Header title for Friends of St John the Baptist Aylmerton Header image for Friends of St John the Baptist Aylmerton

Join us

Friends of St John the Baptist, Aylmerton logo

Help us ensure that the church building is an enduring legacy for future generations

Fundraising Event: Birding in a War Zone

Fundraising Event: Birding in a War Zone

Birding in a War Zone

Richard Porter, local ornithologist and conservationist, gave a beautifully illustrated talk at Aylmerton Village Hall on ‘Birding in a War Zone’ concentrating on his experiences of bird studies and conservation travels in Yemen, Syria and Iraq stretching back over 40 years.

Prior to the troubles and wars that have wrecked many parts of these countries Richard was directly involved in training young people in methods of bird and environment conservation and trying to deter the random shooting of wild birds as a sport. Many of the areas he was involved with were important migration routes for vast numbers of birds travelling south from Russia to avoid the harsh winters. We were shown amazing photos of the sky full of various birds of prey all seeking thermals to aid their journey south and enabling them to fly big distances with hardly a flap!

Photographs taken by Richard of places like the Syrian cities of Homs and Aleppo and the ancient city of Palmyra long before the start of the troubles, were in stark contrast to the subsequent images of the destruction appearing so often on our televisions.

In the days of Saddam Hussein vast Iraqi marshland areas several times the size of Norfolk and essential for vast numbers of migratory and over wintering birds, were drained and put to agricultural use. The centuries’ way of life for marshland people who made a living from the reeds simply no longer existed. Oil supply lines were deliberately ruptured and set on fire resulting in huge environmental damage. Since Saddam Hussein was deposed a large part of the marshland area has been restored and both marshland people and migrating birds are returning in force.

Despite the terrible destruction and deprivations experienced in recent years by the local populations there is evidence that some bird migration and conservation projects are nonetheless continuing. Whilst the ordinary people are immensely proud of their inherited environment and want to look after it for future generations, sadly, there is still evidence of the wanton decimation of both bird life and the countryside. Richard stays in touch with the many friends he has made in the Middle East through his work there and gets regular updates on their endeavours and the difficulties of day to day living. It was a very enlightening talk that will stay long in the memory.

Almost 50 people attended and enjoyed a finger buffet and glass of wine or soft drink during the interval. Our thanks go to Patsy for providing and organising the refreshments, not forgetting the Friends who helped out on the night.

The themed raffle entitled ‘Flights of Fancy’ proved very popular and thanks go to many local businesses who kindly donated some excellent prizes. The whole event was a great success and raised just over £900 – an amazing and impressive result! The monies will be added to the fund to help improve the interior of the church to accommodate a toilet, update the kitchen and, most importantly, improve disabled access. The aim is to reach out to the wider community by making the church available for events other than church services such as concerts, exhibitions and coffee mornings etc.

John Rampling

Chair, Friends of St John’s