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Brendan Joyce steps down after 22 years as director of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Norfolk Wildlife Trust chief executive Brendan Joyce at Hickling Broad earlier this year.

 PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Norfolk Wildlife Trust chief executive Brendan Joyce at Hickling Broad earlier this year. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

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He has been at the forefront of protecting Norfolk’s wildlife and natural habitats for 22 years.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust chief executive Brendan Joyce, upon receiving an OBE for services to nature conservation. Picture: PIERS MACDONALD/PA Norfolk Wildlife Trust chief executive Brendan Joyce, upon receiving an OBE for services to nature conservation. Picture: PIERS MACDONALD/PA

And now Brendan Joyce, who has led Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) first as its director, then chief executive, since 1995, has decided to step down.

The 60-year-old, who lives in Hellesdon, said his first major challenge came early on at Cley Marshes, NWT’s best-known nature reserve.

He said: “One of the first jobs I had to tackle was building new bird watching hides and a new boardwalk at Cley.

“Then there was a major flood in 1996, which wrecked the whole place and required a major clean-up operation. We had to do that quickly, because Prince Charles came to visit in March 1996, and we had only just recovered.”

Brendan Joyce with Prince Charles on a visit to  Hickling Broad in 2001. Picture: Nick Butcher Brendan Joyce with Prince Charles on a visit to Hickling Broad in 2001. Picture: Nick Butcher

Mr Joyce went onto meet the Prince of Wales several times through his career, most recently in November when he was awarded an OBE for services to nature conservation.

Mr Joyce said of the occasion: “Prince Charles has visited NWT several times over the years so it was very nice to be able to receive it from him.”

He said he was proud of the work the trust had done over the decades, including expanding the number of properties it owns.

Mr Joyce said: “Cley probably has the highest profile, but there are actually well over 50 nature reserves around the county.

Brendan Joyce at Cley Marshes, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's best-known site. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Brendan Joyce at Cley Marshes, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's best-known site. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

“We have a very big nature reserve just east of King’s Lynn called Roydon Common, we own Barton Broad, as well as Weeting Heath and the Holme Dunes near Hunstanton.”

“Then we acquired Hickling Broad earlier this year.

“They’re extremely important for wildlife and for people who want to visit and enjoy the wildlife there.”

In his 20s, Mr Joyce had worked for a computer firm before completing a degree in environmental studies and joining the Royal Society of Nature Conservation, which later become the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.

Cley Marshes is a haven for wildlife. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE Cley Marshes is a haven for wildlife. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

He relocated from Lincoln to join the Norwich-based NWT, which marked its 90th anniversary last year.

Mr Joyce said: “I said in the interview that if I got the job I would do it for five years and I ended up staying for 22. I wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for.”

Mr Joyce’s tenure has also included some personal challenges, including undergoing a liver transplant at Addenbrooke’s Hospital after being diagnosed with primary liver cancer eight years ago.

He said: “Having the opportunity for an organ transplant is amazing. It leaves you stunned and grateful to the person who wanted to do that, and you certainly feel a debt to them.”

A marsh harrier in flight at Cley Marshes. Picture: Nick W A marsh harrier in flight at Cley Marshes. Picture: Nick W

Mr Joyce said he also planned to stay involved with nature conservation after he stood down in the New Year.

He said: “I have been thinking about this for a while and with the trust in such good condition, now feels the right time.

“I am ‘stepping down’ rather than ‘retiring’ and will stay committed to conservation wherever I am. Along with the trustees, we are planning a long handover with my successor and I will do all I can to support them as they pick up the reins.”

Mr Joyce said he planned to stay in Nelson’s County.

He said: “Norfolk is my home now - I’ve fallen in love with it.

“I am looking forward to the next leg of my journey in life with a great sense of satisfaction that the trust is in a strong position to carry on its own journey in pursuit of its vision to achieve a sustainable environment for wildlife and people.”

Mr Joyce said he was also pleased that the trust had expanded its educational role, teaching not just children but also adults about the value and uniqueness of Norfolk’s wildlife.

He said: “I feel very privileged to have been the chief executive for the trust for so long and very proud indeed of all that it has achieved in the past two decades.

“This is down to the fantastic work and commitment of our staff and volunteers, past and present, but also to all our members, supporters and many other organisations who have stood ready to help when needed.

“It has been truly wonderful to work for an organisation that attracts so much support and belief in its cause.”

David Thompson, the trust’s chairman of trustees, said: “Brendan has achieved a huge amount for the trust.

“Whilst we are very sad it is understandably a natural high point in an illustrious career and we wish him very well.”

Wildlife abounds at NWT sites

Mr Joyce said he was constantly amazed by the variety of wildlife in Norfolk, a county home to everything from the Swallowtail butterfly to grey seals.

He said marsh harriers were among his favourite species to spot in the wild.

Mr Joyce said: “They’re just so amazing to watch when they’re in flight - the way they move around is fantastic.”

He said it came as a surprise to many people to learn that while Norfolk’s landscape was about 80pc intensive farming, rare plant and animal species abounded.

He said barn owls were another favourite sight.

Mr Joyce said: “To see one of those always take my breath away.”

Mr Joyce said other species he always loved to see included: “The stone-curlew, the bittern and the pool frog at NWT Thompson Common, which actually isn’t found anywhere else, are other highlights.

“There are so many species I could mention.

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