Society's History

The Society was formed in about 1969 when Bryan Baker along with two like minded friends, Adrian Rheinhold and Martin Unwin, decided to set up a bird watching group to interest the young people of Topsham in bird watching. The area to be covered was a 10 mile radius of Topsham. Adrian and Martin didn't stay long, careers and lives necessitating moves from Topsham, but they had formed the nucleus of the society.

Dorothy Gilmour and Dr. Nichols joined the committee as secretary and treasurer respectively and it was Bryan and Dorothy that started taking out the youngsters bird watching. This built up very quickly with parents bringing their children and leaving them with the society to be entertained for the day, whilst the parents did their own thing. In those days there was no RSPB local group or DWT watch groups, so this initiative was quite a novelty.

The numbers of children built up until it was no longer easy to look after them, also the children found Dr. Nichols rather intimidating and she didn't suffer children gladly, and slowly that side of the society gradually wound down, until very few chilren or youngsters came to the field meetings, but there were always some.

The society continued and went from strength to strength and gradually a pattern emerged. Field meetings held within the 10 mile radius and the annual coach trip which went further afield, also Dr. Nichols arranged an annual film show, held in Matthews Hall downstairs, this always attracted a very large audience. Films were hired from BP, Shell, ICI and the like, also old BBC films. A professional projectionist was hired for the evening to show the films. This as well as the coach trip attracted a lot of youngsters.

At the start of the society an annual report was produced and then waned and then taken up again, gradually turning to quite a professional publication, copies going to members, all the local libraries and the British Museum. A newsletter was also produced about three times a year, run off on an old Roneo in Bryan's office, although the quality always depended on who had typed the stencils!

The society carried on in this format for many years. When Francis Luscombe took over as chairman the 10 mile radius was gradually expanded, surplus cash helped purchase the reedbeds opposite Topsham as a DWT nature reserve. The society fought many battles, the marina at Exmouth, developments at Topsham that affected wildlife and was represented on several county bodies.

After about ten years the chair passed to Twill Gale, who entertained the membership with at least one indoor meeting each year on his extensive travels around the world. Twill also brought geology into the society's agenda, he being an expert in this field.
When Twill retired, we had a sticky year when no one wanted to be chair person, but we survived by sharing the job around the committee. Since March 1998 Roy Martin has been our chairman and the "Topsham Birdwatching and Naturalist Society" is still going strong after 30 years.

Bryan Baker died in 1990 and the RSPB birdhide at Bowling Green Marsh is dedicated to him.

This history is based mainly on notes given to me by David Brock (an old friend of Bryan Baker and early member of the committee).
R.H. (Dec. 1999)

April 2008:

Roy Martin has resigned as chairman at the age of ninety one, having given us ten years of his knowledge and experience. Richard Hargreaves has taken over the chair and this will coincide with our move from the Council Chambers (60 seats) to the main hall at Matthews Hall (200 seats). In Roy's time Hilda Parish Lectures were started. Mrs Hilda Parish was an old member, who on her death left the Society £10,000 . From the interest alone we finance a special illustrated talk, named the "Hilda Parish Memorial Lecture". New equipment for the society and a sum of money to the RSPB for a viewing platform at Goosemoor Reserve on the River Clyst was financed by some of the interest on her legacy.

R.H. (April 2008)

September 2009 : TBNS is forty years old.

30 December 2010: Death of Ken Buckingham, treasurer between 1987-1997

21 April 2011: Death of Twill Gale, chairman between 1985-1997