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Conservation award for CPRE Hampshire member

Colin Gray receiving his award with Peter Titley and Martin Spray, Chief Executive of WWT Colin Gray receiving his award with Peter Titley and Martin Spray, Chief Executive of WWT Photograph used with kind permission of WWT

Congratulations go to long time CPRE Hampshire member and volunteer Colin Gray for winning top conservation award. 

We are proud to announce that Colin Gray from our North East District Group has been honoured by receiving the Marsh Award for Wetland Conservation from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT).

Colin, an unsung hero for conservation, received the award for his tireless work in restoring Hampshire’s largest area of freshwater, Fleet Pond.

As Colin explained, ' Fleet Pond was designated SSSI as long ago as 1954, confirmed under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

Any large water body fed by surface streams accumulates silt from eroded soils.  Fleet Pond condition was, however, made much worse by the introduction of heavy vehicle training in the mid 1980s on Long Valley, part of the military lands attached to the Aldershot Garrison. The main feeder stream, the Gelvert Stream, runs through Long Valley.   It was a long time before the MoD was prepared to accept any responsibility for the siltation until a question in Parliament by MP James Arbuthnot changed attitudes and a programme of silt traps and filters was introduced in 2006.

I have been on the committee of Fleet Pond Society since 1987 and was elected Chairman in 1999.  I have therefore been closely involved in trying to bring all interested parties together to rescue Fleet Pond from the imminent loss of SSSI status and the inevitable loss this would result of the surrounding reedbeds and wetland habitat.  Eventually the owners, Hart District Council, agreed they had a statutory duty to restore the Pond SSSI from “poor and deteriorating” towards restoration.   In 2007 a Steering Group was formed of Hart DC, NE, Env Agency and FPS, with me as the main FPS rep.   Grants were obtained from HLS, S106 and EU Water Framework Directive totally £1.5 million and contract dredging company started work in 2012.   Along with this FPS launched the Clearwater Campaign in 2010 with a 10 minute video narrated by Chris Packham to raise public awareness of the problems and work to restore the Pond about to commence.   Through donations, community grants and sponsored activity, FPS raised a further £54k for public benefit projects like bench seats, pond dipping platforms and a disability accessible viewing platform.   £13k of this also filled in gaps in the restoration programme not budgeted for within the initial plans.'

This has clearly been a long and time-consuming project for Colin and all those invovled, highlighting the belief and dedication shown by so many volunteers working towards maintaining, restoring and protecting a thriving and beautiful countryside. 

Colin was presented with his award by Peter Titley of the Marsh Christian Trust at WWT’s annual general meeting in Slimbridge. Ever modest, Colin was nominated for the award by members of the Fleet Pond Executive Committee, and is delighted with this recognition for the whole community.  ‘ I must emphasise that all that has so far been achieved would not have happened without the full commitment of the committee and support from the many Fleet residents who love the nature reserve.’

We are delighted for Colin and the Fleet Pond Society - this award is a real recognition for the amazing work he does. 

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