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Graeme Messenger - MSc Rural Resource Management

21 years on!

An eclectic group of individuals would be one way to describe the Rural Resource Management MSc class of 1994/5 as we arrived for registration and induction. Split almost equally between those recently graduated and others kindly described as “mature” students, the group were drawn from backgrounds as diverse as archaeology to software engineering, office management to English literature, we even had a dentist, a solicitor and an environmental scientist on the course.

Our shared interest in environmental issues, the shock of having 35 contact hours per week and the lure of O’Shea’s soon eroded any potential barriers there may have been. With the sage-like Mike Alcock at the helm, the enthusiasm and diplomacy of Ian Harris and the ever efficient Shelagh O’Reilly to guide us on our first faltering steps in conservation and land management we soon felt like established members of a very select club.

Shared experiences on early field exercises at upland farms, the dunes of Aberffraw and iron-age roundhouses on remote hilltops, all seemingly chosen for their exposure to the elements, further galvanized the group. It also seems to have developed a permanent, almost fetishistic, interest in outdoor clothing that persists to this day.

Spring brought a memorable group exercise which culminated in preparing individual land management plans of the Aber Valley plus countless other visits and exercises ranging from the dunes of Llanddwyn to heather moorland at Ysbyty Ifan. All of these led to hours of discussion in the cosy hostelries of Bangor followed by yet more hours in the confines of the IT room in the School.

One exercise that stands out for everyone is the trip to Bardsey Island. Memories of sitting on a hillside in the dark, listening to the return of Manx Shearwaters to their burrows or spotting medieval ridge and furrow in the shallow dawn light still manage to excite discussion.  The feeling of isolation yet being surrounded by people who care and who you care about was something special that none of us will ever forget. Ralph’s vin-chaud was pretty special too.

So here we are, 21 years later, having a reunion in Bangor, taking in some old haunts and still able to navigate the corridors of our old Department. We are now spread throughout the world, from Tregarth to New Zealand, with university and college lecturers, several successful environmental consultants, an artist, an environmental educator, managers in local government and a yacht club steward within our group. One thing that we still have in common though, is respect for our old lecturers and tutors whose passion, enthusiasm and knowledge convinced us all that we could make a difference.

(Photo below from the trip to Bardsey Island)