Happy memories

It was 23 years last Sunday (5th March) that Mrs Eileen Watkinson MBE - the sanctuary's founder - passed away. I have thought about her a great deal of late; sometimes thinking of the interesting and fun times, the joyful times when a rehabilitated bird is returned to the wild, and of the sad instances where such badly injured birds were admitted and couldn't be saved. The knowledge I gained from working with her since 1978 has stood me in good stead, and continues to help others far and wide, indeed on occasion from other countries around the world. Whilst it is unusual for me to be up at 4.30am typing this, I recall that this was the time Mrs Watkinson always rose to start her day, and would often enjoy the dawn chorus whilst listening to the World Service on the wireless.


Alas we were still deep in snow on Sunday, and I was dealing with the aftermath of the storm, so it is only now in the small hours that I have chance to put 'pen to paper'. I did have a walk around the reserve that day, and spent some time at the graveside; we will get some new wild flowers for the memorial woodland this year - no point just now I thought at the time, as it's all under a white blanket.


I recall back in the early 1980's (I think I was 11 or 12 at the time), three of 'us volunteers' (Sharon, Darius and myself) had written into TV-AM to nominate Mrs Watkinson for an award for her work. Amazingly and against all the odds for a TV competition, we were one of the lucky winning few, and so Wincey Willis and her crew came up one December morning to present Mrs Watkinson with not one but two hampers; one for her, and of course one for the birds.


Having been lucky to be granted the morning off school, I remember nearly freezing my toes off on the park round the corner as we ran through 'our lines' with the film crew. Then, it was round to the Sanctuary for the great surprise; and being greeted by Wincey dressed as a Christmas Fairy - complete with wellies - was enough to surprise anyone!


I recall Guilly; our resident guillemot at the time, walking around and inspecting the hampers contents, much to the film crews' delight. I do still have the clip of the event on VHS somewhere in the archives, though it is rather battered now through years of repeated playing. My first introduction to 'being on the TV with Three Owls!'


I know she would be thrilled that her woodland dream has finally become a reality, that the work of Three Owls now reaches far further than it ever could before, and we have a network of SIX reserves now supporting our ongoing work with wild birds. I do miss the hands-on work with the birds, but through working closely with other sanctuaries, rescue centres and vets, as well as the general public enquiries; such knowledge gained over the years is constantly recalled and we put it to good use in saving lives day-in-day-out.


Nigel

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