Friends for 20 Years
Hard on the heels of the Reserve’s 25th anniversary, 2015 marks the first 20 years of The Friends.
The band of volunteers, which had led the community effort in support of Huntingdonshire District Council’s (HDC) creation of the Reserve in 1989, grew substantially during the first 5 years after the opening. The volunteers focussed on events, planning, practical conservation and staffing the Visitors’ Centre.
Formation of The Friends in 1995 was a natural progression to foster this volunteer effort and garner even wider support in the community. The Friends’ first Chairman was Laurence Rose and, to help us celebrate, he is making a welcome return to present his talk “Springtime in Norfolk” on Wednesday 15th April at 2.30pm at the Visitors’ Centre.
Membership slowly crept up to about 300 in the first six years, and then took off, passing 500 in 2002 and settling between 2200 and 2500 from 2007 to 2014. And support keeps growing, with a record 2547 members achieved by mid-February 2015.
The Friends ‘came of age’ in 2008, when charity registration was achieved. With turnover steadily increasing, The Friends’ financial support of Reserve projects progressed from “helpful” to “significant”. Having reached a record level of £39,000 in 2014, The Friends’ funding now has to be classed as “essential”.
In addition, The Friends’ wide portfolio of activities, all focussed on helping HDC make Paxton Pits a better place for wildlife and people, includes running events, promoting the Reserve and winning the public’s support, organising and supporting volunteer activity, planning and advocacy, and wildlife monitoring.
Surely a productive first 20 years, but great challenges await as The Friends works with its partners to ensure the future management of the Reserve and strives to realise its northwards extension.