OBITUARY:Christopher Cadbury

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The Independent Online
In the decade after the Second World War, wildlife conservation in Britain was still in an embryonic phase. Christopher Cadbury, however, had the foresight to recognise the need to safeguard habitats and the special species they harboured by establishing and managing reserves. Though not a qualified biologist, he was astute in spotting sites of outstanding conservation importance and then pursuing their acquisition.

As a young man Christopher Cadbury worked in the family firm of Cadbury Brothers, the chocolate manufacturers, and then in a canning and jam factory. He retired from the food industry in the Fifties and devoted much of his life to the cause of wildlife conservation in a voluntary capacity. He lived in Worcestershire where he acquired nine reserves, including one of the best herb-rich meadows remaining in the Midlands.

It was in Norfolk that he made some of his most important nature reserve acquisitions. In his twenties he purchased Weeting Heath when there were still acres of sandy ''breckland'' - a combination of mixed heath, pasture and wetland unique to this part of Britain. It is still one of the best places in Britain to see stone curlews. He then negotiated the acquisition of Hickling Broad which was to become one of Britain's most important National Nature Reserves with special reed-swamp birds such as the bittern and rare insects, including the swallowtail butterfly.

In 1974 he purchased Martham Broad, and ensured, by preventing boats and cars from having direct access, that it is one of the few broads to remain in a relatively unpolluted state. He served on the Norfolk Naturalists' Trust Council from 1946. He had a special affection for the north coast of Cornwall and Devon, and he pieced together land, purchased from 32 owners, to form the 500-acre Royal Society for Nature Conservation (RSNC) Marsland and Welcombe reserve.

His purchase in 1973 of Aride Island, in the Seychelles, was the most important of his many reserve acquisitions. Under RSNC management this remote island is the home of about a million breeding seabirds, several endemic landbirds and lizards and the sweet-scented Wright's gardenia that is found nowhere else in the world. Though virtually all the many reserves that he acquired were passed into the hands of conservation organisations to manage, he maintained a close interest in their management and staff.

As President of the Royal Society for Nature Conservation from 1962 to 1988, Cadbury worked to encourage the establishment and strengthening of County Wildlife Trusts throughout England and Wales.

Cadbury's voluntary work encompassed a great deal more than wildlife conservation. In his earlier years he was an active member of the Labour Party in local government. He continued his father's interest in adult education through the boards of Fircroft and Avoncroft Colleges, in the Birmingham area. He was involved in the planning of Telford New Town and was an active member of the national Sports Council.

James Cadbury

Christopher Cadbury, wildlife conservationist: born Birmingham 28 November 1908; President Royal Society for Nature Conservation 1962-88; CBE 1975; married 1934 Honor Milward (died 1957; three sons, one daughter), 1958 Betty Hone (died 1991; one daughter); died Pershore, Worcestershire 25 June 1995.