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Charity Celebrates 30 Years of Badger Protection and Conservation in Shropshire under the same Chairmanship

Shropshire Badger Group held their AGM at the Wroxeter Hotel near Shrewsbury on 21st April. This must qualify as something of a unique occasion as it marked not only the thirtieth anniversary of the Group’s inauguration, but also the fact that throughout all those years the Group’s leadership has been in the same safe pair of hands, those of retired senior Police officer Jim Ashley.

Shropshire Badger Group was formed 30 years ago as a response to badger persecution. The initial meeting was held in April 1987, in a pub, between a number of concerned Country Park Rangers, Police officers, RSPCA officers, farmers and naturalists. Jim Ashley was asked if he would become Chairman, and he took on the role thinking that his position as a Divisional Commander with West Mercia Police might help in the early days of the Group until someone else came along to take the helm. That ‘someone’ never materialised and so, three decades later, Jim still chairs and leads the Group with his special recipe of understated authority and gentle wisdom, liberally sprinkled with his trademark dry wit, common sense and practicality.

Jim Ashley, who lives near Whitchurch, has been steadfastly supported all this time by his wife Judith, and by way of special thanks for her role she was presented by Group Treasurer Doug Hughes with a David Austin rose bush by the name of ‘Shropshire Lad’.

Jim, for his part, was presented with a 30-year-old bottle of single malt whisky.

Warm tributes were also read out from Peter Martin, Chairman of the Badger Trust, and from Dr Brian May, the polymath wildlife campaigner and badger champion.

Another highlight of the evening was a talk by county wildlife artist, writer and photographer Ben Waddams, who regaled the group with his adventures in the African Rift Valley, following in the footsteps of the Victorian explorers, notably Livingstone and Stanley.

A raffle was also held, the proceeds of which will be passed on to Cuan Wildlife Rescue in Much Wenlock, a charity with which Shropshire Badger Group has close links.

Despite the relaxed celebratory atmosphere of the occasion, the evening ended with a sober reminder of the challenges faced by wildlife in Shropshire these days. For around midnight, following the AGM, Jim Ashley was called out to attend a badger road casualty, having first arranged for a local vet to receive the animal. The unfortunate badger, however, died on the way to the clinic.

If you would like to get involved with Shropshire Badger Group in any capacity, including donations to their work, they can be contacted via their helpline on 01743 271999, website www.shropshirebadgergroup.co.uk, Facebook page, or Twitter account @shropsbadgers.

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