Man’s mission to help Harleston and its wildlife

Ian Carstairs from Harleston.

Ian Carstairs from Harleston. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

Ian Carstairs is a man who loves Harleston, volunteering and the natural world.

He is known for his many contributions to projects in the community, in particular making sure the town's swift population returns year after year.

Since moving to his wife Janet's home town, 14 years ago, Mr Carstairs has dedicated a large part of that time to helping with various organisations in the community.

He was the chairman of the Have Your Say Campaign, which surveyed 500 residents to find out what they would like to see happen in their town.

Out of it came three issues – the business forum, Harleston's Future and SwiftAction.

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The 68-year-old volunteers for Harleston's Future, a group concerned with the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the town, and its newest campaign to make drivers and pedestrians in the town think for each other.

Mr Carstairs said: 'I have always been involved in volunteering and charity things. I do it because I like

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to and ideally I hope it can make a difference. I have worked in a lot of places with projects and I don't think I have ever come across a place like this. It is a nice group of individuals who come together to do things. There are some terrific characters here and a great community spirit.

'I think the work that has been done through Harleston's Future is an example of thinking for each other. We are very conscious about supporting the town council and county council and they are supporting us. It is crucial.'

SwiftAction is also something that is very important to the town.

Harleston is known for its swift population, with the birds living in the town from May to August.

But across Britain the population is declining rapidly – mainly because of the loss of their traditional nest sites. To raise awareness and promote the town's link with the bird, the initiative was launched.

Nest boxes have been put up around the town and more than 400 children have cut out templates of swifts which have been put on a large mobile displayed at St John's Church.

'The nice thing about these kinds of projects is it brings everyone together.

'People are really enthusiastic to participate,' said Mr Carstairs. 'The project shows the community cares. We are only getting started with environmental issues in the town.'

Originally from Perthshire, Mr Carstairs worked on environmental projects for many countryside organisations.

He was on the board of the North York Moors National Park Association and was the first chairman for the Lottery Heritage Trust of Yorkshire and Humber.

And although he is now retired and is involved in the many Harleston projects, Mr Carstairs is still the vice-chairman of the York City Charity which provides sheltered housing.

He started off studying art, design and photography until an experience with an elusive animal sparked his love for the environment and saw him start his own trust called Carstairs Countryside Trust in


He said: 'I saw a badger and thought it was fantastic and since then I have just been in love with it.

'The trust was set up to do what others could not.

'Over 25 years we managed to safeguard 34 different areas of wildlife and archaeological importance across Yorkshire.'

In 1995, he was made an MBE for services to conservation and an OBE in 2007 for services to heritage.

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