Cheshire's Woman of the Year 2017 has been named.
Honorary conservation officer of Wirral Wildlife Dr Hilary Ash has won the accolade, after being nominated for her outstanding contribution to the natural environment, especially in relation to the founding and running of New Ferry Butterfly Park.
Wirral Wildlife is a local group of the trust run completely by volunteers, taking action for wildlife on the Wirral.
She was presented her award at a special lunch on Wednesday, March 29.
Hilary has been living in Bromborough, on the Wirral since 1982, after studying botany at Oxford University and undertaking a PhD at Liverpool University.
Her research topic, investigating the way native plants grow on industrial waste sites, was to prove very useful when she became involved in Wirral Wildlife and during her career as a botanist, doing surveys, management plans and habitat creation in urban areas.
She has now been honorary conservation officer for Wirral Wildlife, advising community groups, local authorities, and individual landowners for over 30 years. Another key project for Hilary has been New Ferry Butterfly Park, set on a Cheshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve.
The site has been transformed from a derelict railway goods yard into a thriving community park centred on invertebrates, with a strong educational and people-facing focus.
Hilary says: “I became involved with Wirral Wildlife as a way of continuing to use my botanical skills. I have always worked as part of an active group and this award is as much an honour for everyone involved as it is for me. The number of visitors to New Ferry Butterfly Park has grown and grown over the years and reached 2,500 last year!”
The award has been recognising worthy women since 1984 and has raised more than £280,000 over the last 30 years to help children across Cheshire and on the Wirral.
The award gives recognition to women from all walks of life who have shown personal courage, achieved outstanding professional success or given services to their local community.
Area manager at Cheshire Wildlife Trust Sarah Bennett said: “We were thrilled to hear that Hilary had won Cheshire Woman of the Year 2017.
“She has been instrumental to the success of New Ferry Butterfly Park. Her passion for wildlife and plants has also helped the Trust to undertake its conservation work on the Wirral through Wirral Wildlife, enthusing others to join in too. A well-deserved winner!”
Cheshire Wildlife Trust has a further six nature reserves on the Wirral including Red Rocks on the coast at West Kirby/Hoylake and Cleaver Heath in Heswall.
This month sees the annual New Ferry Butterfly Park Open Day take place on Sunday, April 30 from 11am until 4pm.
This fun day marks the start of the season for the park, with wildlife stalls, BBQ, face painting, pond-dipping and a plant sale.
The park is then open to the public on Sunday afternoons from May to September 2017.
It is a family-friendly site which offers a number of activities for children to get close to and learn all about pollinators.
Wildflowers are a mass during the spring and summer helping to attract the 26 different species of butterfly which have been recorded at the park.