Vote now for your green hero

National Trust Octavia Hills Awards

National Trust Octavia Hills Awards - Credit: Archant

The National Trust’s search for the UK’s green heroes shines its spotlight on Tyntesfield and Stroud this month

A panel of judges has just selected the Stroud Valley Project and Tyntesfield Volunteer John Weeks as finalists in the Octavia Hill Awards, named after one of the charity’s founders.

Now it’s up to the public to decide who will be the first winners of these brand new awards, and people are being urged to support their local hero by voting in the online poll. Voting opened yesterday (Monday, April 22) and people have just one week to support their favourites (the poll will close at midnight on Sunday, April 28).

More information about all the finalists and the all-important voting buttons can be found at

John Weeks’ inspirational volunteering at Tyntesfield impressed the judges in the ‘Love Places’ category. In 2002, shortly after the National Trust began to care for Tyntesfield, John founded a team of 60 Estate volunteers – then a unique development - to interact with visitors to the grounds. John encouraged staff and volunteers to present this fascinating place in its entirety, championing the relationship between the house, gardens and wider estate. Visitor engagement was supported by excellent research into 160 years of social and horticultural history, carried out by the team.

Fellow team leader Robin says: “John relates easily to people, especially to new recruits, communicating clearly and engendering their enthusiasm. He encouraged an individual response to reflect each volunteer’s background and interests. Under John’s guidance our role has adapted to many developments over the last decade, and his receptiveness to new ideas has enabled the team’s work to expand and flourish”.

Stroud Valleys Project (SVP) in Gloucestershire has been nominated in the Green Space Guardians Category. The project works with individuals and community groups inspiring and training people to discover and nurture wildlife and green spaces. SVP champions sustainability, working with local organisations to create new green spaces and restore neglected ones.

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Last year the project planted 3,120 hedgerow plants and 958 trees with volunteers giving 1612 days of time. Current projects include;

• ‘Get Growing’: supporting over 1,500 children in 23 local schools to grow and harvest food.

• Green Team: volunteers with, for example mental health issues, working to increase biodiversity of green spaces. This led to a women-only food growing and conservation skills group to improve self-esteem.

SVP staff are passionate and knowledgeable and wonderfully empowering to both individuals and groups with whom they work. SVP’s walks, talks and events make the countryside accessible and their new eco shop allows people to drop in, get advice and find opportunities to get involved.

Both John Weeks and the Stroud Valley project were chosen from over 130 nominations for these awards, now in their second year, which are being run in partnership with Countryfile Magazine.

Helen Timbrell, Volunteering and Community Involvement Director for the National Trust and one of the award judges, said: “These awards show that the spirit of Octavia Hill is well and truly alive. I was so impressed by the passion and commitment of the people nominated and it was a really hard decision to come up with the final shortlist.”

The awards are named after Octavia Hill, a Victorian social reformer and a founder of the National Trust who set the standard in campaigning for green places.

Octavia died in August 1912 and these awards celebrate the modern-day champions and guardians of our precious pieces of outdoor space.

The winner of the award will receive a unique hand-crafted bowl made with English oak from the area of Kent where Octavia Hill lived.

The judging panel comprised Fergus Collins, Editor of Countryfile Magazine, Matt Smith, one of the winners of the 2012 awards, Julia Bradbury, a presenter on BBC Countryfile and a keen walker, Grahame Hindes, Chief Executive of Octavia Housing and Helen Timbrell, Volunteering and Community Involvement Director for the National Trust.

Fergus Collins, Editor at Countryfile Magazine, added: “The Octavia Hill Awards are a unique opportunity to celebrate and reward those people devoting precious time and energy to safeguarding green spaces.

“I found selecting the shortlist a difficult and moving experience – the standard was so high that it shows that our green spaces and places are in the right hands of people that care for them so much”

The winners will be announced at a special awards ceremony and profiled one of the summer issues of Countryfile Magazine.