FSC | Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council: Bringing Environmental Understanding to All

Heather Bardner (nee Twig) FSC FSC Dale Fort and later Assistant Warden FSC Preston Montford

1949 was the last year of Higher School Certificates so we took our examinations earlier than usual leaving six weeks to fill before the end of the school year.

This provided a window of opportunity to study subjects not dictated by the curriculum and so a mixed group of Arts and Science sixth formers was taken by Margaret Jago (our biology teacher), to one of the field centres recently opened by the Council for the Promotion of Field Studies.  Everyone enjoyed the field courses, marine biology and mostly about dog whelks so much so that some returned the following year.  John Barrett opened our eyes.

Four years later, soon after my graduation, an advertisement appeared for field assistant one for each of the four field centres and I applied.  Much to my surprise my application was successful and I was sent to Malham Tarn where Paul Holmes was Warden and Charles Sinker Assistant Warden.  Two years later I left Malham to help Charles and Ian Mercer open the fifth field centre i.e. Preston Montford.  The sceptics were very doubtful as to the suitability of the site as it was in the midst of arable land, not in the wilds like Malham or remote Pembrokeshire but Charles had been to school at Shrewsbury and knew the area.  It was a challenge with the prospect of finding new sites to explore and teach in.

The memories of Malham and Preston Montford are so numerous I don’t know where to begin, they are all happy ones, working alongside dedicated staff and meeting interesting people, but some memories are special.  Listening to the dawn chorus with Paul Holmes, the tree sparrows at Arncliffe, and watching woodcock roding along the edge of the Tarn.  It was Paul who introduced me to the fascination of freshwater ecology.  Learning about the ecology of limestone pastures and raised bogs from Charles Sinker and being shown flowers that I had never seen before e.g. Grass of Parnassus and Globe Flowers.  Taking a party of secondary modern children along the river bank at Preston Montford and watching their faces as a dragonfly emerged and inflated its wings. I could go on and on...  All this is long ago now but the interest and the memories remain.