Meet our volunteers - Derek Bates
Tells us a bit about yourself
I was born in 1938 in Beckenham. In the war time years I wasn’t evacuated, I stayed in South London with the doodlebugs and bombings. My father was in the RAF, but he was also a gardener and was interested in insects and butterflies.
I joined an architects’ firm in Westminster as a draughtsman for £1 a week.
We moved to St Leonards on Sea in 1968. There was so much lovely, open countryside then. I was the only car user on my road.
I first came across Filsham Reedbed in 1973, with my family, including my two daughters Sharon and Lynn. They were both interested in wildlife and butterflies and Sharon has a bird group now. They’re both still local, and I enjoy having both grandchildren and great grandchildren nearby.
As a bird watcher I knew Filsham Reedbed as a site that had warblers, water rail and other water birds. I found out that Hastings Borough Council were intending to turn it into a domestic waste site. I got in touch with Sussex Wildlife Trust and we persuaded the council not to go ahead with it. Sussex Wildlife Trust have managed Filsham Reedbed ever since on behalf of Hastings BC.
Filsham Reedbed © Miles Davies
I’ve been a member of the Trust since then, as well as a volunteer.
Jack McTear was their Liaison Officer and together we started the East Sussex Conservation Corps. We persuaded the Borough Council to extend the wetland, and later, with the support of many others, we acquired a total of 42 acres and turned Filsham Reedbed into a Local Nature Reserve. We also raised money to get a pond dug in 1975.
Derek and Jack McTear at Filsham Reedbed in the 70s
After Jack McTear died, I took over as Volunteer Reserve Manager. I was also VRM of Flatropers Wood, Marline and several other sites. I formed the Powder Mill Trust with Jack, affiliated with Sussex Wildlife Trust, supporting Powder Mill Wood in Battle Abbey grounds.
What has been challenging?
I’ve loved the volunteering, but trying to do all of it and hold down a job in London (I became designer for London Transport Executive) was very hard.
What have you most enjoyed?
All of it! The valued friendship of like-minded, wildlife loving people - I loved working with a team. I was encouraged to feel that my role was important, helping wildlife by safeguarding and creating habitats. The wonderful Trust magazine, Wildlife. I enjoyed the role of Lookering. It’s kept me fit, healthy and happy.
And you’re still volunteering with us now?
I am! 48 years later.