Ray calls time on 12 years helping nature at Paxton Pits

11:35 08 April 2014

The reserve’s senior ranger Jim Stevenson (right) presents former chairman of Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve Ray Matthews with an album of photos. Picture: GARETH RIDEWOOD

The reserve’s senior ranger Jim Stevenson (right) presents former chairman of Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve Ray Matthews with an album of photos. Picture: GARETH RIDEWOOD


The end of an era was marked at the Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve AGM as the group’s chairman, Ray Matthews, retired after being in the post for 12 years.

Little Paxton Village Hall was packed for the meeting in the reserve’s 25th anniversary year, with 132 members present.

Mr Matthews’s involvement with the site started in 1982. “At the time, my wife and I had a six-year-old and we wanted to interest her in natural history, and there were like-minded parents who wanted to do the same with their youngsters,” he said.

“Having volunteered previously for the RSPB, my wife and I decided to start a Young Ornithologists Club – the junior arm of the RSPB. We quickly formed a group which ran for just over 10 years.

“We realised that with what were then public footpaths through the disused pits, we had the perfect outdoor classroom.”

Organised birdwatching sessions for adults followed, including dawn chorus breakfasts.

Paxton Pits’ transformation into a reserve began, said Mr Matthews, when the district council appraised the recreational potential of the Ouse Valley. “On the basis of the number of birds at Paxton Pits, a tentative proposal that a nature reserve could be created was put forward.

“It was at that point, with my RSPB hat on, that I started to get involved, going to meetings, planning, and supporting the district council and that’s how it started.”

Mr Matthews, who was awarded an MBE for services to conservation in Cambridgeshire in 2011, said he could look back with great satisfaction at what had been achieved by a dedicated group of volunteers.

“We now have a nature reserve with a national reputation for nice countryside, very interesting wildlife, particularly the birds, and it’s easily accessible, open all the time, with nice wide paths. That’s an absolute joy.”

Mr Matthews, who with wife Pam is moving to Northumberland to be nearer their daughter, son in law and six-year-old granddaughter, will remain a trustee.

He paid tribute to all those who had helped over the years. “The strength of Paxton Pits is it’s a community nature reserve and benefits from the efforts of so many willing, able and friendly volunteers,” he said.

“I intend to come back quite regularly, partly because of my long involvement but also so I can assist with the development of the reserve and my fellow trustees. The prime aim is for Paxton Pits to go from strength to strength.”

INFORMATION: For more on events to mark the reserve’s 25th anniversary year, visit www.paxton-pits.org.uk.

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