My first conference as a Trustee...

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I’ve been asked to write a Blog about my first experience of a Conference as a Trustee, and this is the first blog I’ve ever written; so that’s another new life skill I’ve learnt since volunteering!

The last Conference I attended was York, in 2003, before I went to live abroad. Then, I was part of the organising committee, so Chester 2018 felt very different. I felt quite emotional as I was voted in, but was also wondering, what have I done? Luckily, everyone was very kind to me when it was my turn to speak and once that was over, I was really able to relax enjoy the rest of the day.

Apart from the AGM, being a Trustee at the Conference is no different to being a normal delegate and, like everyone there, I had a great weekend in Chester. The Speakers and Wrap Around events were excellent, although maybe I enjoyed the wine tasting a little too much! All the catering was delicious and efficiently delivered by smiley staff, especially the Friday and Saturday night events.

I liked meeting and chatting to members from all over the country and putting faces to those names I had previously only seen on Facebook or in emails. I was thrilled to catch up with a friend from that York committee, and also with the person who first introduced me to NWR, but who I hadn’t seen for 30 years. Thank goodness for name badges! We’d both moved around the country several times in the interim, but had always managed to find an NWR group to join and were grateful for the friendships that resulted. I also spoke to a lady I’d never met before, who spoke about volunteering at the Olympics. When I asked her if, by any chance she’d come across a friend of mine who’d also been a volunteer, they had, coincidentally, worked together. I love the links and connexions that belonging to a national organisation like NWR brings.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be attached to a local group, but even as an Independent member like me, it’s possible to enjoy a lot of what NWR has to offer by joining in with area and national events whenever possible. The organisers go to a lot of trouble to make them fully inclusive and there’s always a friendly face ready for a chat, so no-one needs to feel alone. We’re all part of the NWR Community.

Gillian Wignall, Trustee and Independent Member

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My thoughts on another fabulous conference - Chester 2018 by Josephine Burt

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Once members attend a national conference they have such a good time that they usually go again. Chester was my 7th national conference and yet another exhilarating, informative and fun weekend. The conference theme 2018 was 'Nature versus Human Innovation' so quite a challenging topic for the organising committee. However they found three excellent speakers working in the fields of genetics, sustainable agriculture and conservation.

The first speaker was Dr Lyndsey Craven-Butterworth from the University of Newcastle on Mitacondrial Research who are pioneering IVF-based techniques which has led to what the press call 'Three parent babies'. She was enthusiastic and gave a fascinating talk to explain what Mitacondria are and that Mitacondrial DNA disease is carried through generations by women. The first baby is due later this year.

Dr Kate Pressland from the Soil Association spoke after lunch. Kate runs the Innovative Farmers programme which aims to bring scientists and farmers together in order to provide good food without the use of chemicals. This is hugely important for the ecosystems and for us.

The Sunday morning conference was a new option which attracted 84 members back to the Queens Hotel. Jennifer Tegg, Head of Marketing at Chester Zoo, gave a passionate and fascinating illustrated talk on palm oil production in Borneo and the conservation of orangutans in which Chester Zoo is is a world leader. Chester is now working towards becoming the world's first sustainable palm oil city engaging with restaurants, hotels, manufacturers etc to achieve this.

There was a wide variety of optional wrap-around events and workshops from Friday till Sunday which created a stimulating and full programme. I enjoyed the 'Horrible handwriting' and walking the Chester walls and I heard great reports of the wine- tasting, the drumming workshop, the ghost walk and Discovering the Rows walk.

I am looking forward to the Plymouth conference in 2019 already with its theme of Voyage and Discovery. It's an opportunity to learn about new topics, make friends and have fun and perhaps have a holiday in beautiful Devon. Why not join me?

Josephine Burt

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