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SEE VIDEO: Colleagues surprise Titchwell volunteer Mike for 90th birthday

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A long-serving volunteer at a coastal nature reserve says he has no plans to take things easier, even as he turns 90.

Mike Barrett turned up for his shift at the RSPB Titchwell Marsh reserve on Friday morning expecting to greet visitors at the information desk as usual.

But his friends and colleagues had other ideas as they threw a surprise party in his honour ahead of his birthday on Sunday.

Mr Barrett, who lives in the nearby village of Thornham, quipped: “Here’s to the next 90”, as he received a gift of a hot air balloon flight over Rutland Water to observe the ospreys that live there and were the first to breed in England for 150 years following a translocation programme.

And he plans to continue his volunteering career, which spans half a century in all, for as long as he can.

He said: “I have been blessed with good health and that helps a lot. If I continue to feel the way I do, I’ll carry on. I still have a great interest.”

A lifelong nature lover and bird watching enthusiast, Mr Barrett, who is originally from Enfield, regularly visited Titchwell on holiday before moving to West Norfolk after his retirement as an engineer.

Having first got involved in volunteer work 50 years ago, He began working at the reserve almost 30 years ago, saying: “I thought it would give me something to do in retirement.”

Then, the site was little more than a boggy marsh, but Mr Barrett was a key figure in building the visitor centre, as well as a sea wall, bird watching hides and improving the site for all of its visitors.

Today, he still helps with the management of reed beds, clearing ditches and other carpentry jobs around the site.

As well as all that, and giving information to visitors when they arrive, he also leads a regular history walk around the reserve.

And, last year, he was honoured with a National Trust Octavia Hill award in recognition of his work at the reserve.

Pernille Egeberg, the site’s visitor officer, said: “Somebody described him to me as a true gentleman. That is exactly what he is.

“He’ll do anything for anybody and he’s so passionate about nature.

“He’s part of the furniture here. I don’t think anybody coming here doesn’t know who Mike is.”

But, despite the award and the affection in which he is held by colleagues, Mr Barrett remains modest about his contribution to the site’s development over the last three decades.

He said: “I can see how it has changed and developed and I’ve played a small part in that. I do enjoy talking to people and explaining the reserve to them.”

Describing his colleagues as a “wonderful crowd of people”, he added: “I’ve met some wonderful people here and I’ve made lots and lots of lovely friends and I continue to do so.”

 

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