National park award for Dartmoor Derek

Derek Collins of the Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA) has won National Parks UK’s Individual Volunteer of the Year award.

Derek receives award

Derek receives his award

Derek has been a volunteer with the DPA since 2004.  He has worked on a range of projects, including bracken management, removal of vegetation around ancient scheduled monuments, and the mucky work of clearing Dartmoor leats.  No job is too difficult for him and he carries out all these tasks with a great sense of humour.  The DPA conservation volunteers are a happy team.

dm-volunteer-derek-collins

Derek in the Devonport Leat on Roborough Down

Derek has also adopted the role of looking after the volunteer group’s conservation work tools, ensuring that they are clean and sharp ready for the next outing.  He counts them out and he counts them in, and woe betide anyone who loses one.  Derek has attended virtually every conservation work party since 2004—around 50 each year.

DSC_0146

Derek leads the way with the gate.

In 2016 he led the initiative to buy a DPA wagon to carry tools and volunteers to the various sites, and it has proved a great success.

Apy wagon

The DPA’s vehicle for volunteers

Derek is also a trustee of the DPA and voluntary warden of its hay meadows at Pudsham Down near Widecombe-in-the-Moor.

When asked what volunteering gave to him, Derek told of the first time he took a young carers’ group out in the Dartmoor National Park—many of them had never been on the moor before.  At the end of that day the group had made friends as well as discovering new experiences in the outdoors.  He enjoys seeing how the national park’s landscape can give so much to people who are not familiar with it.

P7 pic

Volunteers on the DPA’s land at High House Waste, resting on a rock known as ‘the sofa’. Derek is at the back on the left.

An enthusiastic communicator about the benefits of volunteering, Derek dedicates many hours to recruiting volunteers and is always willing to spend time encouraging them, and explaining how their efforts will contribute to the well-being of the national park and, in particular, to the community of Princetown where he lives.

Solve a problem
Derek can be relied upon to solve a problem.  I wrote here of the bridge he made across the River Strane for the DPA walk on 3 September.  Without that bridge we would not have been able to dedicate the gate at Swincombe to the late Geoff Sayer that day.

Bridge
Bridge constructed by Derek Collins and his family

Derek and the DPA volunteers visit my land at Common Wood twice a year to clear the vegetation for butterflies.  It was Derek who came up with the idea of a windrow, made of hazel branches interwoven with gorse, brambles and bracken, to create a hedge and avoid having to burn the brash on the site.

8 windrow

Windrow at Common Wood, designed by Derek

A tireless advocate for the national park, to visitors and residents alike, Derek is a familiar figure at the shows on Dartmoor, manning the DPA stand, encouraging sales and recruiting new members and volunteers.  His sales pitch is hard to resist.

Chagford show

Phil Hutt, Sylvia Hamilton and Derek at Chagford show

Congratulating him on his award, Phil Hutt, Director of the DPA said: ‘This recognition is richly deserved.  Derek’s dedication, enthusiasm and leadership have made a massive contribution to the DPA and its mission of helping to protect and conserve Dartmoor.

‘The amount of work which Derek carries out would be impressive for a person of any age.  It is even more so considering that, in August this year, Derek celebrated his 80th birthday.  He did so by promoting the DPA at its stand at Lustleigh show—and he shows no signs of slowing down!’

No one could be more deserving of the award.  Well done Derek!

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About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
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