A legacy of a joy for nature - In Memorium to Madeleine Parnwell
In 2018 Steve Parnwell of Cambridge and Peterborough ARG, brought us the sad news of the tragic loss of his wife in a road accident, one night a few weeks before Christmas of 2017. As a community we were saddened and moved by his loss, and the ARGs unanimously voted to donate all of the funds raised by the 2018 HWM 100% Fund raffle to support the legacy set up by Steve, Claire, Emma and Mary to create a new wildlife reserve, from a patch of Cambridgeshire farmland near to their home in Warboys. This will be called Madeleine's Patch, in memory of this wonderful lady.
This is their story below:
On the night of the 13th December 2017, our beloved Mum, Madeleine Parnwell died in a tragic road accident when her car inexplicably left the road and became submerged within a Fenland drain near to her home.
Madeleine loved the natural world and nature. She lived and worked alongside nature, and was a strong supporter and believer in protecting wildlife and improving the environment. She and dad both imparted a wonder in all their children and grandchildren for the natural world, and so dedicated to her memory, we are acquiring land to begin the creation of a new nature reserve.
Over the next couple of years we will turn a plot of intensively farmed arable land with limited biodiversity into 'Madeleine’s Patch' - a haven of new life. It will be a living landscape legacy created in her name for perpetuity to inspire a joy for nature for generations to come.
We will be fundraising over the next year to bring this vision into a reality, taking part in a variety of events to raise money for this project.
Our vision for Madeleine’s Patch includes:
Conservation: creating new habitats to support increasingly threatened resident and migratory species - bees and butterflies will flourish on wildflower margins, otters and water voles in the ditches and reptiles and newts will shelter in newly created hibernacula - a place where these creatures can seek refuge, especially where such features are absent, or where traditional hibernation and refuge sites have been degraded.
A newly created pond and wet scrapes will benefit a wide variety of flora and fauna. An area will be managed for turtle doves - a species that has seen a 91% UK population decline since 1995.
Education: people will be able to visit Madeleine’s Patch and it will be used as an open-air classroom for local schools, conservationists and research students alike.
Reflection: most importantly it will be a quiet place for tranquil reflection with stunning views of sunrises and sunsets across the vast openness of the Fenland landscape.
This project will take several years to evolve but even in year one we expect to see improvements. The idea has captured the imagination of a lot of people who knew Madeleine and several locally respected conservationists, as well as local and national conservation bodies, have offered to provide advice.
Whilst our family is donating the money to the land acquisition, there will of course be ongoing costs to maximise the benefits we can achieve. So, to turn the dream into a vibrant reality, we need your help. Any donation is greatly appreciated, no matter how small, and we would also love for you to join us in the practical creation of the reserve in preparing the ground, digging, planting and sowing.
What your money will help provide:
Machinery and operatives will be required to excavate the pond, cultivate the land and sow the wildflower meadow.
Hedgerow plants and materials for the habitat and nest creation will need to be purchased, planted and built.
We plan to have two beautiful benches created by a Fenland-based wood turner, one facing sunrise, one facing sunset, so that we and others can find a peaceful moment remembering mum under the immense Fenland skies.
For the educational side of things, pond-dipping, water and soil-testing kits, torches for night-time surveying and other teaching aids/materials will be bought.
If we exceed our target, then any extra funds will be used to contribute towards purchasing more land to create ‘stepping stones’ for wildlife across the arable landscape. Madeleine’s Patch is strategically placed as a central stepping stone between the highly protected Ouse and Nene Washes, the Great Fen, and several National Nature Reserves (NNRs) as well as locally designated nature reserves.
We sincerely hope that other people elsewhere may be inspired to create similar patches within their own communities.
We'd love to share the progress of the Patch with you, and as donors, we'll keep you updated through a blog, newsletter, and tweets. There will be special events for donors such as bat walks, moth trapping evenings (no moths harmed), small mammal surveys, mini-beast hunts and other, family-friendly nature events.
Through all these positive benefits, and many more, the tragic loss of Madeleine’s life, taken from her so suddenly when she still had so much to give will be a real and tangible far-reaching thing, testifying by example to the ideals that Madeleine strived for in her daily life.