October 2016 - Norfolk Wildlife Trusts 90th Birthday.
Waders at Cley, photo with thanks to Jenny Press
In 1912, the same year as the sinking of the Titanic, Charles Rothschild put his vision of saving places for nature into action, and instigated the formation of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves. This would later become the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, and signalled the beginning of UK nature conservation as we know it.
Independently in 1926 Doctor Sydney Long, together with 12 other naturalists and ornithologists, instigated the purchase of just over 400 acres of marsh at Cley for the sum of £5160. They created a Trust (the Norfolk Naturalists Trust, NNT, later to become Norfolk Wildlife Trust, NWT) and gave the marshes to it as a bird breeding sanctuary for all time. He thus established the organisation which is still thriving today with branches all over the country. It seems appropriate, that one of the greatest supporters of the NWT, David Attenborough, was born the same year that the NNT was founded. Although Cley was a reserve, shooting was still allowed over the land until 1964 when, under the Protection of Birds Act, Cley Marsh became a wildlife sanctuary. Over the years Norfolk Wildlife Trust has added over 50 reserves to its portfolio including those at Hickling, Holme, Ranworth and Weeting. It now has six thriving visitor centres, more than 70 staff, 1,000 volunteers and over 35,000 members served by eight branch groups.
The first ‘Watcher’ (warden as they are now known), appointed for Cley was Robert Bishop, later to be succeeded by his grandson ‘Billy’ in 1937. Billy was paid the enormous sum of £2 2s per week, which made him one of the highest paid workers in the area. Billy was warden at Cley for 40 years, even receiving a telegram for his outstanding service from His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. On retirement in 1978 he was succeeded by his son, Bernard, who is still warden at Cley to this day.
Currently there are 47 Wildlife Trusts in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Alderney all working towards saving the habitats of British wildlife, carrying out fundraising and education. Jointly the Trusts look after 2,300 nature reserves covering more than 90,000 hectares.
Norfolk is particularly wildlife rich, with many diverse habitats, and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust is extremely active in keeping it so, for future generations to enjoy. This is sometimes challenging given the scale of building developments and changing rural practices. If you want to know more about the Norfolk Wildlife Trust visit its website which has all up to date information.
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