Last week I recieved an email from my old colleague in the East of England Stuart Warrington telling me that Norman Moore had died at the age of 92. Norman was one of the 20th century giants of nature conservation and I had the privilege of knowing him for the 7 years whilst I was at Wicken Fen.
I remember when I was a post graduate at University College London in the 1980s (just after he had retired) reading his papers on the destruction of lowland heath around Poole – a widely quoted classic paper which had played no small part in ensuring that much stronger wildlife legislation was introduced into this country i.e. the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Moore also led the team which included Derek Ratcliffe (another of my heros) which discovered the link between declining peregrine and sparrowhawk populations and the use of organophosphate pesticides – perhaps the seminal conservation research work of the middle parts of the 1900s.
Norman was the perfect gentleman, quiet but extremely authorative. I have three specific memories of him.
I remember, well, first bringing my ideas for expanding Wicken Fen (which later became known as the Wicken Fen Vision) to the Reserve’s Local Management Committee of which Norman was a long time member and had chaired for many years. It was a hugely ambitious long term plan which could easily have been dismissed as ridiculous and unachievable but Norman was enthusiastic and supportive – I often think back that if he had not been convinced by the idea it would have been dead in the water.
Secondly I remember him telling me of the time during the War when he went birdwatching and was looking over Adventurer’s Fen. Adventurer’s Fen was a huge wetland next to the Sedge Fen at Wicken. The War Office had taken it back from the National Trust and had ‘given’ it to Alan Bloom, a local farmer who at the time of Norman’s visit was actively draining it as part of the Nation’s ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign. Not soon after he was in Holland and then into Germany as part of the Allied Offensive – later he was captured and spent months as a wounded prisoner of war. These events in his life didn’t make him bitter – they seemed to strengthen his resolve to make the world a better place.
Finally I remember writing a short paper with Norman on the dragonflies and damselflies of Wicken Fen. Norman was an expert on odonata and had jointly written the definitive Collins New Naturalists on the subject. The fact he allowed me to co-author the paper with him was no small measure of the man. I expect he had long forgotten he had written it but I never have.
That period in the 1960s through to the 1990s was perhaps the heyday of nature conservation in the UK led by Norman, his protege Derek Ratcliffe and some others. It was dominated by intellectual scientific giants who created the profession, influenced government and made a difference. We desparately need more people like that today.