It’s a poignant time for us at Foxearth Meadows as we prepare to say our goodbyes to Mark Prina.
Mark has been the Reserve Manager since Foxearth Meadows first became an A Rocha UK project in 2015. He has a deep knowledge of the natural world and wisdom in how to care for it. He also has a gift for connecting with people and has inspired, informed and encouraged people of all ages and abilities, from primary school children to seasoned nature buffs, and from teenagers on work experience to ordinands training for church ministry.
We are sad to say goodbye, but extend our very best wishes to Mark, and pray God’s blessing for his future. We are sure his retirement will be far from idle.
Andy put a few questions to Mark.
When you started, I guess it was very much ‘one man went to mow’. Tell us a bit about how it was at the beginning and how things built up.
Yes, it certainly was ‘one man went to mow’. I remember using (and breaking) some old shears cutting a path through thick sedge. I was trying to find the ponds and just getting a feel for the place. I forget if it was on my first day or soon after – I disturbed a harvest mouse nest and had to carefully replace it. I realised I was entering a community of life.
Could you give one or two highlights from your time as Reserve Manager?
It’s difficult to choose from so many, but first I’d say ‘people’. At a recent gathering (a soup and snack lunch with friends of the reserve, to say thank you and farewell) I was reminded of the sense of community. It has been built partly around the work parties but goes much wider. People have been unstinting in their help. Some can no longer do the heavy lifting, but are still involved in vital ways.
And I recall some nature highlights like the brief appearance of bearded tit on the reserve on 19 January 2016. There have been particular plants I’ve encountered. I was excited to find Blunt-flowered Rush! I read that it needs a peaty soil and when I examined the soil, yes, there was evidence of peat.
What has been particularly fulfilling for you in your role?
Again, I’d come back to the community of people involved in the reserve. And it’s been a learning experience. I’ve learned so much in my time at the reserve about the different habitats: woodland, grassland, flood plain … and have had the chance to do it – to put knowledge into practice, managing multiple habitats in a small area. I’ve been able to build up a bank of knowledge in the university of the outdoors.
Do you have any unfulfilled longings for the reserve?
I would have liked to extend the influence of the reserve beyond its boundaries, linking the reserve to the surrounding countryside as part of a landscape scale approach along the Stour Valley. People need food and we need to incorporate agricultural and conservation land into one nature-friendly plan.
Have you inklings of how you’ll spend your time in the future?
Yes, I have inklings but I don’t want to rush into things. That said, I’ve just taken on the editorship of the Lark Valley magazine. In a way, I want to go smaller in scale and look carefully even at my back garden and local churchyards, to help me interpret the wider landscape.
Churchyards have a long history and much to teach us. I want to keep learning and go back to doing some theological reading. And yes, the clarinet has been sitting in its case too long. I hope I can still make a good sound, even if my fingers don’t work quite as well. I want to make more time for music.
Could you choose a Bible verse for us to reflect on as a parting gift?
I go back to Psalm 104:24. It’s a verse which joined up the dots for me when, already a nature lover, I became a believing Christian:
O Lord, how manifold are thy works!
In wisdom hast thou made them all:
The earth is full of thy riches.
We can’t understand everything. There is so much complexity, and we bow to God’s wisdom. The smallest plant or insect or organism is still significant in the big picture.