Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Wildlife in Trust

This is a massive book (it weighs over four pounds) – in natural history terms the same as an osprey, commemorating a hundred years of conservation, a history of the Wildlife Trusts. A history which commenced in 1912 (see Natur Cymru 43, pp 6-10) with the formation of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (SPNR). In 1915 the fledgling Society published a map of ‘sites worthy of preservation’, 182 in all. Eighteen of these were in Wales, but there were some notable omissions such as Skomer, which had been a private nature reserve since about 1900.

The 199 page history section is followed by 391 pages devoted to the forty-seven Trusts, from Alderney to Yorkshire. The individual accounts vary slightly in length; in Wales between six pages for Gwent and ten for South and West Wales. Each begins with a full-page illustration and includes a map showing the location of the Trust nature reserves. Text and photographs follow the same broad theme: a brief description of the Trust area and its establishment and history, and including appropriate tributes to the many honorary officers and other volunteers who pioneered the way before paid staff became the norm.

Some amazing highlights are revealed like the £1 million legacy from Bermuda to the Brecknock Trust. Montgomeryshire, one of the youngest, having been formed in 1981 when it declared independence from the North Wales Trust, was blessed with a similar amount from a hardly known member. Radnorshire, which split off from Hereford in 1987, is the smallest Trust in Wales and shortly after its independence purchased the 383 acre Gilfach Farm. The success of West Wales in raising funds to purchase Skomer in 1958 and Skokholm, which it had leased since 1948, in 2006 continued its long history of involvement with islands, for it leased Cardigan Island in 1944, subsequently purchasing it in 1963.

The third part of the book, some 161 pages long, is a reference section. Of trust personalities and pioneers, sadly, Ronald Lockley, who was so involved in West Wales for over 30 years, has slipped through the net. This section covers campaigns, medals and mergers and much else. A photograph of the Kite Committee in 1964 has William Condry incorrectly described as the founder of the West Wales Trust.

The author and all those who have played a part in bringing this vast book to fruition are to be congratulated, but is there not a sense of over-kill? I fear few readers in Wales will wish to read about, say, the Derbyshire Trust or that in Hertfordshire and Middlesex, any more than readers in those counties will wish to read about Radnor or South and West Wales. Might not a book using the first and third sections and leaving out the individual trusts have a wider appeal? The price would be that much less, not forgetting the weight.

This review written by David Saunders was published in the winter edition of Natur Cymru.

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