Surveyor, Wales Field Unit, NCC

In 1984, my second job as a field-botanist was secured, this time with the Wales Field, Nature Conservancy Council (NCC), thanks to the recommendation of Ray Woods, who as regional officer for the NCC in Radnorshire (Powys) where the riverside vegetation survey I led in the field was based. Perhaps an early case of being 'head-hunted' albeit at a lowly Survey Officer Level.

This involved field surveying of wetland and upland sites in lowland South Wales, Snowdonia and the Berwyn mountains over a period of 20 weeks. The opportunities for such short-term contracts were few and far between. Having completed a Thirteen month contract as team-leader of a riverside survey the previous year, I reached the conclusion that the long-term prospects were poor. My first love was field-work and plant identification. The opportunities for getting a post in a herbarium zero. I had considered taking a M.Sc. in 'Pure & Applied Plant Taxonomy' at the University of Reading but due to my mediocre degree grade, the only grant for the course always went to those with a higher grade - even though I felt my overall qualifications (and potential) were second-to-none. My family did not have the funds to pay for me to study beyond my degree (where I had secured a grant - present days student loans did not exist). Even if I did secure a permanent position, the rate of pay was low for a graduate. I had been advised that holding a masters would not improve my job prospects in the field I was interested in - one senior botanical figure said they felt I already knew (following my expeditions etc.) and survey work, as much if not more than would be covered during the course. In fact, I had been appointed as team-leader for the riverside vegetation survey ahead of two team members who held the M.Sc.

So, I took the fateful decision to plump for a precarious career as a freelance botanist, lecturer and proprietor of Chadwell Seeds....

During the surveying of the Berwyns, Chris spotted a colony of