It’s four days later and I’m still buzzing...! Having been shortlisted from over 750 projects across the UK, I’m absolutely delighted to announce that Skydancer has officially won Best Education Project in the National Lottery Awards 2014!

Fuelled with coffee for an early morning drive to Bowland, the Skydancer team and I thought we’d be spending the day with the BBC, filming a short clip of the project in action to be shown alongside all the others at the Lottery Awards ceremony in September.

Little did we realise that just a few hours later, standing in a car park on the edge of the Bowland Fells, Chris Packham would be announcing Skydancer as the winner and presenting us with a very real (and surprisingly heavy) National Lottery Award!

We had a great day out filming with families from Macclesfield and Leighton Moss Phoenix and Wildlife Explorers clubs. Miraculously the rain held off and as if they knew what was happening, two hen harriers even put in an appearance flying high over the moorland as the true stars of the show!

Following hot on the heels of the success of Hen Harrier Day, this award is wonderful recognition of the importance of education and growing community support for a conservation issue like hen harriers.

photo (c) David Tolliday, 2014

In the last three years we’ve delivered hen harrier talks to over 2,180 people in 53 community groups across the North of England; we’ve attended 19 events and shows generating over 950 conversations about hen harriers and giving out over 2,000 “hen harriers are brilliant!” stickers; we’ve run assemblies, workshops and field trips with 2,081 primary and 389 secondary school pupils, and hosted debate workshops with over 100 gamekeeping and countryside management students.

For me, that final point is one of the most important achievements of the project and something that we will continue to strive towards through the new Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project, shooting and conservation communities working progressively together for the benefit of hen harriers. I’ve written before about what wonderful advocates for modern, enlightened gamekeeping the staff at Askham Bryan College are (see here) and I’ll be proud to have them join us at the award ceremony in London, in September.

In the meantime, there are far too many people deserving of thanks than I could ever possibly list here, but there are a few deserving of special mention – the Heritage Lottery Fund, United Utilities and the Forestry Commission for funding and supporting our work from the very beginning; all the enthusiastic teachers and staff who have encouraged their pupils to learn more about hen harriers and started them off on the Hen Harrier Hero Awards; our community engagement volunteers who spend their spare time going into schools, and coming to events and shows, talking to anyone who'll listen about hen harriers; all the night staff, volunteers, and partner organisations that worked tirelessly to protect this year’s handful of hen harrier nests in England; the Alnwick Garden and Circus Central for creating and staging the Hen Harrier Circus Show; the BBC Springwatch team for plugging our Hen Harrier Hotline; and anyone and everyone who has taken the time to spread the message about hen harriers that little bit wider.

Most importantly, I’d like to say a massive THANK YOU to all 7,500 of you who voted for us to win this National Lottery Award. In so doing, you have helped bring national media attention to the plight of the hen harrier and sure, isn’t that the whole point?

The National Lottery Awards Ceremony will be shown on BBC1, on Friday 19th September.