It’s not hard to spot Anne's connection to Villiers Park - and yet she wasn’t aware of the charity until just a few years ago, when her husband started researching her family history. Arthur Villiers, our namesake and one of the founders of Villiers Park, was Anne’s first cousin, once removed - or so she thinks; her father was only five when his father was killed in WW1, so there was no opportunity to build the family connections.
When she discovered the link, Anne saw an opportunity to marry her passion for nature with her family’s history of support:
“Climate change is here and there are things we can do about it. We cannot let young people grow up unaware of it, and yet we must find ways to teach this most serious of subjects without engendering fear. The nature crisis and biodiversity loss are hardly talked about in schools; we need to move faster to embed these topics in the curriculum. I’m happy that, through Villiers Park, I can help give young people opportunities to start thinking more deeply about these issues.”
Anne’s generous support, starting with a course on climate change and biodiversity loss in 2021, has run alongside our partnerships with EET, WWF and F4S, enabling us to develop a growing programme of environment-focused activity. Sustainable Futures launches formally in Autumn 2022, along with our very own Climate Leaders panel for Future Leaders passionate about tackling the climate and nature crisis.
Besides her family’s passion for supporting causes close to their hearts, Anne has also inherited some land on which she runs a very active forest school for local children:
“Only when you know and love nature will you work to protect it. Young people quickly get passionate about this subject and some show real leadership qualities, wanting to share their ideas and learning with others; that’s the foundation we must build on. It’s difficult to teach what’s not there, so rather than talk about extinction, show what is there and be excited about it. Build a love that would be a loss if it disappeared. Every young person can do something to help our natural world.”
According to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, anything but the most severe of emissions cuts will see the planet heat beyond 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, possibly as soon as the 2030s. The scale of change needed can feel overwhelming, but Anne’s adamant that we can all play our part:
“Not everyone can afford to buy an electric car or install solar panels, but we can all do something to leave the planet in a better state than we found it: leave a patch of grass unmown in your garden; put out food and water for the birds; throw on a jumper before turning up the heating; or advocate for changes in your school or workplace, such as ditching disposable cups or developing a robust ESG policy. I don’t expect everyone who attends these Villiers Park courses to end up working in the green sector per se, but embedding the belief that change is possible and important is vital. That’s my greatest hope for these courses.”