THE National Trust has launched a search for the unsung heroes looking after our green spaces, in memory of the organisation’s Wisbech-born founder – social reformer Octavia Hill.

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A nationwide competition is being run in association with Countryfile magazine to find people and groups dedicated to protecting and championing natural spaces, just as Octavia had done when she helped found the trust in 1895.

Nominations in four categories – natural hero, green space guardians, people’s champion and the “love places” award – will be judged by a panel of experts before being put to a public vote online.

The natural hero category looks for an exceptional individual who has devoted time and energy to protecting green spaces, and who has inspired communities to do the same.

The green space guardians section recognises groups and organisations which have championed and promoted green spaces and places.

The people’s champion highlights the work of someone in the public eye to inspire people to enjoy and protect the outdoors.

And the “love places” award is specifically for National Trust volunteers, individuals or groups, who have helped local communities benefit from their open spaces and gone beyond the call of duty.

Helen Timbrell, volunteering and community involvement director at the National Trust, is part of the judging panel. She said: “Most of the special places we all love are dependent on the commitment and passion of volunteers

“These awards are all about recognising that energy and showing that the legacy and spirit of Octavia Hill is alive and well in how we value our green places as a nation.”

The panel of judges for the 2013 Octavia Hill Awards also includes Countryfile presenter Julia Bradbury, Countryfile Magazine editor Fergus Collins, and Grahame Hindes, chief executive of Octavia Housing

Mr Collins said: “It’s fantastic to be involved with these awards, which recognise the tremendous hard work that so many communities and individuals put in to protect the green spaces that are essential to our wellbeing.”

Born in Wisbech in 1838, Octavia Hill dedicated her life to social reform and campaigning to save green spaces for public use.

With Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Rawnsley, she helped found the National Trust in 1895 to preserve historic buildings and natural beauty “for ever, for everyone”.

She died on August 13, 1912, and her life and work is documented in the museum at Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House on South Brink in Wisbech.

For more information on the awards and how to nominate people or organisations, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/octaviaawards. The closing date for nominations is February 28.

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