When I was at the House of Lords this week, I could look up the broad, powerful, grey Thames to Lambeth Palace and scan leftwards, downstream past flapping Union Jacks to Westminster Bridge and the London Eye beyond. As I passed through security at Black Rod's Garden entrance, all of Westminster was bathed in bright, golden sunlight, but afterwards, under the darkest of blue/black skies, the embankment was lit up in neon blues, reds and greens: One long photo opportunity.
The occasion was a launch, sponsored by Biffa Waste to mark the start of the second round of the Million Ponds Campain. All of the conservation agencies were involved, and I supposed that I had been invited to represent Huntingdonshire Regional Council or because of our work with Aggregate Industries. I brandished my invitation card from Baroness Hilton of Eqqardon, QPM with the House of Lords crest on top. Guests were given photo ID cards to hang around our necks and we shuffled in file through a courtyard, past a policeman with a machine gun, to an ante-room where I was given a proper name tag that read, "Jim Stevenson: BBC Wildlife Nature Writer of the Year 2012". What a shot to my ego!
The room overlooked the river so I took a few minutes to take in the view while the room filled with conservation people. Chubby men in black with foreign accents offered us wine and nibbles and the murmuring sound of "conservation conversation" swelled.
I didn't expect to know anyone at the launch but that didn't worry me. This was a treat for me and I was going to enjoy every minute of it. Actually, I was hoping for a guided tour of the House, but we were kept busy in the Cholmondeley Room with speeches, after which I got involved in discussions on climate change with staff from The Environment Agency, one of whom had done her MSc thesis at Paxton Pits. Ruth Hannify had been a star student, running 100 traps a night to catch small mammals alive.
The only other person I knew was Justin Tilley, my contact from Natural England, but I probably spoke with a dozen other people, all of whom wanted to talk about wetland conservation. Professional or amateur, they were all passionate about nature conservation, which told me two things;
- The organisers had invited the right people who would carry the project forward.
- These people deserved a good night out, and, by Jove they had one.
You can find out more about the Million Ponds Scheme at Pond Conservation.