X

Meet the team

It may sound like a cliché but working at the Hawk Conservancy Trust is much more than just a job. Everyone in our team plays a key role and shares the same passion and commitment to help us achieve our mission – the conservation of birds of prey. Some of them have some quite unusual talents too, which you may be surprised to read below!

Alison Williams

Retail and Admissions Assistant

Alison first came to the Trust as a volunteer before becoming an employee. She likes being a part of all the good experiences our visitors have here and enjoys walking her dogs and going to the gym.

Fun fact

Alison has a bronze award for adult tap dancing!

André Botha

Africa Project Officer

As part of the Trust’s Poison Response Activities, we have partnered with the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the University of Reading to deliver conservation actions. As part of this work, André trains field staff and rangers in Poison Intervention Techniques  and also the use of Poison Response Kits, provided by the Trust. This vital work aims to reduce the impact of poisoning on vultures and other wildlife in southern and east Africa.

For André, a bad day in the field is still better than a day in the office. In fact, even when he’s not working, Andre spends as much time in the bush as possible, especially with a range of camera equipment at hand.

Fun fact

On average, André sleeps for only four hours each night!

Andy Hinton

Head of Development

NDAC

Andy needed to complete twelve weeks’ work experience as part of his course at Lackham College, Wiltshire. One of his lecturers suggested he try the Trust, as he’d previously built new aviaries for the three birds of prey at the college. He’s been with us since and his favourite part of the job has been releasing the bald eagles.

He has two boys and enjoys walking his dog with his wife and playing tennis.

Fun fact

Andy could have ended up in the Scottish Highlands instead of here at the Trust! He was offered a full-time job there after previously volunteering for social services.

Anya Rodgers

Head of Finance and HR Administration, Company Secretary 

BA Hons, AAT

In 2005, when the Trust first took over the Visitor Centre, Anya was hired as an external consultant for advice. Realising we’d need someone full-time, Anya was offered the post of finance and administration manager which, we’re happy to say, she accepted!

Her job constantly brings up new challenges to which she enjoys finding the solutions. When she does manage to escape the madness of the office, Anya enjoys walking her dogs along canal network tow paths

Fun fact

Anya is a self-declared dreamer!

Ashley Smith

Life President and Trust Founder

It was Ashley’s parents, Reg and Hilary Smith, who bought Sarson Farm (the site of the Trust) in the 1950s. In 1965, the year Ashley was born, it became Weyhill Zoo. Ashley worked there as a child after school and at weekends and started full-time at 16. He’s seen the Trust achieve many great things but he’s especially proud of the National Bird of Prey Hospital™ and the creation of Reg’s wildflower meadow, both in memory of his parents.

Ashley enjoys commentating the Valley of the Eagles demonstration although driving the tractor comes a close second! Even when he’s not at the Trust, Ashley still follows his passion and often travels to the Scottish Highlands to watch Golden and White-tailed Eagles.

Fun fact

It’s taken 10 years but Ashley has finally mastered the waltz!

Ben Cox

Bird Team, Events Coordinator and Hospital Support

Ben has been coming to the Trust since he was 10 years old as a visitor and a member. When he was 13, he came every Sunday to volunteer and when he turned 16, was offered a summer job here. We knew someone who was so dedicated to the Trust would be perfect for our apprenticeship scheme and Ben is enjoying every bit of it. His favourite jobs at the Trust are flying the Black Kites, the Bald Eagles and Troy the Tawny Owl in demonstrations. Ben plays a lot of sport including football, cricket and badminton.

Fun fact

Ben was a district winning cricket captain for three years in a row!

Campbell Murn

Head of Conservation, Research and Education

BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, FRSB, FLS, FRGS

Who would have thought that finding a book on falconry in a second-hand bookstore could have such a big impact? It did for Campbell, who spotted the address for the Trust in the back of the book and wrote in to ask for a job, thinking it would be fun to fly birds for the summer. Nowadays, Campbell’s research is helping with the conservation of birds of prey all over the world.

In his spare time, Campbell enjoys messing about in boats (responsibly, of course!) and is very fond of Northern Sung monumental landscape art.

Fun fact

Despite travelling all over the world and being a part of groundbreaking research, Campbell’s considers his greatest achievement to be getting his wife to marry him!

Carol Carter

Reception and Administration Assistant

Carol began her role here as office administrator and thinks the Trust is a lovely place to work. She spends her spare time with her children, Claire and Gareth and her two grandsons, who she already brings to the Trust on a regular basis.

Fun fact

Carol used to do belly dancing!

Carol Eaton

Admissions and Retail Assistant Manager

Having enjoyed many family visits to the Trust and been inspired by our wonderful birds and the enthusiasm of our team, Carol jumped at the opportunity to apply for a job with us.

Bringing over 20 years of retail experience to the role, Carol is excited to combine her skills and knowledge with her passion for the environment, birds and conservation.

When not at work, Carol can often be found running through the Hampshire countryside or at the gym.

Fun fact

Carol once ran a 17-mile half marathon (she blames the race coordinators!).

Cedric Robert

National Bird of Prey Hospital™ Manager and Collection Manager

Cedric came over from France in 2005 for five months’ work experience. At the end of his placement, he was asked to stay on until the end of the season. This then led to him becoming a full-time member of the team and he’s been here ever since! Cedric loves running the vulture courses and likes being able to put a smile on everyone’s faces by sharing what he does with them. He likes peace and quiet, spending time with his wife and being in his garden.

Fun fact

Cedric is a big fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books but doesn’t think Tom Cruise was the right choice for the movie!

Claire Twyning

Reception and Administration Assistant

Claire has always had a love for animals and wildlife and has been a member at the Trust since 2014. She loves to see and hear the reaction of visitors when watching the flying displays and sharing in the Trust’s passion to conserve birds of prey.

Outside of work, Claire has a great love for theatre, looking after her fish and spending plenty of time with her family.

Fun fact

Claire got into fish keeping after she rescued 5 Goldfish from a car park!

Darren McDevitt

Commis Chef

Having heard about an open position through word of mouth from a member of our catering team, Darren knew that he would be a good fit at the Hawk Conservancy Trust. Darren’s favourite part about working at the Trust is seeing customers enjoy the fresh food he’s prepared. He says his greatest achievement is being a father to his little girl.

Fun fact

Darren used to be a drummer in a band!

Denise Coates

Reception and Administration Manager

Denise had visited the Hawk Conservancy Trust several times prior to working here, so when she read the need for an administrative manager, she was eager to apply. With a strong background in management, she is an excellent fit for the position!

Denise enjoys working in a team, walking around the Trust grounds and saying hello to the birds. When she’s not at work, Denise can be found crocheting, running, or going away in her motorhome. Despite being frightened of deepwater, Denise has also recently taken up bodyboarding!

Fun fact

Denise once travelled to Copenhagen to see Take That, but the band had to cancel the performance due to Robbie Williams getting food poisoning — it was the first time the band had ever pulled out of a show!

Eloise Trowbridge

Office Administration and Marketing Assistant 

BA

Eloise wasn’t looking to leave her job at the time when her fiancé sent her an advert for the vacancy at the Trust on Facebook. Recently having finished her Media and Communications degree from the University of Winchester during Covid, she applied thinking ‘if it happens, it happens’. Two days later she’s having her interview at the Trust, and was offered the job the week after!

Eloise’s favourite thing about working at the Trust is how varied her day-to-day role is – working across two different teams no day is the same! When not at work, Eloise can be found playing video games on her PS5, adventuring in games of Dungeons and Dragons, or listening to rock music whilst drawing.

Fun Fact

Eloise absolutely loves going to theme parks – she loves the adrenaline rush!

Emilea Taplin

Assistant Catering Manager

Emilea applied for her role after hearing about it on the grapevine and, on top of her usual responsibilities, enjoys helping to organise the functions – especially Christmas events!

Fun fact

Emilea has swum with sharks!

Gary Benton

Head of Living Collection

NDAC

After completing a twelve week work placement at the Trust, Gary continued to volunteer whenever he could. When the position of junior falconer was offered to him, he jumped at the chance! He’s now been at the Trust for nearly two decades, delighted to be living his childhood dream of being able to train, fly and work with birds of prey.

Gary somehow manages to live the bird of prey life and stay married and has two children, three dogs, guinea pigs and a Merlin!

Fun fact

Gary has a special BPBH qualification. (Blue Peter Badge Holder!)

Graeme Scott

Seasonal Bird Team

Graeme first started visiting the Hawk Conservancy Trust as a member back in 2008, which led to becoming a frequent volunteer. The pandemic led to being furloughed in his main profession flying for a major airline, and when the Trust was allowed to reopen and became busier, an opportunity to work at the Trust was presented. Now that the travel industry is recovering, Graeme is able to work part-time in both roles.

Graeme has a passion for aviation and loves soaring flight, he even has landed a Boeing 747, the Queen of the Skies. When not at work, he can be found hang gliding, cycling or developing games, including a fully released virtual reality bird simulator that he’s taken to shows to raise awareness for the conservation of birds of prey!

Graeme’s favourite thing about working at the Trust is being able to work with such a wide variety of bird species and individuals, each with their own distinct personalities. Boe, our Egyptian vulture, is a clear favourite.

Fun fact

Graeme got married to his wife at the Trust – they met as volunteers here!

James Knight

Bird Team and Head of Section 

James first heard about the Trust while volunteering at his local zoo and, as he was infatuated by birds, he quickly planned a visit. After that first visit at age 12, a trip to the Trust has been an annual event for his family. James had a lifelong dream of working at the Trust, so it’s a real dream come true for him. His favourite thing about working here is being able to care for and fly vultures and to act as their ambassador. When not at work, James enjoys walking with friends and family or moseying around on a beach.

Fun fact

James has swum the length of the English Channel for charity!

Jane Robertson

Bird Team Administrator and Coordinator for African White-backed Vulture EEP

NDAC, FdSc

In 1994, Jane started as a volunteer to take a break from working on a computer during the week. This grew from a few hours to spending all her spare time at the Trust. She went back to college to gain her National Diploma in Animal Care which led to her becoming a full-time employee in 2000.

Jane has been a key part of getting the Trust’s apprenticeship scheme up and running and likes the fact that no two days are the same.

Fun fact

Jane is learning hypnosis and can play Away In A Manger on the flute!

Jemma Benton

Head of Catering and Retail

Jemma started as a weekend assistant when she was 16 and worked at the Trust for a couple of years. She then came back to us in a managerial role soon after. Jemma finds it good to be part of an organisation that is so passionate about what it does. Outside of work, Jemma is kept busy ferrying her children about and doing the usual ‘mum’ tasks!

Fun fact

Jemma is the third generation of her family to work at the Trust!

Jennie Marshall

Bird Team Apprentice

From a young age, Jennie has been visiting the Trust with her dad who loves birds of prey too. When she was 16, Jennie had an amazing two weeks’ worth of work experience here at the Trust and fell in love with the place even more.

When not at work, you can find Jennie pursuing a range of unusual active pursuits, including aerial hoop and pole fitness.

Fun fact

Jennie has received the Patrons Silver Jubilee medal for winning a longbow archery clout shoot off – the target was over 100m away!

Jenny Abery

Principal Educator

MEnvSci (honours)

Jenny loves exploring the UK and travelling all over the world, but her favourite place to visit is always the Isle of Mull in Scotland, an essential spot for any Eagle lovers!

Jenny’s passion for wildlife started at a young age, although it began not in the sky but in the ocean. She has always been fascinated by sharks, and originally wanted to become a Marine Biologist, however this was scuppered by an unfortunate affinity for sea sickness! Since then, her passion has grown to include all manner of species, with a particular focus on species native to the UK.

Jenny has always loved birds of prey and was inspired by the Trust’s work with vultures. Raising awareness for these beautiful birds and changing perceptions shows just how important conservation education is and why Jenny works so hard to promote these animals.

Fun Fact

In her spare time, Jenny loves to go rock climbing in the evenings and weekends. Jenny can often be found at her local climbing gym and is now venturing into the world of outdoor climbing.

Jillian Varner

Bird Team

Having recently relocated from the USA, Jillian is thrilled to continue her career working with wildlife here at the Hawk Conservancy Trust. While she originally graduated with a degree to teach English Literature, she realised her true passion was inspiring others to be more engaged with the natural world through education. Jillian has worked in animal care and conservation for the past decade as an educator, keeper, and trainer. She has trained a wide range of animals, such as warthogs, lemurs, and macaws, and is excited to now bring her experience to the wonderful birds of prey here at the Trust.

Back in Ohio, when Jillian wasn’t at work she was heavily involved in the local theatre community, usually playing her flute in many pit orchestras. She hopes to soon find a similar musical outlet here, but is also happy to spend her free time reading as many books as she can.

Fun Fact

Jillian is on an episode of Secrets of The Zoo! She can be found in Columbus Zoo’s “Duckumentary” episode, catching jumping cats and training ducks!

Josh Johnson

Catering Assistant

Josh works in Feathers Restaurant and has a background in catering, so after a conversation with a friend who informed him about the job opening, he leapt at the opportunity! Josh gets a deep sense of personal satisfaction in improving a person’s day and making them feel valued, so highly enjoys the front-facing work that he does here at the Trust.

Josh is enamoured by the Trust and the goals we work towards, and will often have a chat with our birds when he has the opportunity to do so.

Outside of work, Josh enjoys writing music and having a game of pool with a few of his friends.

Fun fact

Josh learnt how to play 3 instruments without professional tutoring!

Katie Wells

Customer Service Supervisor

Cert CII, BNA Media

Katie has a lifelong love for animals and so jumped at the chance to work at the Trust. She brings more than ten years’ experience in customer-based roles and really enjoys seeing how much visitors’ enjoy seeing our amazing birds, and sharing in the Trust’s passion to conserve wild birds of prey.

When not at work, Katie is very busy being a super mum to Noah – they’re usually on adventures outside, often visiting anywhere with animals!

Fun fact

Katie has swum with elephants and saw fireflies up close in Malaysia – experiences she’ll never forget!

Katy Barnes

Bird Team and Head of Section

Katy’s grandparents would bring her to the Trust at least once a year and, once she was old enough, she started volunteering. She enjoyed it so much that she would come in as many days as she could and was subsequently offered the apprenticeship. One of the highlights for Katy is working in the National Bird of Prey Hospital™. When she’s not at the Trust, you might find her reading fantasy novels.

Fun fact

Katy can play the flute!

Lauren Collins

Marketing & Communications Executive

A keen environmentalist, Lauren is passionate about protecting and conserving the natural world around us and loves inspiring others to do the same in fun, creative ways. Lauren’s favourite thing about working at the Trust is working alongside a wonderful team of people who are passionate about the conservation of birds of prey. When she’s not at work, Lauren can be found cuddling her rescue cat Pepper, and is looking forward to hopping on a plane again soon to continue travelling and hiking on new adventures!

Fun fact

Lauren is a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, and as well as skydiving twice has also bungee jumped!

Louise Cox

Head of Marketing, Communications and Fundraising 

BA (Hons)

Louise came to visit the Trust a few times and was really taken with the whole place. When she spotted an advertisement for her role, she applied straight away and joined the team shortly afterwards. Every day is different for Louise and she really does learn something new every day. Outside of work, she spends most of her time with her two daughters.

Fun fact

Louise once went to the Royal Albert Hall to listen to a classical concert with John Noakes and Valerie Singleton!

Matt Stevens

Conservation Biologist

PhD

Matt was on leave from an overseas conservation project when he decided to come to the Trust. For him, the best part of his job is having the privilege of visiting the nests of wild birds and the fact that he can play a small part in the development of knowledge of the biology of wild birds. Matt will often be found watching or ringing birds in his spare time.

Fun fact

Matt prefers brown sauce to tomato ketchup!

Mike Riley

Bird Team and Head of Section

NDAC

Mike first came to the Trust on work experience from Merrist Wood College in Surrey. His favourite part of the Trust is our incubation room and he’s proud of the fact he’s been able to incubate, hatch out and hand rear the large vultures, Cassius, Kipling and Macawber. When he’s not at the Trust, Mike spends as much time as he can with his family.

Fun fact

This one’s for Tolkien fans – Mike nearly called his son Strider (but this was outvoted)!

Miriam Nicholls

Collection Manager and Bird Team

CertEd

Miriam began working with birds of prey in 1997. Having been a member of the Trust for ten years, in 2011, Miriam’s dream of working here came true. Since then, she’s been able to apply her vast experience to many of the Trust’s projects including our annual vulture ringing project in Africa and the KEITS training of our apprentices.

One of the job’s highlights for Miriam is training birds for the flying team. She loves an underdog too so if a bird is challenging or has issues, you could say Miriam will take it under her wing (pun intended).

Fun fact

Miriam loves being out in the countryside whether it’s on foot or, more recently, on her new Harley Davidson 48!

Owen Lincoln

Bird Team and Head of Section

Owen has always had a great love for the Trust and visited many times over the past five years. He has worked with birds of prey since leaving college and has worked in the zoo industry for five years. When the job opportunity came up at the Trust he knew he had to go for it. Owen enjoys the stunning grounds of the Trust and working alongside likeminded, passionate colleagues. When not at work, Owen can usually be found enjoying walks in the countryside or practicing archery!

Fun fact

Owen entered an axe-throwing tournament for the first time in 2019 and won!

Patrick King

Bird Team and Head of Section

Patrick used to visit the Hawk Conservancy Trust a great deal as a child, and started volunteering in late 2016. For two years, he spent four or five days a week here! Patrick then moved away to to Gloucestershire for three years to work with a variety of birds of prey (primarily falcons!).

When Patrick saw the job advertisement for the Hawk Conservancy Trust, he jumped at the chance to apply, as he had always seen working at the Trust as his goal, and is thrilled to be back now working as a permanent member of the Bird Team!

When he’s not at work, Patrick likes to go out exploring new places and enjoys mountain biking.

Fun fact

Patrick plays guitar, and has perfect pitch!

 

 

Penny Smout

Chief Executive

BA, BSc, MBA

Penny made quite an entrance when she limped into her interview after breaking her ankle four days previously – it’s a good thing the lift was working! The hard work Penny made to get to her interview was nothing compared to the hard work she’s put in to the Trust over the years and she’s proud to see the amazing team around her doing the same. It’s a tough job sometimes though, whether it’s watching a flying demonstration or sampling the new dishes in Feathers – all for quality control purposes of course!

Penny’s son, Toby, is her proudest achievement, although persuading her husband to get a dog comes a close second!

Fun fact

Penny is a big American football fan and supports the Michigan Wolverines!

Ronnie Hunter

Bird Team and Hospital Support

Ronnie has been working with birds of prey since her days of volunteering whilst studying for her degree, and they have been huge part of her life both in and out of work ever since! Ronnie has also worked with a wide range of animals, from stick insects to porcupines.

She takes huge inspiration from her dad who also loves animals, and spends his free time looking after Critically Endangered fish – some of which are extinct in the wild! She grew up in a household full of animals, including six parrots, a tortoise who was over 60 years old, rabbits and lots of fish.

Ronnie enjoys sharing her love for birds of prey with people from all over the country.

Fun fact

Ronnie’s favourite animal to work with that isn’t a bird of prey are penguins! They never fail to make her smile.

Ryan Stephens

Registrar and Bird Team

FdSc, MRAC

Ryan did a five-week work placement at the Trust as part of his degree and then volunteered here for a year before becoming a permanent staff member. Before he learnt to drive, he used to walk the 10-mile round trip to and from Grateley station every day! He enjoys looking after the donkeys, Mickey and Molly.

Ryan has a lot of hobbies which include hiking, reading, listening to heavy metal and going to festivals. He’s a black belt in karate and has also won the Junior Wiltshire Indoor Bowls Championship.

Fun fact

Ryan likes to write and is currently working on a children’s book!

Simon Christer

Bird Team and Head of Section

After arriving at the Trust in 2007 on work experience, Simon enjoyed it so much he came back as a volunteer and never really left! Now a staff member, he likes spending time with a huge variety of birds of prey.

Fun fact

Simon is a 4th degree expert in taekwondo and has been training for over 10 years!

Sylvia Arthur

Retail and Admissions Assistant

Sylvia has been at the Trust for more than 10 years, going from visitor to member to volunteer to staff member! She loves meeting and greeting the public and has two children who she works with in her other job.

Fun fact

Sylvia once helped cook for the Queen!

Tina Chillingworth

Horticulturalist 

Dip Hort. Kew

After many years of working as a Head Gardener and managing other gardeners, Tina fancied managing herself! She came to work at the Trust hoping to help improve how the grounds look, keeping everything in tip-top condition while also having lots of fun – which she certainly has been having!

Tina’s favourite part about working at the Trust is popping along to see the cheeky but lovable Sage, one of our Tawny Owls, as she works! She really enjoys working with the different teams at the Trust, including our volunteer Gardening Club – they always make her laugh! She also loves spending time in Reg’s Wildflower Meadow.

Outside of work, Tina can be found perfecting her pottering skills.

Fun Fact

When in her office Tina can often be found accompanied by her dog, Ted! Ted has been known to tell Tina ‘this is the way…’

Tom Morath

Deputy Head of Living Collection

Tom’s interest in birds of prey is inspired by his grandparents love of the great outdoors, and many family days outside together. However, it was a bird of prey experience at the age of 12 that really started the ball rolling for Tom. He has worked with birds of prey at a number of different centres, before coming to the Trust in early 2019.

Outside work, Tom can usually be found exploring the countryside with his chocolate Labrador, Delilah.

Fun fact

Tom once played Prince Hamlet in an outdoor Shakespeare production and had to learn over 1000 lines!

Vicky Stacey

Accounts Assistant

Vicky had visited the Trust several times when her children were young and had always thought what an amazing place it would be to work at. She was looking for a change after many years with the same company and had no idea what she wanted to do until she saw the job advertised here. Vicky enjoys the lovely work environment and being part of a team involved in conservation work. Where else would part of the training for an accounts job include watching flying displays, after all! When not at work Vicky enjoys looking after and riding her horse Bentley, and playing netball.

Fun fact

Vicky once did a parachute jump and landed in a tree!

Board of Directors

President: Chris Packham
Vice-presidents: Mark Anderson, Major Nigel Lewis, Sonja Rowe and Michael Shellard
Chairman: Scott Jones
Directors: Mathew Dryden, Adam Johnson, Gary Wyles, Richard O’Hagan, Julia Hughes, Gail Khan

Find out more about our Board of Directors

Volunteers

We are so grateful to have the support of many volunteers, without whom we simply could not achieve the amount that we do.

Did you know?
New World vultures have no voice box (syrinx). The only sounds they can make are hisses and grunts.
©2024 Hawk Conservancy Trust