“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

These words of American scientist Margaret Mead are especially true when it comes to restoring our natural world. It takes people to save a species, restore a damaged habitat and inspire a new generation to take better care of our precious and fragile environment.

Every year the Campaign for National Parks, working with BBC Countryfile Magazine, recognises the people who have helped protect, restore and connect people with National Parks in England and Wales.

This year’s awards come at a crucial time. Our National Parks have huge potential to tackle the growing nature and climate emergency. The dedicated people recognised in this year’s awards have achieved much but it will ultimately take bold and urgent action by governments to change laws and policies to equip these landscapes to address this twin emergency.

The RSPB is honoured that our staff and volunteers have been nominated twice for this year’s awards alongside many other fantastic projects. The full shortlist is here.

Broads Land Management Project

Caption: Surface water and footdrain on grazing marsh (credit Andrew Holland)

In partnership with the Broads Authority and the Norfolk Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group, this RSPB-led project is supporting landowners to restore wet grassland habitats and boost breeding wader populations such as lapwing and redshank. These birds are part of the rich tapestry of these grazing marshes but their numbers have been in freefall as farming practices have intensified.

Led by the RSPB’s Broads Wet Grassland Adviser Andrew Holland, the RSPB has worked with 43 farmers and landowners, leading to improved wet grassland condition over 4,586 hectares, with over 54 km of wet features restored or created. Wader numbers have increased by an astonishing 200%, giving these much-loved species hope for a brighter future.

Cameron’s Cottage

Caption: Cameron's Cottage (credit: Matt Pringle)

Cameron’s Cottage is based in the picturesque RSPB Franchises Lodge nature reserve in the New Forest National Park. It has been built in memory of Cameron Bespolka, a passionate naturalist who died in a tragic accident at the age of 16. It is a place for groups of teenagers and young adults, charities and educational institutions to take part in fun or educational pursuits in nature. Everything from wildlife surveys to nature-based team building activities. The team running this consists mostly of volunteers who are working tirelessly to realise this dream, led by RSPB Project Officer Anneka Schofield.

The team are trialling new activities and ways to connect audiences that are underrepresented in National Parks and nature reserves and to support the development of their nature connection journey following their visit.

The onus is now on governments to do their bit

The awards will be announced in Parliament on Monday 11 July 2022. This event will rightly be a celebration of the incredible things that people have achieved over the last year in our National Parks. But despite these sterling efforts, nature is being lost from these iconic places and many people do not feel connected to them. The onus is on governments to sort this out.

In both England and Wales, we need to see concerted action from governments to give National Parks the tools they need to rise to these challenges, including by bringing forward changes to laws. In England, this must include implementing the recommendations of the Landscapes Review to give National Parks a strong focus on restoring nature, strengthened duties and accountability to achieve this and more expertise and diversity on National Park leadership boards.

These landscapes were established in legislation over 70 years ago, long before the environmental crises we are facing today. Now is the time to bring these laws up to date if we are to meet the public demand for wildlife-rich National Parks.

These transformative changes would be the best possible way to celebrate the dedication of the staff and volunteers who are working so hard to protect and restore our National Parks.

How can I help?

Sign up as a Campaign Champion to be the first to know when there is an opportunity to take action to demand nature-rich National Parks.

More information on our two projects is on the links below:

Cameron’s Cottage

Broads Land Management Project