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A three-week public vote is set to decide the winners in the first ever Octavia Hill Awards that recognise the ‘unsung heroes’ of the environmental movement.
Organised by the National Trust, in partnership with BBC Countryfile Magazine, the awards mark the centenary of the death of Octavia Hill, the social reformer and environmental campaigner who helped found the National Trust.
Octavia died 100 years ago this year, in August 1912 . She had a special influence in the North West of England as, together with Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley – the other co-founding members of the National Trust - Octavia raised enough public funds to buy the Brandlehow estate on the shores of Derwentwater in Cumbria to prevent housing development. Brandlehow was opened to the public in 1902 by Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter, and was the National Trust’s first acquisition in the Lake District.
The Octavia Hill Awards will be decided by a panel of expert judges - including Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, Fergus Collins, editor of BBC Countryfile magazine, academic and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts, and writer and countryside campaigner Candida Lycett Green who will shortlist three nominations in each of the six categories  in the Octavia Hill Awards.
People will have the chance to pick their favourites from the shortlist in the six categories on the National Trust website – http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/octaviaawards
Voting for the awards will close at midnight on Monday 9 April.
In Cumbria, long standing National Trust volunteer Eric Shorrocks from Arnside was nominated in the awards’ preliminary rounds under the ‘Love Places’ category by the Trust’s Ranger for Arnside and Silverdale, Alan Ferguson. “Eric has been a volunteer with us for 23 years” says Alan. “He’s literally done everything – from helping with car parking and litter picking to saving many hectares of limestone grassland by clearing invasive scrub. However, what he will most be remembered for is the 2,500 metres (2.5km) of dry stone walling which he rebuilt in and around Arnside Knott.
Eric taught himself from beginner through to the standard of professional and always had a partner working with him. Over the years he has trained at least another 20 people in this fine skill. His efforts have culminated today with a team of 5 voluntary wallers working three days a week and another team of 6 who also 'wall' as part of our Wednesday work parties. Eric has taught them all.”
Eric is also is an extremely good botanist. He has identified all the unknown species in ‘harder’ to identify categories such as grasses and ferns; adding to our knowledge of the site a hundredfold. The future of Arnside Knott Site of Special Scientific Interest is now secure. Its amazing species of rich grasslands receive the correct grazing within good sound stockproof walls which will need no more work for another 200 years”.