For those of you who haven’t heard we are very very sad to break the news of the death of Gordon Redford, following a heart attack.
He was a friend to so many of us in the Society and whether you knew him well or had met him just briefly, talking to him was like being given a big hug. He was a kind gentle man with a lovely sense of humour, always caring and always keen to pass on his considerable knowledge to others.
He did so much for the Society along the way. He was on our committee and organised our summer programme for many years, he set up our health and safety and risk assessment policy and he ran his moth trap for us at every opportunity.
His passion for moths was legendary and his knowledge was immense and he shared this knowledge so generously with us all over the years but especially with youngsters at Nature Day and school’s events etc.
We send our very best wishes and love to his family who are going through such a difficult time at the moment.
I invite any of you who knew Gordon to send in your memories of him to share with us all on this website. Photos also welcome.
If you want to send cards etc to the family and don’t have the address then please get in touch with me (Julie Lane) at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are talking to his family and thinking about ways in which we can honour his memory in some way in the future but it may take a while to decide on exactly how we want to remember this lovely remarkable man.
(Lead photo collage courtesy of Kenny Cramer; photo above courtesy of Julie Lane)
Memories of Gordon
From Mary and Phil Sarre:
We were truly shocked to hear about Gordon….
Phil and I will remember him particularly in relation to the organisation of the summer programme: he generously spent some time explaining and handing over his well-thought-out system. From the lead-in and Society meeting in February with contributions to the ‘Dates to fill sheet’, his 10-year record of sites visited, and the subsequent collection of visit details from Leaders are all very clear. We found his communications invariably warm and friendly.
Also of course he has always come forward with at least two mothing sessions, notably the Higgs Memorial evening at College Wood, and latterly at Linford Lakes.
We didn’t know Kate and the family well, but wish them well at this traumatic and difficult time,
From Joe Clinch:
I have many fond and appreciative memories of Gordon and his legacy to the Society. He was above all a most generous, kind, good humoured, and knowledgeable naturalist and colleague. His mothing expertise and his willingness to share this through reports, mothing evenings and talks was legendary (including at a personal level my many requests for help with identification). He was also a most effective organiser of the Summer Walks Programme (my first attendance at a Tuesday evening planning meeting led by Gordon was a revelation: a highly participative meeting of about 30 members with the majority of the slots filled in little over an hour and what’s more he codified this approach for his successors!). And as a member of the Committee before my time he put together model Risk Assessments of all the Society’s main activities, drawing on his experience at the Parks Trust (and again codified and updated for future generations in the Guidance Handbook). I know that I will be one of many members who miss his friendly smile, knowledge, enthusiasm, and contribution.
From Linda Murphy:
Gordon’s sudden passing is a tragic loss for everyone who knew him. I remember him as a warm, kind and gentle man with a keen sense of humour and a great passion for moths. His knowledge was extensive, but usually understated. We exchanged news about our respective catches when we met and he occasionally posted special news on the Upper Thames Moth Blog. I was always keen to hear what he’d seen as I found that whatever turned up in Gordon’s traps, a week or so later the same might appear in mine. The first time I trapped the fabulous Clifden Nonpareil , or Blue Underwing, was one such example. Here’s Gordon’s post which alerted me and illustrates his style…..
“My son had bought me a tour of Stamford Bridge for my 70th birthday and was coming to pick me up at 0900hrs this morning. I decided not to set traps at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve on Saturday night as is my usual practice but would at home in the garden in Newport Pagnell. I stepped out this morning and confess to thinking it would be the usual LYU, Set Herb Char, Vines R dominated catch when there on my shed was this little beauty. I rushed back for my Johnsons Cotton Buds container and when I returned it was gone. However, it had fallen to the ground and was captured. We were a little late for Stamford Bridge but blue certainly is the colour for me.”
Sadly, due to Covid, and the fact that I’m based in Oxfordshire, we had not met in person since last August, when I went over to Linford Lakes one morning. Gordon had agreed to be videoed emptying the moth traps and recording the night’s catch, assisted as usual by Ayla Webb. The aim was to bring a bit of mothing to the Society as our outdoor meetings had been cancelled. Gordon explained the process and he and Ayla showed off the moths at a couple of traps including a large purpose built one…definitely a source of ‘moth envy’ for me! Gordon had been trapping and recording moths at Linford lakes for 10 years by then so certainly deserved it! However, he told me his ambition was actually a ‘moth shed’ as used by noted Victorian ‘moth-ers’, where the light and funnel would be on the roof and you could walk in and check out the walls covered in moths. I’m sad that he couldn’t realise this ambition, but if there’s a ‘moth heaven’, I’m sure that will be it, and Gordon will be in his element! Meanwhile, I’ll be remembering Gordon whenever I empty my trap…..
From Mervyn Dobbin:
I miss you Gordon. I know almost nothing about moths, but I recognise their importance to our ecosystem and I am amazed by the beauty in the variety of their colours and patterns.
When I came across an attractive specimen, especially one that arrived inside my house and that seemed to be content to be still, with wings flat to a wall, I thought of Gordon. Sometimes I took a photo and showed it to Gordon when we were in the Cruck Barn in Bradwell Abbey. Gordon had such enthusiasm for these creatures that a question and a photo from me in my ignorance, were responded to with such positivity. Gordon connected intimately with the moth-world. His ability to connect to these small creatures was mirrored in the feeling of kinship that he was able to engender with others, when they encountered him. Thank you Gordon.
‘If you stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.’ Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
From Andy Harding:
A couple of weeks ago I lost my great mothing pal, Gordon, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.
I first met Gordon many moons ago, but it is only in the last decade that we started mothing together: regularly at Linford Lakes and more recently in Little Linford Wood. There was also a smattering of public events each year, where Gordon could share his great expertise and, perhaps more importantly, his infectious enthusiasm. Nothing was too much trouble for Gordon if he thought he could help enthuse anyone, young or old, about moths. He encouraged beginners to send him photos if they needed help with moth identification; he lent books and equipment to help people to get started on the road which had given him so much pleasure.
We never had a mothing session without loads of laughs. Gordon had lots of silly wordplays with the names of moths, some of which he actually used in his notebook. So Single Dotted Wave became ‘Single Wotted Dave’. So a very small or apparently humdrum catch was never really a disappointment: it was always worthwhile: both because simply meeting up was fun and also because we loved all the moths – marvelling at their beauty and almost infinite variety. Gordon always likened it to opening Christmas presents – ‘You never know what you are going to get’. So occasionally we would find something really special. A couple of years ago I was a bit late getting to Linford Lakes and when I got there I was surprised that Gordon invited me to unlock the trap. Immediately inside in a large container was a Clifden Nonpareil, the first Ayla Webb had ever seen, which they had captured before I arrived. Gordon had set me up beautifully! This and other excitements like the virtually wingless female Dotted Border in Little Linford Wood (again spotted by Ayla!) were often harkened back to during our time together, as was the poor quality of our eyesight compared to hers!
In and around the moth traps we saw many other invertebrate creatures, which we also wondered at, but often had little clue to their identity. Gordon used to say ‘We’ll need five lifetimes to get to grips with this lot properly’. Sadly that is not what we are allowed.
A very strange thing happened a few days after Gordon’s death. On the Thursday, I spoke to Rachel, his daughter, and also happened to speak to my own daughter-in-law. Both, in different ways, said Gordon would send me something special in my trap. Next morning there was a Peacock Moth in my trap. The first of this species I had ever seen. Thank you Gordon: it was simply superb.
I’ll miss you, Gordon, especially at the Lakes and in the Wood.
From Mike LeRoy:
Gordon enjoyed sharing his enjoyment of wildlife with others. He was an all-round naturalist from a lifetime of working as a ranger and warden at country parks and wildlife sites across England, and many years of running moth-trapping as education events for all ages. He came to Milton Keynes in 1994 to lead the team of rangers at The Parks Trust, where his team had the dual task of caring for the parkland and communicating about its wildlife.
He carried his knowledge lightly so was encouraging to those who wanted to find out more about wildlife. He shared his knowledge readily, never showing off but keen for others to find out what he enjoyed knowing. It was moths that lit his flame.
The last time I chatted with Gordon was at one of his early morning moth sessions a few weeks before his final heart attack. As ever, he shared the task and trusted me to gently lift out each egg-box one-by-one from the moth trap to see what had been attracted overnight. He stood by with his notebook and pencil, ready to write down the name of each moth species from memory then pencil a neat row of lines and five-bar gates to count them. If there was a species he was not sure of he would photograph it to check it later in the books he had accumulated for that purpose. On his face was the joy and glee and rapid recognition of almost every moth. His identification of them was a joy he shared as he pointed out their distinctive features, but also their beauty, such as a ruff behind the head or hidden colours of underwings. One time he told me that opening his moth-trap each morning was like opening a Christmas present every day.
He developed his moth identification skills over many years. After moving to Milton Keynes he was able to hone these skills with the advice of George Higgs to whom he would turn when he was not sure of a particular species. After George’s death at the end of 2012 Gordon was determined that his mentor’s memory should be celebrated through a mothing night so we went to College Wood to talk through how to run one there every year.
Gordon later remembered how valuable George’s mentoring had been to him. Ayla Webb, then a relatively new member of the Society, wanted to learn more about moths so Gordon readily invited her to his mothing sessions to share his knowledge with her. Later this led to three of them meeting to do moth-trapping together: Gordon, Ayla and Andy Harding.
Gordon and I were both fortunate to finish our working careers only a few weeks apart, in 2012. We decided to explore many of the wildlife sites in Milton Keynes and the wider area together. Some of these sites we later turned into summer programme visits for the Society. Others, such as Oakhill Wood or a meadow at Tattenhoe became new sites for his moth-trapping. In the Ouzel Valley we tried out pupa digging, a Victorian method for finding moths, and Gordon kept these until their emergence so he could identify them before releasing them to their habitat.
Gordon realised that he could become more proficient at mothing, so tried different places and moth-traps and set about learning about more moth species. He Joined the British Entomological & Natural History Society (BENHS) and enjoyed field meetings with Paul Waring, the co-author of the leading book on moth ID (‘Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain & Ireland’) and writer of a regular column on moths in ‘British Wildlife’ magazine. There were BENHS field meetings with Paul at Sydlings Copse and Finemere Wood. He learned from Paul’s systematic methods of recording by watching his methods carefully. There were other BENHS visits such as one led by Ian Sims to Wytham Wood in Oxfordshire.
Gordon’s original Skinner-type moth-trap was eventually joined by another, and later by a Robinson trap. Gradually he worked out the benefits of different traps, bulbs, batteries and mothing locations.
One site we visited was Pitsford Reservoir wildlife area where the team from the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire has a permanent moth-trap set in a large box on legs and connected to mains electricity with a timer switch. He was so delighted by this that he was determined to persuade The Parks Trust to install one at Linford Lakes, which was achieved some years later, thanks to his careful photos and detailed measurements of the installation.
One method that Gordon pursued was to use pheromones to attract specific moth species not found readily by other methods. On one occasion he tried this at Stonepit Field to see if a particular clearwing moth was in the area. He tied a small mesh bag to a plant and within a few minutes one appeared, to his quiet delight.
A significant step forward came after the ‘Field Guide to the Micro moths of Great Britain and Ireland’ by Phil Sterling & Mark Parsons was published. Gordon decided to have a go at identifying these smaller and more complicated micro-moths, some of which require use of a microscope.
He also built up his collection of entomology books, with the larger and more expensive ones paid for by sorting the Christmas post at a Royal Mail depot. One year he was delighted to find that he was working alongside Lewis Dickinson who he encouraged to join the Society.
Towards year end Gordon’s aim was to gather the year’s moth records into good shape on MapMate and send them to the Bucks Recorder for Moths so these could be checked and become Records for Butterfly Conservation nationally and the Bucks & MK Environmental Records Centre (BMERC). His moth trapping was not just weekly but night after night at more than one location whenever moths were about. In recent years he wrote up interesting summaries of his moth finds in well-illustrated articles for ‘Magpie’ and the MKNHS website.
Gordon was also a member of Bucks Invertebrate Group and joined a number of their field meetings, such as one on leaf-miners at Burnham Beeches. As well as attending their indoor meetings twice a year until recent years, he led their field meetings at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve.
A joy he looked forward to was his visits to annual meetings of Butterfly Conservation and he also attended several day conferences on neglected insects, run by Bedfordshire Natural History Society, as well as the annual BMERC Recorders Seminars. A particular pleasure was visits to the Amateur Entomologist Society’s annual exhibition and trade fair at Kempton Park, where Gordon could replenish his entomology equipment and meet old friends from around the country. Similarly, Gordon sometimes travelled with me to the annual Bird Fair at Rutland Water and met old friends such as one from his years in Northumberland.
Gordon served the Natural History Society in many ways: not only coordinating and planning outdoor meetings and moth nights over many years, but on the committee and in many practical and unseen activities. More than that he was one of those people who simply got on with those around him and shared his enthusiasm for wildlife with anyone who was interested.