A project to arrest the decline in traditional rural skills in the Lake District has won this year’s prestigious Campaign for National Parks Park Protector Award, sponsored by Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust.
The project, led by the Lake District National Park Authority, has been addressing a nationally identified skills shortage in the Lakes. It has helped train 12 apprentices and 30 new volunteers in skills such as dry-stone walling, habitat conservation, forestry, lime mortaring and upland stone pitching.
Fell Futures has a 100 per cent track record of getting apprentices into employment with 90 per cent working in Cumbria. The initiative has seen 5,350 days committed by apprentices, volunteers and members of the public, delivering practical heritage projects valued at £260,000.
Fell Futures will receive a cheque for £2,000 at a parliamentary reception taking place in Westminster on 21 October.
Fiona Howie, Campaign for National Parks Chief Executive, said she was delighted Fell Futures had won this year’s award.
“We had a number of superb nominations this year but this project stood out as a fantastic success story for the Lake District National Park. The work this project delivers in terms of providing opportunities for local people to learn traditional skills is vital and their track record of getting 100 per cent of people who have been trained into employment in the sector speaks volumes about the quality of the training and the apprentices who participate.
“Traditional skills have shaped the character of all of our National Parks and it is wonderful to hear about this successful project that has made a difference to the lives of those involved but will also help manage and shape the Lake District now and in the future.”
Annette Cotter, Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust Trustee and Ramblers Worldwide Holidays Chair, said she was impressed by how the project was making a real difference to people’s lives locally: “We are really pleased that Fell Futures is raising traditional skills in the Lake District and also providing local jobs for local people.
“The scheme is also teaching apprentices about rights of way maintenance and installation including gates, stiles and waymarking and bridge building, which is great news for our walkers taking part in holidays across the Lake District,” she added
Two of the Fell Futures apprentices said the project had had a real impact on their lives, giving them qualifications and hands-on experience. John Buckland, Level 2 Fell Futures apprentice said: “Starting this apprenticeship has so far, been the best decision I have made regarding my career path. It has opened up many new opportunities for me which otherwise I would not have been able to gain – for example improving on a wide range of practical skills that led to me achieving an assortment of qualifications.
“The Fell Futures Apprenticeship is a great opportunity for people who want to follow a career into the countryside. And where better to do so than in the Lake District National Park.”
Mike MacInnes, Level 2 Fell Futures apprentice, said he had started working as an apprentice for the Lake District National Park Authority in April 2014: “Seventeen months later I now have a massive skills set, which ranges from rights of way surveying, furniture maintenance and installation to river bank restoration work. Working for the National Park has given me the opportunity, not only to strengthen existing skills but also to learn more.
“The apprenticeship means a lot to me because it has made a huge difference to my life. Not only has it pushed me to move away from home and given me the chance to stand on my own two feet, but it’s also given me the chance to meet new people and do a job that I love. I think apprenticeships are a fantastic way to get your foot in the door, especially if it is centred around a hands-on job such as mine.”
The apprentices have been able to work with a range of partnership organisations including the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission, helping them undertake new tasks which they wouldn’t normally do at the National Park, such as learning about timber felling and production.