High praise from Sir David Attenborough about Norfolk Wildlife Trust conservation and education at centre launch

Sir David Attenborough visiting Cley Marshes Visitors Centre to open the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Edu

Sir David Attenborough visiting Cley Marshes Visitors Centre to open the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

World-renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough praised the crucial conservation work of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust at a celebration of a new coastal education centre and protected marshland today.

Sir David Attenborough visiting Cley Marshes Visitors Centre to open the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Edu

Sir David Attenborough visiting Cley Marshes Visitors Centre to open the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre. Cutting the ribbon to the new marsh land owned by Norfolk Wildlife Trust with Connor Lonergan, 12, and his sister Sasha, 10.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The veteran broadcaster officially opened the new Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre at Cley Marshes Visitor Centre, run by the trust, and a new path linking 143 acres of newly-bought land to marshes already managed by the organisation.

Both the education centre, named after the late naturalist Simon Aspinall, and land purchase, allowing the trust to protect an 8km stretch of marshland from Blakeney to Kelling, cost £2.6m.

The trust launched an appeal in July 2012 to raise the money and more than £900,000 was raised by donations from individuals, including Simon Aspinall's family, and trusts. The remaining £1.5m came from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Sir David said Cley was one of the best places in the country to see wildlife.


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He said: 'The wildlife trusts have a national voice and something to say. Looking after this area of land is very tricky and requires expertise.'

He added climate change would impact on the north Norfolk coast in the future.

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'In future years, the knowledge that is brought here by those attending the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre will be crucial to the world. The natural world is in great danger. Places like this are crucial to the welfare of our countryside.

'Every breath of air and bit of food we eat comes down to the natural world. We have got to understand it,' Sir David said.

He added the government and wildlife trusts had a key part to play in conserving wildlife, which cost money.

Sir David, president emeritus of all 47 British wildlife trusts, said there was much more interest in natural history across the country, compared to in 1926 when a group of 12 friends bought Cley Marshes.

The north Norfolk beauty spot was Britain's first nature reserve and the group that formed it became the Norfolk Wildlife Trust which now cares for the Broads and Brecks.

Sir David described his visit today as a 'great day' for the new 143 acres of land which would help establish new habitats, the education centre and himself.

He also praised the late Simon Aspinall, who lived in Cley and was passionate about its nature, as a great naturalist.

Mr Aspinall, who died after a five-year battle with motor neurone disease in 2011 age 53, travelled the world researching and teaching about birds.

His father Jack Aspinall, from Holt, said the family was rejoicing about the new education centre.

'Simon would have been delighted and embarrassed,' Mr Aspinall added.

Richard Aspinall, 59, brother of the late naturalist, said: 'We are really pleased and impressed [with the new centre] and are particularly proud it is named after Simon. This is a terrific part of the county. It was special for Simon.'

The centre will allow the trust to run more nature-based workshops for all ages and connect the visitors centre to the marshland.

Do you have a nature story? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk

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