An Oral History by Val Roberts

An oral history of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust by Val Roberts recorded on 7 May 2012.

Val Roberts Wildlife Trust Reminiscences

For my first memory of the Trust I go back to the eighties. I recall three totally dedicated, handsome young men meeting at our house, geographically a central point. They were Duncan Jeffray, Andy Tasker and my husband John Roberts. All three were energetic volunteers for the Trust, and between them at that time covered the roles of President, Chairman and Chairman of the Conservation Committee.

Their think-tank burned the midnight and midday oil regularly in their efforts to organise, develop and establish the Trust more securely, developing strategies, policies and indeed inspiration generally. They certainly inspired me with their determination, as I went about my teaching and family jobs, making endless cups of coffee and biscuits for these meetings, even meals when time pressed.

So as soon as circumstances allowed I got myself involved firstly with Education at the Trust and then Council. The picture of this trio has continued to be my encouragement ever since.

It was really only when the Trust removed to Brandon Marsh in 1989 that Education with children could assume a more significant role.... and this is my second memory. At last we had a proper classroom and outside area specifically fit for its purpose. And what a joy it was to see it used by schools right from the start! Thirteen years later we opened a second classroom in Brueton Park, another huge asset.

The Trust has employed a long list of education teams, and enabled many thousands of school children to enjoy and benefit from our facilities. We have also been most fortunate to have had so many excellent volunteers, who have come along to support the hard-pressed staff and make their own contributions.

It has been my privilege to represent Education on Council and Executive for some thirty years. And it has been great to have seen so much achieved with our resources. Every time you visit the loos at Brandon you can observe a small example of something that has been enjoyed since we opened in 1989: the wall pottery tiles. They still look splendid and I wonder if the children who made them ever return to see their artwork on display. They will of course be young adults now.

My third memory concerns David Attenborough’s visit to open the Brandon Marsh Visitors Centre in July 1989, actually on my 38th wedding anniversary! This visit was a major occasion for the Trust, indeed like a Royal Visit, as Andy Tasker and myself (now Chair of Council) were well aware, as we greeted Sir David from his helicopter.

Andy and I had becoming increasingly conscious that far more people had arrived for this event than we had invited. We had welcomed many long-standing friends and a full complement of Mayors in the county. Trustees were assigned to look after these special people.

After the formal speeches, we headed to the newly-opened tearooms with these guests only to discover to our horror a room full of the uninvited. Andy had released a press statement, which was to be issued the day after the event. Unfortunately one paper had splashed an open invitation on the actual day of the visit. Large numbers had recognised their chance to see the great man and had descended on us. Their entrance was via the tearooms and in passing the crowd had pretty well consumed all the refreshments laid out for the special guests. Even David Attenborough had very little of what was left, although he seemed unworried by this. The mayors, however, were all disappointed. I had been assigned the Mayor of Leamington to care for, but lost her completely in the scrum. She later commented to Andy that she had not been looked after very well, but had nonetheless enjoyed the visit!

Andy had some strong words for the newspaper, which was extremely apologetic, promising never to make that sort of mistake again. Red faces all round for this situation, which marred an otherwise really excellent day.

Val Roberts - 07 May 2012