Volunteers honoured with awards

Volunteers honoured with awards

Some of the volunteers who help manage BBOWT's Dancersend reserve, including 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Judi Fisher (centre in blue jacket and red T-shirt).

A retired physicist and grandmother who has given more than 3,000 hours over nearly three decades volunteering with BBOWT has been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Judi Fisher has helped coordinate work parties, enabling hundreds of people carry out valuable conservation volunteering. Over the past two years she has devised new ways of working to keep groups safe during the pandemic – enabling them to continue getting all the mental and physical health benefits that working for wildlife brings.

Judi is one of the dozens of hardworking volunteers the Trust honoured at its annual volunteer awards at its AGM on October 9.

Estelle Bailey, Chief Executive of BBOWT, said:

"BBOWT’s volunteers have done some truly incredible work over the past year. At a time when so many of us were isolated and worried about going out, our volunteers stepped up to keep our nature reserves the first-class sites for wildlife that they have always been, to welcome visitors when the rules allowed, and to support each other the whole way through.

“We are lucky at BBOWT to have an incredible staff with expert knowledge, but we wouldn’t be able to do half of what we do without the hard work of our thousands of volunteers across our three counties, some of whom have been with us now for decades. We are so delighted to have this opportunity to say a special thank you to those people for their fantastic contribution.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

BBOWT Dancersend volunteer Judi Fisher, winner of a 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Trust.

BBOWT Dancersend volunteer Judi Fisher, winner of a 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Trust.

Judi Fisher, who lives with her husband Bryan in Amersham, started volunteering with BBOWT in the early 1990s when she joined the team who help look after the Trust's Dancersend nature reserve near Tring.

In 2002 the professional physicist and mum-of-two started helping to organise the work parties, and was soon acting as the main point of contact for more than 30 other regulars and sending out reminders and reports.

Now a grandmother aged 69, she also volunteers with the BBOWT Chilterns Group, working at least 14 hours a month for the Trust - but has given far more time than that during the pandemic.

Speaking about her award, Judi said:

“When I first got the email I thought ‘I don’t deserve that’. People who get Lifetime Achievement Awards have got so much more knowledge and expertise than I have - I struggle to remember the names of plants!

“But that kind of thinking can put people off volunteering because they think ‘I can't do that’, so it's good that people will realise you can be of help without having a vast amount of knowledge: we’ve all got our little slots that we can fill to help organise things.”

Dancersend Volunteer Warden Mick Jones, who nominated Judi for the Lifetime Achievement Award, said:

"I have come to rely on Judi handling communications and pastoral support for the group, and this partnership has sustained a very happy and effective group through subsequent years. Judi’s organisational skills, caring and supportive style have become one of the hallmarks of the Dancersend group and are highly praised by the volunteers, especially new recruits.

"Over the last two years she has been invaluable in holding the group together despite the constraints of the pandemic. Her warm and caring communications and willingness to give individual support during the lockdowns were commented on widely. The group holds her in great regard and I couldn’t manage the reserve without her."

Individual Achievement Awards

BBOWT volunteer Graham Breadmore, who helps look after Loddon Nature Reserve near Reading.

BBOWT volunteer Graham Breadmore, who helps look after Loddon Nature Reserve near Reading.

Graham Breadmore leads a weekly group of 15 volunteers at BBOWT's Loddon Nature Reserve near Reading, where he has led the renovation of an otter holt, replacing of boardwalks and engaging with the public. He is also a highly-respected member of the East Berks Field Team, going out once or twice a week to carry out important conservation work unsupervised.

Reserves Officer Emma Routledge, who nominated him, said: "Graham is dedicated, kind, helpful and goes above and beyond what is asked of him."

BBOWT volunteer David Owen, who works on the welcome desk at College Lake.

BBOWT volunteer David Owen, who works on the welcome desk at College Lake.

David Owen is a meet-and-greet volunteer at the Trust's College Lake reserve near Aylesbury, working more than 20 hours each week. During his time in post he has set up an email group for all volunteers to chat, swap shifts and share ideas, and set up a rota which he now manages.

Visitor Centre Manager Toyah Baulk, who nominated him, said: "David has volunteered over and above of what is required for a meet-and-greet volunteer: rain or shine, he is always there to greet visitors with a smile. I don't think College Lake would have been able to open so successfully and stay open during the pandemic without the commitment he has given us."

BBOWT volunteer Jane Hicks, who helps run the reception desk at the Nature Discovery Centre.

BBOWT volunteer Jane Hicks, who helps run the reception desk at the Nature Discovery Centre.

Jane Hicks joined BBOWT's Nature Discovery Centre (NDC) in Thatcham as a volunteer in 2019 to help run a Christmas pop-up shop, which she then managed over numerous busy weekends with minimal support. She was the first volunteer to return to the centre after lockdown and now mans the reception desk.

NDC Manager Jo Thrussell, who nominated her, said: "Jane is engaging and welcoming to all visitors, taking time to share her love of the centre and helping them gain the best experience during their visit. She is always willing to give a helping hand to all staff and readily takes new volunteers under her wing."

BBOWT volunteer Tony Croft at Whitecross Green Wood which he helps maintain.

BBOWT volunteer Tony Croft at Whitecross Green Wood which he helps maintain.

Tony Croft leads a volunteer conservation work party at BBOWT's Whitecross Green Wood just south of Bicester, whose work is key to managing the site. He has personally mown grassy 'rides' and roped off wildflower areas to protect habitat for rare butterflies, and even surveys the butterfly population.

Upper Ray Reserves Officer Chloe Bradford, who nominated Tony, said: "Tony should win this award as he is a devoted asset to the BBOWT team, without him a lot of the work we do at Whitecross Green wood would not go so smoothly or be possible at all. His love and passion for the site is contagious, and he truly deserves to be celebrated."

BBOWT volunteer Clive Dalzell, a member of the North Bucks Wednesday Field Team based at Meadow Farm near Bicester.

BBOWT volunteer Clive Dalzell, a member of the North Bucks Wednesday Field Team based at Meadow Farm near Bicester.

Clive Dalzell is a valued member of the North Bucks Wednesday Field Team based at Meadow Farm near Bicester - part of the Upper Ray Meadows, and also leads monthly work parties at Finemere Wood and Calvert Jubilee reserves. A specialist in tractors, Clive has earned a reputation for servicing and repairing trust vehicles.

Reserves Officer Pete Bray, who nominated Clive, said: "Clive should win this award as his contribution deserves to be celebrated. He is sadly leaving the team at the end of the year, moving on to pastures new, and so this would be a fantastic way to finish off his time with us, and help us show our appreciation for everything he has done."

Group Achievement Awards

Some of the volunteers from BBOWT's West Berks Field Team. Picture: Ade Wallington

Some of the volunteers from BBOWT's West Berks Field Team. Picture: Ade Wallington

The East Berkshire Field Team, based at the Trust's Woolley Firs Environmental Education Centre, have been doing valuable conservation work since 2018. The group carry out a wide variety of work including scrub bashing, installing and repairing fences, meadow cutting and raking, ride clearance, weed control, brush cutting paths, coppicing and hedgelaying. They specialise particularly in technical work such as boardwalk repairs and construction, installing steps and maintaining bridges. The West Berkshire Field Team, also founded in 2018, currently has just four members working one or two days a week, but continues to make an important difference, particularly in site improvements at the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham.

Berkshire Land Manager Roger Stace, who nominated both teams, said: "They do a wonderful job and we wouldn’t get half as much achieved without them, they are a great bunch and have a vast amount of expertise that they put into practice when working with us." 

Some of BBOWT's Teen Rangers at the Nature Discovery Centre with volunteer group leader Ellie Townsend.

Some of BBOWT's Teen Rangers at the Nature Discovery Centre with volunteer group leader Ellie Townsend.

Teen Ranger Education Volunteers Hayley Crouch and Ellie Townsend have been volunteering at the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham for several years, working three days a month while also doing full-time jobs elsewhere. Both joined before Covid to help run sessions on-site, but during the pandemic they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to move the sessions online, researching and preparing scientific presentations on subjects ranging from dragonflies to citizen science.

Senior Education Officer Claire McClafferty, who nominated them, said: "Without these ladies, the sessions would not be as vibrant and creative.  Both of them are an inspiration to the teens who attend their sessions and show that contribution to the natural world can exist in a busy life."

Wild Trax project

Tring School extended learning day visit to College Lake nature reserve. Photo by Ric Mellis

BBOWT's College Lake Education Volunteers help run all educational events at the Bucks reserve, including school visits from around 3,500 pupils each year, 22 annual Nature Tots sessions for toddlers and regular family workshops and trails. The 10 regular members have experiences ranging from two years to more than a decade, and typically volunteer for two days every week, as well as preparing activities at home.

Education Manager Claire Garrity, who nominated the group, said: "This team is a wonderful group of people. Without them we wouldn’t be able to deliver to the numbers of children that we do, or offer such a variety of experiences for the children and families that are engaged by our education work."