Norfolk’s volunteer wildlife heroes are honoured at 2017 Community Biodiversity Awards
- Credit: Keiron Tovell.
The tireless efforts of a community workforce volunteering thousands of unpaid hours to help Norfolk's wildlife was celebrated at an annual awards ceremony.
The Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership (NBP) organises the Community Biodiversity Awards to honour groups and individuals whose voluntary efforts lead to improvements for biodiversity, and greater community engagement with nature sites.
This year, 14 projects and individuals were recognised at the presentation evening at the Abbey Conference Centre in Carrow. The overall category winners were:
• Bacton Primary School won the Inspiring Children and Young People category for its work to transform an under-used area of the school grounds into an 'inspiring space for learning about the natural environment'.
• Holt Town Council won the Churchyards and Cemeteries category for its work to create 'a place of living and renewal' at the town cemetery.
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• Sprowston Town Council won the Parish and Town Councils category, for its work to manage Harrison's Wood for wildlife and public access.
• Clinks Care Farm, near Beccles, won the Groups category for combining 'care for land, biodiversity and people'.
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• Trinity Broads Volunteer Group won the Watery Wildlife and Habitats category for its 'impressive and sustained work' to manage the biodiversity of this wetland site.
There were also two Outstanding Achievement awards, presented in the Watery Wildlife and Habitats category:
• Carl Sayer, a founding member of The River Glaven Conservation Group and the driving force behind University College London's Pond Restoration Research Group, was rewarded for his work to 'conserve aquatic wildlife in Norfolk, bringing together communities, scientists and landowners'. He said: 'There are some amazing aquatic habitats and wildlife in this county, but there is so much left to do, so let's keep fighting.'
• Helen Smith, whose award recognised her efforts to conserve the endangered fen raft spider. Working with research organisations, zoos and landowners she has inspired volunteers and funders to work together for spider and wetland conservation, making the Broads a UK stronghold for a species which had just one fragile population five years ago. She is also president of the Norfolk Naturalists' Society, takes a leading role in the British Arachnological Society, and helped establish the Little Ouse Headwaters Project. She paid tribute to all the organisations and volunteers she had worked with, adding: 'For me personally, it seems a bit odd to receive an award for what has been such a privilege – to work with one of our rarest and most beautiful animals, and to have played a small role to ensure it can continue to be seen in the Broads.'
David North of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, chairman of the NBP Communities and Nature Topic Group, hailed the 'inspirational' community efforts of the finalists, especially given the continued financial pressure on local authorities.
'It is pretty easy to get depressed and de-motivated when you read as many reports as I do on the state of our wildlife,' he said. 'But what we see here today is the antidote.
'This is the fourteenth year for the Community Biodiversity Awards. Over that time we have celebrated some outstanding conservation projects and individuals who have made a real difference in their local communities.
'Working together on conservation projects is a great way to make a difference for wildlife alongside benefits for human health and wellbeing.'
NBP chairman Andrea Kelly added: 'We are part of a community here and there have been so many invitations to go and see each other's projects.
'So let's do that. Let us gather our strength and our inspiration by going to visit and celebrate each other's work.'
The NBP was established in 1996 and is a partnership of 23 partner organisations.
Its Communities and Nature Topic Group is formed from many organisations including Norfolk Wildlife Trust; Natural England; Norwich City Council; RSPB; district councils; The Conservation Volunteers and Norfolk County Council.