Marsh Award for Community Wetland Conservation Champion

This Award is run in association with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and recognises an individual whose sustained activities have resulted in a long term change for wetlands or their wildlife.

Volunteers from around the UK work to protect and transform wetland areas, leading to the conservation of wildlife and the creation of spaces to be enjoyed by the local people. Ranging from community wetlands to wetlands in people’s back gardens, each year this Award supports the people who have been the driving force behind these projects.

Nominations for the Award are put forward to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and judged in partnership with the MCT. See here for more information on how to nominate.

Pictured: 2016 winner, Richard Waddingham

David Hindle 2019

David collated his years of wildlife monitoring of the Grimsargh Reservoirs into a biodiversity report which contributed to the reservoirs being designated in 2003 as a Biological Heritage Site and Local Wildlife Site, and in 2009 as a conservation area. He has shown long term commitment to turn disused reservoirs into a wetland reserve that has the opportunity to realise its tremendous biodiversity potential.

David is a Grimsargh Parish Councillor, and was key in the negotiations to secure a deal with United Utilities and Preston City Council which saw the wetlands transferred to the Council’s management in 2017. He was instrumental in forming the Grimsargh Wetlands Trust which now manages the site, fundraises, enhances its value for biodiversity and recruits volunteers.

Grimsargh is now a community-run wetland reserve, which benefits the local community and plays an important educational role for students of all ages. Volunteers have been recruited to help improve the biodiversity of the reservoirs and they are making plans to improve accessibility to the site.

Previous Winners

Mark Smart

Mark has been managing wetlands for the RSPB for 25 years and has been Site Manager at Berney Marshes for 17 years. The development work that he has devised, designed and delivered has turned this site into one of the most important lowland wet grasslands in Europe. This achievement has been thanks to Mark’s dedication to conservation, his passion for breeding waders, his deep understanding of wetland management and the collaborations that he has built with landowners, conservationists, local authorities and scientists.

Drawing on his experiences as an agricultural mechanic, Mark developed the tools for creating and controlling the shallow wet features on grasslands that attract breeding waders and provide food resources for their chicks. More recently he has driven an innovative restructuring of catchment-level water management around the Marshes which has created dynamic wetlands that are rich in biodiversity. He delivers ideas and management techniques that are tried, tested and researched to bridge the gap between pure conservation management of wet grassland and the need to also manage it as a commercial enterprise.

Mark travels around the country to advise on wetland creation and restoration and works closely with landowners, wildlife charities and Natural England advisors to design and deliver high-level stewardship management on wet grasslands. His knowledge and passion for wetland conservation allied with his skills in working collaboratively to deliver innovative management techniques have been a major reason for the success of wetland conservation throughout Eastern England and beyond.

Andrew Green

Over 20 years, Andrew has transformed 150 acres of his land at Kingfishers Bridge in Ely from intensive agriculture into a vibrant wetland including a diverse range of habitats from wet and dry pastures to reed beds and a lake.

He planned the project in great detail and managed it efficiently to maximise biodiversity. The project has focused on recording outcomes of particular management regimes in order to achieve good results. Andy’s land is now home to over 400 species of plant and over 200 species of bird, 81 of which have bred, including waders, waterfowl and bittern which had not been recorded breeding in Cambridgeshire since 1936. Andy has also developed specially designed limestone cliffs which have attracted breeding sand martins, and a bat roost for summer breeding and an artificial bat cave for winter roosting. Altogether, 30 species have been recorded on Andy’s land.

The project also benefits the local community and wider public as it plays an important educational role. Local schools and universities often visit the site for research projects and education days. It is also a model of good conservation practice, both in the fens and countrywide. The fens are one of the areas most heavily impacted by intensive agriculture and this project provides the opportunity for important conservation of biodiversity. Without Andy’s vision and continued direction, the wetland would not exist.

Richard Waddingham

Richard Waddingham is a Norfolk farmer who visited the Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire in 1946 when it was created and became inspired, particularly by Sir Peter Scott, a British ornithologist and conservationist. He joined an expedition to eastern Greenland in the 1950s to study pink-footed geese. For several decades, Richard has worked on his farm quietly restoring and creating a network of ponds which are now very numerous, beautiful and support significant populations of wildlife.

About 10 years ago, researchers in the Pond Restoration Research Group at University College London started studying Richard’s ponds and restoration techniques. Their work shows the huge benefits of farmland pond restoration for biodiversity spanning plants, insects, amphibians, fishes and even farmland birds and pollinator populations. Richard’s pond restoration approach has inspired the recently established Norfolk Ponds Project and is now beginning to influence UK policy.

Richard really is an unsung hero of Wetland Conservation and presenting him with this Award in the 70th Anniversary year of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust is a fitting testament for his years of contribution to the cause.

Terry Smith

Terry Smith is the driving force behind the conservation of Moorend Spout, a wetland near Bristol which features areas of woodland, grasslands and a constantly flowing waterfall. It is a particularly valuable wildlife habitat providing a home to various species of birds, animals and insects, while it is of great importance to the local community.

Terry single-handedly drove the land purchase of the site, in order to safeguard its future, raising local awareness and working to secure funds along the way. He then galvanised local people and local authorities into working with him so that, not only is the site now owned by a conservation charity, it is also managed according to a professionally drawn-up management plan.

As a result of Terry’s efforts the site is now secure and its wonders can be enjoyed by people for a long time to come.

Oliver Randell and Susanna Geoghegan

Oliver and Susanna have led the development and management of an incredible diversity of wetland habitats into this former watercress farm at Batford Springs amidst the urban landscape of Harpenden.

This small wetland is fed by boreholes originally sunk to irrigate the watercress. Susanna and Oliver and the rest of the volunteers have worked to a management plan that they’ve developed with the local conservationists. The wetland is used by a diverse community of people, including the local residents, scouts, brownies, schools and people with disabilities.

It provides a variety of habitats for species, including River, Reedbed, Damp Woodland and Meadow. It also features a network of chalk streams which are fed from boreholes drilled down into the chalk layer beneath the Reserve, providing cool, fresh water for growing water cress commercially in days gone by.

Tony Moulin

Tony Moulin is Chair of Yatton and Congresbury Wildlife Action Group (YACWAG), which owns and manages land on the Strawberry Line/Biddle Street SSSI on the North Somerset Moors.

Tony has been the driving force in setting up this registered charity which has purchased various parcels of land as well as managing land owned by North Somerset Council.  He has worked very hard to get the local community involved in enjoying and understanding their local wetlands and not surprisingly this has led to a volunteer group of around 50 or so with 200 local members.

A lot of training has also been undertaken plus the arrangement of guided walks and talks for locals. Many people use the site Tony has established partnerships with young offenders groups.

Glenn Langler