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Meet Our Trustees

Bill Makins - Our Founder (1932-2022)

Bill Makins was a visionary conservationist. Alongside farming his Norfolk property, Pensthorpe, he created a truly sustainable gravel extraction process creating one of the most bio-diverse nature reserves in England. Bill was interested in wildfowl and rare species since childhood. In the 1960s he spent time in Kenya learning about stockmanship of both birds and mammals. His passion took him the world over. Each destination brought new discoveries as well as rewards. Pygmy Geese and other rare ducks and geese from North America, Chile and Iceland arrived and thrived. Bill spent his life devoting his experience and enthusiasm to actively promoting the conservation of endangered birds. 

Bill’s passion was very firmly focused on the Turtle Dove Trust (Charitable Trust No. 1186288) which he founded in 2019 along with Edward Pope and Chris Knights, to raise awareness of and to garner support for this unique species.  Bill wanted to prove that captive breeding, and a highly active release program, would successfully secure the future of the Turtle Dove in the United Kingdom.

Sadly, Bill died peacefully on March 27th, 2022, aged 90. 

Nicholas Watts MBE - Chairman

Nicholas Watts has successfully farmed at Vine House Farm since 1964, during which time the farm has grown from the 400 acres he inherited to around 3500 acres today.

Having kept a wildlife diary since his teenage years, Nicholas started surveying the birds that were breeding on his farm. He realised that there had been a large decline of some species. Skylark numbers were down by 60%, and Corn Buntings by 90%. Worried, Nicholas decided to try to stop the decline

His annual surveys dating from 1982 subsequently helped guide his farm management choices. Since 1992 there has been extensive habitat creation at Vine House Farm with Nicholas sharing the results of his conservation ideas and trials with other interested farmers and conservation bodies.

Nicholas has won more awards for conservation on his farm than any other farmer in the UK. In 2006 Nicholas was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for his services to farming and conservation in Lincolnshire.

Nicholas said: “This is totally unexpected. It’s a shock but a very nice one. It’s nice to have all my work over the years recognised … I like to see the birds about and help other people look after the birds on their farms. I am a farmer as well as a conservationist. It goes hand in hand. II suppose this is what all the work I’ve done over the years has amounted to.”

His enthusiasm and inspiration also led to the creation of Vine House Farm Bird Seeds. With the help of his farm and business teams, Nicholas is now able to dedicate more time to his passion of caring for farmland wildlife and, in support of the Turtle Dove Trust, Nicholas has agreed a new role as trustee and Chairman of the Trust.

VHF 2 Ag 2021
"I could see wildlife was in trouble, but I was just lucky that I'm interested in birds, and I could do something to help"

Mike Anderson-Brown - Trustee

Mike grew up in rural Suffolk and as a boy was keenly involved in country sports and wildfowl rearing. He obtained an honours degree in Agriculture from Nottingham University before working in the agricultural supply industry covering north Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. Covering thousands of miles and visiting hundreds of farms he always had his binoculars at hand and planned routes that would take in local nature reserves or birdwatching opportunities.

A complete change of direction then saw him working for various technology companies in Cambridge during which he travelled the world running operations in Europe USA, and China. Following a successful exit he now runs his own business based from his home near St Neots in Cambridgeshire.

Throughout his life Mike has been involved in many charitable and community organisations including The Friends Of Paxton Pits, of which he was a founder member and now 30 years later is Chair of the Board of Trustees. One of his most cherished memories is of a favourite spot at Paxton Pits where for years in late spring you could sit and be serenaded by Nightingales and Turtle Doves.

The last Turtle Dove nested at Paxton in 2015 and despite almost perfect habitat there have been no sightings since then. That’s why Mike has agreed to get involved and support the Turtle Dove Trust in its aims and objectives.

Robert Anderson-Brown - Trustee

Robert Anderson-Brown was brought up in Suffolk and developed a keen interest in aviculture from his father Arthur who was one of the pioneers of artificial incubation of rare waterfowl and gamebirds.

He was involved in all aspects from a very young age. Lucky enough to travel to World Pheasant association symposiums and many trips to Slimbridge with his father. Meeting Sir Peter Scott on more than one occasion as a young teenager, and very aware of Bill Makins’s presence in this field. Breeding, rearing, caring for and studying birds has always been  part of his soul.

Robert read Agriculture at Nottingham University and after a working lifetime as a Grain merchant, starting as a grain buyer in the fens to National grain trading roles with blue chip companies has finally stepped back from being a Director of an International Pulse exporting company to be able to spend more time on his interests. Always passionate about conservation and a very keen naturalist he is delighted to become a trustee of this exciting and essential project.

Chris Knights and Edward Pope

Due to pressures of work  and their other business commitments, it is with regret that we must announce the resignations of Mr. Edward Pope and Mr. Chris Knights as Trustees of the Turtle Dove Trust. We thank them for their previous assistance and their contributions to the Turtle Dove Trust.