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Patrick Barkham

It is a real honour to be asked to be a Patron of the Felbeck Trust. The very best antidote to feelings of environmental despair and hopelessness is to join local community action to make our neighbourhoods better - for wildlife and for ourselves. I grew up in Reepham and became interested in nature because both my parents were, and their knowledge and enthusiasm was contagious. But I was also influenced by our Norfolk landscape - often intensively farmed but still harbouring wild life. Like many children of Norfolk, I went away to university and worked in big cities in my twenties, as a journalist for The Times and The Guardian. Feeling increasingly alienated from nature, I decided I needed to reconnect with the things that nourish us and keep us well. In 2009 I set out to see all 59 species of British butterfly in one summer, and this became my first book, The Butterfly Isles.Since then, I've combined working for the Guardian with writing books, including Badgerlands, a history of humans and badgers, and Islander, a tour around some of Britain's most interesting small islands.My wife and I were blessed to have twins which also fortunately forced us to come home, back to Norfolk, and avail ourselves of grandparental help! These days I live in Hoveton with my family and continue to work for The Guardian (recent stories include a big profile of Sir David Attenborough and looking at the impact of HS2), give talks about nature, write books and evangelise about Norfolk to anyone who will listen. My next book, Wild Child, is a celebration of local, neighbourhood nature. It is published in May and I hope it inspires parents and grandparents to help their children spend more time in nature.It was really interesting returning to the county after 15 years away because I have seen in many places how our countryside has been improved from the desolate days of the 1980s. Good agri-environment schemes have encouraged farmers to do what they want to do, and produce food without exterminating all wildlife. Species that were missing when I was a child have returned: buzzards, purple emperor butterflies, badgers, red kites, otters.But of course Norfolk is a landscape under pressure and we have lost almost all our turtle doves and nightingales, while development and pointless new roads threaten to further fragment our nature-depleted county.Ultimately, it is down to us - to fight for nature and create a richer world for everyone and everything in it. That's why I salute you all at the Felbeck Trust who are working to restore and enhance our precious county.

Patrick Barkham
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