Spectrum Housing Group’s Green Army, the volunteer arm of the housing association’s Natural Wight project, has been awarded the Merlin Trophy at this year’s Best Kept Village Awards.
The Merlin Trophy is awarded each year by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE IW) to an individual or organisation in recognition of their contribution to conservation on the Isle of Wight. Natural Wight’s Green Army are all young volunteers aged between 16 to 25, many of whom are not in work or education or who are in supported accommodation at Spectrum’s Foyer or Southern Housing Group. The volunteers undertake conservation tasks around the Island under the supervision of groups such as the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and the IW Council’s Countryside Ranger.
The project has been running for over 3 years totalling hundreds of volunteer hours and helping with conservation Island-wide, from Fort Victoria to Sandown. The Green Army’s young people’s walk is now a regular event in the Isle of Wight Walking Festival.
Green Army volunteer Cory Cruse, aged 23, accepted the Award from CPRE Chairman John Langley and High Sheriff, Claire Locke, on behalf of the team. He explained:
“Working with Green Army over the last year means I have learnt practical outdoor skills and made new friends – it’s been brilliant for my CV too. It’s also opened up other opportunities, introducing me, and my family, to new places and outdoor activities such as Under the Pier. I’m quite proud of my reputation for working non-stop no matter what – although I’ve been stuck in mud a fair bit – one pair of my wellies are still out there somewhere!”
The CPRE have been great supporters of the Green Army, sponsoring kit such as waders and fleeces. The bronze statue of this small bird of prey, the Merlin, was crafted by an Island artist and will take pride of place in Spectrum’s Lugley House until 2015.
Photographed L-R: Green Army helper Mark Cox, MC Enhancement, Ross Cosgrove, Kody Rolfe, Claire Hector, Green Army steering group advisor Ian Boyd, Arc. Front L-R: Sam Richardson, Jacob Curliss and Cory Cruse