Growing up as the son of a vicar, my childhood was spent living in old rectories, which meant I was usually lucky enough to have a big garden to run around and explore in. It was in those gardens that I became fascinated by birds and wildlife, an interest which grew as I got older. In my teens, I took up coarse fishing – and although I never caught much to speak of, I definitely enjoyed being out in the open air and passing my time sitting on a riverbank.
A degree in Environmental Science at the University of East Anglia followed on from my early outdoor pursuits and after graduating I navigated my way through a number of charity admin and finance jobs, before joining the London Wildlife Trust as Head of Finance and Support Services in 1992. After nine years in London, I came to join the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust where, amongst other things, we work in partnership with Anglian Water to manage the Rutland Water Nature Reserve (RWNR).
Rutland Water Nature Reserve – success through partnerships…
It’s the largest of the nature reserves managed by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust (LRWT) and provides one of the most important wildfowl sanctuaries in Great Britain, regularly holding in excess of 20,000 waterfowl. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, designated as a European Special Protection Area and internationally recognised as a globally important wetland Ramsar site – truly a premier wildlife attraction.
RWNR occupies shoreline and shallow water lagoons along nine miles of the western end of Rutland Water reservoir and covers a total area of 1,000 acres. It was created in the 1970s with the construction of the reservoir and has been managed by LRWT from inception working in partnership with Anglian Water.
At the Wildlife Trust, we’re rightly proud of our long-standing collaboration with Anglian Water to manage the reserve, and the completion of the major Rutland Water habitats project early in 2011 underlined the strength and success of this partnership. The project extended the nature reserve by a further 240 acres, an expansion that saw the creation of nine new lagoons comprising extensive shallow water, snaking islands and wet marginal habitats. These provide optimum conditions for wildlife and ensure it is resilient to management changes required to support growth in the region.
750,000 people can’t be wrong…
I’m always amazed by the variety in ages, backgrounds and interests of people who come to the reservoir and nature reserve – around 750,000 visit each year, demonstrating its enormous value to local people and tourists alike! Over 80,000 of these visitors drop in to the two visitor centres operated by LRWT, which provide interpretation and displays, plus professional and volunteer experts available for advice and help with wildlife information and identification.
The extended Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre at Egleton was officially opened by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on 28 June 2001. The Centre offers interactive environmental displays, a viewing gallery and an excellent schools service, plus LRWT shop and In Focus optical shop.
The Lyndon Visitor Centre, on the south shore of the Nature Reserve, was opened by Sir David Attenborough in 1985, and offers our first-time visitors (as well as birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts) the opportunity to experience a rich variety of wildlife at this peaceful spot. In 2008 the Centre underwent extensive refurbishment and the installation of a ‘Weather and Wildlife’ exhibition, which explores the impact of weather systems and climate change on humans and wildlife.
The Rutland Osprey project…
One of the things I most enjoy about my job is the opportunity to make a real difference in establishing new reserves, developing existing ones and creating new habitats. Rutland Water nature reserve is home to the successful Rutland Osprey Project. The project is a partnership between the Wildlife Trust and Anglian Water, and in 2001 we celebrated the first osprey chick to fledge in central England for 150 years. The ospreys are a huge public draw with some 30,000 visitors coming between April and August each year to view these magnificent fish-eating hawks. Currently, five pairs of ospreys breed in and around Rutland Water and are regularly seen fishing over the reservoir.
Some 400 volunteers are regularly involved in helping the Trust to manage RWNR, and we estimate that they contribute around 33,000 hours of their own time every year, demonstrating just how keen people are to engage with their natural heritage and share it with others. Harnessing this amazing volunteer effort is one of the ways we make Anglian Water’s financial support go as far as possible.
Volunteers at Rutland Water come from all age groups and abilities and I can’t stress enough how important each and every individual is. Volunteering is core to LRWT’s management philosophy – it’s about making sure that our volunteers are not only actively encouraged and supported, but also provide key elements of management and delivery.
Working indoors or outdoors, day or night, on the nature reserve or elsewhere, there are literally hundreds of people who contribute to the running of RWNR – and derive enormous pleasure, satisfaction and fulfilment from what they do.
Later this year LRWT will be launching a Volunteer Training Centre project at Rutland. This will construct a new – and much needed – fit for purpose facility, to support and train volunteers and staff in heritage and countryside skills essential to manage Rutland Water Nature Reserve. This is a Heritage Lottery Fund project that couldn’t have happened without the support of Anglian Water.
A bright future
It’s nearly 40 years since the creation of Rutland Water Nature Reserve and we’re very proud of all that has been achieved at this very inspiring and special place. The success is down to individuals and organisations working together to protect and enhance wildlife and engage people with their local environment. These partnerships provide a solid foundation for the future.
For more information on the work of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and how you can get involved check out www.lrwt.org.uk