On 14 April 1995, after years of initial development, RSPB Conwy nature reserve opened it's gates to the public. Throughout April, we want to commemorate this milestone, and celebrate our 25th anniversary with you! As part of this celebration, we will be sharing what RSPB Conwy means to the people at the heart of the reserve - our fantastic staff (both past and present), and our amazing volunteers. Each blog has been written by various members of our team, as they share with us what RSPB Conwy means to them. We hope that you will enjoy these unique insights, and join us in celebrating 25 years of giving nature a home!

John Solbe - Volunteer 

I became a volunteer in early 2007, a few months after Rosie started. From litter picking, being a handyman and helping with sampling and teaching - I have now graduated to car park sweeping (oh yes - and recording the environmental footprint of the reserve)!

That interest in environmental data was simply an extension of my career in eco-toxicology, but in Conwy it all started when I asked Julian (the site manager at the time) a question about wind turbines. That led to some serious thought about how we could reduce our consumption of electricity and water, handle waste better and inform the public of what we were doing. The 'Conwy Green Team' was established, and we’ve just finished our eleventh annual report. 

We have had some undoubted successes in that time:

Reduced electricity demand by over 190,000 kWh (worth more than £25,000) and improved waste handling so that no waste now goes to landfill. Without the visitors knowing it we have saved one litre per flush and got rid of any but the most essential chemical products with a poor profile.

Rosie and I represented the Green Team when we received the President’s Award in 2010 and of course the reserve has picked up a handful of business awards in recent years.

As well as all the data handling it’s nice once a year to sit down to measure the lengths of Chironomid larvae, count the tubificids and generally peer through a lens at all the benthic animals.  That’s much safer than plodding through the mud catching the nekton.

Still, sweeping the car park in fine weather is good for the soul. I have my own broom, bought specially in France for the purpose! And i feel i can develop new and better ways of sweeping while thinking beautiful thoughts. All that and cake! It can’t be bad!!


Rosie Solbe
- Volunteer

Friday 7th July 2006. My first day as a RSPB Volunteer at Conwy nature reserve...

I spent the whole day at RSPB Conwy. First talking to Mike (who was the reserve warden at the time) about what volunteers should do. I then did various odd jobs. First I went to sweep out the nearest hides, and on the way collected litter. I assumed that people interested in birds and the environment would not throw litter – how wrong can you be. Back in the Visitor Centre (the building which is now the coffee shop), I spent some time peeling happy face stickers off Bird Bingo sheets. Then as it was nearly coffee time I checked the use-by dates on the biscuits for sale beside the visitors’ 'coin-in-the-slot' coffee machine. Fortunately there were several packs beyond their sell-by date so we had those with coffee. In the afternoon I went out with one of the centre’s field teachers, Maureen Hughes, with a primary school class. We went into the hides and looked at birds, then we did some grass-sweeping but we only found a few bugs. Finally we did some pond dipping, which is always fun! At least out in the field I knew what I was doing! Altogether a very enjoyable day.  

That was 14 years ago, and there have been many changes since then! The new Visitor Centre was built with a much bigger shop, the old Visitor Centre turning into a coffee shop. The number of visitors has hugely increased, and the whole reserve has become a beacon of “greenness” and environmental awareness. I’m sure it will go on growing from strength to strength, giving great pleasure to many people, whilst helping wildlife.