Celebrating 60 years of Wildfowl and Wetlands

PUBLISHED: 10:04 08 November 2006 | UPDATED: 22:21 28 May 2010

The Welney reserve

The Welney reserve

WHEN the late naturalist and painter Peter Scott founded his first wildfowl trust in 1946 on just 23 acres of land, he could not have imagined how his vision would have grown. Sir Peter had embarked on a mission to establish a movement for conservation of

WHEN the late naturalist and painter Peter Scott founded his first wildfowl trust in 1946 on just 23 acres of land, he could not have imagined how his vision would have grown.

Sir Peter had embarked on a mission to establish a movement for conservation of wildfowl and their habitats.

Now exactly sixty years on, the renamed Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a global leader in the protection of wetland habitats and endangered wildlife, providing refuge for tens of thousands of winter birds on more than 2000 hectares of wetland reserves scattered across the British Isles.

Today the trust has nine centres throughout the country, including a reserve at Welney on the border of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

And today( Friday) members of the WWT will blow out the birthday candles at all nine visitor centres across the UK to celebrate the trust's 60th anniversary.

Martin Spray, WWT chief executive, said: "WWT is an organisation that can look back over the past 60 years with tremendous pride at what it has achieved.

"We continue to have a major role to play in tackling many environmental problems, such as climate change, poverty, pollution, species extinction, the conservation of wetlands and their wildlife and WWT will remain at the forefront of research and practical action."

The celebrations come at a time when the Welney reserve on the Ouse Washes is now welcoming back thousands of migratory swans for the winter.

Created in the 17th Century the Ouse Washes are regarded as the most important area of lowland wet grasslands for birds in Britain.

Many species of international significance winter at Welney including thousands of Bewick's and Whooper swans.

The Welney reserve was opened in 1970 but the first development established by Sir Peter was the Severn Wildfowl Trust at Slimbridge.

His vision was to establish the Severn Estuary as a centre for scientific study, a public display and a conservation of the wildfowl of the world.

Many believe his vision has now been realised as the WWT manages wetland wildlife reserves and six Sites of Special Scientific Interests, five Special Protection Areas and five internationally important Ramsar sites, providing winter refuge for more than 150,000 waterbirds.

The WWT has also helped to save endangered specials and carried out vital research and crated new wetland habitats at home and abroad.

Future projects include a major community wetland project in Nepal.

The anniversary celebrations are set to continue at Welney at the weekend with a special 'Swan's Return' festival on Saturday and Sunday it is an event for all the family with activities and competitions.

There will also be a tour of the new multi-million pound eco-friendly visitor centre which opened last year, and a floodlit wild swan feed.

Leigh Marshall, reserve manager said: "The swans have been flocking to Welney in recent days as a result of the cold weather.

"Swan numbers have more than trebled in just seven days to over 2,500 and we expect more by the weekend."

To find out more call 01353 860711.

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