Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born and bred in Brighton, so I’m a townie. I moved to Burgess Hill 20 years ago, and have gradually become more interested in wildlife over time.
I’m a Senior Human Resources Business Partner for a charity called Sightsavers. Before that, I’ve had varied roles, including working for the NHS and Body Shop International, in the field of HR and Occupational Health.
How did you come to be interested in wildlife?
I used to enjoy watching wildlife documentaries on TV, but then I found the solace of nature. I go for long rambling walks and get lost. I still find pathways I’ve never seen before. And I like taking photos as well.
I’m very close to my niece Isabelle, who stayed over a lot when she was young. We’d go out and about in nature a lot, splash in puddles, and identify trees.
I used to suffer from anxiety myself and I do a lot of Mental Health First Aid work. I realised I need to relax and get away from people sometimes.
How did you get involved with Sussex Wildlife Trust?
When looking for local nature reserves, I came across Woods Mill. It was so wonderful. I read the information panel there about Sussex Wildlife Trust, and looked up the website, and started visiting other reserves. I had no idea there were so many. I began to read articles, order nature books, and get into learning to ID things I was seeing. My day job is great, but it’s internationally-based, so doing something local appealed. When I saw that the trust was looking for Trustees, especially with HR experience, I applied.
What qualities do you need to be a good trustee?
A good understanding of the work of the trust. A natural affinity, and enthusiasm, for local as well as global environmental issues. Particular technical skills that are required. To be a good listener.
What do you enjoy about it?
Seeing how different aspects of the organisation come together. So many different cogs - there’s so much that happens behind the scenes. I didn’t realise the trust had its own livestock, that it has to manage trees. I like going to events and meeting people. The knowledge of the staff is astounding. The education team are so interested in meeting and engaging with new people and members.
What are the challenges?
Trying to balance it with my day job, which has to come first of course. I’d like to do more. There is a lot to read and think about, quite a lot of financial papers.
But lockdown has helped. Zoom meetings work well. They took a bit of getting used to, but they get us together very effectively.
In terms of your photos, what’s your favourite shot?
Sunset at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve last year, sitting with Barry Yates in a hide. It was my birthday and I’d been feeling quite miserable.
I’m an artist as well, and I love anything colourful. I’m obsessed with toadstools. Fly Agaric and Waxcaps. So tiny and perfect. I’ve got a tattoo of a toadstool!
What’s your hope for the future for wildlife in Sussex?
That people take care of the natural environment, both in terms of the bigger climate concerns as well as their local environment. And that the interest in wildlife that seems to have spring up during lockdown with many people continues.
For more of Sarah's art, see here