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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

An Award Won and a tribute to Derek Moore

On Wednesday evening we attended the Suffolk FWAG annual presentation evening and all had a very enjoyable evening. We had entered the Tim Sloane award which was judged during the summer. This is an award presented in memory of Tim Sloane who was a leading light in Suffolk conservation and the award has been presented annually since his passing 7 years ago. Each year the topic changes and in the past has been for traditional orchards, grazing marshes and woodland management and this year the topic was farmland ponds. At both our Westhorpe and Great Ashfield farms we have worked hard to restore ponds for the benefit of aquatic wildlife in general but at Great Ashfield more specifically for the expansion of our breeding colony of Great Crested Newts.

The judges were Gen Broad from the Suffolk Biodiversity Partnership and Richard Symes, a conservation minded farmer from Bramfield and we were very proud to win the award and be presented with the (very heavy) bronze cast life-sized brown hare trophy.

It was great to see 80+ people at a FWAG event and to see Suffolk FWAG in such a healthy position given the upheaval of the previous couple of years. The guest speaker for the evening was Robin Page with his usual mixture of cynical digs at other conservation organisations and complete rubbish. He amused the audience with his references to whom he would like to put on a bonfire, (it was bonfire night) and his support of trying to legalise the unlicensed of killing everything that he does not like. There was a membership drive for his homemade conservation organisation as is to be expected but what did surprise me was that he did say some things that I did agree with in reference to how non existent UKIP's agricultural policies are and his dislike for UKIP MEP and agricultural spokesperson Stuart Agnew.

I was given the opportunity to pay tribute to our great family friend Derek Moore who died on the 23rd October with the last talk of the evening and this is what I said:

Derek had been ill for some time having been diagnosed with bowel cancer at the turn of the year and it will come as no surprise to anyone that he fought the disease continually right until the end because Derek truly loved a fight. Derek spent his whole life fighting for conservation, fighting for the environment and fighting for birds. Derek was born in Beccles on 1st January 1943 and as a school boy did not excel leaving school aged 16 with 3 O levels but in that time at the Sir John Lehman Grammer School in Beccles Derek had been taken under the wing of Mr Benson a formidable, moustached, tweed suit wearing school master who was very keen on birds and at the time was the BTO rep for Suffolk. He showed a young Derek Moore many different birds and birding spots around Beccles in the days well before field guides. After leaving school in 1959 he pursued a career in printing and publishing and became very active in the Suffolk birding scene. At this time Derek was playing both football and cricket for Beccles, cricket with a young David Frost. Now I never saw Derek play football but I have heard stories about him an a uncompromising centre back chopping the best centre forwards in the region down and still coming away with the ball or kicking players into the stand because they had the audacity to outpace him, all stories from Derek himself of course because as everyone who knew him will endorse, he was a great story teller. Even if there is no one to corroborate the football stories he was competitive to the end and only last year went to watch my brother Tom playing football for Sporting 87. In the few hours he was in Bury St Edmunds he managed to inspire Tom to set up three goals in the game, be warned by the referee about his conduct as a spectator and upset the Sporting 87 manager by asking him if he actually knew what he was doing. He was a great follower of Norwich City and like all true football fans would be on the phone every evening following a canary victory over Ipswich and as you would expect rarely even answered the phone following an Ipswich victory. With his work for the Suffolk Wildlife Trust Derek appeared on BBC Radio Suffolk quite regularly and every now and again was asked to comment on Norwich City as well as countryside issues and on one famous occasion on the Sports Round table, a live Friday evening weekend preview programme the debate about Norwich City had really got Derek fired up. Robert Chase the then chairman was dividing opinion about how the club should be run and the debate was becoming quite heated. The presenter seeing his chance said’ come on Derek why don’t you tell us what you really think… to which Derek replied, “quite frankly Mr Chase if you are listening, Bugger Off!”
Derek took the job as the Director of the Suffolk Trust for Nature Conservation on his 42nd birthday in 1985 and in his 14 years in charge transformed the organisation. He brought a mixture of business experience and knowledge of practical conservation to an organisation very old fashioned and behind the times. Derek, was instrumental in changing the name to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and dropping entrance charges to all of the trust’s reserves to allow everyone the opportunity to engage with nature, both ideas that have been adopted by many of the other 47 wildlife trusts in the country. In those 14 years the membership of the trust trebled from 5 to 15 thousand and many of the conservation principles that were introduced during that time are now common place in environmental management today. Derek always knew the importance of profile in the county and value of public support and over the years attracted household names such as his great friend Bill Oddie, Chris Packham, Sir Richard Branson, Michael Palin, Sir David Attenborough and the Duke of Edinburgh to various SWT reserves to get behind different projects. One of Derek’s favourite stories was told to him by Lord Tollemache and it was that one day the Queen was visiting Helmingham and told Lord Tollemache that he should instruct his gamekeepers to cease the shooting out of old crow’s nests as they are used as nesting sites by hobbys. When pressed on where the Queen had learned such information she replied to Lord Tollemache that it had been told to her by a Suffolk man called Derek Moore. One of his greatest successes was getting the port of Felixstowe to offset land against their port expansion development which became Trimley Marshes. Derek understood the importance of engaging with farmers at a time when conservationists and farmers were regularly at loggerheads. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust worked very closely with Suffolk FWAG in their early days and it was a delegation from Suffolk in 1993, encouraged by the former minister of Agriculture John Gummer, that went to the House of Commons and then on to Brussels to campaign for the environmental benefits of set-a-side which was about to be introduced. The delegation that consisted of Derek, David Barker, Richard Rafe, John Cousins, Peter Holborn and the FWAG advisors Juliet Hawkins, Tango Bolton and Alison Lea fought for and succeeded in getting environmental features introduced as non rotational set-a-side and also correct management prescriptions for these areas. It was also at this time that John Cousins came up with the idea of ‘Green Veins through the countryside’ which developed into John, Derek and Juliet taking part in a BBC 2 documentary which was given the same name. John Gummer at the time commented that the strength of the campaign was the fact the farmers and conservationists were united, something at the time which was unheard of. This campaign also provided some of the principles of many of the environmental stewardship schemes which were to follow.

As a small boy I was amazed at the thought that my dad had a friend who could tell birds by their songs and calls as the years progressed Derek was a great inspiration to me, to Brian and to our farm and the way in which it has developed. Derek enjoyed nothing more than being able to wander around our farm and see the many species of farmland birds that we have at Westhorpe. He especially looked forward to hearing Yellowhammers singing as it was a species rarely heard in his part of West Wales. I will never forget on the night that Brian and I won the Silver Lapwing award looking down from the stage to see both Dad and Derek sobbing away together. Derek was incredibly proud to be awarded the OBE by the Queen for his services to Nature conservation. As Derek left the trust in 1999 to take on the job of Director of Conservation for national umbrella organisation, The Wildlife Trusts he was instrumental in Julian Roughton being appointed as his successor and after leaving the Wildlife Trusts he became the Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales. He set up a new home in Wales and in that time became the President of the Welsh Ornithological Society. Derek’s devoted wife Beryl supported him through every move, job change, fight, cause and indeed some of the foreign wildlife watching trips. She did always however regularly plead with Derek at dinner parties not to mention birds until at least the dessert so that their guests could ‘enjoy their evening’. Derek was a man who you could always turn to for advice, information or just a chat. He had a tremendous wealth of knowledge and was always happy to share it with like-minded people and encourage it upon not so like-minded people. With Derek you always knew where you stood, you knew if you were onto a good idea because he would always be in full support and you most certainly knew about it if he didn’t agree with you.  
Just over a year ago Derek’s autobiography, Birds coping with an Obsession was published and it was launched at the British Bird Watching Fair, an event very close to Derek’s heart. It was something that Derek had always wanted to do ‘whilst he could still remember it all’ and his last visit to Suffolk was a year ago where at a joint Waveney Bird Club and Suffolk Ornithologists Group event Derek performed to over 200 people in a sold out Halesworth Cut recounting many stories and experiences from his life. Derek took great pleasure in signing many copies of his book and seeing many of his Suffolk friends that night and I am sure that if Derek had known that would be his last visit to Suffolk he would not have done it any differently.


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