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  • Writer's pictureWatlington Climate Action Group

High Sheriff's Climate Action Heroes Awards.

High Sheriff - Climate Action Heroes Awards Ceremony

21st February 2022

Held at The Oxford Trust, Stansfeld Park, Quarry Road, Headington, Oxford, OX8 8SB

We spent a great morning at the High Sheriff's Climate Action Heroes Awards ceremony this week. It felt very meaningful to have our group’s work is recognised in the presence of dignitaries and councillors and to celebrate the impressive achievements of other award winners. The High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, Imam Monawar Hussain, is a warm and friendly person, and he made us feel very welcome and appreciated. This was, he informed us, his last event as High Sheriff (the appointment only lasts a year), but he expressed interest in ongoing participation in Climate Action activity in his other role of Queen’s Deputy Lieutenant for Oxfordshire.

In a ‘reverse order of the day’, we were proud to present the High Sheriff with a gift of his own: a WCAG tree foster scheme oak sapling and an envelope containing some examples of our projects. These included a small bottle of hedgerow pigments made by Jules Bishop representing our collaboration with researchers at Oxford University on the STORC project (Science Together Oxford Researchers and Communities), the Watercourses Discovery Trail booklet, the Green Plan summary and the Community Energy poster. The High Sheriff said that it was the first time that he had received an 'award' in this role.

There was a broad range of groups represented at the ceremony, and it was clear that conservation action is widespread, possibly because it is slightly easier to implement and to attract volunteers. There are some truly inspiring projects taking place in our County: from car-sharing schemes (sharing your own car!) and farming education projects to community gardens, fridges and larders to reduce food waste. It was also great to see awards presented for carbon footprint reducing efforts made in the education and science sectors, namely Oxford University (Dunn School Green Group) and Oxford University Hospital (Orthotics Team). However, while the business sector did not receive any awards here, we are sure efforts are being made there too, though nominations may not have been made or been successful.

Link to a small video done by Maryam Hussain

We felt that our group distinguished itself by its high level of partnership with local artists and community groups, and its communication beyond our Parish (e.g. via The Hedgerow Project, Sharing Pigments and Chalgrove Brook films). Given the size of our small town, we have a large and committed core team that pushes the boundaries, such as asking young people to design and carry out street surveys and write blogs.

We were also awarded a £500 prize grant which we now have to decide how to spend!

After the ceremony, we mingled with everyone else. The desire to share information and enthusiasm was palpable. In fact, very unique! It was great to network with other group members, learn more about their achievements and we came away with a wealth of exciting ideas to take forward with our group. We hope to invite some of these groups to present to us, and to visit others to see how they are making their projects work.

Whilst the main purpose of the event was to present awards, we would have loved to see more interaction and knowledge sharing between the awardees and Oxfordshire County Council, as it was a unique opportunity to make this happen. It was inspiring to see just how much is being done ‘from the ground up’ by volunteers, and that was just the award winners. It would be good to know about the work being done by all nominees, not just those who were successful in winning an award. We would have also welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the Council’s work to address the climate emergency and discuss with them how groups like ours might work together with them to achieve more across our County.

We were extremely honoured to be asked to represent the group. It was a shame that numbers were limited to two per group due to covid, as it would have been great for more of our members, particularly those who have been involved with climate action for many years, to be able to attend as well.

When Sophie returned to work that afternoon, her boss asked her about the ceremony, how our group functions, and our achievements so far. She was extremely impressed and went as far as saying that her company could take some inspiration from it. She also wanted to know who leads us! So well done to Nicola Schafer, our chairperson.

Watlington Climate Action Group was nominated for this award by Terry Jackson as a personal individual, Ian Hill and Matt Reid as members of the Watlington Parish Council and Councillor Freddie Van Mierlo, all of whom we thank warmly.

Sophie Nelson & Andrea Brewer

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