Rachel Saunders, Principal Ecologist, takes a look back at how it all started for the East Anglia office.
Our Norwich office had humble beginnings in a spare bedroom in the home of co-director Barry Nicholson, employing just one other ecologist. When I joined the company in 2007, Barry had added a further member of staff.
My first week was eventful: a Phase 1 survey of a local sewage works on a particularly hot summer’s day, plus leaving my bag on the floor by my desk, resulting in my lunch ending up inside Darcy, Barry’s dog!
Within six months, our ranks had swelled to five – we had won a contract to survey the County Wildlife Sites of Lincolnshire for North Kesteven and East Lindsey District Councils. Another large contract with Costain meant either travelling to and from Greater Manchester charged with the unenviable task of surveying numerous waste disposal sites, or recovering from a lack of sleep following all-night bat transect surveys for a number of prospective wind farm projects.
We extended our in-house capabilities further by bringing in Dr. Graham Hopkins with his vast entomological experience. Since the staff team was growing, we had outgrown our offices and in 2008, we decided to move to a newly converted barn complex beside a series of lakes in Bawburgh. The views were wonderful, and with Cetti’s warbler song exploding from the reed margins and the occasional wintering bittern to be had, it was a fitting location for any reputable ecological consultancy. Lodge Farm Barns was to be our home for the next two years. We had our ups and downs during that time, the most significant being the sad loss of our friend and mentor Barry, who is still sorely missed by all.
Our work in Lincolnshire and on wind farms continued apace and included the surveying of nearly 300 ponds along the cable route of a large offshore array in Norfolk. In 2011, the team moved offices once again, after collecting two further specialists for the team; this time into Norwich. Admittedly, the views weren’t quite so good, and, with the exception of a vulpine visitor to the car park in the depths of a harsh East Anglian winter, there wasn’t so much wildlife on the doorstep. But, at least there was a pub just round the corner. And another one down the road…
In 2011, we said goodbye to some staff who went off to exotic locations and we lost our star botanist. Since then, our work on wind energy projects has continued, including Galloper offshore wind farm in Suffolk. Other significant projects include several large-scale housing developments including North Sprowston and Newfound Farm, the extension of Norwich Research Park and a number of Natural England contracts focusing on invertebrates.