Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre

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Turf cutting for the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre. Jack Aspinall (centre), NWT chairman, Martin Shaw (left) and HLF's Philip Venning. Jack used Simon's spade.
Simon, who died from Motor Neuron disease in 2011, made a very important contribution to ornithology and conservation in the Middle East and was a great supporter of OSME. When in the UK he lived in Cley, Norfolk and in his honour a wildlife education centre is being built at Cley nature reserve belonging the Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT).

The education centre is a major part of NWT’s vision for Cley Marshes, which has included the purchase of Pope's Marsh - an area of grazing marsh, pools and reedbeds to the east of the existing reserve. NWT has been fundraising for two years and has now met its £2.6million target, thanks to a wonderful grant of £1.5million from the UK's Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Many others contributed, including the Emirates Bird Records Committee and Nature Iraq in the spirit of brotherhood for global wetland conservation.

On the 16 May 2014 the first turf for the centre was cut by Simon's father, Jack, along with the NWT chairman, Martin Shaw and HLF's Philip Venning.

For those who know Cley the new education centre will sit behind the visitor centre and will have panoramic views across the marshes and reedbeds to the North Sea. It will be a multifunctional building, giving flexibility for visitors, community groups, classes, workshops and exhibitions. When the centre opens in Spring 2015, NWT will embark on a new education programme for schools and young people which will include such subjects as ‘wildlife filmmakers for the future’ and ‘careers in conservation’. Being named after Simon, I'm sure the centre will feature flavours from the Middle East.

Richard Porter

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