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!

Julian Hughes - Previous Site Manager (2008-2019) 

Like many local people over the age of 40, I remember when RSPB Conwy wasn’t there. It was created from spoil removed from the A55 road tunnel when I was a student – I put together this photo-montage of its history for The Daily Post in 2015 for the 20th anniversary. Although I missed the reserve’s early development as I lived away, I would pop in for a walk and to hello to the site managers, first Ian Higginson and then Alan Davies, when I was visiting family. So it was a bit of a dream when I had the opportunity to wear that badge myself from the start of 2008. Looking after this patch of wetland will always be one of the highlights of my life.

It’s been great to read the stories from some of the volunteers in these birthday blogs, as they leave their mark on the reserve: some of the best ideas have come from their own experiences as a visitor or using their lifetime’s work to help resolve problems. So, here are a few of my own highlights and lowlights:

  1. Favourite bird: family of Bearded Tits made their first flight early one Saturday morning in 2010, the first to fledge in North Wales for several decades. The pair had arrived a few weeks earlier and we’d only just realised that they were nesting a few days before they fledged.
  2. Most frustrating episode: not managing to rid the lagoons of the invasive New Zealand Pygmyweed (Crassula helmsii). We gave it a good go, even getting permission to flood one of the lagoons with saltwater from the estuary in an attempt to kill the weed, but while we gave it a good kicking, this wasn’t the knockout blow that we’d hoped. It still annoys me when I see it growing in the water alongside the boardwalk.
  3. Best nature moment: stoats are seen regularly at the reserve, but in summer 2011 a family of kits were in a den amid the rocks that form the sea defence. They were popular with photographers; here are just a few of the pictures on the BBC website at the time. I remember leading a walk along the estuary and one of the adults weaved between our legs and the tripods, apparently oblivious to our presence.
  4. Most painful moment: being kicked in the face by one of the Carneddau ponies as I tried to remove some bramble caught up in its mane and tail. I should have left well alone. Lesson learned.
  5. Best summer: we gave the outdoor visitor facilities a makeover in the Conwy Connections project in 2013. It was hard work, but very fulfilling, especially to see how many young people have made use of the spaces we created in the subsequent years. This photo-blog gives you a flavour, but even better is this 13 minute video made by TAPE Community Music and Film. I wonder whether some of the children featured still visit the reserve…?

It was hard to come up with just five things, I have so many great memories and I’ll always love coming for a walk to see the latest changes. Writing this, I was reminded of the time capsule that we buried in the foundations of The LookOut – what will future generations make of our work?

So, happy birthday to RSPB Conwy and to the thousands of people who have contributed to making it: from an idea in a pub to one of the most important places for local people to connect with nature.