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Celebrating 50th Anniversary of wildlife charities special meeting

Friday 11th March

Celebrating 50th Anniversary of wildlife charities special meeting

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust was formed in 1963. The group, now the largest locally based conservation charity in the county, was largely formed due to the need to save wildlife habitats at Attenborough Gravel Pits, south of Nottingham, from damaging development. However, concern for protecting local wildlife areas from damage and destruction stretched across the county and on Thursday March 10th 1966 a public meeting (the first of a series of meetings to publicise the work of the Trust) was held at Retford Library to encourage the formation of a network of local groups to help further the cause of wildlife conservation.

In time this led to the formation of the Trust’s North Notts (Retford) Group – the Trust’s first.

The meeting included the showing of a a short film by local Member Ralph Paulger. Ralph’s films would go on to become a regular feature of Wildlife Trust meetings for years to come. Ralph worked at a company known as Ferro Stone and Concrete based on Chainbridge Lane which now runs through the centre of the Idle Valley Reserve!

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust now has eight local groups across Nottinghamshire and activities range from organising events such as walks and talks, very much in-keeping with the spirit of that first meeting (by quirk of fate the Retford Group held its latest public meeting, a talk on orchids, on the anniversary – March 10th), to fundraising, assisting with management of local nature reserves and supporting local conservation initiatives and helping to monitor threats posed to wildlife areas by development.

The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has a long history of activity and support in the Retford area and many of its finest nature reserves can be found close to the town. Eaton, Gamston and Treswell Woods are amongst the best ancient woodland sites in the region and Misson Carr, a former bombing range, is of national importance with its mix of wet woodland and grassland habitats. The Idle Valley Nature Reserve, now accessed via the splendid Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre, is by far the charity’s largest site and is increasingly being recognised as a site of regional and national importance.

However, the establishment of these reserves didn’t happen overnight or come without a fight. Treswell Wood, the first site purchased by the charity in 1972 was purchased after a public appeal for support and the Trust’s efforts to save both the Misson and Idle Valley sites stretched over more than two decades before they finally became nature reserves – safeguarded for wildlife and local people.

The Trust’s network of Local Groups helps to highlight the fact that the charity is nothing without its people. Its supporters give it its strength, drive and local knowledge and we have been blessed with a number of key characters in the Retford areas. Some, such as local teacher Eirlys Gilbert, one of the organisers of the first meeting – helped to save Ashton’s Meadow with its wealth of wild flowers from the plough and Tim Bowles who so ably served as Chairman of the Local Group played a leading role on many Trust committees over many years are sadly no longer with us. However, people such as Derick Scott, the current Chairman of the Local Group continue to inspire people with their knowledge of and passion for wildlife and Tony Kennedy who has played a central role in the management of Treswell wood and other local reserves for decades. The group members make a massive contribution to the work of wildlife conservation and the Trusts work locally. Along with a growing number of passionate local volunteers and committee members they continue the long tradition of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust activity in the Retford area.

The Wildlife Trust opened an office in Retford in 2001 and this has now moved to the Idle Valley Rural Learning Centre. The Trust also manages its county-wide conservation grazing programme from its base at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve.

It’s been a successful 50 years and with continued support it will hopefully take wildlife conservation on for another 50 years and beyond in Nottinghamshire.

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