Gallery: Chris Packham hails Suffolk as a ‘leader’ at Greenest County Awards ceremony

Suffolks Green Hero 2015 Leonard Woolf proudly holds aloft his trophy at the environmental awards c

Suffolks Green Hero 2015 Leonard Woolf proudly holds aloft his trophy at the environmental awards ceremony. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s ‘Green Oscars’ were handed out yesterday and an ‘honorary son’ of the county, naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham, was there to give inspiration and acclaim.

Chris Packham with representatives of Copleston High School, Ipswich, who won the Greenest School aw

Chris Packham with representatives of Copleston High School, Ipswich, who won the Greenest School award. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk is “setting the standard” that every other county in the UK should follow when it comes to environmen-tal achievement, one of the leading figures on the nation’s green scene proclaimed yesterday.

Naturalist, broadcaster, wildlife campaigner and author Chris Packham - who said he “aspires to be an honorary son of Suffolk because he loves it so much - told guests at the county’s environmental awards cere-mony at Snape Maltings that Suffolk “leads the way”.

Packham, a frequent visitor to the county since the 1970s, said Suffolk’s landscapes and diverse, wildlife-rich habitats made it a “very, very special place.”

He gave the main address at the eighth annual Suffolk Creating the Greenest County Awards ceremony - and tipped the county to achieve its great green ambition.

Chris Packham delivers his address at the awards ceremony

Chris Packham delivers his address at the awards ceremony - Credit: Archant

“Suffolk is setting the standard that should be followed nationally,” he said.

“I have no doubt that you will achieve your ambition, if indeed it has not already been achieved, of becoming the greenest county.

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People will look in from the outside and follow the way.”

The event at Snape Maltings was “all about celebration – worthy celebration,” he said.

He was sometimes fearful that such environmental and conservation celebrations could lead to complacency.

“If you get too many slaps on the back you don’t try so hard but today I can put caution to one side and be extremely confident and genuinely excited about today’s awards and those in previous years too,” said Packham.

“What you are presiding over here is very sadly a national rarity.

Your ambition to be the greenest county is remarkable and significant and I hope it shames other places into action - the breadth of that ambition is quite staggering.”

Packham recalled being invited to launch Suffolk’s Nature Strategy at his beloved RSPB Minsmere last year – a document that was produced by a host of partner organisations, including Suffolk County Council, the RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

It seeks to translate a wealth of environmental aspirations into realities with pledges and actions for the benefit of Suffolk’s people, its economy and its wildlife and landscapes.

Packham said the strategy was a “remarkable document”.

It was “far-reaching and very ambitious” and did not shy away from acknowledging the role that had to be played by economic growth – which could itself be spurred by the county’s environmental assets.The strategy illustrated there was much “intelligent thinking” in Suffolk that showed the county’s decision-makers were adopting the “long-termism” that was required and rejecting the “short-termism” that was so prevalent in other areas – and among so many politicians.

As an example, he used RSPB Minsmere.

“The skill-set that has evolved about managing landscapes and wildlife and the people who come to see them, and the infrastructure and facilities they require – there is that at Minsmere. “Why can’t we do that nationally, why can’t we do that globally?” he asked.

He warned that “familiarity can breed contempt” and people who love and work in Suffolk should never take the county’s environmental riches for granted.

He told ceremony guests: “Do not forget how lucky you are to be living and working in this county because I have got to tell you this is a very, very special place and your endeavours are going to keep it special for a very long time – well done, it is brilliant, absolutely brilliant.”

Those endeavours were acknowledged in the awards’ 13 wide-ranging categories, from climate adaption to local food and drink and from waste and recycling to landscape and biodiversity.

Mark Pendlington, group director of Anglian Water – which was the award scheme’s main partner this year – said Suffolk’s “green Oscars” were “inspiration in action.”

The recipients of the awards – in where there was a record total of 149 entries – certainly seemed to inspire ceremony guests with the breadth and innovation of their work.

Among the biggest cheers that rang through Snape Maltings’ famous auditorium were those for the Green Hero winner, 82-year-old Leonard Woolf, of Rushmere St Andrew, near Ipswich, who is a well-known and respected local market gardener, grower and champion of the natural world.

The most resounding cheers were for the representatives of the three schools that had made the shortlist in the Greenest School category.

Decided by members of the public in a poll that attracted 1,910 votes, Copleston High School, Ipswich, was declared the winner but in an acknowledgement of the efforts of the other two schools – the primaries of Creeting St Mary and Saxmundham -– their staff and pupil representatives were also called to take a bow and received thunderous applause.

Journalist ‘deeply honoured’ as he wins award that will stand as a memorial to his friend

EADT Environment Correspondent John Grant ended up becoming part of the story himself as the ceremony drew to a close when he was named the first ever recipient of an award recognising outstanding contribution.

The Derek Moore Memorial Award, named after the much-respected former Suffolk Wildlife Trust director who died last year, was a surprise addition to the programme, only revealed when David Barker, chairman of Suffolk – Creating the Greenest County, delivered his closing speech.

“This year there is one more award,” said Mr Barker.

“The person sitting here doesn’t know he is going to receive it. This is the first ever Derek Moore Memorial Award.

Derek was a giant in nature conservation terms and was never afraid to speak out when things needed to be said.”

Likewise, said Mr Barker, John, who moved to Suffolk from his native Portsmouth in the 1970s, working at the EADT’s offices in Clacton, Sudbury, Leiston and Woodbridge before becoming a sub-editor in Ipswich, had never shied away from reporting controversial issues.

“For the last few years he has done an amazing job as environment correspondent.

His superb and often witty writing skills have highlighted and applauded the efforts of so many of Suffolk’s conservationists and naturalists that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.”

Mr Barker also praised John’s tireless work as a volunteer, including a long stint as editor of the Suffolk Ornithologists’ Group (SOG) bulletin, The Harrier, editing two editions of an RSPB guide to local nature reserves, contributing to the annual Suffolk Bird Report since 1986 and serving on both the SOG Council and Suffolk Ornithological Records Committee.

He has also acted as a voluntary guide, leading field events for SOG, the RSPB and Waveney Bird Club.

“John is one of the county’s premier birdwatchers and one of his biggest pleasures is seawatching, but most importantly, passing on his wealth of knowledge to other birdwatchers less skilled than himself,” said Mr Barker.

“He is a fitting first recipient of the Derek Moore Memorial Award.”

Chris Packham presented the award to John, who expressed his “utter astonishment” at finding himself in the limelight.

“Knowing Derek as I did for many years I am deeply honoured,” he said.

“We all still miss Derek terribly and will for many years to come.

The overwhelming feeling I have at the moment is a closeness to Derek but also deep gratitude.

It is such an honour to be the first recipient of this award.

I accept it with great pride and humility but also in recognition of my old mate, Derek.”

EADT editor Terry Hunt said:

“We are all thrilled by John’s well-deserved award.

His knowledge of, and love for, the environment shines through in his writing. Above all, his stories have great authority, which is so important in such a very environmentally-friendly county. John is a great asset for the EADT – and Suffolk.”

See more on the Greenest County Awards here