[Jim Wright-Smith, ancient woodland restoration project officer] 
The Ancient Woodland Restoration Project is a UK-wide project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aimed primarily at getting owners of ancient woodlands to help them understand the value of their woodlands, why they're under threat and hopefully encourage them to bring them back into a more natural state. 

I nominated Hilary Hinks for the Oak Award because to me she is an outstanding volunteer who exemplifies everything that we are trying to achieve with volunteers. She's done amazing heritage research. She’s been researching various woodlands in the area, their history, engaging with the woodland owners about that, but she’s gone above and beyond that. 

[Hilary Hinks, volunteer heritage researcher] 
The heritage researcher role ties in with the work that the project officers do and the idea of the heritage researcher is that they will actually look into the history of the woodland and make them even more interested in trying to maintain and keep the woodland going for future generations.  

Brickhurst Wood, I wonder what they might have made there and lo, when you look on the old maps there's brick works all around the woodland, and suddenly you start to begin to sort of weave a story. 

She's worked with other partners that we've engaged with on the project like the Small Woods Association; David Brown, he's also a woodland archaeologist. She's working with him at the moment to survey the archaeology of these woodlands as well. 

Further than that, she's actually been out and interviewed a local chap called Tony Warburton about his experiences. The footage from that was so good we've now produced a podcast out of it. 

When I listened back to the first two hours I thought, wow, this is just unbelievable. This podcast is a direct result of having spoken to someone, making a snippet of it that everybody can listen to so it can be disseminated out to the wider public. Because so much information and history and fascinating facts (have been) gathered, we need to do something with it. 

I was so into this interviewing and talking to people that Kath said to me, well come up to the project officer conference in Scotland and interview all the project officers. So, I did that. So it’s been, it’s been fantastic. 

Hilary's work will have a long-lasting impact on the community here. A lot of the heritage is hidden. It's been lost, you know, and so by talking to people like Tony Warburton, she’s unlocked that for prosperity. 

I just want to say, thank you very much Woodland Trust for the opportunity, because I have done so many different things. It’s as much about what’s below the surface as on top of it, so there’s plenty of interest. It’s just about engaging with people really, otherwise they just don’t know. 

You know, looking back into the past can help inform you about the present but also can shape the future too. 

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