A Northumbria Police officer has been nominated for a national accolade in recognition of his efforts to protect an animal species in his community.
Mark Legard, who has been in the force for 14 years, found a passion for saving the red squirrel when he moved to Stannington four years ago.
In joining the congregation of St Mary’s Church, he discovered that the churchyard was home to a small population of red squirrels.
Parishioners and children from nearby Stannington First School, whose emblem is a red squirrel, are encouraged to report sightings and their interest has grown over the years.
He spends a lot of his spare time caring for Stannington’s red squirrels by monitoring the woodland they live in, supplementary feeding them and working closely with the local red squirrel ranger, landowners and farmers to identify areas where greys are present.
Mr Legard was delighted to hear that he had been nominated for the Red Squirrel Champion category of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust’s 2014 Volunteer Awards.
He added: “What we have achieved in Stannington shows that one person can really make a difference to the survival of the red squirrel and I would encourage anyone to contact their local red squirrel group and become a volunteer.”