Two leading young Dales conservationists have both been awarded a prize of £500 in recognition of their outstanding achievement, both as volunteers and professionally, in their work for the Yorkshire Dales.
The Award, which is being made for the first time in 2005 by the Yorkshire Dales Society and Craven CPRE, is designed to commemorate the life and work of Ken Willson (1914-2003), a lifelong campaigner for the Yorkshire Dales, the First President of the Yorkshire Dales Society and a President of Craven CPRE.
The Award is for a young person under 30 years of age who must live or work either within the Yorkshire Dales National Park or Nidderdale AONB, or in an adjacent community, and have made an important contribution in one of the following five areas of activity:
- The protection and enhancement of the Dales’ natural or built environment
- The understanding and enjoyment of the landscape, natural history or cultural heritage
- The cultural life of the Dales through the arts or related cultural activity
- The local economy including upland farming or forestry
- The care and social well being of Dales’ communities
The panel of seven judges agreed that, whilst all the nominations received were excellent, two were particularly outstanding, and as voting for the prize winner was a tie, two awards of £500 would be met.
The winners for 2005 are Louise Williams (27) Limestone Country Project Officer with the Yorkshire Dales National park Authority, and Chris Bell (25), a member of English Nature’s staff and a keen conservation volunteer.
Louise Williams was born in Staffordshire and studied Geography & Media at Leeds University, working in Hertfordshire and for DEFRA in Leeds on Countryside Stewardship before being appointed in 2003 as Limestone Countryside Project Officer.
This EU LIFE project supported by the National Parks Authority, English Nature and the National Trust aims to work with local farmers in the Dales National Park to re-introduce traditional, hardy breeds of cattle to the limestone uplands. The five year target of getting fifteen farms into the scheme has already been met, and it is reported that meat produced is selling “like hot cakes” with measurable improvements to the environmental qualities of the areas being grazed. The project is being cited within Europe as an example of excellence.
As her nomination states: "Many people have helped to make the Limestone Country Project such a success, and Louise has been the first to champion the contribution made by the farmers themselves. However though she would never say it herself, Louis’s own contribution has been immense. She had brought a passionate commitment both to the project itself and to the local area. Her infectious enthusiasm and humour have disarmed all who have come into contact with her whilst masking a steely determination to make things happen on the ground. Her expertise, negotiating skills and sheer hard work have been equally effective in convincing farmers and bureaucrats of the benefits of the scheme."
Chris Bell first became involved with conservation in the Dales whilst working as a graduate apprentice with English Nature at Leyburn. He is now a member of their conservation staff. He has covered a wide range of disciplines from using his love of cattle in the Limestone Country Project to monitoring butterflies at Scar Close, surveying crayfish in the Lune and continually improving his botanical skills. Chris’s spare time is little different from his work, he has recorded moths in Leyburn for the local natural history society, bats around Settle and Grassington for the Bat Conservation Trust of which he is a member, and this season is doing a 1km square survey for the British Trust for Ornithology. He is a member of the Foxglove Covert LNR volunteer team doing main woodland management tasks and helping visitor groups. He is also a trainee bird ringer with the Swaledale Bird Ringing Group. In September Chris leaves for New Zealand to work for seven months as a conservation volunteer with Tongariro National Park.
It is especially appropriate that two such enthusiastic young naturalists have won the first Ken Willson Award, given that Ken himself was also a keen naturalist and a leading member of Keighley Naturalists for many years.
The presentation of the Award will be made by Mrs Dorothy Willson, Ken’s widow and an Honorary Member of the Yorkshire Dales Society, at the Yorkshire Dales Society AGM at Dacre Banks Village Hall, Nidderdale, at 2pm on Saturday May 14th.