy another 110 acres of Nidd Gorge.

Paul Bunton, the Trust’s engagement and communication officer said:

“I nominated Keith as he has worked and campaigned tirelessly over the years for Nidd Gorge, to ensure its ongoing management and protection. He is the Woodland Trust’s eyes and ears on the ground. He patrols, surveys, protects and campaigns.

“Keith is always there to call upon and is a great source of knowledge and help in all matters concerning Nidd Gorge, and is the true guardian of this wonderful place.”

Philippa Batchelor, an administration volunteer at the Trust’s head office in Grantham, won the oak award.

This award recognises volunteer roles within the office and home environments and the value they contribute. Philippa has been volunteering for the Trust for seven years.

Christina Joachim, the Trust’s lead visitor experience and events programme manager who nominated Philippa said:

“Philippa works away in the background, but achieves great things and enables me to deliver so much more in my role. She is organised, an excellent planner, has a methodical outlook towards tasks and a desire to complete them to the best of her ability.

“Her people skills are excellent and she is independent in her ability to look at an issue and find a solution.

“Philippa is a key part of the events team at the Trust. She is an avid supporter and truly believes in our aims and cause. She has given us so much time and works tirelessly. It genuinely feels like Philippa is a part of the team - and for a volunteer to achieve this accolade is truly amazing.”

David Rodway, volunteer photographer, won the Juniper award.

The Juniper award recognises those volunteers that provide their voice or time to protect or raise awareness of woods and trees - this includes threat detectors, volunteer speakers and volunteer photographers.

Rachel Lee, the Trust’s media library manager who nominated David said:

“Despite having mobility issues David produced some amazing photography again this year. I nominated him for this wonderful recent work, but also in recognition of his outstanding contribution over many years. David has supported several of the Trust’s departments including campaigns, volunteering and dedications.”

Erin McKeown, woodland warden, won the Hazel award.

The Hazel award recognises contribution of a new volunteer that has joined the organisation within the last 12 months and made a significant impact.

Since joining the Woodland Trust as a warden at Friends of Belvoir Wood in South Belfast last September, Erin has been an exceptional volunteer. Despite her busy university studies in environmental conservation Erin regularly visits the site to report on woodland conditions and to pick up litter.

Stephen Duggan, the Trust’s contracts manager who nominated Erin said:

“Erin leads by example and represents the Trust fantastically well. It’s refreshing to see her enthusiasm for the environment and great to spend time with someone who is incredibly passionate about protecting green spaces for the benefit of the people and wildlife that use them.

“After seeing first-hand how much effort Erin has put into volunteering for us at Friends of Belvoir Wood I believe that she is a worthy winner of the Hazel Award. Erin is keen to do a lot more work for the Trust in the future and we had even looked at the possibility of a summer placement opportunity. Recognising a younger audience in our volunteer awards is a great chance for us to encourage other young volunteers to join us.”

One of the Trust’s own site managers, Neil Oxley, won the volunteer manager award.

This award recognises Woodland Trust staff who manage volunteers and have gone the extra mile to provide support for them.

Nigel Balding, Chair of Friends of Gorse Covert Mounds who nominated Neil said:

“Neil became our site manager in 2013 and has always been extremely positive and supportive of our Group, the Friends of Gorse Covert Mounds.

“Neil worked hard to win a grant to improve access along a well-used track. He developed professional relationships with our group, the contractor, local residents and other stakeholders, working with them to make continuous improvements to the site. Now we are really enjoying the benefits of the key decisions and actions he put in place to maintain and improve our site for visitors and wildlife.

“Neil is professional and organised and always has solutions to problems. It’s amazing to think that our woodland is just one of around 80 sites for which he is responsible.

“Neil strikes the right balance in encouragement, without expecting too much from a haphazard group of volunteers with some strong characters and sometimes conflicting views; he always seems to be able to step in with the right advice and actions just when they are needed.”

One of the Trust’s Charter Branches, Tree Wardens - Wakefield, has won the Charter Branch award for the special contribution it makes to engaging members of their community and strengthening the connection between people and trees.

The Charter Branch network, which was set up to support the Tree Charter, includes schools, parish councils, community woodland groups, artists and campaigners all working to ensure that the relationship between people and trees is recognised in decision making across homes, neighbourhoods, communities and government.

One of the core objectives for the group is to enable, encourage and promote formal and informal activities for all age groups, including any person with a disability or handicap, to take an interest in trees. The group has done this by planting more than 46,000 trees in this suburban area working in partnership with the local council. The group created opportunities and facilitated projects for schools and colleges, Rotary clubs, businesses doing voluntary work and adults with disabilities and special learning needs.

Group chairman Roger Parkinson said:

“The outcomes have been amazing. One young man who has autism and was so depressed that he had not spoken for two years was directed to us at our arboretum project by his social worker. He has started to speak again and has gone on to follow his interest in nature, particularly badgers. His story featured on BBC Songs of Praise.

“Our Shaw Cross woodland creation project involved pupils from Horbury Junior school planting trees on an old refuse tip.

“We also helped to create a World War 1 Centenary Memorial Woodland working with Featherstone Town Council and several local schools.”

The group has already identified new projects with which to get involved and has ordered 6,000 trees for a new community engagement project.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruby Harrison .

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