Making change happen: Supporters’ Day 2023

Earth Trust’s Supporters’ Day this year was an important opportunity to recognise and celebrate our wonderful community, and all the many different ways that we work together.

As well as celebrating the achievements that our supporters have helped to make happen over the past 12 months, we wanted to explore the role we can play together in responding to some of the biggest current issues – and plans for the future.

Earth Trust’s Chair of Trustees, Ian Davidson, opened the event with a reminder of our purpose and the urgency of the key issues we are addressing together – a triple threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and health & wellbeing.

“Engaging people in nature can help to build a better world. It’s all our responsibility now to take action.

National challenges need local solutions. What we do here, in Oxfordshire, can inspire so many others. And here are just a few examples of what we have achieved together over the past 12 months: we have continued to pioneer and demonstrate the impact of nature based solutions with new learning and research partnerships. This last year we have been connecting more – and more diverse – people than ever to nature. And we are supporting and encouraging our community to help make more change happen in pursuit of a world where nature and people can thrive together by scaling up our influencing and advocacy work.

But, this is just the beginning. We are changing the way we think about our role and impact, and our supporters are a vital part of this. Together we have already achieved so much, but we need to grow and expand our community in order to achieve even more.”

supporters day 2023 annual rose giving ceremony from oxfordshire county council to earth trust for wittenham clumps public access

earth trust supporters day 2023 tom heap special guest speaker for panel discussion

Keynote speaker Tom Heap, journalist and presenter of BBC’s Countryfile, explored the challenges of multiple demands on green spaces – emphasising the need to balance food production, wildlife restoration and energy generation.

“We now need land for so many things. Let’s talk nature based solutions. To address the climate crisis, we need to store more carbon, we need it to address the nature crisis, we need to provide more more space for wildlife, we need it to store more water in the event of floods, we need it to provide recreation and space for physical exercise and mental health. But, we also need it for energy generation. And we need to produce more food. We need all these things from our land. These things, these environmental solutions are not either or. Let’s mix our land uses – produce, protect, reduce, restore and stack.”

Tom joined our panel of keynote speakers; Richard Benwell of Wildlife and Countryside Link, David Rouane, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council and Jayne Manley, Earth Trust CEO, to discuss the role of Earth Trust’s community in making change happen.

Jayne stated that we need to think differently about activism “If you’re a volunteer in my book, you are active. If you are supporting an environmental cause, you are active.”

Tom added, “We need to be clear as activists about what change we need to see for our environment. Green farming and restructuring incentives for big business. A green skills development scheme for the next generation. Precisely as you do here at Earth Trust.”

Richard Benwell commented “We need to bring together the richness of our movement into a single voice, at the times that matter to sway the big decisions.”

earth trust supporters day 2023 guest speakers for panel discussion richard benwell, david rouane, jayne manley and tom heap

“Earth Trust Supporters’ Day took my breath away today. More than being a little star struck, seeing Tom Heap, it was inspiring to be surrounded by so many fellow nature lovers who are taking action to address climate and ecological crises.”

Luke Hislop, via LinkedIn

Following the panel discussion, Earth Trust’s Director of Operations, Dave Lewis, and Head of Fundraising, Lee Ann Norris, presented the Earth Trust Awards for Supporter Achievement, expressing our gratitude for long-standing support and invaluable contribution to the Trust.

Ten years of dedicated support from individual volunteers and donors were recognised, with thanks from Chair of Oxfordshire County Council, Felix Bloomfield. A Special Acknowledgement Award was given to Bev Hindle – former chair of the Oxfordshire Cambridge Arc for his support in championing the work of Earth Trust within the sector.

The annual Rose Ceremony then took place – a tradition, going back several decades – where the Chair of Oxfordshire County Council presents a rose to the Chair of Earth Trust’s trustees as a peppercorn rent for public access to Wittenham Clumps. The rose will be planted in the Earth Trust Centre garden by our volunteer gardening group.

earth trust volunteers celebrated at supporters day 2023

There’s so much more to this place than what immediately meets the eye.  You have an extraordinary range of habitats. And you’re doing really smart and interesting things with them –  whether it’s to do with encouraging public access, which you do so well, or whether it’s the science that you’re doing next to the River Thames. There are so many interesting projects, and these are things that people can actually come and see for themselves. Coming here, you get a feeling for not only the beauty of the place, but also the purpose behind it.

Tom Heap