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Ian Witham, of Edingthorpe, ten miles south-east of Cromer in Norfolk, is the third-ever winner of our rarely-presented Eversley Award for Outstanding Personal Endeavour.
The award is named after Lord Eversley, the distinguished founder of the society in 1865, and for many years its president and chairman. It is presented occasionally by the trustees to people who have typically given a lifetime’s service or undertaken long-term work, for the protection of commons, greens, paths, and public access.
Ian has served as the society’s local correspondent in Norfolk since 1999, initially for North Norfolk and then extending to the whole county. During that time, he has quietly and effectively worked for all the society’s interests—commons, greens, other open spaces, and public paths. He has saved paths from diversion and extinguishment, claimed many public paths, taken the council to court over a missing footbridge, rescued commons from encroachment, and won a new village green. He assists members in the county and, despite having paid employment, devotes much of his spare time to the society’s endeavours. He has no car and relies on the limited public transport from a Norfolk village to do his work.
Says Phil Wadey, our chairman: ‘Ian has had to stand up to a recalcitrant county council, in a predominantly rural area dominated by landowning interests and large estates. He always acts in a principled and pragmatic manner; he is not afraid to be a lone voice. He does not allow the criticism of others to deter him, and he courageously champions our cause in the face of opposition, but in a way which does not cause aggravation.
‘Those who enjoy public access in Norfolk have Ian to thank for making it a better experience. He is truly deserving of the Eversley Award.’
Responds Ian: ‘It has been an honour to work for Britain’s oldest national conservation body, here in the county that is so important to me, and I should like to thank everybody who has made that possible, over the years. I do hope to “keep a troshin”, as we say in Norfolk, as the need for the society’s work in the county is as great as ever.’
Phil presented the award, an engraved glass, to Ian at his home as Ian was unable to attend the society’s AGM in July where the award was announced.