Couple honoured for natural history work

For the first time in the history of Norfolk's most prestigious award for naturalists, the Sydney Long Memorial Medal has been jointly awarded to a husband and wife - EDP columnist and naturalist Rex Hancy and his wife, Barbara.

For the first time in the history of Norfolk's most prestigious award for naturalists, the Sydney Long Memorial Medal has been jointly awarded to a husband and wife - EDP columnist and naturalist Rex Hancy and his wife, Barbara.

For more than 20 years, Mr Hancy has been one of the team writing the EDP's In the Countryside column, taking over from the late Ted Ellis, who started the daily wildlife journal in the 1940s.

Mr Hancy, of Fakenham Road, Taverham, joins two other distinguished EDP contributors as recipients of the medal - Mr Ellis, who died in 1986, and Michael Seago, who was awarded it in 1993 and who died in 1999.

Sir Nicholas Bacon, president of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, presented the medal, which is awarded jointly by the trust and the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society every two years for an outstanding contribution to the county's natural history.

Mr Hancy, 78, a retired teacher, became fascinated by natural history as a boy living in the Waveney Valley at Ellingham, between Beccles and Bungay. The village blacksmith was knowledgeable: “It was a case of living in amongst it and just enjoying it but in those days, I had nobody to help me along really. I spent a lot of time with him and he taught me all sorts of interesting things to do with wood and twigs and that sort of thing.”

He taught at a Thorpe junior school where he managed to bring natural history into the classroom. He retired aged 60 in 1989 and then became even busier writing, broadcasting and giving lectures and talks.

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His lifelong fascination is shared by his wife, Barbara. “She was an avid wildflower cataloguer and expert,” he said. And her collection of grasses was highly regarded and displayed at the Norwich Castle Museum.

“We've just enjoyed it, that's the point. We don't do things out of a sense of duty, we've always done it because we like doing it,” he added.

An authority on plant galls, Mr Hancy also published the successful Notable Trees of Norwich, partly based on a three-year occasional series in his regular column.

When eventually their cat had “encouraged” them to take up small mammal studies, he became editor of the Norfolk Mammal Report, remaining in post for 19 years.

One of his first steps was to establish that the rare species of yellow-necked mice mice was still living at Ellingham in south Norfolk. Decades earlier, he had been inspired by Col Smith's wife, who lived at Ellingham Hall, and had found this rare mouse species.

The medal is awarded in recognition of Dr Sydney Herbert Long, founder of the Norfolk Naturalists Trust in 1926, now the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, who died in 1939.

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