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The John Weston Reserve, John and Diane Weston

Posted: Tuesday 31st March 2015 by The Naze

John Weston

This post is dedicated to John and Diane Weston who were highly active and committed conservationists in Essex, particularly in the Tendring District. The John Weston reserve at the Naze was named in memory of John. The post contains a number of photographs of the Naze, mostly taken by John himself.

On the northern edge of the Naze lies the Essex Wildlife Trust reserve dedicated to John Weston, who was warden at the Naze for many years until his death in 1984. The reserve was officially created in 1971, is 9 acres in area and is today made up of blackthorn and bramble thickets, rough grassland and a number of ponds or ‘scrapes’. This was not always the case however, scrub having encroached only more recently, shown by a number of John’s photographs some of which are presented below:

Above: Former entrance on the eastern edge of the reserve. Today, scrub covers this area.

Above: Similarly this pond is now surrounded by scrub.

John was an environmental activist ahead of his time and dedicated much of his life to protecting, observing and recording wildlife around Hamford Water and the wider county. One of his most committed activities involved organising a long standing Little Tern and shore nesting bird wardening scheme at the Naze, which began in the early 1970s. About thirty five people took part each year with regular volunteers named through correspondence as Weston, Clarke, Brett, Hobern, Brooks, Davidson, Manning, Beach, Haggis, Todd and Sabin. They undertook this work from a hide which has since disappeared from the Naze (see below). Little Terns, which nest at Hamford Water, are amongst the rarest sea birds in the country. They only nest on sand dunes and beaches and are therefore at acute risk from both disturbance from people and high tides.

Above: The Sea Wall Hide (sadly this was burned down and does not now exist)

Above: Little Terns 

John was an eloquent writer and wrote numerous letters relating to planning and local development. His concern for the natural world came across particularly evidently in one such letter: ‘I should like to suggest that we consider what our actions will do to the world we leave behind us. The pace of modern development means that the complex web of interrelated natural species does not have time to adjust to changes in the environment. Can we with a clear conscience exploit and destroy habitats for short term profit and pleasure, and leave a drastically impoverished environment to future generations.’

Above: John Weston

John’s wife Diane was Chair of the Tendring local group of Essex Wildlife Trust for twenty five years following John’s death, before the current Chair, Kevin Marsden, took the position. In the years before her death on 19th September 2014 she was the President of the local group. A keen birder, she had also been joint Recorder and a Vice-President of the Essex Birdwatching Society. Like John, she was a very committed conservationist and dedicated much of her life to conserving wildlife in Tendring. Indeed, it was she who was the drive behind the Little Tern wardening rotas. She also organised numerous bird recording and fundraising events. Diane worked at St Osyth Teacher Training College then the local Council, then as an insurance broker as well as administering her husband’s plumbing and heating business.

Left: Diane Weston

Together John and Diane were at the forefront of the fight against an ambitious development proposal at the Naze in 1959 for a hotel, leisure and housing scheme. This was just one of a number of applications for development at the Naze taking place in the late 1950s. In 1963 Essex County Council and Frinton and Walton Urban District Council (a predecessor of Tendring District Council) purchased the eastern part of the Naze, the former Links Golf Club, that would have been affected by development and declared it a public open space. In the 1980s John and Diane turned their attentions towards the proposed development at Pedlars Wood and were successful in their efforts to have the development refused.

Today, the reserve, named in memory of John and Diane, is a refuge for birds including Common and Lesser Whitethroat, Cetti’s Warbler and Water Rail among others and invertebrates. The reserve retains its open grassland spaces but as mentioned previously also contains a large amount of scrub, perfect as a nesting and feeding ground. In the summer months it is also a good place to see a number of different butterflies and insects. For more information please visit - www.essexwt.org.uk/reserves/john-weston

   

 

 

 

By Ben Eagle, Naze Education Ranger

Many thanks to David Bain, Secretary of Tendring Local EWT Group for providing access to John's photographs and for his help in putting this post together.

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