Bas represents Trust at Highgrove Centenary reception
Posted 21st June 2012
To celebrate The Wildlife Trusts’ Centenary, HRH Prince Charles, as Patron of the Trusts, hosted a reception for volunteers at Highgrove, his country house in Gloucestershire.
The Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust was represented by long serving volunteer Bas Forgham, who was happy and honoured to accept his nomination. Here he shares his experience with us.
“The date was May 31 at 4.45pm. This would require a 100 mile return journey late at night so booked into a hotel in Stroud. One downside of the day was that spouses were not invited, however the upside was that, judging by the time it took my wife Sheila to get me prepared, we would have to have had a two night stay to get us both ready!
“I set off in time for the 12 mile drive to Highgrove, forgetting about the late afternoon traffic and twisty roads, hence arriving a little but acceptably late. I was not worried about the event itself but I had an uncomfortable feeling on the journey: will my dress code be acceptable, will the car break down, will my ID be sufficient, will I know anyone, etc? I offered my ID to the policeman at the gate and drove into the grounds. All tensions disappeared as the first person I met was the Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, Stephanie Hilborne, who thankfully remembered me from my days as Trust Secretary.
“Before the reception, we were invited to visit the gardens and luckily I was in the last group out which was the smallest, including Stephanie and Chris Baines, a Wildlife Trusts’ Vice President. The gardens cover 15 acres and contain lots of wildlife areas although the meadows did have some foreign species in them to give some colour early in the year. There are some formal areas but mostly quirky sections and interesting little corners all done with organically controlled management. All the gardens were agricultural land until around 30 years ago when the Prince took over the house. The tour lasted over an hour but we could easily have spent twice that time to do justice to the area.
“At 6pm the reception began on the patio of the Orchard Room, starting with champagne or apple juice followed by canapés. By now the whole event was like a wedding without a bride, groom or relations but at least everyone spoken to was on the same wavelength and knew what you were talking about.
“At around 6.30pm Prince Charles arrived and we were gently moved into small groups so that he could come to each group in turn, shake us all by the hand and stop for a chat with the group for a few minutes. We were all amazed at how relaxed he was which made us all relax as well. It reminded me of a school reunion and meeting an old mate for the first time for a number of years.
“The event finished with short inspirational speeches by Stephanie, Rene Olivieri, the new Chairman of The Wildlife Trusts - and Prince Charles who thanked all Trust members for their work in whatever capacity. At 8.30pm we drifted away to our cars or waiting taxis ferrying people to hotels, railway stations and airports.
“I would like to thank the Trust for my nomination, it was a wonderful, unforgettable occasion.”
Photograph: Bas Forgham is presented to Prince Charles. copyright Paul Burns
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