Living with nature

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Dr Barry Yates

‘Patient’, ‘generous’, ‘kind’, ‘passionate’, ‘knowledgeable’ and ‘inspirational’.

If you were asked to think of a local public figure and sum him up in these words many people would readily apply them to Dr Barry Yates, manager of the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. There were many more adjectives used but these cropped up time and time again when I asked people who knew him for three words to sum up Barry.

How could three words be enough, indeed? If you have ever had the pleasure of sharing a walk around the reserve with Barry you would know that you are privileged to see it through his eyes and to see it through a different perspective. It is as if he is one with the reserve and a total part of it.

This is interesting, because when I was talking to Barry he said that one of his greatest joys was to see the reserve through the eyes of the visitors and always seeing something different.

“In all things in nature, there is something of the marvellous.” Aristotle

Barry is always looking for new angles. He carries two cameras with him at all times on the Reserve, a Sony RX10 and an Olympus TG5. With these tools he captures the unexpectedness of nature and shares it generously with others, enabling people to appreciate wildlife more.

Where did it all begin? Fishing is the answer. His father used to take him once a month on the works fishing trip outing. Here he learnt to wait, have patience, and to be at one with nature. It was a good starting point. At school he was encouraged to apply for a place at university and biology being his main interest, he applied to and attended Imperial College London and gained his degree. It was, in his eyes, an amazing stepping-stone to the rest of his working life.

“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” Einstein

I asked Barry if he had a favourite place on the reserve and he explained that it varied from month to month, season to season. In winter he loves to visit Halpin Hide at Castle Water for the tranquillity and good views of ducks, waders, marsh harriers and bittern, and in spring the Denny Hide for the common terns, gulls and ringed plover that nest in front.

The birdwatching hides offer so much to all the visitors and Barry enjoys going around them as he never knows who he might meet, someone new or a familiar face. He enjoys a chat and it gives him great pleasure sharing his knowledge and love of the birds. It gives people time to reflect, a time of silence and solitude except for the bird calls.

One such face was that of Robert Bathurst, the actor, who commented, “I was in a hide at the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve looking at the birdlife I didn’t understand when Barry came in. I had the most wonderful seminar on all that we could see. Every bird, what they were feeding on, what they were afraid of, when they had arrived and when they were leaving. It was fascinating; he is an inspiring teacher.”

Nature’s beauty is all around from spring’s hopeful blooms, through the energy of summer to autumn’s exquisite displays of colour, and winter’s magic. Every day it is there for all to discover.

When Barry first started, with the support and encouragement of his wife Anne, he soon discovered that friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve played a vital role in keeping the reserve going. To this day, the impact of the work they do is felt in so many ways. Their long-term support financially by matching funds for projects and grants is vital. The reserve is supported by so many enthusiastic volunteers who show a keen interest and are passionate about what they do.

The public face of Dr Barry Yates

Barry, in his own words, was not really a people person and yet he was thrust into public engagements and soon became the face of the reserve. He understood the enormous benefits that people receive from visiting the reserve. It is a place where people seek their own peace and a sense of place. Pythagoras told us to leave the roads and take the trails and Barry certainly endorses that.

People enjoy the open landscapes, the sea, the sky and all that nature has to offer, and there are many reminders of the generations that have gone before, Camber Castle, the pillboxes, the Martello tower and the Mary Stanford lifeboat house. Barry says that they are constant reminders of our own brief time here and teach us how the past has a big part to play in shaping our lives today.

So three words were certainly not enough to enable us to understand the private side of the public man, Dr Barry Yates, but they were a good starting point.

The last words go to Barry himself: “I am in a privileged position, working and living in this special place and I’ve been able to make a difference for wildlife and to people’s lives. I have listened and shared experiences and always tried to make the most of every opportunity. I have lived with nature every day and watched it unfold. In nature nothing is perfect, and everything is perfect.”

Image Credits: Kt Bruce .

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