The beautiful landscapes of Wales and the wildlife that lives within them benefit greatly from the efforts of volunteers, who give up their time collect litter, chop back scrub and carry out a myriad of other tasks. The Pride of Gwent Awards’ ‘Environment’ category recognises these unsung heroes, says Sue Bradley, who meets the 2019 winner.

RICHARD Evans’ mission to make and put up nesting boxes isn’t just helping wildlife in Wales, but inspiring others to follow his example both in the UK and the world.

The army veteran’s interest in conservation dates back to his childhood, when he used to make the wooden structures with his carpenter father.

“I can still remember going back to one of the boxes and seeing some eggs in it: that was me smitten for life,” he explains.


A period of convalescence following a road accident led Mr Evans to revive his carpentry skills, and in 2009 he founded ‘Project Nestbox’, through which he’s seeking to increase numbers of birds, hedgehogs, dormice and bats.

Over the past 11 years he’s made thousands of boxes at his home in Pontypool, both on behalf of conservation organisations and to put up himself at a variety of sites, most of which lie between Torfaen and Monmouthshire.

Alongside his practical work, Mr Evans has visited several schools over the years to talk to children about wildlife, birds and the environment in an effort to enthuse new generations to take care of the natural world around them.

“Working with young people and children is a part of my project I really enjoy,” he explains. “If I can get them interested, and, like me, hooked for life, then hopefully we could encourage the next Iolo Williams.

“My talks cover local bird life and wildlife that are in trouble, along with the risks from pollution and plastic.

“This year’s lockdown has meant I haven’t been able to go out to talk to young people, which is frustrating, but I’m encouraged by the number of schools that have been in touch to ask if I could come and speak to their students once we’re past the pandemic.”

Mr Evans is particularly keen to encourage greater numbers of declining species, such as barn owls, redstarts and pied flycatchers.

“When I started in 2009 I was thrilled to get my first pied flycatcher nest,” he says. “Last year I managed to attract 40 pairs, along with six pairs of redstarts and three of barn owls, all in Gwent.

“My goal is to get into double figures for barn owls. I’m particularly keen to talk to farmers who are interested in encouraging more wildlife on their land.”

Mr Evans’ work, which he showcases on a website and Facebook, has encouraged others to follow his lead, including a conservationist in Newent and a man called Pedja in Brazil.

For Mr Evans, who served in the army for four and a half years, building bird boxes acts as a kind of therapy to help him cope with his ongoing problems with Crohn’s Disease and Colitis and to keep his mental health on an even keel.

“Project Nestbox has saved me, if I’m honest,” he says. “It’s kept me going.”

Top cop's message of thanks to Gwent residents

GWENT Police is joining forces with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent to sponsor the community hero category at this year’s Pride of Gwent Awards. Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Ian Roberts has this message for readers of the South Wales Argus.

South Wales Argus:

Ian Roberts

“Thank you - that’s our message to people who live or work in Gwent who have worked with us to keep Wales safe during this most challenging of years.

"During the first lockdown, when Gwent was one of the UK hotspots, our officers worked hard to make sure that their community understood the restrictions and were grateful for the positive response most people provided.

"Most individuals were reassured by our presence and role in protecting them.

"As crime levels have returned to their usual levels, we are working to make sure that we keep our communities safe on all fronts. We continue to prevent and solve the crimes we see in our area, while working with our partners to encourage or enforce the regulations in place to keep us all as safe as possible during this pandemic.

"We have used policing during a pandemic not to issue enforcement notices as our main task, but to use our engagement to tackle the criminal behaviours we identify - to remove uninsured or unsafe vehicles and to confiscate drugs or stolen goods.

"We have also provided advice and support to local businesses with our local authority partners to ensure that they can safely operate during these strange times.

"Protecting those most at risk has been a priority and we have continued to tackle issues such as drugs supply, domestic violence and protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities throughout the pandemic.

"With a rapidly changing situation we understand that it can be confusing keeping up with changing restrictions.

"We will continue to work to engage, educate and encourage our communities to follow the guidance.

"We understand that this can be frustrating as we change the way we live.

"However, some actions have consistently been unacceptable and we will continue to enforce the regulations where a small number of individuals wilfully ignore them.

"We are proud to be part of the Pride of Gwent Awards. We see on a daily basis just how much there is to be proud of in our area and in some of the great people who support us in keeping Gwent safe.”

South Wales Argus: