Robert Parkin

AFC Conservation Artist of the Month for September, 2010

For Robert, conservation and wildlife are very much a way of life. He continues to dedicate time and to help financially in whatever way he can. "I want my daughter and thousands of other young people to have the right to enjoy a world that is, at the very least, as rich in species and landscape as when I was a child."

"For many years I worked in horticulture, managing an estate garden in Herefordshire (UK) of over one thousand acres. Much of it was woodland, but it was also home to plants collected from around the world over three centuries. We propagated from them in an attempt to make many of the rarer species safe for future generations 'we hope'. Some of the plants in the collection had been selected and returned to the UK aboard the ‘Beagle' by Joseph Banks, others in less celebrated, but equally important voyages of discovery. In the early 1980s my wife Angela and I started Nature's Way. At the time we were the first private self-funded business in the UK to undertake the design and construction of wildlife reserves and ecological teaching areas.

He designed the early layout for Barn Elms (now the London Wetland Centre) for Sir Peter Scott, and it was Peter who inspired me to set more time aside for painting. Natural England (then the Nature Conservancy Council) commissioned us to re-design their headquarters in Peterborough, followed by a number of their other projects. These included 'Castle Eden Dene' on the East coast of England, a reserve that sat alongside the heritage of the industrial revolution, and a vital strip of land for young people to grow up with a knowledge and interest in nature.

We have worked alongside major conservation bodies in the UK as well as private companies, such as British Telecom at the Earth satellite station, Madley, in the UK. A blend of high tech and natural world; with many acres of wildflower meadow re-sown and established: and bringing a new wetland landscape and habitat into the station for wildlife and for people to enjoy and share.

Education authorities, colleges and schools have been partners in an attempt to make sure that the natural world is not forgotten as young people grow into an ever faster, technological world. In 1984 we began a project unique for its time: the Humber Marsh Wetland Reserve, a project dedicated to eco-environmental teaching and wildlife conservation. It was the first of our 'Ark' sites, reserves that played host to many rare and unusual species. Today the reserve remains in private ownership and hosts its own green business in renewable energy development. I believe my art has benefited from this 'hands on' experience I shared with the land and with wildlife, especially with wildlife rehabilitation. We were involved in the relocation of badgers to new, safe sets, alongside wildlife rescue projects and extensive care for mammals unfortunate enough to be trapped or abused by people for ‘sport'. Most important of all, it has been a joy to watch the children spending time on our teaching reserves evolve a passionate interest in conservation and wildlife, and to watch that grow and develop far beyond anything I expected.At about the same time I began writing, producing and presenting wildlife programmes for BBC radio and television.

As a freelance writer I was fortunate enough to work with Sir David Attenborough, Simon King and others, concentrating on wildlife and landscape in the UK. For five years I co-presented The Green Scene, a weekly wildlife and ecology programme for BBC radio, and most recently was involved in producing an episode of Chris Packham's BBC series Nature's Diary featuring one of my favourite mammals: the otter. I was to locate and set up filming opportunities for the wildlife cameraman from BBC Bristol's natural history unit, while allowing the general film crew to record Chris and myself talking as we watched these amazing animals. This proved to be a challenge since the aim of the programme was to film wildlife where viewers could also visit and enjoy them. I managed to find a female with cubs who had learned the trick of following a local ferry from the island of Mull, collecting the food its propellers churned up. She would then return to the loch side and her Holt to feed young cubs: all in full view of the passengers aboard the ferry.

I more than ever believe that if we are fortunate to have the opportunity to help or develop ideas and projects to protect and highlight the incredible world we live in we should seize it with both hands, and work as hard as we can to make it work. But above all we must enjoy and love what we are doing, it's that which translates to any people and any language, "there is nothing as contagious as enthusiasm"

Previous Conservation Artists of the Month

(December, 2019)
(November, 2019)
(October, 2019)
(September, 2019)
(August, 2019)
(July, 2019)
(June, 2019)
(May, 2019)
(April, 2019)
(March, 2019)
(February, 2019)
(January, 2019)
(December, 2018)
(November, 2018)
(October, 2018)
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