Nature reserves are a labour of love for George
Having spent the last 25 years volunteering at both the North Cove Nature Reserve and Castle Marshes Nature Reserve in the neighbouring village of Barnby, George Batchelor knows just about everything there is to know about wildlife and woodland habitats.
A former RSPB volunteer who has travelled all over the country working on projects, Mr Batchelor started volunteering at Castle Marshes in 1989 before taking up his second post at North Cove a year later.
Home to pools, marshes and a wildflower meadow, North Cove Nature Reserve is a place where Mr Batchelor can step away from the stresses of life and monitor the huge variety of birds and insects in a treasured corner off the beaten track.
Having lived in Suffolk his whole life, being raised at Benacre, before moving to Lowestoft and now North Cove, the role gave Mr Batchelor the perfect excuse to take early retirement from his job as a electrician at William Clowes printing works in Beccles.
He said: “I am and always have been a birder.
“I was volunteering before I started here for the RSPB around the UK, at Blacktoft Sands, the Arne Reserve and Loch Garten in Scotland. But I decided that volunteering here could do with more input to keep it local.
“When I came here I knew a lot about birds, but since becoming a warden I know a little about a lot more.”
Mr Batchelor was volunteering at Wheatfen Nature Reserve in Norfolk when he was asked to join Castle Marshes as a joint warden in 1989. A year after that he was asked to take on a second role as one of three wardens at North Cove
Nature Reserve, which is separated from Castle Marshes by just a few fields.
He said: “I considered it for half a second and jumped at the chance.
“It is one of my ambitions to one day join the two up.”
The 37-acre reserve is owned by Ben Blower and is managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust with help from the Beccles Bird Society and the Broads Authority. It is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Mr Batchelor said: “I was bought in to interpret the management plan set out by Suffolk Wildlife Trust and help work out what is best for the reserve because it is a rare and declining habitat in the UK.
“With the help of a botanist we have done a complete record of everything at the site and will be checking to see if any new species occur.”
Mr Batchelor, who has also volunteered in Italy for the Italian Bird Protection Society, visits the reserve around two to three times a week, and leads a volunteer working party on Wednesday mornings, affectionately known as the geriatrics working party.
He said: “We usually get between eight and 12 people help out every Wednesday.
“They are a fantastic team and all really lovely people. We couldn’t do it without all their hard work.
“In the winter there is quite a bit to do and we do a lot of work on the paths to keep the reserve open to the public.
“But there are a lot of things we don’t intervene with. If a tree falls down we leave it because it creates a nice bit of rotting timber.
“We also have an old duck decoy that we look after which has a lot of aquatic stuff in it, some of which is quite rare like the silver diving beetle and the bloody-nosed beetle.”
The reserve is also home to a rare species of fungus which has only been recorded in two other places in Suffolk, and is regularly visited by members of the Suffolk Moth Group because of its interesting species of moths.
Mr Batchelor said: “We are very proud of our reserve and what we have here.
“But it would be a shame for us to do all this work and for nobody to see it.
“There is always something seasonal and new to see and in the winter we get flocks of migrating birds from the north and in the summer time we have the warblers up from Africa.” Despite visiting the reserve on a weekly basis for the last 25 years, Mr Batchelor said not much had changed.
He said: “The structure of the reserve has changed very little but we are now doing far more mechanically.
“We have a wildflower meadow that we have to mow, rake and clear which used to be done by hand but now we use machinery.
“But even with that we still depend a lot on wheelbarrows and muscle power.”
Mr Batchelor works with three other wardens to help spread the load, but was insistent he would continue his work for years to come.
He said: “I absolutely love it here and I am going to continue as long as I can.
“If you feel life has wound you up you walk in here and all your worries go away.”
North Cove Nature Reserve will be holing an anniversary event to celebrate 40 years of successful and positive management on Saturday from 11am to 2pm.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust will be joining with Mr Blower and volunteers who have worked on the reserve over the years. During the event Mr Batchelor and his team will join Broads reserve warden Matt Gooch and Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s head of conservation Dorothy Casey to answer any questions people may have about the reserve.
There will also be reserve memorabilia on display.
For information visit www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/reserves/north-cove