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FSC Fond memories as told by Dr Steve Trudgill and Neil Emery

The following story is told by Dr Steve Trudgill, former FSC Executive Committee member (Trustee) and now an Honorary Vice President of the FSC and visitor to FSC sites, Neil Emery.

When I first heard of the FSC Kids Fund, which helps disadvantaged young people to experience natural history at first hand in the field, one image sprang to my mind. That was of a small ginger haired boy bending over a rock pool exclaiming in delight and wonder at what I was showing him. I was running an FSC Family Natural history course at Slapton in 1984 and we were down on the rocky shore at Prawle. On that course we had seen so many birds, butterflies and flowers and talked about rocks but I think the greatest delight was the marine biology and the rock pools– seeing and naming  the species and describing how they interacted and what it all meant was so engaging – for me, just as much as him. The small boy was Neil Emery, then age 7 with his mother, a Geography teacher. 34 years later Neil found me out and we met up again. It was great to catch up – and to say, amongst other things, how we both grew up appreciating Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’.

What Neil meant to me was that I felt that every young person should have that experience – and the image of him entranced by the wonders of a rock pool has guided me in my support of the FSC Kids fund.

Neil writes what the experience meant to him:

A few years ago, I was given the old picture of me and Steve, and it was a pleasant reminder of a very happy childhood experience. As a child, my mother often took me to FSC courses, but on the trip to Slapton, I was overwhelmed by a variety of encounters with wildlife, which have remained with me to this day.

Over 34 years later, the images of what we experienced blur together, but I nevertheless have very vivid memories, including seeing badgers in the wild for the first time. Being in Devon, with its rich red soil, these badgers were not the black and white animals of popular imagery, but black and pink, their fur stained by the soil in which they burrowed.

I also remember being taught by Steve to row; of tasting seaweed – deliciously salty and rich, of placing small mammal traps and being encouraged to imagine where I would go if I were the size of a vole; and of the joy of exploring rockpools, each pool with its own little universe of wildlife, waiting to be discovered.

This year, I found a yellowed piece of paper on which were typed some of my key life events, up to the giant age of ten. Listed among the entries was my trip to Slapton in 1984 and, with it, Steve’s surname, which I had not remembered. Thanks to the power of Google, I soon discovered a “Dr Steve Trudgill” and emailed him with the picture from 1984, shown below, and thanked him for his kindness, encouragement and enthusiasm for learning about the natural world.

It has been a great pleasure to reconnect with Steve, and to remember my childhood experiences of the FSC Family Natural history course. Like the best teachers, and indeed Gerald Durrell’s own mentor, Dr Theodore Stephanides, Steve had, and has, the great skill of not talking down to children, and of encouraging the joy of discovery. I was supremely lucky to have had this experience as a child, and have retained a lifelong love of nature and wildlife. It is an experience that all children should have the right to enjoy, and the value of it will live with them for a long time thereafter.

Kids Fund - Steve -Trudgill

Friday, November 23, 2018