Taking a trip down memory lane

Saturday 12th May 2012

Bill Oddie OBE cpt All Electric Productions

Unique stories and shared experiences are being sought by The Wildlife Trusts, as they celebrate their centenary.

It will be 100 years, on Wednesday 16 May, since founder Charles Rothschild set up the society which has become The Wildlife Trusts.

The Wildlife Trusts hope the sharing of memories - at events on Saturday 19 May and Sunday 20 May - will bring alive the social and environmental histories of their oldest and most notable nature reserves. 

Some will have been selected by founder Charles Rothschild in his original 1915 list of places ‘worthy of preservation’.  Rothschild saw the importance of saving places if wildlife was to be safeguarded: now a well recognised idea but radical at the time.

Everyone is being encouraged to reminisce about their time spent at Wildlife Trust nature reserves: who they were with, why they went, what they saw and what the place means to them.  Contribute to the story of these places by sharing photographs and observations, perhaps even imagine how they might change in the future. 

The Norfolk Marshes hold special memories for Bill Oddie OBE, birdwatcher, broadcaster and Vice President of The Wildlife Trusts, who remembers:

“The north Norfolk marshes were the first place I went on a birding holiday when I was 14.  I have been going there nearly every year for the rest of my life.  The area has changed, but very much for the better.  Back in the 1950s, a lot of the reed beds were inaccessible and birdwatchers could literally been thrown out!  Look at it now.  Pathways, hides, scrapes, islands, more and more reeds and more birds.  And a lot more birdwatchers!”

Bill Oddie also remembers his first visit to Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Hauxley nature reserve.  He said:

“My first visit to Hauxley was in late June.  The Warden was a botanist, I was into birds.  We made a bargain: I'll show you the birds, I said, if you show me the flowers!  We spent ten minutes in a hide and the rest of the day crawling around on our hands and knees with him showing me the different families, leaf shapes and petal arrangements.  By evening, I was hooked on wildflowers. I still am.”

The Wildlife Trusts’ ‘Our History’ events take place on Saturday 19 May and Sunday 20 May 2012.  See if there are events near you by visiting wildlifetrusts.org/whats-on/history. 

A number of events will screen The Wildlife Trusts’ hour-long documentary about the history of the movement, featuring former Presidents Professor Aubrey Manning and Sir David Attenborough.  To help jog people’s memories, a 16 minute version is available to watch online from today (Saturday 12 May) at wildlifetrusts.org/100.

Simon King OBE, The Wildlife Trusts’ President, said: 

“Over the past 100 years, we have seen phenomenal changes take place in the UK.  The spark of Rothschild’s idea – to protect special places for nature – took a while to kindle.  The spark then grew and ensured a locally-based nature conservation movement that, 100 years on, has blossomed into one of the most significant in the world.”

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: 

“The history of the first 284 places chosen as being special for nature in 1915 is truly fascinating.  We’re keen to share it.  We’re also keen to build on our knowledge of what has happened to these places since as well as to other nature reserves.  History is all around us, not least in the living memories and experiences of the people who live nearby.  Through sharing first-hand accounts, we’ll be able to learn so much more about how saving these places has changed peoples lives for the better.”

By evening, I was hooked on wildflowers. I still am.

Fascinating historic documents, including maps, letters and survey forms, relating to Rothschild’s extraordinary first comprehensive review of UK’s wildlife sites will be available as an interactive archive.  Each of the 284 sites known as ‘Rothschild Reserves’ - selected by Charles Rothschild in 1915 has its own page.  Visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/100 to view the interactive online archive from Wednesday 16 May.

Tagged with: Centenary & anniversaries