Volunteer of the Year nominee: Tony Evans - Northumberland National Park

As the vote for our Park Protector Awards 2022 Volunteer of the Year gets underway, we spoke to one of the shortlisted nominees Tony Evans from Northumberland National Park - about his work and why National Parks matter to him.

How did you start volunteering in the National Park? 

Having walked extensively in Northumberland from an early age, upon retiring I felt that I would like to put something back into the Northumberland Countryside by volunteering in the Northumberland National Park.

As a volunteer for over 20 years I have been involved in a very wide range of different activities, initially in ‘waymarking’ and footpath surveys on rights of way in the north of the park which resulted in fitting around 2000 waymarks.

Following this work, I spent 5 years organising the volunteer-led guided walks programme which included about 70 annual walks for the general public.

Tell us about the volunteering you did in 2021 and what difference you think it's made... 

As an Engineer with a passion for History, I was motivated towards my later interest which involved research into the building of Catcleugh reservoir (in particular the people who lived on site during the reservoirs construction 130 years ago) which lies in a remote area in the north of the park. I organised open days for the general public to visit the sole remaining ‘hut’ that was used to house the workers and their families over the 20 year period of the reservoir’s construction. The hut, which is now Grade 2 listed, was fully restored by the N.N.P. around 1990.

The culmination of my research was the publication of a book on the lives of the men, women and children who lived on site and during this last year I have delivered presentations to many different organisations, raising funds for N.N.P. BBC Radio Newcastle included an on site interview with me during an Exhibition held to celebrate Industrial achievements in the area, which included a video display of the Catcleugh story and a subsequent film.

Redesdale in the Rede Valley secured an award of £1.8 million from the National Lottery Fund to celebrate Redesdale’s rich culture and as part the ‘Revitalising Redesdale’ project a radio play written by Rachel Cochrane, ‘Amid the Hills of Redesdale’ was aired in June. Most of the content came from my research.

This programme of work on the Catcleugh story has contributed to the social history of the area and answered many of the hitherto unanswered questions regarding the people who lived there. It has given me much pleasure in that for many descendants of the Catcleugh workforce, I have been able to complete their family story.

How does it feel to be nominated and shortlisted for this? 

I feel very honoured to be considered for ‘Volunteer of the Year’ for doing something which has brought me a great deal of personal satisfaction and enjoyment over the last 20 years.

What would you say to anyone else thinking about volunteering in a National Park? 

The National Parks offer a range of opportunities for volunteers to broaden their experience in a very wide range of different areas whilst at the same time contributing greatly to its success. It provides a chance to encounter and collaborate with people one would not normally meet in your chosen profession.

Why do you think National Parks are important? 

I consider National Parks to be of paramount importance in a number of areas namely protecting the countryside and the environment, providing leisure facilities to the general public, beneficial for physical and mental health and the economic benefit from the thousands of visitors they attract.

You can cast your vote for Tony, or any of the other shortlisted nominees for Volunteer of the Year HERE - deadline 30 June 2022.