"Over the past 15 years it's been a pleasure to see the charity develop and to see the impact Carymoor has had on the thousands of children who visit us each year...Carymoor works with schools across the region and relies on dozens of volunteers from the local area. And long may it continue to do so!"
Hamish Craig, Honorary President
When I took over as Chairman of the newly founded South East Area Group of the Somerset Wildlife Trust in the 1980s there were few reserves in the area and I was determined to increase this. One weekend I went off on a course run by the Institute of Biology (now the Society of Biology). One visit was to a chalk quarry where an employee had persuaded the company to build a multi-habitat nature reserve behind the quarrying. I decided if I ever got the opportunity I would emulate this and, as a teacher, saw that this could be used as an educational tool. As an industrial brownfield site it didn't matter what you did because there was no real need for conservation and so it could form a basis for teaching sustainable practices from scratch.
Just a dream ? But early in 1996 I had a phone call from the Wyvern Waste site manager at Dimmer near Castle Cary. They were about to bury a pond under 15m of waste but the pond was filled with newts, including Great Crested newts (Triturus cristatus), a protected species. I outlined my idea of transforming the landfill site into a nature reserve to Wyvern's operations manager, Jon Pring. Jon had for some time had an idea that more could be done for closed landfill sites than just sowing rye grass and grazing sheep. Wyvern told us that we could use the first 100 acres, as it became filled.
A team was assembled, mostly friends and family with ecological and other expertise, such as education, accountancy and secretarial skills. We started with 25 acres of bare blue clay and two piles of the topsoil which had been removed. Luckily the perimeter of the site had been thoughtfully treated for biodiversity and included trees and ponds. We successfully moved some 150 newts into a pond that had been one of 15 used for burning incendiary bombs, remnants of the site's previous function as a wartime ammunition store. We also translocated other species that would have been destroyed by landfill operations, in particular bee orchids (Ophrys apifera).
We registered as a non-profit making company, only becoming a charity some years later, initially called the Dimmer Environmental Education Project, which we changed to Carymoor when it was pointed out that a Dimmer Education Centre was not going to attract many educational establishments!
Our first office was a Portakabin which had heating but not much else. It was a year or two before we got a bigger Portakabin with a classroom and an office. We appointed a Centre Manager, Jill Vrdlovcova, who worked on her own for about 3 years. During that time we divided the site into 5 areas; 4 fields, 2 with compost and topsoil added and 2 left with bare clay, with the rest of the site developed by the Somerset Butterfly Group. We planted about 3 miles of hedges to simulate 'green lanes'. It was agreed that as Wyvern introduced such operations as methane generators, green waste composting and improved leachate treatment, we could use these as part of our message.
Work was started on our visitor centre in 2000 and in 2002 our bookkeeper, Caroline Barry, supervised the building of a new strawbale house. For some time Wyvern Waste had been showing people round free of charge. However, because of the increasing number of visitors, we had to start employing extra staff and it became necessary to charge. Luckily Wyvern agreed to let us do all the visit hosting and the schools agreed. In 2006 Wyvern Waste was bought by Viridor, one of the UK's leading recycling and waste management companies. Viridor has continued to support Carymoor and has forged close links with the charity.
Over the past 15 years it's been a pleasure to see the charity develop and to see the impact Carymoor has had on the thousands of children who visit us each year. From our origins in a humble Portakabin, Carymoor now demonstrates a variety of sustainable buildings and offers a professionally run education programme, working with schools across the region, promoting sustainable living and engaging children in the natural world. Carymoor's success has always depended on the dedication and enthusiasm of all the contributors, particularly the staff and trustees and relies on dozens of volunteers from the local area. And long may it continue to do so!
Hamish Craig, Honorary President.