Remembering Richard Waddingham – farmer and pond conservationist

Blog post by Helen Baczkowska on 17 Dec, 2020
When I started working at NWT, way back in 1999, one of the first County Wildlife Site owners I met was Richard Waddingham. We spent a sunny afternoon walking the ponds and woods on his North Norfolk farm and looking at meadow filled with wildflowers. At one point, we stood back from a hornet’s nest in a veteran oak tree – entranced, but at a safe distance.  

Our paths crossed many times in the following decades and so it was with great sadness that I heard of Richard’s death in November.   

Richard will be best remembered for his contribution to farmland pond contribution, earning his farm a long feature in British Wildlife magazine. During the last century, most farm ponds fell into decline, as they were no longer needed for watering livestock – some were filled in, but most were simply left to dry out, clogged with tree growth, leaves and silt. Richard revived the age-old practice of periodically dredging the ponds and cutting back bankside trees. As a result, his ponds hummed with life: great crested newts laid their eggs in the leaves of the plants that thrived in the open, sunlit water and dragonflies flew over the surface, while their young stalked their prey in the depths.
Richard Waddingham, by Carl Sayer

Richard Waddingham, by Carl Sayer



The ponds also attracted ecologists, including many academics studying pond ecology and those like myself, eager to see what lessons could be applied to ponds in other locations. Students studied the use of ponds by birds, the movement of the newts between farm ponds and the insect life of the water. Many species rely not just on one pond, but on a connected network of ponds, often with a mixture of sunny water and shaded. Richard’s farm was ideal for this study.

As awareness of ponds conservation grew and the Norfolk Pond Project was founded, training days for farmers and conservationists alike were held on Richard’s farm. He was always interested in what everyone had to contribute and generous in providing his dining room for a fine spread and tea – including his housekeeper’s impressive array of homemade cakes.

Richard’s interests in conservation went far beyond ponds. On that first day we met, he stood scratching the head of a cow he told me was well into her teens. She was worth keeping, although she no longer calved, because she would follow him around and the other cows would follow her. ‘Saves me spending time and money rounding them up’ he explained. With this knowledge of grazing animals, Richard was a valuable contributor to developing plans for grassland conservation in Norfolk. 

People with a deep knowledge of their land, of its wildlife and management, are few and far, so Richard will be missed in many ways. I will remember him as a quiet, gentle man of great wisdom and humility, whose legacy will live on in so many ways.
Share this

Latest Blog Posts

Identifying diving ducks Identifying diving ducks
by The Wildlife Trusts on 11 Jan, 2021
Wild verges Wild verges
by Sam Brown on 08 Dec, 2020
Thwaite Common bird box project Thwaite Common bird box pro...
by John Snape on 30 Nov, 2020
Jewels of the autumn Jewels of the autumn
by Ian Senior on 20 Nov, 2020
Walking again at Thorpe Marshes Walking again at Thorpe Mar...
by Chris Durdin on 06 Nov, 2020
Living with spiders Living with spiders
by Norfolk Wildlife Trust on 24 Oct, 2020
In praise of the humble briar In praise of the humble briar
by Robert Morgan on 30 Sep, 2020
Rockpooling at West Runton Rockpooling at West Runton
by Isabelle Mudge on 28 Sep, 2020
The secret world of fungi The secret world of fungi
by Norfolk Wildlife Trust on 18 Sep, 2020
White herons: A pleasure to see – a warning to heed White herons: A pleasure to...
by Robert Morgan on 17 Sep, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes – August Norwich Nature Notes – August
by Roger and Jenny Jones on 14 Sep, 2020
Help for hogs Help for hogs
by Helen Baczkowska on 31 Aug, 2020
The magic of Thompson Common The magic of Thompson Common
by Barry Madden on 29 Aug, 2020
The Great British Snake Off The Great British Snake Off
by Tom Hibbert on 24 Aug, 2020
Grazing goats Grazing goats
by Robert Morgan on 17 Aug, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes – July Norwich Nature Notes – July
by Roger and Jenny Jones on 04 Aug, 2020
Summer in the meadows Summer in the meadows
by Helen Baczkowska on 28 Jul, 2020
Search for the emperor Search for the emperor
by Barry Madden on 07 Jul, 2020
Corncrake at Thorpe Marshes Corncrake at Thorpe Marshes
by Chris Durdin on 29 Jun, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes – June Norwich Nature Notes – June
by Roger and Jenny Jones and Jon Shutes on 23 Jun, 2020
Blyth's reed warbler Blyth's reed warbler
by NWT on 12 Jun, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes – May Norwich Nature Notes – May
by Roger and Jenny Jones on 21 May, 2020
Thorpe Marshes: A refuge in lockdown Thorpe Marshes: A refuge in...
by Chris Durdin on 06 May, 2020
Random Acts of Wildness Random Acts of Wildness
by Helen Baczkowska on 04 May, 2020