Cumbrian naturalist, conservationist and local historian Sir Martin Holdgate CB, current President of Friends of the Lake District, has been awarded the Churchill Award for science and environment for 2017.

The Churchill Awards, founded six years ago by Churchill Retirement Living in partnership with the Daily Telegraph, celebrate the outstanding achievements of those aged over 65 across all sectors of British society. The most recent winners were announced at a ceremony in London on Thursday 1 February 2018.  Dame Esther Rantzen DBE chaired the judging panel, which included other well-known figures such as Dame Jacqueline Wilson DBE (literature), David Courtney (popular music), Humphrey Ocean (art), and Lawrie McMenemy (sport).

Other winners this year included businessman and inventor Sir James Dyson, Cumbrian writer and broadcaster Lord Melvyn Bragg, musician Sir James Galway, broadcaster Moira Stewart OBE, politician Baroness Joan Bakewell DBE and world-famous naturalist and television presenter Sir David Attenborough OM CH FRS. 

Sir Martin Holdgate, who was nominated for the award by science writer Geoffrey Lean, has had a lifelong concern for nature and the environment.  Inspired by childhood holidays in the Westmorland Dales, he has been a University lecturer in zoology, leader of expeditions to remote southern islands, served as Chief Biologist of the British Antarctic Survey, written the first international agreement on Antarctic conservation, been Chief Scientist in the UK Department of the Environment and served as Director General of IUCN – the World Conservation Union.  In so-called retirement he has been joint Chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, President of the Zoological Society of London and also President of the Windermere-based Freshwater Biological Association. 

Today, at 87, Sir Martin remains active as President of the Friends of the Lake District and Vice-President of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, and continues to do research on local history and ecology in Cumbria where he and his wife now live.

Responding to the Award, Sir Martin said:

“I regard it as a privilege and blessing to be still able at the age of 87 to contribute to the care of our precious environment. I am delighted to be able to help protect one of Britain’s most famous, beautiful and diverse landscapes.

“This award will encourage me to go on working for Cumbria for as long as I can set one foot before the other – even if those feet are no longer capable of taking me up to the highest summits!”