End of an era for island family

By David GreenEnvironment CorrespondentA FAMILY's ties with an island off the East Anglian coast is to be severed – after 55 years.John Partridge, warden of Havergate Island, a nature reserve off Orford, is retiring at the end of this month after 30 years.

By David Green

Environment Correspondent

A FAMILY's ties with an East Anglian island is to be severed - after 55 years.

John Partridge, warden of Havergate Island, a nature reserve off Orford, is retiring at the end of this month after 30 years.

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His late father, Reg, served as warden for 25 years before him, starting in 1949, shortly after the island was bought by the RSPB.

Over the past three decades, like his father before him, Mr Partridge has ferried hundreds of visitors to and from the island and helped them to enjoy its rich wildlife.

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"Havergate is a wonderful place. The wildlife and isolation have inspired many visitors and I feel very privileged to have spent so much time here," he said. "However, I have done 30 years and when the opportunity came I decided to take early retirement."

Mr Partridge, now 60, had often accompanied his father to the island, but had been intent on a sea-faring life.

He joined the merchant navy at the age of 16 and travelled the world for more than eight years "until the wanderlust subsided".

Mr Partridge returned to Suffolk to crew the former landing craft ferry that linked Orford Quay with the Ministry of Defence weapons establishment on Orford Ness - a long and isolated peninsular parallel to the coast where nuclear bomb triggers were once tested.

When his father died, his boat-handling skills and knowledge of Havergate Island made Mr Partridge the obvious choice to succeed him.

Havergate Island was purchased by the RSPB in 1948 following its colonisation by the rare avocet the previous summer.

While the island was only a short distance from Orford Ness, where weapons testing continued until the 1960s, the occasional blast failed to deter the avocets.

Havergate Island is now home to a breeding colony of 100 pairs and over the past 30 years the number of wintering avocets on the nearby Alde-Ore estuary has also increased, from seven to 1,000.

The island is also famous for its colony of breeding terns, which are occasionally joined by Arctic terns.


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