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Volunteer awarded for being the eyes and ‘gears’ of the greenway

08 November 2017

Ever wondered who ensures our greenways are tidy and accessible? While statutory authorities across Northern Ireland have responsibility to look after them, there are also groups of mainly unsung guardians who are the eyes and ‘gears’ of the greenway.

One such guardian is Fred Rehill, from Newtownards, Co Down – winner of this year’s Sustrans Volunteer Award for Northern Ireland. Fred has been a volunteer for over a decade and is now Group Co-ordinator for volunteer rangers who look after the Comber Greenway, which is a 7 mile traffic-free route between Belfast and north Down.

As well as motivating his fellow volunteers to carry out activities to encourage wildlife and plants along the route, he organises monthly task days come rain or shine to help keep the Comber Greenway in top condition. Fred also rangers a section of route NCN 99, through scenic County Down, to ensure it is clearly signed for both walkers and people who cycle.

Rachael Ludlow-Williams, Sustrans Volunteer Co-ordinator in Northern Ireland congratulated Fred at an awards ceremony in east Belfast at the weekend.

“A volunteer since 2006, Fred is receiving this Sustrans Volunteer Award because of the role he has taken in leading the monthly activities with volunteers on the Comber Greenway,” Rachael said. “His leadership ensures the task days can go ahead each month, and his support inspires many volunteers to help maintain this popular shared path so that it’s enjoyable for all.”

Fred who plans to retire in a few years received his award to a cheer from the volunteers, aged 16 to 60+ who attended the awards ceremony.

“I am delighted to receive this award and appreciate that volunteering with Sustrans has a positive impact,” he said. “I’m also grateful to those who turned up to support the task days on the Comber Greenway each month throughout the year. It is very much appreciated.”

Fred was one of four awards acknowledging volunteers’ for their individual contribution and on behalf of their volunteer group.

This year’s Volunteer Group Award winner is Newtownabbey which has been active since 2012 and happens to be an all-male team that range the NCN routes along Belfast Loughshore and inland on NCN Route 93. The group live throughout the area from Carrickfergus to north Belfast and age from 40 to 70-years-old.

Presenting their award Rachael said: “This volunteer group are passionate about cycling particularly and consistent in their approach to volunteering with rangering their route and reporting to Sustrans. They have helped with surveys and reporting on development plans for new routes in the area. In the past they have supported staff in schools for Dr Bike activities. They have organised led rides and are always available to help at bigger led ride events.”

Sustrans are always keen to hear from anyone who is interested in volunteering. There are groups across Northern Ireland and various tasks from being a ranger to helping at events or office administrative work. To find out more go to www.sustrans.org.uk/northern-ireland/our-work-northern-ireland or contact Rachael Ludlow-Williams at rachael.ludlow-williams@sustrans.org.ukor tel: 028 90434569.

Photo: Sustrans volunteers, with Northern Ireland winner Fred Rehill on far left, celebrate their achievements in 2017