Alongside the main retail categories of the Countryside Alliance Awards, we also run a Rural Hero Award. This is awarded to a character rather than an outfit, but the ethos is very much the same in that it is awarded to someone who loves the countryside and goes above and beyond the call of duty for its proserity and future. This year's finalists are community minded, intent on educating the next generation and genuine ambassadors for country life.
The hero finalists are introduced by citations from friends:
Michael Patrick Martin of Mallusk, Co. Antrim:
Michael is Vice-President of the Six Mile Water Trust and a committee member of the Antrim Angling Club and a member of the Mallusk Angling Society. He is active as a bailiff for both angling clubs. He is also on the board of the Ulster Angling Federation.
Michael has been instrumental, along with others, in setting up the Six Mile Water Trust. This Trust has been formed as a result of a disastrous pollution incident in June 2008 in an effort to try and protect the 26mile long river which runs through heavily populated and industrial areas of Co. Antrim. The Trust represents a wide range of people including local residentâ€™s groups, RSPB, environmental groups and water sport enthusiasts.
Michael is involved in an education program with local schools, teaching the importance of plant life and invertebrates in the river and how to introduce fingerling trout.
Along with other members of the Trust, M ichael has been instrumental in pushing for an adjournment debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly on the plight of the Six mile Water delivered by Danny Kinahan MLA. The Minister of Environment was present. The Trust has just recieved a commendation certificate from Tidy N.I. for its river cleanups in which Micheal is continuously involved.
He has written numerous articles and submitted photographs to magazines (including the Emerald Newsletter) and newspapers. His tireless work now means he has secured a good relationship with the media, giving him access to journalists and broadcasters to further his campaign to try and highlight the problems of our waterways and spread good news when possible.
He works closely with Government agencies, local councils and local businesses all in his quest to improve the river for the community and the associated flora and fauna.
He has lately undertaken training in water quality monitoring and aims to introduce invertebrate sampling through the length of the Six Mile Water,
When possible he takes a stand at exhibitions to educate the public and bring country sports to those who probably have little knowledge or understanding about them.
He is an avid fly-tyer, angler, dog-handler and shooter and makes himself available, whenever possible, to help in whatever capacity is requested to promote good practice and love of the countryside.
This is all as well as being in full-time employment.
His enthusiastic abiding interest, apart from family, is the countryside,and a huge commitment to the threatened Six Mile Water Valley.
His resolve, knowledge and quiet firm manner tempered with humour has meant that he has gained the respect and support of many, indeed including some companies who have in the past caused pollution to the river.
George Bowyer of the Fitzwilliam Hunt, Cambridgeshire
(George has recently stood down as a Master, but has left quite a legacy!)
George Bowyer is a rural hero. He was the person who first got me involved in hunting, welcoming me into the hunt and ensuring I was involved from the outset. He first came to the Fitzwilliam in 1999, just as hunting was entering what was arguably the most difficult period it had ever faced. Since the first moment he arrived he has been inspiring us to keep fighting and doing our utmost for hunting and the countryside. Always leading by example and never letting us rest on our laurels.
It would be very easy for him to focus solely on the work of the Fitzwilliam and claim he was too busy to do anything else as he works all hours to keep the hunt and its supporters on the straight and narrow, but he is highly active within the Countryside Alliance, particularly with the fund raising work of the Cambridgeshire committee – most recently riding in the inter-hunt gymkhana.
The current climate has necessitated a need for hunt masters to get to grips with political campaigning at constituency level. Something that George has been instrumental in. This would be enough to exhaust the most determined of persons, but George still finds time to cram in his educational role. He frequently arranges for a variety of packs of hounds to be on show at events across his region, including those not traditionally linked to the countryside. He assists Pony Club and Young Farmers branches where possible with tours and information on the work of the hunt. A more recent venture has been organising countryside days, where children from local schools get the chance to learn about and have first hand experience of farming, falconry and rural activities.
Youth and encouraging the future of hunting and rural communities has always been something that is important to George, he has arranged work experience for people looking to be involved in either estate management or hunting roles and at a more local level has been assisting in reforming the Young Hunt Supporters’ Club.
Yet no matter how busy he is with all these commitments he is always there to listen to the problems of other people and help them find a solution. Whether it is someone ranting about the frustrations of hunting or a shoulder to cry on for someone whose love life is in crisis, George will be there to help out.
George is a real star, who always seems to take all the flack when things go wrong, yet gets none of the praise when things are a success. This award would mean a lot not only to George, but also to everyone he has ever helped out or been inspired to work that bit harder for hunting because of his unswerving devotion and hard work.
Colin Fosberry, Kirkham, Lancashire
He is a member of Kirkham & Fylde Rural Lions club and does so much to help those less fortunate than himself. He is a real unsung hero and always puts everyone before himself even though he is disabled and suffers a great deal of pain. Colin is the manager of the Kirkham Lions charity shop which is open 6 days a week. Even as I am writing this he has been wrapping and filling shoe boxes for children overseas all evening. I could name so many things he does, including looking after another disabled man who has had a leg amputated through diabetes.