Meet our 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!

In her role, Alice has been able to combine her passion for conservation with her design and marketing background. She’s very happy to be part of a well-respected organisation which, in conservation terms, achieves so much and has such a good reputation.

Alice managed to gain her Open University degree while living and working in three different countries! A keen traveller, she heads abroad whenever she can and likes to recreate the food she’s had on her travels at home.

Fun fact

Alice once took a train from Mongolia to China and awoke to find blood dripping on her face from mutton being illegally smuggled in the roof!

Alice Lowe

Marketing and Communications Assistant

BSc (Hons)

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!

Alison Williams

Retail and Admissions Assistant

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!

André Botha

Project Officer

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.

Andy Hinton



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 which she enjoys finding the solutions to. When she does manage to escape the madness of the office, Anya’s a volunteer driver for the Wiltshire LINK Scheme.

Fun fact

Anya is a self-declared dreamer!

Anya Rodgers

Finance and Administration Manager

BA Hons, AAT

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!

Ashley Smith

Life President

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!

Ben Cox

Bird Team

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!

Campbell Murn

Head of Conservation and Research

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

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 grandson, Jacob, who she already brings to the Trust on a regular basis.

Fun fact

Carol used to do belly dancing!

Carol Carter

Office 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!

Cedric Robert

Head of National Bird of Prey Hospital™ and Bird Team

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!

Emilea Taplin

Front of House Supervisor

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!)

Gary Benton

Assistant Curator and Bird Team


Hannah made more life changes than most when she took up her position. She moved back from Tanzania, where she had been working with rural village communities to help them deal with the human-elephant conflict whilst also trying to improve attitudes towards elephants. This background gave Hannah a particular interest in our poison response work with vultures in southern Africa, and how this is linked with elephant poaching.

Hannah is a keen environmentalist, and in her spare time can usually be found walking her dogs in the Hampshire countryside.

Fun fact

When moving back from Tanzania, Hannah brought her two African street dogs with her; an experience she describes as one of the worst of her life!

Hannah Shaw

Conservation and Research Liaison

BSc, MSc

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!

Jane Robertson

Registrar and Bird Team


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!

Jemma Benton

Catering and Events Manager

Jinette has always loved animals and been fascinated by birds of prey. After her first visit to the Trust, she was hooked and as soon as a job vacancy appeared, Jinette applied and was successful!

There’s never a dull moment for Jinette at the Trust and it’s being able to work alongside such a committed and passionate team that makes her job so satisfying.

Outside of work, Jinette has somehow managed to stay sane while her son completes his degree and enjoys camping, reading, sewing and knitting. She’s also taken up running again after a long hiatus!

Fun fact

Jinette used to play the bagpipes with a pipes and drum band in the north of England!

Jinette Liley

Administration Assistant

Surprisingly, John used to be afraid of birds when he was a student. He decided to face his fear, however,  and do his work experience at the Hawk Conservancy Trust. He absolutely loved it and came back as a volunteer every holiday. When he graduated, Dennis, the Trust’s vet was retiring so John stepped right in. That was 26 years ago!

John finds the excellent working relationships everyone has at the Trust a key part to its success. As well as our designated veterinarian, John is also Chairman of the European Association of Avian Veterinarians and will become President of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association in April. He likes to watch cricket – but only if he can find the time!

Fun fact

John really loves fireworks!

John Chitty

Designated Veterinarian

BvetMed, CertZooMed, Cbiol, MRDB, MRCVS, RCVS, Advanced Practitioner in Zoological Medicine

Judy began her career here by just helping out occasionally but has since taken on a lot more responsibility – one of which is baking the delicious cakes for Feathers Restaurant. Judy likes walking and being with her family.

Fun fact

Judy is Jemma’s (our catering and events manager’s) mum!

Judy Lewis

Senior Catering Assistant

Having been a member, work experience student and volunteer, Kat jumped at the chance to join the Trust’s team in 2018. With fond memories of attending Members’ Working Days and raking leaves from the woodland arena, Kat now most enjoys working with the team of Hooded Vultures. Kat’s dream is to work on conservation projects in Africa; she’d love to work with vultures, pangolins, elephants and rhino.

Fun fact

When not at work, you’re most likely to find Kat napping with her cat, Theo!

Kat Ralph

Bird Team

BA Hons

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!

Katy Barnes

Bird Team

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!

Louise Cox

Marketing and Communications Manager

BA (Hons)

Luca has always had a deep rooted passion for birds of prey and, after completing a PhD and postdoctoral positions in genetics, it was a natural pathway to move towards using his extensive knowledge and background in genetics to help bird of prey conservation with the Trust. Luca is very excited to be building new relationships for the Trust within mainland Europe.

When not at work, Luca can usually be found trekking across mountains and around lakes.

Fun fact

Luca used to compete in the hammer throw!

Luca Schiesari

European Programme Officer

BSc, MSc, 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!

Matt Stevens

Conservation Biologist


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)!

Mike Riley

Bird Team and Head of Section


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!

Miriam Nicholls

Education Officer and Bird Team


Paul has been working in the catering industry for more than 35 years. Having previously worked 100+ hours each week, Paul had to adjust to the new work-life balance of working at the Trust, with so much free time that he had to go out to find new hobbies! He loves the variety of work at the Trust, from catering formal corporate events to the daily running of a busy attraction restaurant.

Fun fact

Paul catered for two of George Michael’s album launch parties!

Paul Bascombe

Head Chef

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!

Penny Smout

Chief Executive


Working at the Trust is a dream come true for Ria, who was offered a full-time position in 2016 after completing her apprenticeship here. Ria’s passion for birds all began with a Young Falconers’ Experience day at the Trust which her parents had given her as a present. After that, she volunteered here as much as possible while studying an animal management course for two years.

Ria was the first to graduate from the Trust’s apprenticeship scheme and now, as a full-time member of the bird team, she works on a section of the park every day and loves getting to know each individual bird’s personality. Ria’s hobbies include cross-stitching birds of prey as well as bird watching and travelling.

Fun fact

Ria used to play the drums and reached Grade 5. She was also in a band for three years!

Ria May

Bird Team and Head of Section


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!

Ryan Stephens

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!

Simon Christer

Bird Team

Sonia was a member and volunteer who started out working part-time in the restaurant and the shop. After the retail and admissions manager retired, Sonia took over on a full-time basis. Sonia is now happily retired but she still finds time to work at the Trust part-time. Outside of work, you might find her at a classic car show where she’ll be showing off her classic 1964 Volvo.

Fun fact

Sonia has worked full time since she was 15 – a total of 56 years. She’s finally retired aged 71!

Sonia Unicombe

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!

Sylvia Arthur

Retail and Admissions Assistant

Board of Directors

President: Chris Packham
Vice-presidents: Mark Anderson, Major Nigel Lewis and Sonja Rowe
Chairman: Scott Jones
Directors: Mathew Dryden, Nick Gent, Adam Johnson, Denzil Sharp, Gary Wyles


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

If you would like to consider joining our fantastic team of volunteers, read all about what is involved here.

Did you know?
Every White-headed Vulture has a different pattern on its outer wings, in a similar way to humans all having different fingerprints.
©2018 Hawk Conservancy Trust