The Duke of Edinburgh was in good spirits yesterday at Dersingham Bog National Nature Reserve, walking with stick in hand and smiling in the autumn sunshine.
The visit by the 92 year old, following his recuperation at Sandringham this summer after an operation in June, was made in his capacity as the patron of the Conservation Volunteers.
Upon arrival, Prince Philip set out for a stroll with the hosts of the event, Natural England. Ash Murray, site manager, said the Duke shared his recollections of the area.
Hesaid: “He knows the estate going back a long, long time and took a special trip out across the bog to meet those volunteers.
“This is a landmark for us. Twenty-three years of managing the site, and we get to show him what we have achieved.”
A long process has seen volunteers battling rhododendrons and clearing trees to restore open heathland, as it would have existed 200 years ago. Dersingham Bog is a site of international and national interest for wildlife and geology, providing a vital resource for many species, including bees, rare insects and birds such as the ground-nesting nightjar.
The Duke joked to the crowd about just how popular Dersingham Bog is. He said: “It attracts every twitcher in the country. Pandemonium down here!”
The atmosphere was relaxed for the presentation, with volunteers – some of whom have given 30 years service – eagerly awaiting a chance to meet the Duke.
He quipped: “It was a relief to the estate, not having to do it ourselves!”
His appreciation was demonstrated with a sincere, “I am very grateful to all of you who look after it.”
Ernie Woodrow, a volunteer of more than four years, said: “Its been brilliant. I really enjoy the greenery and the fresh air. It’s been a big benefit to my health.
“It is a lot of hard work, but it is all worthwhile at the end of the day, seeing people enjoying themselves.”
The sense of community was strong as the Duke chatted to volunteers over tea and biscuits. Richard Pilling, a volunteer of one year, said: “It’s really great going to different places and learning. It’s also great to make new friends, and to have a laugh with the guys.”
The Big Green Weekend runs from October 4-7, and encourages volunteers to pull on some boots and muck in.
Anyone interested in finding out more should email thomas.bolderstone@ naturalengland.org.uk”