89-year-old World War II veteran honoured for work at Titchwell reserve

RSPB Volunteer Mike Barrett at RSPB Titchwell. Picture Matthew Usher.

RSPB Volunteer Mike Barrett at RSPB Titchwell. Picture Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

An 89-year-old second world war veteran has been recognised with a national award.

Mike Barrett, of Shepherds Pightle, Thornham, was one of the winners at the National Trust's Octavia Hill awards.

Mr Barrett, who served for the Royal Engineers in Burma during the war, won the Natural Hero category for his work at the Titchwell reserve.

He said: 'It's my hobby, my pastime and it's nice to think that maybe, in a small way, I'm doing some good.

'I still enjoy it and it gets me outdoors.

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'I do enjoy wildlife and the outdoors.

'I also get to meet a lot of people – particularly if I'm on the information desk.

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'We have a steady turnover of volunteers at the reserve so you get to meet quite a lot of like-minded people.

'There's a nice atmosphere and I get a lot of support from my friends and family.'

Mr Barrett moved to Thornham in 1985 and began to volunteer at the reserve almost immediately, having already visited the site a number of times.

Janet, 66, his wife of more than 30 years, said: 'All of us are very proud of him.

'He's always liked wildlife and he just loves what he does.

'On one of our first dates he took me to the little reserve he had made at the power plant where he worked to show me the orchids so I had a clue what he was like right from the start.'

Named after the trust's founder, the Octavia Hill awards attracted more than 140 entries with a final shortlist selected by a panel of judges.

Sitting on the panel were Helen Timbrell, volunteering and community involvement director at the National Trust; Fergus Collins, editor of Countryfile Magazine; Grahame Hindes, chief executive of Octavia House; and Julia Bradbury, Countryfile presenter, and Matt Smith, who were both winners of a 2012 Octavia Hill Award.

Mr Barrett was nominated for his hard work by Pernille Egeberg, the visitor officer at Titchwell.

Miss Egeberg said: 'We're absolutely delighted that Mike has won, he really deserves it.

'He is an absolute gentleman and very good with people.

'He has a great knowledge of the history – particularly of the war as it is a second world war bomb site.'

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