End of an era as Wood Green boss retires

Retiring Dennis Baker, Chief Executive of Wood Green, with Dodger the dog

Retiring Dennis Baker, Chief Executive of Wood Green, with Dodger the dog - Credit: Archant

IT was an end of an era at Wood Green, the Animals Charity on Friday.

For more than a decade, the charity based in Godmanchester has been led by Dennis Baker, its chief executive. But on Friday (May 31), after 13 years in the role, Mr Baker retired.

The former group captain joined Wood Green in 2000 after retiring from a 31-year career in the RAF – he worked at Brize Norton and RAF Brampton, was posted to Germany, and returned to work at RAF Wittering as well as the Ministry of Defence before returning to RAF Brampton.

“I joined the RAF at 21 with dreams of being a pilot but like many my eyesight wasn’t good enough,” Mr Baker told The Hunts Post. “I worked as an administrator and then personnel manager before becoming estates manager, looking after everything that was non-operational on the base.”

In 1990, in recognition of his dedication and service to the RAF, Mr Baker was awarded an OBE by the Queen.

Mr Baker added: “After I decided to retire I saw in the paper a job advert looking for someone with a background in management planning and I felt I filled the criteria. I liked Wood Green as I had been here many times and I love animals, so it seemed an ideal opening.”

During his time at the charity, Mr Baker has improved the facilities of the Godmanchester centre. New kennels and a cattery have been added, a larger wind turbine to provide the site with power was installed and an education centre opened.

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“Our staff have been trained in pet psychology to learn how the animals feel and behave, so we have refurbished our facilities to make the animal stays better for them,” added Mr Baker. “We have also started an outreach programme to help people look after their pets better, which is doing really well.”

The 65-year-old, who had cancerous tissue removed from his abdomen in April, decided to retire last November and is replaced by Clive Byles, who worked as director of operations.

“I think the demand for our services has gone up through the recession as people can’t afford food, vet bills and other costs to keep pets,” said Mr Baker.

“But equally there seems to be people coming forward and offering homes to animals so they’re not staying at the centres for long.

“Clive, who used to be my deputy, has a big challenge in front of him. We are going through a strategic review which has the aim to assess what we offer as a charity. Finance is another challenge as people cannot afford to be as generous as they have been, so we need to come up with new and innovative ways of raising money for Wood Green.”

Mr Baker, who lives with his wife Nerys in Brampton and has a black labrador Gibson and three thoroughbred horses Silky, Pip and Vic, intends to spend more time gardening but he will still be playing an active role for Wood Green.

“I don’t think you can ever leave Wood Green entirely. The trustees want me to stay on as an ambassador for the charity to work with supporters and community leaders to keep a high profile for Wood Green,” Mr Baker added.