St Albans volunteer awarded for environmental work

Andrew Steele.

Andrew Steele. - Credit: Judith Parry

A volunteer at Heartwood Forest in St Albans has received a prestigious award for his efforts from the Woodland Trust.

Andrew Steele at the volunteer awards.

Andrew Steele at the volunteer awards. - Credit: Judith Parry

Andrew Steele has been named volunteer of the year for his work inspiring other people to get involved with woods and the environment. He was given the “Acorn Award” as one of ten accolades given at a volunteer awards ceremony at Belton Woods, Grantham.

Since 2010, Andrew, who lives in St Albans, has walked a 90 minute route around Heartwood Forest once a week, collecting vital information on the site’s species. His findings have fuelled publications from Herts Naturalist and the annual publication of the Hertfordshire Natural History Society.

As well as collecting data, Andrew takes pictures of the forest and hosts walking tours. The Trust wanted to particularly recognise his achievement in recording 27 butterfly species, showing that butterfly numbers in Heartwood Forest have increased threefold since 2010.

Judith Parry, a Woodland Trust volunteer photographer who nominated Andrew for the award, said: “Between April and September Andrew visits Heartwood every week, identifying and counting the butterflies he sees.

“It’s people like Andrew that really represent what the Woodland Trust stands for and that’s hard work and dedication for our woodlands.”

The awards ceremony was hosted by the BBC’s Adam Shaw, and awards were presented by Woodland Trust chair of trustees Baroness Barbara Young.

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Baroness Young said: “These awards are all about celebrating the exceptional work our volunteers do all over the UK. From social media sharers to tree health surveyors - there is so much going on out there for the Trust and this ceremony absolutely highlighted that.”

The winners were selected from more than 2,600 volunteers based around the UK.

Andrew said: “Volunteering at Heartwood has been an incredible journey for me. I’m doing what I love by monitoring the butterflies and other insects in an area that hosts so much wildlife.

“I enjoy the countryside and it’s a fantastic feeling to get recognition for the work I’ve done.”