Some life

Richard writes...

My childhood was spent whenever possible in the hills looking for fossils, building dens, watching birds and escaping authority. At home I would throw a tennis ball against a special angled wall for hours; when playing good grade cricket I don't think I ever dropped a catch and put it down to these hours of practise. 
Leaving school at 17, as early as possible, I spent a year or two working for a Press Agency in North Wales, and then had my big break when I went to work as a warden at The Wildfowl Trust, Slimbridge, Glos for my boyhood hero, the eminent naturalist, broadcaster and wildlife artist Peter Scott. An interest in breeding rare and endangered species for eventual release into the wild developed there and it became my career, working in zoos and wildlife collections at home and abroad.

Love and passion went into nature. Never finding a club or social group of like-minded souls, raw wilderness came to represent a safe retreat as did mystical wonderful women who came later to personify the secrets of nature for they too were forbidden.

I try to show in the Galleries section how visual art unites these themes.

I think a lonely child becomes an intellectually remote adult. Wild nature and Fine art (which includes literature of course) are conflicting passions. Conflicting because one is about conserving the natural environment, and the other one’s own personal sanity; such is the state of the world that one endangers the other. Since art and science are indubitably connected, writing and painting help to reconcile these contradictions.

For a resume of my zoological work please see  

I went to Padstow, when it was still a quaint Cornish fishing village, as Curator of the now tragically defunct Padstow Zoological Bird Gardens. I married Mij and became consumed by the romantic notion of re-establishing Britain's rarest crow, the Cornish Chough - the National emblem of Cornwall. It just so happened that my arrival coincided with the death of the last remaining wild bird which meant not just in Cornwall but the whole of England.

Later I was able to put this work on a proper scientific footing doing my PhD on the ecology of the Chough at Glasgow University (see Operation Chough). Core funding came from The Rare and Endangered Birds Breeding Centre at Paradise Park, Hayle, with the support of HRH Prince Charles, and various other national and local charities (but not the RSPB sadly, and therein lies another story).

Who knows, maybe I’m the only person ever to have gained a (non-honorary) doctorate without having achieved a single earlier formal academic qualification (not even an O-level or GCSE) and, because of this, I've never been accepted into the conservation Establishment.  Becoming so disillusioned with the politics in modern science I qualified as a Primary School teacher, only to find the politics and restrictions there equally numbing.

It seems there are two kinds of human beings: rational pessimists and romantic optimists. A wise friend told me I was “unemployable”. A bit harsh because I think I was a good teacher, and students, when lecturing in Further Education, seemed to love me (unless they were just being kind). But it couldn't last. In adult life, I've had two dozen employment episodes and now I'm back in the West Country living in a wooded valley in North Devon, not far from Exmoor. Here I look after our wildlife acre and work on badger conservation, and always writing and painting.

The studio plus solar panels

Other interests away from painting and writing are geology, cricket (qualified coach), Exeter City Football Club (owned by us Supporters) and motorcycles (the concentration required for riding fast clears the head wonderfully of all other worries!). Oh, and I have accrued four children by various means: one, Sally, remains in Cornwall and helps run a picture gallery, another, Emma, is an actress in London (she prefers the word ‘actor’ but I feel that ‘actress’ is a lovely word and supplies more information), Sam works for the Police and spends his days trying to resolve disputes, and Josie works for the NHS near where Mij and I live. Between these fine people we seem to have accrued some eight grandchildren all of whom are a perennial source of delight, wonder, learning (and expense).

Background - nature and teaching

Ph.D (University of Glasgow) 1991
PGCE Primary Later Years (University of the West of England) 1993 
MIBiol CBiol (Institute of Biology, London) 1985
Certificate in Natural History (University of Exeter) 1985

2016-2017:  Writing, preparing, editing 30th anniversary edition Fate of the Badger (Fire-raven Writing) – inc. talks and PR assignments
2015:  Witness Seminar 'A History of Bovine TB c.1965-c.2000', Wellcome Witnesses to Contemporary Medicine, Queen Mary University of London
2005-2016:  Devon, teaching adult education Devon CC
2000-2005:  Small-holding, West Wales
1998-2000:  Senior Lecturer / Co-ordinator, Cannington College, Paignton Zoo Outcentre
1997-98:  Schools' Liaison Officer, RSPCA, Cornwall
1994-96:  Freelance writing; supply teaching, Somerset, Wales & Cornwall; supply teaching
1992-93:  PGCE (Primary Later Years), Bristol. Researching science of cricket with Somerset and Gloucestershire County Cricket Clubs
1990-91:  Glasgow, Writing up thesis, awarded PhD
1987-90:  Wales and Cornwall; doctoral research project (core funder Paradise Park, Cornwall, patron HRH Prince Charles) Feeding Ecology of the Red-billed 'Cornish' Chough
1987-90:  Served on H.M. Government Consultative Panel, Badgers & Bovine TB; and on Council of Cornwall Wildlife Trust
1986:  The Fate of the Badger published (Batsford)
1985-86:  Cornwall, Liaison Officer for World Wildlife Fund on Badgers & Bovine TB
1983-86:  Founded North Cornwall Field Studies, Hellandbridge, Cornwall; ran Extra-mural courses for Cornwall LEA and Exeter University
1984:  First Aid and Care of Wildlife published, self-illustrated (David & Charles)
1983:  The Dictionary of Aviculture published, self-illustrated (Batsford, UK; Arco, USA)
1981:  Co-author, The Nocturnals; The Builders; The Migrators; The Predators (Dent)
1980:  Cage & Aviary Birds (Collins) and How to keep Soft-billed Birds (Bartholomew) published
1979-81:  Founded conservation/art shop in Cornwall
1977:  Mammals of the Seas published (Batsford, UK; Hutchinson, Australia; Putnam, USA; Elsevier, France)
1975-86:  Freelance writing and illustration commissions
1975:  Co-author The Amazing World of Animals (Nelson, UK; Praeger, USA); Kenya, studying tropical birds 
1972:  Wildfowl in Captivity published, self-illustrated (Gifford)
1971-76:  Padstow Tropical Bird Gardens, Cornwall, Curator including Cotswold Wildlife Park, Senior Keeper Birds and Small Mammals
1967-71:  Cleethorpes Marineland and Zoo, Keeper; Buckinghamshire, Keeper private bird collection; Alpes maritimes South France, Keeper private animal collection; Cumbria, Research assistant, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology; Lancashire 'Winged World', Morecambe, Keeper
1967-69:  Buckinghamshire, Keeper, private bird collection
1965-67:  The Wildfowl Trust, Slimbridge, Glos & Peakirk, Northants, Warden