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!

Judith Benbow - Volunteer

Can it be true? That Conwy RSPB nature reserve is celebrating its 'silver jubilee' in 2020? Can it be possible that from little acorns mighty oaks can grow? Yes, it is true, and it is possible, for as a volunteer from those early days I have witnessed a remarkable transformation!

With vision and an army of willing volunteers, a desolate area of mud and scrapes has been transformed into a mature haven for wildlife. When we waded knee deep in mud all those years ago to plant hundreds of tiny Phragmite plants to create the reed beds, or joined working parties to plant saplings of Alder, Ash and Birch, we wondered about the success of the fruits of our labours. The result is now before our eyes.

Twenty five years have seen growth and change. The Coffee shop, as it stands now, served as the office for staff, a small retail area, a welcoming point for visitors and a store for all the products on sale. How cramped we were, but oh.... what a vista across the lagoon to the distant mountains, providing the opportunity to point out with enthusiasm the variety of birds present. Imagine the joy of watching a Water Rail hurrying to and fro, and the pleasure of sharing this experience with others.

And what of our visitors, whose diversity adds so much to the pleasure of the volunteers who greet them. Have they changed? Well yes, because initially they would, on the whole, be 'birders' searching for that elusive rarity to add to their list, or people with an interest in wildlife and their natural surroundings. But gradually we have seen a diverse mix and a much wider age range, possibly as a result of the building of the shop, with the wide range of goods on offer, but also with having a coffee shop and children's play area on site. These have changed the demograph considerably.

Twenty three years ago, a young seven year old visited the reserve every holiday with his grandparents. His interest never wavered. He is now a teacher and a birder with great knowledge. His love of birds was nurtured here at RSPB Conwy. What greater reward for volunteering can one have?!

Jo Buckley
- Volunteer

I have been a visitor to RSPB Conwy for many years and a volunteer for five years. When I was looking for a place to do some volunteering on a weekend, RSPB Conwy was the first place I looked at, and I'm so glad I did. The reserve is a special place to switch off from the day-to-day stresses of life, to enjoy the natural world and (importantly) to eat Welsh Rarebit and cake!

Volunteers are made to feel as much a part of the reserve family as members of staff are and lasting friendships have formed. One particular highlight of my time volunteering was a couple of years ago when a young girl and her father came into the visitor centre. They were looking at the birds' nests in the display drawers and I went over and chatted to them about what species of birds might have made the nests, what materials the nests were made from and how extraordinary it is that one little bird could be so industrious! The girl was really engaged in talking about the birds and I hope, in some small way, that has helped to sow a seed for the future.