Please vote for Edward and Helen Wells in the Pete Guest Award

To celebrate and recognise the immense contribution that Helen and Edward Wells have made to bat conservation in Somerset over many years we have nominated them for the Pete Guest Award 2021.

Who wins the award is decided by public vote, and hence we would encourage everyone to vote for Edward and Helen, to say thank you for all their dedication, innovation, enthusiasm and inspiration over the past 35 years.

You can vote for Helen and Edward via this Online form. Voting will close at 9am on 27th August 2021.

To support Ed and Helen’s nomination fellow founder and ex. Chair Dave Cottle has written the following, which is included in the award supporting documents.

“Helen and Edward Wells became founder members of the Somerset Bat Group when it was formed in the mid 1980s. Throughout their membership they have contributed a great deal to its continued success and reputation. Both have served on its committee, Helen as Secretary and Edward as Chairman. However, their main role has been as County Recorder for Bats. As a result of this they were among the first to produce a booklet showing the distribution of bats by a county bat group. The booklet, ‘The Distribution of Bats in Somerset, Edward & Helen Wells, Somerset Bat Group, 1998’, rapidly sold out at the following bat conference. Apart from the maps, it included an account of the history of each species in Somerset. It also highlighted the absence of Leisler’s Bat records in the county so Edward promised to give a bottle of wine to anyone who could produce a record. He would not accept a sound recording as these, he knew, were unreliable. Within a few years a grounded Leisler’s Bat was taken into care at RSPCA, West Hatch. Fortunately, the current Chair of the Bat Group, Paul Kennedy, was working there and phoned Edward to claim the wine. All the records are sent on to the Somerset Environmental Records Centre and entered on their database, where they are often used to inform planning applications.

Edward, from the beginning of becoming interested in bats, realised the benefit of using bat detectors. He could even separate Common and Soprano Pipistrelle Bats when listening to a Tranquility 2 detector in time expansion mode – according to him it was half a note. The ability to distinguish between the various bat calls was extremely useful on bat walks as most attendees were using heterodyne detectors tuned to one frequency. Without his prompting they would have missed many species. The use of detectors led Helen and Edward to setting up co-ordinated bat surveys in two areas of Somerset and a third cross border one with the Devon Bat Group. The three surveys, in Mendip, the Blackdowns and the Brue Valley, involved organising up to fourteen groups carrying out dusk surveys. It’s no small task to arrange the funding, equipment, transects and an assembly venue. Each survey took place over one evening for four or six years. Many volunteers from the local wildlife Trusts also took part to assist the bat group members in carrying out the surveys. Once all the groups were safely accounted for Helen and Edward could retire to their motor home before returning to their own home the next day. Then the mammoth task of analysing all the recordings could begin and the reports written and uploaded onto the internet. Other members of the Bat Group, the late Lou Pickersgill and Cath Shellswell, both helped in setting up the project and the analysis.

Before they retired, Helen was a teacher and Edward a solicitor. They have used their professional skills to good effect in the bat group. Many of the members have been helped and guided by them when they sought help. The bat group’s constitution was drawn up by Edward and he gives well thought advice on any issues arising from enquiries to the group. He presents talks and leads bat walks throughout the local area where Helen is often present offering her support. His talks are not confined to bats as he has other interests. One of his talks is about medicinal plants and plants associated with witchcraft. At the end of one talk he gave in Wells, he was approached by a group of ladies who were very interested in the latter subject. When he asked where they were from, they replied, Glastonbury. In the past he was a Council Member of the Bat Conservation Trust and both are regulars at the National Conferences. Since its inception they have submitted annual counts to BCT’s National Bat Monitoring Programme. For many years they carried out the duties of volunteer bat roost visitors and only gave up when Edward no longer felt safe entering lofts.

Before joining the bat group, they were already, and still are, members of the Mammal Society. More recently Edward has helped with the formation of the Somerset Mammal Group. Another organisation receiving much of their attention is the Somerset Wildlife Trust. In Edward’s case this is not surprising as his own father was a founding Council Member of the Hampshire Wildlife Trust. Edward has a record of over thirty years’ service on the Somerset Trust’s Council, which is unequalled. In 2015 he wrote another book, ‘A History of Somerset Wildlife Trust’, which also illustrates how much the Trust has benefitted from his involvement.

Edward is the first to admit that all of this voluntary work, alongside his demanding professional life, would not have been possible without the support he received from Helen. Apart from her interest in mammals, she is an accomplished photographer of flowers. Some of her work appeared in a book, ‘Somerset Wild Flowers: A Guide to Their Identification’ by Bernard Storer and David Reid. In pursuit of this hobby their motor home has been driven to all quarters of the British Isles and much of France. They have also been to Crete, the subject of another of their talks. When they first joined the Bat Group they were accompanied by their sons, David and Peter. Now grown up, and with their own families, both have careers as ecologists – possibly influenced by their parents’ interests. Their sons are not the only people influenced by their parents’ enthusiasm for bats, as you only have to listen to the attendees at their bat walks and talks to see it is shared by others. The conclusion to be drawn from their dedicated and productive membership of the Somerset Bat Group for over thirty five years, the detailed recording of the bat distribution in the county and the promotion of bats in a very positive light, is that they would be very worthy winners of the Pete Guest award.”

Dave Cottle

In response to the nomination Edward and Helen sent the following message to the bat group:

“We cannot tell you how honoured we feel to be nominated for the Pete Guest Award. The citation on the BCT website is anonymous but whoever is responsible we thank them very much. To be recognised by the bat community at large would be wonderful but in many ways the thing which is most moving is to be recognised and valued by our own friends within SBG who know our shortcomings better than anyone.”

Edward and Helen