To celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2018, we put our volunteers under the spotlight in a project to capture their voices to tell our story and how they helped Worcestershire Wildlife Trust to become what it is today.
With help from volunteers, Worcestershire-based oral history consultant Julia Letts interviewed a range of volunteers from those who volunteered in our earliest days to some of our most recent recruits. Their interviews reflect our history, our work and the strong bonds that many of our volunteers have with the Trust.
The Trust has always been a volunteer organisation; our first member of staff wasn't appointed until 1974. Whilst our staff numbers have increased over the years, we still have ten volunteers for every member of staff. Our 50th anniversary provided the perfect opportunity to try and capture our story through the voices of our volunteers and we are grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the funding that allowed this project to go ahead.
We have 36 wonderful interviewees, over 40 hours of recordings, that not only cover the history of the Trust but which also contain fascinating (and often amusing) tales about our people, our reserves and our wildlife.
I got involved in a lot of things when I retired...gradually I've stopped doing a lot of these...the last thing I will ever give up is this.Reception volunteer
Listen to our volunteers...
Below are clips from each of our interviewees and a 38 minute story of the Trust's history, introduced by the Trust's Chair of Trustees, David Mortiboys, and narrated by Julia with a selection of clips from the interviews. You'll find stories from volunteers who were there at the beginning, who have joined the Trust more recently as well as three members of staff who talk about different aspects of our history.
The story of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust
50 years of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust
Discover more about 50 years of the Trust's history.
Harry Green - Trust Council member and volunteer for 50 years
Harry Green has been involved with the Trust from the beginning. He joined the Trust’s Council in 1969, served as its Chairman from 1983 to 1993 and is still an extremely active Council member, involved in every aspect of the Trust’s work.
Jenny Green, Colin Raven and Poppy Morris talk about Harry
Almost everyone we interviewed for our 50th anniversary project wanted to say something about Harry’s contribution to the Trust. Listen to three of them...
Harry's inspiring biology teacher, Arnold Darlington
Harry’s love of wildlife goes back to his childhood in Oxfordshire and school days in the Cotswolds. His main inspiration was a biology teacher called Arnold Darlington, who later joined the Trust’s Council.
How the Trust secured funding for Windmill Hill
Over 50 years Harry has been instrumental in acquiring reserves for the Trust. He is dedicated and tenacious, never put off by things like a lack of funds. Here he describes how we secured Windmill Hill in South East Worcestershire.
Rita Armstrong - Wyre Forest Local Group sales and fundraising
Rita Armstrong has raised an amazing amount of money for the Trust from running stalls at local events for nearly 30 years. Rita joined the Trust in the early 1980s after seeing an advert for her local group in the Wyre Forest. Soon after joining, she took on the sales role and spent many hours - in all weathers - selling Trust items and promoting the cause.
Fundraising in stormy Stourport
In this extract, Rita recalls a particularly stormy day in Stourport.
Peter Doncaster - family owned The Knapp
Peter Doncaster grew up at the Knapp, which was donated by his parents Hugh and Shiva Doncaster to the Trust in 1968. It was the perfect place to grow up with a garden and orchard bordering the stream, and woods and meadows beyond, now all part of The Knapp and Papermill nature reserve.
Growing up at The Knapp
If you visit the reserve today, imagine what it was like in the 1950s when Peter was growing up there. Today a neat path leads you up to the house and visitor’s centre. It looks nothing like it did when Peter’s family first moved in.
Chris Doncaster - Wildlife Watch leader
Chris Doncaster took her children along to Wyre Forest Watch group in the early 90s and never left! When Rosemary Winnall stood down, Chris became the group leader and has been in charge ever since. She also runs other environmental courses for the Trust, working with both children to adults.
Chris talks about finding a rare fungi
After nearly thirty years of running Watch sessions, nothing delights Chris more than running into her old students and finding that they’ve gone into careers in science or conservation. In this extract, two girls made an unexpected discovery that got them into the local papers.
John McGregor Smith - birdwatcher and hide builder
John Mcgregor Smith joined the Trust in the late seventies when his wife Jennie was working as the first administrative assistant. For four decades John has been bird watching at Upton Warren and still goes every fortnight with a friend. He lists avocets, water rail, Cetti warblers and red kites as his favourite sightings.
Building a bird hide at Upton Warren
40 years ago, Andrew Fraser, the Trust’s Conservation Officer, asked John if he would build a bird hide at the reserve. In this extract, John explains what happened when Andrew came to inspect his handiwork.
Jennie McGregor Smith - the Trust's second member of staff
Jennie Mcgregor Smith was the Trust’s second member of staff. In 1976 she was employed as a part time Administrative Assistant, joining the Trust’s only other paid person, Conservation Officer Andrew Fraser. Their first offices were in ‘a shed’ at Avoncroft Arts in Bromsgrove.
Jennie plays tribute to Andrew Fraser
Jenny is the only person who can tell us what it was like to work for the Trust in the very early days as tragically Andrew Fraser passed away in his prime. In this extract, Jenny explains how she was recruited by Trust founder Christopher Cadbury and she pays tribute to Andrew.
Brian Boaler - a member of the founding committee
Brian Boaler was the first minute secretary of the Worcestershire Nature Conservation Trust and witnessed the signing of the document that created the Trust in March 1968. At the time he was a Forest Officer for Redditch Development Corporation and he and his wife Brenda were active volunteers at Ipsley Alders Marsh nature reserve.
Brian talks about the other founding members
Brian is the only one of the original Council members of the Trust who is still alive. He recalls sitting through debates about breaking away from West Midlands Trust and talks fondly of the seven founding members who signed the original Memorandum of Association.
Ray Bishop - volunteer and artist
Ray Bishop has been volunteering for the Trust for more than 40 years. He first got involved with the Marsh Warbler Group in the 1970s. In 1976 he joined the newly formed Malvern Local Group, later serving as its chairman for 17 years.
From an early age, Ray discovered two major passions in life; nature and art. He’s put both to good effect for the Trust, creating hundreds of wildlife illustrations for newsletters, posters and publications.
Ray reflects on the effect that belonging to the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust has had on his life
Ray talks about egg collecting as a young boy
His love of nature started at a young age with egg collecting. On one occasion, his skill as an artist came in very useful too.
Tessa Carrick - education volunteer and Council member
Tessa Carrick’s contribution to the Trust has been enormous. She has been volunteering for 40 years, originally in education and more recently as a trustee. A science teacher by training, Tessa has helped out with everything from Wildlife Watch groups to adult education courses. She’s shaped policy, written books and played key roles in purchasing nature reserves and developing Lower Smite Farm.
Amongst many claims to fame, Tessa has been interviewed by a toad on live TV and has had a pond named after her.
Tessa recalls happy memories of teaching in a flower-rich meadow at Avoncroft
Bob Gillmor - volunteer and trustee
Bob Gillmor moved to Pershore from London in the mid 1980s and soon discovered Tiddesley Wood. This led to a 30 year involvement with the Trust, firstly as a hands-on volunteer on work parties - scrub bashing, making fires and planting trees - and then as a trustee.
Bob recalls the construction of the Gwen Finch Reserve, a wetland habitat for otters
The impact of the Trust on Bob's life
Over the years Bob has got involved in many activities including the Tiddesley Wood open days and log sales. He’s been a council member for nearly two decades and reflects here on the impact the Trust has had on his life.
Jenny Green - volunteer and craft fair organiser
Jenny is married to Harry Green, who has been at the heart of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust for the past 50 years.
Organising country fairs
Over the years Jenny has done a huge amount of organising and fundraising herself, including running a series of huge Country Fairs. These started in the early 1980s and raised many thousands of pounds. Jenny’s job was to select and book all the arts and crafts people and fill a 200ft marquee.
Enthusiasm for nature?
Harry’s enthusiasm for nature didn’t always rub off on Jenny and the rest of the family. In this extract she recalls a summer trip to the Wash.
Cecil Lambourne - founding member
Cecil Lambourne ran a successful metal-working business in Birmingham making things like buckles and clips. His real passion was ornithology and he was a member of several local bird and wildlife groups. He was also one of our founding members, enabling the ‘Worcestershire Nature Conservation Trust' to break away from the West Midlands Trust for Nature Conservation in 1968.
Memories of Cecil
Cecil was completely dedicated to the cause. As his son-in-law David said at our Founder’s Day, ‘Cecil had an extraordinary passion for conservation’. Carole, Cecil’s daughter, also recorded memories of her father who invented a bird ring for penguins.
Christopher Cadbury - founding member
Christopher Cadbury was not only one of our founding members but also instrumental in creating the organisation that became the national Wildlife Trusts. He was a dedicated conservationist, a man of vision and energy, able and willing to pull strings, and exceedingly generous with his time and money. The lodge building to Christopher’s home at Beaconwood became the Trust’s offices in our early days.
Memories of Christopher
On our Founders’ Day, Christopher’s cousin Clare Norton said his love of nature came from childhood. Jenny Green also recalls her memories of him.
Norman Hickin - founding member
Norman Hickin was one of the original founders of the Trust and a world expert on the caddisfly. He trained as an entomologist and worked for Rentokil but liked to spend his spare time in his cottage in the Wyre Forest, exploring, investigating, drawing and collecting things. He was a great supporter of the Trust for many years.
Memories of Norman
At our Founders’ Day, Norman’s daughter Sari recalled a camping trip with her father. She found a caddisfly larva in her tent, which her father identified as an extremely rare terrestrial species Enorcycla Pusilla not seen in Wyre since the 19th century. In this extract Sari’s fondly remembers her father.
Through Watch we have three people who have gone on to study ecology or biology at university...it has been great to know we are helping people for the future and there will be people to come after us.Wildlife Watch leader
Gordon Simmons - founder member
Gordon Simmons was one of the Trust’s earliest members. His daughter Fiona describes him as a ‘committed naturalist’ with enthusiasm for everything to do with nature. His particular area of expertise within the Trust was education. He taught trainee teachers at the Worcester College of Higher Education and often took his students to the Trust’s nature reserve at The Knapp and Papermill, giving many a lifelong love of nature.
Memories of Gordon
On our Founders Day, his daughter Fiona recorded her memories of a very special father.
Bill Wells - founder
Bill Wells was a salesman at Cadbury’s and despite living quite a long way away, he was persuaded by Christopher Cadbury to join the Worcestershire trust in its very early days. His daughter Deborah says Bill was a great organiser and remained very proud of his association with the Trust.
Memories of Bill
Bill was the first Honorary Secretary and Harry Green recalls pleasing him greatly by recruiting a whole load of new members.
Garth Lowe - volunteer warden at The Knapp
Garth Lowe grew up opposite one of the Trust’s first nature reserves, The Knapp and Papermill. In those days, Knapp House and orchards were owned by the Doncaster family and Garth spent many hours exploring the woods and meadows with the Doncaster children. In 1968 Hugh and Shiva Doncaster gave the Knapp to the Trust and in the 1970s Garth was appointed volunteer warden.
A special spot at The Knapp
Garth knows The Knapp like the back of his hand. He has spent years walking up and down the reserve, recording wildlife and monitoring species, particularly bird, bats and butterflies. One summer was spent carefully watching a badger family. Here Garth describes one particularly special spot.
Gordon Forrest - volunteer and writer
Gordon Forrest became a member of the Trust in the mid 1970s and has been an active volunteer and supporter for the last 40 years. From childhood Gordon always had an interest in wildlife and photography and he has shared his enthusiasm and knowledge generously through talks and publications; he’s written eight books.
Gordon's friendship with Fred Fincher
Gordon became great friends with the Worcestershire naturalist and Trust founder Fred Fincher. Fred was an inspiration and mentor to Gordon. In this extract, Gordon talks about Fred’s favourite bird and a very poignant moment at Fred’s funeral.
Geoff Trevis - volunteer and trustee
Geoff Trevis has spent the last four decades devoting his free time to the Trust. He’s done a lot of everything from working on reserves to visiting schools, sitting on committees, talking to farmers, representing the Trust at national level and managing the Trust’s nature reserve Feckenham Wylde Moor.
One of the things Geoff is most proud of is saving Worcestershire Biological Records Centre, an organisation set up to collect data on the county’s wildlife. Geoff rescued WBRC from the back room of a charity shop and brought it into the Trust’s fold.
After 40 years of volunteering for the Trust, Geoff is still busy. Currently he’s creating an atlas on Worcestershire’s bumblebees.
Establishing Feckenham Wylde Moor
John Hodson - long-serving staff member and volunteer
John Hodson has been part of the Trust since the 1970s when he joined the group monitoring Marsh Warblers on the River Avon. A decade later John took on the job of supervisor of the young people on the Community Programme, a government scheme to give people paid work experience.
John is still supervising volunteers three decades later, doing practical conservation work at many of the Trust’s reserves every week.
The Trust's offices at Hanbury Road
A vivid memory from this time is the state of the Trust’s offices on the Hanbury Road when he first started working there.
Oli Goldfinch - volunteer
Oli Goldfinch has had several roles at the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. When he first retired from teaching, he took on running craft fairs for several years, helping raise much-needed funds for the Trust. Then he moved on to birdfood sales, running this operation for nine years.
These days Oli can be found twice a week on the reception desk at Lower Smite Farm. He loves his role and says it’s the last thing he’ll give up.
What volunteering means to Oli
Brett Westwood - radio broadcaster and volunteer
Brett Westwood has had a long association with the Trust, both as a volunteer and as a radio broadcaster. He was involved in the production of the book ‘The Nature of Worcestershire’ for the Trust’s 25th anniversary in 1993. Throughout the 90s, Brett made regular radio reports about the Trust’s work for BBC Hereford and Worcester and more recently for Radio 4.
The plight of marsh warblers
Brett recalls one particularly exciting broadcast.
The joy of heathlands
Brett is currently the Trust’s Wildlife Champion for the acquisition of Dropping Well Farm near Kidderminster.
Andy Graham - otter officer
Andy Graham has had several posts with the Trust but his first was as the River Severn Otter Project Officer in 1995. As well as promoting the otter, improving habitats, building about 50 artificial holts and working with land owners to prevent river pollution, Andy was involved in the creation of a new reserve for otters on the River Avon.
Creating otter habitat at Gwen Finch Wetland Reserve
Mike Williams - volunteer
Saving Grafton Woods
In the late 1990s, when Grafton Wood was sold by the Croome Estate, the two organisations joined forces to buy this too. Mike, who volunteers for both, says it’s now one of the best butterfly woods in the West Midlands.
Linda Butler - volunteer and Council chair
Linda Butler joined the Trust in the early 1980s after going bird watching at Upton Warren. However, it was her professional skills (as a librarian) that brought her onto committees and Council, where she worked tirelessly for years on the structure and governance of the Trust and on recruitment and membership.
Audio 1 min 16 secs
Linda became our Chairman in 2008 and has represented the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust at national level in many ways, including on the board of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.
Becoming a trustee
Linda recalls how fellow volunteer Tessa Carrick set her on a path she would never have imagined.
Neil Devey - Worcestershire Conservation Volunteer
Neil Devey spent most Sundays between 1981 and 2014 doing practical work on nature reserves around Worcestershire. He was part of a group called the Worcestershire Conservation Volunteers set up by the Trust in the mid 1970s but run as a separate entity. Tasks involved coppicing, tree felling, hedge laying, building stiles and clearing paths.
Neil visits Upton Warren
Neil is also a birdwatcher and first got involved with the Trust after an inspiring tour of Upton Warren by Arthur Jacobs. On another occasion, Neil recalls going out on a boat on the Moors Pool with Conservation Officer Andrew Fraser.
Harry Green has his face painted
Neil is probably the only person who has ever persuaded Harry Green to have his face painted...
Mary Bendall - Wildlife Watch leader
Mary Bendall volunteers with Wyre Forest Watch group. She got involved after taking her own children there many years ago and being inspired by the hands on approach. As well as being a Watch leader, Mary is also involved in other aspects of environmental education with the Trust, including school sessions at Lower Smite Farm.
The impact of Wildlife Watch on children
Emma Wurmli - staff member and WATCH volunteer
Emma Wurmli is our Volunteer Development Officer but like many other members of staff, she started with us as a volunteer. After moving to Worcester from the southwest, and with a background in environmental education, Emma jumped at the chance to get involved with the Worcester Wildlife Watch group based at Lower Smite Farm.
Working with children
Poppy Morris - volunteer and Council member
There can’t be many volunteers like Poppy. She has been involved with Worcestershire Wildlife Trust all her life, greatly influenced by her father John Baskeyfield, her neighbour John Meiklejohn and their family friend Harry Green. Poppy joined work parties as a child, did school work experience at the Trust, volunteered when a student, was an active member of the Worcester Local Group and is now a Council member.
Tiddesley Wood Open Days past and present
The Trust's impact
Poppy has a personal and poignant message to Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.
Helen Woodman - long-standing member of staff
Helen Woodman has been working at the Trust since 1991 when she joined as a Reserves Officer.
Helen was particularly interested in the ambition of the Trust, the size of its nature reserves and its vision for woodland management.
The purchase of Hollybed Farm Meadows
Helen has seen the Trust change and develop over 25 years. She cites the creation of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Trust’s success in getting £1.3 million for a five-year Reserves Restoration Project as a major turning point. Another area of great importance for her is the Trust’s focus on conserving Worcestershire’s unimproved grassland. Here she tells the story of one acquisition at Hollybed Farm Meadows.
Colin Raven - Director
Colin Raven has been the Trust’s Director since 1995 but he joined the organisation in 1987 as Conservation Officer. In those early years, he and his wife lived at The Knapp and Papermill, where they were also reserve wardens. One of Colin’s early successes was the acquisition and move to Lower Smite Farm, a huge step up from the original HQ on the Hanbury Road.
The Loo Brush Award
Colin recalls the 1988 annual Wildlife Trust Conservation Awards.
The people of the Trust
Looking back on more than 40 years with the Trust, Colin says that it’s all about people – volunteers, staff, experts, members, partners – all play their part in looking after Worcestershire’s nature.
I am very proud to be part of the Trust now and, I think, sharing my enthusiasm with other people is just a small token and a small way of trying to get the message across, and if other people can do the same for now and the next 50 years, it will be absolutely amazing.