Today is a big day, for lots of reasons - even if the lifting of restrictions has been delayed for a further four weeks.

Firstly, today is the summer solstice. The longest day of the year, when the sun is directly overhead in the northern hemisphere. This is one of most important days in the pre-Christian calendar, and many ancient civilisations built impressive temples around the location of the sun on the solstice. Stonehenge is perhaps the most famous example in the UK, but many others can be found around the world.

Secondly, 21 June is Suffolk Day, when we celebrate everything that is great about my adopted county. Suffolk has some of the UK's best weather - though perhaps not today as an unseasonably cold northerly winds whips across the reserve. Suffolk's landscape is rich and varied, encompassing everything from beach to heath, estuary to ancient woodland, rich farmland to coniferous plantations, historic churches and castles to state of the art music venues. Suffolk is home to many superb food producers and retailers, making and producing a superb variety of delicious food, from bread and cakes to beer and wine, locally grown asparagus and strawberries to Suffolk cheese and sausages, with almost everything else in between. Of course, this includes Minsmere's own cafe team, who make the best cheese scones ever, and a great choice of cakes to die for.

Here at Minsmere, we celebrate Suffolk Day by offering free entry for the day to Suffolk residents - don't worry if you missed out, as Suffolk Day is an annual event, and if you join the RSPB you will, of course, receive free entry whenever you visit us. We also celebrate Suffolk's amazing wildlife. Several species owe their continued existence in the UK to the conservation work that we have undertaken here at Minsmere, including bitterns, marsh harriers and avocets, while others, such as stone-curlews, Dartford warblers and silver-studded blue butterflies have recolonised in recent years. In fact, with more 5800 species and counting, including a new hoverfly added by one lucky visitor recently, Minsmere is the most biodiverse nature reserve in the UK.

There is another reason why today is a big day, and this one is more personal. It's my big 5-0 today. I've been lucky to have spent a large part of my working life here at Minsmere, during which time I've seen some incredible wildlife, met some amazing people, and helped inspire hundreds of new RSPB members. In turn, you've all inspired me to stay at Minsmere and share this wonderful place with you.

Having worked here for more than 18 years, I feel I know Minsmere pretty well, and I've seen many changes during that time. However, I'm also excited that my lovely wife has bought me copies of two books charting Minsmere's history that I really should have read years ago. I'm sure I'll learn a lot more about the reserve by reading these books.

Minsmere: Portrait of a nature reserve, published in 1977 (the year I first joined the YOC as our junior membership was then called), was written by Minsmere's warden Bert Axell. I've flicked through copies of this book, but am now looking to reading it properly. Simon Barnes' book Flying in the face of nature: a year in Minsmere bird reserve describes the year that journalist and renowned nature writer Simon spent at Minsmere in 1990. This will be an especially poignant read as I had my first three weeks' volunteering at Minsmere that summer, so I'm sure it will bring back many memories. Unlike Bert, I've been lucky enough to meet Simon Barnes on many occasions, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading many of his books and columns, and I have no doubt this will be just as a good a read.

I'd love to hear from you about what your memories of Minsmere are, whether from 50 years ago or just last week. Or what it is about Suffolk that excites you most. I also hope to be able to continue sharing this incredible place and its wildlife with you all for many more years yet.

Anonymous