Richard Brook

Richard giving the conservation officer’s report at a meeting in the Unity Hall, February, 1981. Sketch by Richard Bell.

Richard Brook, conservationist, plant breeder and 60s music fanatic, who joined the Society in the 1960s and served as excursion secretary and later conservation officer, died on 20 April, aged 74. Extracts from his diary (below) were compiled by Richard’s second cousin, Ann  Brook and read at his funeral on 8 May by her sister Philippa.

The ‘Tripartite’ mentioned in the May entry refers to his award-winning ‘Tripartite’ narcissus, which he developed in the 1980s when he ran a commercial nursery specialising in daffodils. The Tripartite has three flowers on each stem and is still available globally. Last month it was exhibited at The North of England Horticultural Society’s Spring Flower Show at Harrogate.

Aire Valley Wetlands

In the 1970s, he compiled the Society’s bird reports and a survey of the Aire Valley Wetlands. Thanks to Richard’s family, we now have a limited number of copies of Birds Around Wakefield 1974-1979 and Aire Valley Wetlands available. The habitat maps, which Richard compiled by studying aerial views and making numerous field visits, were ahead of their time.

We’d also like to thank Richard’s family for passing on his photographs, which form a unique record of the post-industrial landscape of the Aire and Calder Valleys around Wakefield.

Sandal Brickworks, 9 September, 1973.

Richard’s observations taken from diaries of 2010

Heard nuthatch in Wakefield Park.
Cloudy, cool, drizzle after dark.

Song thrush…
Sitting in a laurel bush.

Saw orange tip butterfly.
Killed one large fly.

19th of May. Blossom out!
Tripartite faded in the heat and drought.

Young Goldfinch came to the seed feeder.
…saw the first gatekeeper

Robin singing an autumn song.
First picking of Victoria plums.

Cloudy, cool, slight North breeze.
Sparrow hawk, hiding in the pear tree.

Evening dull, with light rain.
Buzzard over the garden again.

Warm sun and cloud in the morning,
sweet blackberries ripening,

Green woodpecker laughing.

Pair of jays came to the water bowl.
White frost, sunny, calm and cold.

5 thoughts on “Richard Brook

  1. Knew Richard through dwarf bearded irises which he specialised in. Visiting his garden was an experience not to be forgotten. Richard was a true eccentric and would only sell you his newest arrivals from America if he liked you!. Glad to say he liked us. We also knew him through daffodils and saw him at many shows. Tripartite is a true innovation in its class. It was very clear just from the few hours we used to spend with him each year that he was a man of many interests and enthusiasms I was very sorry to learn of his death from your posting which I picked up from the site following the progress of the Wakefield Cathedral peregrines.

    • Thank you for your memories of Richard and his garden. I’m looking forward to scanning the 150 colour slides of wetlands around Wakefield and further afield, as they were forty years ago and hopefully we’ll post them as a gallery on the Wakefield Nats website.

  2. Sorry to hear of Richard’s passing. He attended the first ever meeting of Swillington Bird Group with David Proctor at the Three Horseshoes, Oulton in 1989. He gave us a presentation of his vision for a giant nature reserve to follow the open cast mining at St Aidans which was still a mine at the time, even though well flooded. He was hoping for Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Bearded Tit, which was dreamlike back then. I hope he had chance to see his dreams come true, because St Aidans has become a truly remarkable site.
    If an exhibition of his work or photographs is planned I would be really interested in attending.
    Thanks, Peter Griffin.

    • Hi Pete

      Thanks for your kind words, I’m sure Richard was aware of what ‘Swilly’ had become but towards the end he had taken more of a back seat in conservation issues. Although it was frustrating having meetings with him at times, he’ll be fondly remembered for his efforts at St Aiden’s. The photographs will be put in a gallery on the website and we’ll be sure to left you know. I’m hoping there will be some vintage shots of St Aidan’s as it was way back then

      John Gardner

      • I’ve made a start on scanning the slides, taking one of the five boxes at random. It starts with Mickletown Ings in the 1970s and mid-80s, then there are a few of Wintersett and I’ve just got on to ‘Swillington Ings, pool on south slag plateau’.

        I’ve uploaded low res versions but haven’t yet created the gallery. Is there a way of making the high res versions available too?

        Richard Bell

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