Monday, 18 May 2015

Restore: The Movie

"Are we rolling?"


A train passes, then the sun goes behind a big, fat cloud. A delivery van brings supplies to the Visitors' Centre and LEAVES HIS ENGINE RUNNING!!!.

"Paxton Pits: Take 25"

Ray Matthews (or is it John Craven?)
"Ray, what benefits does the nature reserve bring to your local community?" .......Another train passes. I hear a small oath under someone's breath.

I was expecting make-up, costume, hair and lighting, or at least tasty snacks, but I am not a Top Gear presenter and have no riders, or even a contract. Before agreeing to this torture I should at least have asked for Bourbon Creams and a bottle of Landlord's Pale Ale. (They don't go together, but I love them both.)

The reality of making movies is so unglamourous that I can see why people milk it for all it is worth.

"Well, Darling, let me tell you, it was agony out there! We sweated in the hot sun and we even had to make up our own lines. My agent will be livid!"

It took us half a day to record a few minutes, most of which will end up on the (virtual) cutting room floor. So, what was all that about, apart from our Luvee egos of course?
Jim Stevenson (or is it David Attenborough?)

It was all in a good cause, they tell me. In June there will be a conference in Brussels to mark the end of a project called RESTORE that was funded by the EU to study and demonstrate the benefits of restored quarries for both people and wildlife.

In the UK we have an organisation called "Nature After Minerals" that Ray and I have worked with several times before. They are based at the RSPB offices in Sandy and they are the UK partner in this project. As part of their contribution to the conference, the RSPB is making a short film about the benefits that quarries can have.

In our case they wanted to know more about the benefits that we generate to the community, so more or less off-the-cuff, Ray and I had to think up (or make up) answers. It's an interesting topic to explore in 30 seconds!

As Monty Python would say, "So, what has the Nature Reserve ever done for us?" - Footpaths; a pleasant stroll; wildlife to see, study or photograph; a romantic rendezvous? Much more surely?

We are a significant tourist attraction with tens of thousands of visitors coming through the centre and well over 100 thousand visitors to the reserve a year. They spend money in the local community, but how much?

A recent study by the RSPB showed that every pound spent on a nature reserve represented £2.60 spent in the local area. That's impressive enough, but we don't take credit cards, charge admission, serve hot meals or sell telescopes, so I would suggest that a day-trip visitor to Paxton Pits might spend as much as a similar visitor to Minsmere. The average Minsmere day-visitor spends (wait for it.................) over £36 in the local community.

A visiting group.
Then there is the question of house values. A house near the Reserve fetches more than a similar one further away, perhaps by thousands of pounds.

And what do we contribute directly? Well ask the chaps at Ibbett's where we buy all our agricultural kit and where we get it repaired every time we break it. We buy tools, timber, wire, chainsaws, fuel, paint and much more, all locally. This amounts to over £10,000 and may be twice that.

We create jobs, both on the Reserve and off it. The Rangers and educators are paid, but did you ever think about the other people who earn a living by bringing U3A groups, evening classes, school parties, healthy walkers, Nordic walkers, photography classes, dog handlers, dog walkers,  etc? And those salaries are spent locally, mostly.

What I think is more important is the opportunity we give for volunteering. That sounds like polit-speak, I know. Yes we totally depend on volunteers and the definition of that is "working for no money!" But I believe that people get a lot of reward from volunteering. If you have worked all your life (paid or not) and then find yourself on the scrap-heap, your social life often goes too. Certainly your status takes a dive. When someone asks me who I am, I usually reply that I am the Senior Ranger at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve. Take that away, and who will I be then? We have a huge number of volunteers who put in well over 150 man-days a month.

Well, I could go on and on, but you may begin to see what the Nature Reserve ever did for us. If you are a boat owner, dog walker, jogger, smart-phone zombie or carp fisherman, you have to acknowledge that the Reserve gives you more than you could ever wish for. And where could you get a more warm welcome?

After all that, it's free!

PS. When I have the URL, I will let you know how to view our film on-line.