My Hen Harrier Day 2016 started in Bristol on 12th March after a conversation with Mark Avery.
I asked if he had heard anything about plans for Hen Harrier Day 2016 and where it would be.
Mark wasn't sure but had heard that a large event was being talked about down south. I remember being disappointed at the time, thinking that moving the main event away from the heart of the country & the centre of the problem was a mistake. Mark suggested I talk to BAWC, (Birders Against Wildlife Crime) that was it really, I never gave it another thought.
Then in late April I met up with Mark, Ruth Tingay & the Wilde family for a picnic with Henry. Hen Harrier Day was mentioned again and I said how disappointed I was about not having an event in the Peak District. After some encouragement I said I would contact Phil at BAWC to see if they would like me to make plans for #HHDay2016 in the Peak. Then on the way home I began to question whether I could actually pull it off given the success of the Derwent Valley & Goyt Valley events in previous years. I also wondered if people would turn up without the drawer of Chris Packham as a speaker. This turned out to be a ridiculous worry as I soon realised that, as wonderful as Chris is, it's the Hen Harrier that is the true reason people turn out all over the country for HHDays.
The hardest part of the process was finding a venue. While marshaling last year people had mentioned that friends had not attended as they felt the walk was too far to where the meeting point was, so I was keen to make access to the event much easier. After driving around over several weekends and covering many miles a few sites seemed OK. Then Nick Moyes suggested I take a look at a site in Edale, so the following weekend we went to have a look and it ticked lots of boxes. Then with help from Richard Taylor (Head of countryside services, Derbyshire County Council) & support & permission from Anne Western (Leader of Derbyshire County Council) meant we had a great place to hold #HHDay2016 with Train Station, Toilets, Car Park & Cafe.
So 3 months of emails & telephone calls followed and a great list of speakers soon started to emerge.
My partner Lynne deserves a lot of credit as she put up with many nights after work of me tapping away on social media trying to publicise the event and didn't complain as she knows how important this issue is to me.
First up was Findlay Wilde, a young conservationist who I admire greatly. He works hard to bring many issues to the attention of people and always speaks with thought, intelligence but also lots of passion. I was so pleased he agreed to speak, Findlay' family were also a great help before & on the day, so a huge thanks must go to Nigel, Heather & Harley.
A couple of years ago I listened to the then Derbyshire Police & Crime Commissioner Alan Charles talk at the 2015 BAWC conference. He was very vocal about wildlife crime, I had contacted all of the new PCC candidates prior to the election in 2016 to find out if they would commit to helping crack down on wildlife crime in Derbyshire. Only one candidate replied, that was the newly elected PCC Hardyal Dhindsa. Without hesitation he agreed to speak at #HHday2016, He must be given great credit for carrying on with the same attitude as Alan Charles had towards wildlife crime, two Derbyshire Wildlife Crime Officers came along too.
Back in the Derwent Valley in 2014 on a very rainy day I made my way to the first Hen Harrier Day,
I introduced myself to Mark Avery, a man who despite much criticism from the shooting industry has created such a powerful movement against Driven Grouse Shooting, he had no idea who I was but was so grateful that I and 569 others had made the effort in awful conditions to protest about the state of our Hen Harrier populations. We have come a long way in two years, Mark agreed to talk even though he had already spoken at the Rainham Marshes event the day before. A top man.
The next speaker was an interesting one, Jon Stewart. Jon is The National Trusts General Manager in the Peak District & had recently been in the news for withdrawing shooting licences at Hope Woodlands & Park Hall in the Peak District. A move that sent ripples of concern through the shooting fraternity as some one had finally said enough is enough. His speech was about a future for the Peak District with Birds of Prey at its heart. Jon was brave to face up to what could have been a mildly volatile audience. He was received with the warm welcome he deserved and people were given hope in what he said.
Natalie Bennett was next up, the then leader of the Green Party had made a 4 plus hour journey from London to talk at Hen Harrier Day. This impressed many before she even spoke a word, me in particular. Natalie had responded to me at the beginning of the process and was one of the first on board the event. She also impressed all that heard her speak with her knowledge of the issues and passion behind the words, she obviously cares deeply about the climate and issues relating to its decline.
Last to speak and one I was looking forward to was Tim Birch of The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. I know Tim a little from my volunteering with the trust and had the heads up from him about his speech. Full of hope and a vision for the Peak District of a world where predators were welcome and allowed to play their part in the ecosystem of the Peaks. He spoke of Hen Harriers of course but also of Pine Martins and Golden Eagles. Who wouldn't want that? Well we know who.
Last but not least I must mention Alan Davies, he stepped in and did a fantastic job as compere. He was passionate, you could almost say angry, and introduced all the speakers brilliantly.
A quick mention too for every one that helped marshal the event, without them it really couldn't have happened.
And of course all who attended, your enthusiasm and passion was overwhelming, you were also generous and donated well over £500 towards BAWC and next years events. Thank you.
Who knows what will happen next year, I still think that one big event with a thousand plus attendees would be the best option, this would surely attract main stream press and push the issue into the public domain again. Let's wait and see.
Here is a 15 minute version of the days events introduced by Georgia Locock & with extra interviews with the speakers.