Celebrating the career of Nigel Ajax-Lewis, our wildlife champion!

Parc Slip is now a wildlife haven thanks to Nigel!

Parc Slip is now a wildlife haven thanks to Nigel!

Our wildlife champion, Nigel Ajax-Lewis.

Our wildlife champion, Nigel Ajax-Lewis.

Nigel Ajax -Lewis, WTSWW's Biodiversity and Policy Manager will start a new chapter in his conservation journey from January 2021 and leave the Trust with fond memories! Born with a fascination for natural history it was only natural that Nigel would have a jam packed career in conservation. His amazing conservation journey began when he first volunteered to help local wildlife at a young age.

These are some of his amazing career highlights and achievements from over the years…

Nigel attended Hampshire Agricultural College and this was followed by a Cardiff University degree, all achieved while running the university conservation volunteers clearing scrub at Lavernock, dead elm trees at Coed y Bwl, and spending weeks on Skomer and Skokholm teaching new undergraduates. Nigel also financed is friend Andrew Lees’ judicial review as to whether the Nature Conservancy Council was fulfilling its statutory duty by not designating the whole of Crymlyn Bog. Something that gave him an overdraft for a decade. The whole of Crymlyn Bog is now designated as of international importance.

Having failed to be appointed Centre Manager at the Glamorgan Wildlife Trust, Tondu in 1981, Nigel was appointed Conservation Manager for Berks Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust a month later, he moved a motorway and built an empire with a MSC agency which employing up to 180 long term unemployed people in managing BBONT nature reserves including the present chairman of Natural England.

He returned to Glamorgan in June 1987 and mildly burned out!  So, what did he do next? The Parc Slip centre had not yet been developed, the roof leaked, the windows were rotten, and the electricity cut out every time the wind blew, sometimes for up to a week in the existing building. And on the nature conservation front, Glamorgan and to an extent Wales as a whole was far less well developed than England. He attended a Royal Society Nature Conservation Council as I had done at BBONT, and Christopher Cadbury announced that it was the first time that a representative from Glamorgan had ever attended!

So, Nigel provided a draft framework of nature conservation policies for local plans developed into Wildlife Site systems for all ten local authorities starting with Merthyr and Cardiff. Having worked with both the cement and gravel industry in England talking to British Coal allowed the development of Parc Slip which caused a huge local controversy as nothing could ever survive opencast mining. So, they repaired the centre too.

The success of British Coal’s restoration of Parc Slip was exhibited at the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival in 1992. When the Prince of Wales opened the display, he asked where it would go after the event. British Coal said that they would be donating it to the Trust. Nigel quickly responded that we did not have enough room, and they said they would build us a Visitor Centre, which happened in 1994. 🙂

Nigel managed the Welsh element of a RSNC UK HLF project to provide one Local Wildlife Record Centres for each country, in Wales, Powys and Brecon Beacons. This project allowed me to developed another two centres of the network of four that cover the whole of Wales, which we have today.

The Wildlife Trusts getting a biodiversity duty for public bodies put in the CROW Act 2000 was a major step forward and the Glamorgan Trust amalgamated with the West Wales Wildlife Trust in 2002. Nigel was appointed MBE for service to nature conservation in South Wales in 2005, and ask the Prince of Wales for a donation to the Skokholm Island appeal as he pinned the medal on his chest. He laughed so much he almost missed the next recipient. 

Having got such national recognition Nigel was asked by the Wales Government to write guidelines for designating Wildlife Sites in Wales for the Environment Strategy wildlife sites target which were signed off by the Environment Minister, Jane Davidson.

And followed that up in a wet week in August 2008 Nigel drafted a Section 74 list of habitats and species of principle importance for biodiversity in Wales. This was accepted with almost no changes and is still available on the Wales Biodiversity Partnership website twelve years later now as the Section 7 list in his characteristic Times New Roman font.

In November 2019, The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) re-named one of their Parc Slip bird hides 'The Nigel Ajax Lewis' hide to celebrate a career that has lasted over 30 years with the Trust! You can read more about this here. 

With the UN Biodiversity Convention’s decadal targets for 2010 and 2020 showing some progress but not enough we are all working towards the 2030 targets with our 30 by 30 fundraising and actions.

Sarah Kessell, CEO of WTSWW said, Nigel's career in the Wildlife Trust has been impressive and his commitment to conservation means that we don't have to lose his experience and knowledge all at once. I am delighted that he has agreed to continue with us as a volunteer. "

We would like to say a big thank you to Nigel for creating a wonderful wildlife haven at our Parc Slip Nature Reserve and his many other incredible achievements and work for the Trust over the years.  We know that as this new chapter begins, Nigel will always continue to dedicate his life to the protection and monitoring of our precious wildlife.

On behalf of the local community, the Trust and most importantly the wildlife – thank you once again Nigel and we look forward to welcoming you back as our star volunteer! 🙂