Brendan Joyce at Roydon Common (credit Matthew Usher / Eastern Daily Press)

Our former leader, Brendan Joyce OBE

Thursday 04 January, 2024

Everyone at Norfolk Wildlife Trust is deeply saddened to hear of the death of former Chief Executive Brendan Joyce OBE.

Brendan rose quickly through the ranks at the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, becoming National Director of Programmes prior to joining Norfolk Wildlife Trust as CEO in 1995.

He served as Chief Executive for twenty-three years – from 1995 to 2018. It is no exaggeration to say that Brendan towers over NWT’s story, having been at the helm for over a fifth of our long history. He contributed as much as anyone – since our founder Dr Sydney Long – to our ambition, growth and development. In recognition of this, he was awarded the Christopher Cadbury Medal in 2011 and an OBE for services to nature conservation in 2017.

 Brendan Joyce receives an OBE, November 2017

Many projects and initiatives were conceived and led by Brendan, and to name but a few:

  • Securing the Future, an ambitious five-year project – enabled by the Heritage Lottery Fund – which saw habitat restored and visitor access enhanced on twenty-six nature reserves, plus the reintroduction of conservation grazing, with traditional livestock, on many of our sites.
  • The purchase and landscape-scale restoration of Grimston Warren, and other sites adjacent to Roydon Common, and the creation of the Tony Hallatt memorial nature reserve, among others.
  • The purchase of Bewick House as NWT headquarters.
  • The significant expansion, over several years, of Upton Broad and Marshes and the reversion of former agricultural land there to wet grazing marsh for breeding waders, wintering waterfowl, rare Broadland flora and invertebrates.
  • The construction of a state-of-the-art visitor centre at Cley and Salthouse Marshes and the subsequent major expansion of the reserve and creation of the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre.
  • Creating and nurturing a significant partnership with the Environment Agency resulting in the creation of extensive wetlands along the River Wissey in the Fens, at Potter Heigham and NWT Hickling Broad as habitat for bitterns, marsh harriers, bearded tits, cranes and other reedbed birds and in mitigation for the eventual loss of freshwater marshes along the Norfolk coast to sea level rise.
  • The acquisition, by management agreement, of Thorpe Marshes, NWT’s first urban nature reserve.
  • The celebration of our 90th anniversary in 2016, including multiple events, publications and broadcasts.
  • The purchase of the majority of Hickling Broad and its shoreline, which had previously been leased to us, securing its future for nature conservation and for the enjoyment and education of the people of Norfolk.

This list alone is testament to the huge amount that Brendan contributed to NWT, but is far from a full reflection of his tireless ambition for the wildlife of Norfolk, nor of the relationships he built with an entire generation of trustees, volunteers, reserve wardens, staff members, funding bodies, donors, landowners and fellow conservationists, all of whom will hold his memory dear, all of whom are grateful for his legacy to the wildlife, people and natural environment of Norfolk and beyond.

Cley Marshes Visitor Centre and Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre (credit Richard Osbourne)

In due course we will communicate further on our great debt of gratitude to Brendan Joyce OBE, for all he achieved during his long service at Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Our thoughts are with his family and friends and with all who knew and admired him.

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