5 days in the life of BARBARA YOUNG

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MONDAY: Arrive back in UK elated from a week in Ghana with our African Bird Life International partners who are making invigorating headway on conservation in unpromising circumstances. Marvel at the tortuous air route (via Nigeria and Amsterdam) to ensure cheapest travel, to save donors' money.

Down to earth with a bump at "Evening Prayers" meeting with fellow RSPB directors where I hear we are under siege by the Daily Telegraph. Puzzled why a respectable newspaper should feel the need to have a go at a respectable charity. Stagger home at 10pm after three hours' sleep in last 48 hours.

TUESDAY: RSPB trustees meeting on plans for next five years. Exciting prospects, but the challenges wildlife and the environment face will need more resources and greater public support to crack.

Try to phone Charles Moore, editor of the Telegraph, to explore their anticipated crunchy coverage. No response to my request to meet. Three hours' discussion with RSPB chairman in some dive in South Kensington on subjects as diverse as management of change, support to RSPB members' groups and European conservation research.

WEDNESDAY: Full-day meeting of the water sub-group of the Government's UK Round Table on Sustainable Development. Interesting how consensus on objectives and policies develops over time amongst a mixed group of business, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government and academic representatives. Amused to see that a meeting which is talking about safe water supplies is provided with bottled water. At least it's English.

Planning session with colleagues in the other environmental NGOs on getting the environment at the heart of all three parties' election manifestos.

Dinner with Forestry Commissioners. Looks like public expenditure squeezes will accelerate the sell-off of forests. The Budget was not a great one for conservation. Another midnight trip home on the last train - three times to London this week. Who says I work in rural Bedfordshire?

THURSDAY: News that our chairman is to be honoured at British Ecological Society conference - which is a wonderful demonstration of our excellent scientific credentials.

A day in the office catching up with internal fixing. During lunch break delighted to help present the proceeds of the British Birdwatching Fair to a Vietnamese forest project. Prepare for a session with defence ministers on the important contribution the Ministry of Defence can make to conservation by good management of its extensive land holdings.

Still no word from Charles Moore. There's an Institute for Public Policy Research party this evening which would mean good crack on conservation and environment policies. But decide against another trip to London and stay chained to desk, clearing backlog of paper. Another 20 trees bite the dust! But there's a warm glow from signing Christmas cards to what seems like all of our 7,500 dedicated volunteers.

FRIDAY: The new director general of the Forestry Commission spends half a day with our senior conservation team in Bedford. Close working between statutory bodies and NGOs is very heartening and gives birds and conservation their best chance. But the changes in land use that world trade and agriculture reform will demand, and the dreaded climate change will emphasise, will be hugely bigger than all of us. Agree with staff our future approach to netting lottery money for nature conservation. All that money could secure key areas for wildlife forever if it is well targeted.

Charles Moore agrees to see us. It'll be after the article appears, of course. Dinner with a bright public affairs director from another organisation to whom I act as mentor but I rush back to HQ at midnight to see how rotten the Telegraph has been to us in the Saturday issue. Hilariously inaccurate but none the less depressing since it tries to divide those who care about the countryside.

Collapse into bed with uncharitable thoughts about Charles Moore. Must see some birds and countryside over the weekend to restore my faith in the world.

Barbara Young is chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

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