Twenty years almost to the day (& certainly to the week) since I joined the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Education team at Blashford Lakes I am returning my keys, uniform, phone & laptop and leaving for new challenges with the New Forest National Park Authority Ranger team.
Twenty years is a loooooong time in one job, particularly these days, but to be fair both the site and my job have grown and changed quite significantly in that time. Indeed when I first started I was an “Education and Community Warden”, the only employee on site, the nature reserve was a fraction of the size that it is now, had just one hide, with one path down to it (roughly in the location of Ivy South Hide today) and the site was closed to the public unless part of a booked, organised & pre-arranged group visit (not that that stopped birders clambering over the odd gate & fence for a glimpse of the lake – you know who you are!). In 2002 quarrying had only very recently been completed in what is now Ellingham Lake and it had not formally been signed off by Hampshire County Council Minerals and Waste Planning, both Rockford Lake and Ibsley Water were both still very much active quarries and Hanson were operating both a concrete block plant and cement pre-mix facility on the southern shore of Ibsley Water too.
Since then the site has gone onto employ more staff across a site which has doubled in size, welcomed in the public and established itself as an excellent educational resource for schools and uniformed youth groups across Hampshire, Dorset & Wiltshire.
As an educator it has been an amazing place to work and the Trust has been a fantastic organisation to work for – the same mix of habitats, all within a relatively small area, and the rich biodiversity which make Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve such a popular destination for wildlife lovers and bird watchers, means that it is, in my opinion, one of the best (the best of?) places to introduce children (and adults) to wildlife and the outdoors, engender awe and wonder and an appreciation of it, as well as the desire to proactively learn about and care for it. At the same time the Trust has provided the space and support for me to develop an education program and activities, both formal and informal, as I see fit.
I know that my love of nature doesn’t come from school, books or screens but rather that it stems from the time I spent growing up outdoors as a child and youth in North Lincolnshire. Not pro-actively seeking wildlife but simply exposed and immersed in the natural world whilst playing in it. This experience & knowledge has informed, and continues to inform, all of my outdoor education work and it has been my absolute joy & pleasure to be gifted with the opportunity to play & encourage play in nature at Blashford Lakes over the last twenty years.
A big thank you to everyone who has joined me exploring and playing in and around the pond, river, meadow, woodland or hides. It really has been my pleasure &, as much as I am looking forward to new challenges in my new role, I already know how much I am going to miss Blashford, the staff, the volunteers and visitors!
Join me for my final wander around Blashford (as a member of staff at least!) via my Twitter feed here: https://twitter.com/JimDay22857614/status/1573257381223481345
I’ll be back 😉
Thank you to everyone who contributed so generously to the escape fund, for re-naming the education meadow “Jim’s Meadow” & to Geoff for my wonderful wooden “glasses”:
…if you know you know 🙂