Stars of Norfolk, photo Denise Bradley, Eastern Daily Press

Longstanding volunteer wins Lifetime Achievement Award at Stars of Norfolk

Thursday 06 December, 2018

Longstanding volunteer, Barry Watkins and his wife Claire (postumously) have won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the EDP Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards last night, in recognition of an astonishing 40 years of volunteering.

The Awards were created by Mick and Ros Parker as a way of thanking those who work for their communities, often without recognition.

Barry recently received Life Membership of Norfolk WIldlife Trust. One of the reasons behind Barry’s resignation as volunteer warden was to care for his wife, Claire. She sadly passed away in September, but in accepting his Life Membership, Barry recognises her unwavering contribution: “Most of my altruistic actions have been the result of her encouragement and support.”

Anne Edwards of the Wymondham Nature Group writes below on why he was so deserving.

“It never rains on a winter Sunday afternoon in Ashwellthorpe”

Over the years Barry’s cheery optimism has kept many a conservation volunteer going through the wettest and coldest of coppicing weather. Barry started volunteering with Wymondham Nature Group (WyNG) soon after moving to Ashwellthorpe in 1976.

Barry Watkins, volunteerHe became volunteer warden for Lower Wood, Ashwellthorpe when NWT acquired the reserve back in March 1992. As a keen supporter of WyNG, he became known as “our man in Ashwellthorpe”, a role that hasn’t been without its difficulties.

In the early days, there were neighbour access disputes to contend with and Barry’s garden became a car park, a temporary arrangement that was to last the next 18 years. Our coppicing tools were housed in Barry’s draughty goat trailer and we trundled our gear over his lawn and into the wood.

The conservation season began with ride mowing, a job that always fell to Barry and his nemesis – an ancient reciprocating cutter nicknamed “The Beast”. Rattling, groaning and exploding, the pair disappeared into the undergrowth but could be guaranteed to reappear by three o’clock, when Barry would inevitably ask “What would you say to a cup of tea?”

The response “Hello, cup of tea!” still brings us enjoyment to this day. Tea break is a vital part of any work party – a time to swap dreadful jokes and anecdotes. Barry has plenty of both! Tales of itinerant charcoal makers, theories of Ashwellthorpe Wood’s involvement in the Napoleonic wars and, of course, its pivotal role in Wymondham’s brush-making industry were all regaled over a welcome brew.

Barry parted company with The Beast about eight years ago but still occasionally joins us for a beverage, a habit which we hope will continue for many years to come.

Volunteering with Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Volunteers play a very important part in the success of Norfolk Wildlife Trust and we really value their support and commitment. As well as helping us to protect Norfolk's wildlife for the future, our volunteers learn new skills, meet new people and enjoy looking after some of Norfolk's most valuable natural areas. If you have been inspired to take a look, visit the volunteering section on our website as a first step and see how you could get involved!
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