Happy Birthday John Varty, 100 years old!

We would like to wish John Varty a very happy birthday, he turns 100 today! He was a Vice President and Vice Chair for the Trust and an important part of his job was defending badgers against diggers.

On Thursday 11th June, John Varty, who lives with his wife Joyce in Fritchley, celebrates his 100th birthday.

John served with the RAF in Africa in the second world war, suffering a serious shrapnel injury to his leg when his plane crashed.

This injury would trouble him for the rest of his life – though he never complained about it.

John Varty

He became a secondary school biology teacher after the war and, once retired, ran countless adult education classes on wildlife topics such as fungi and badgers.

John joined the Trust soon after it was formed in 1962. In the 1970s he and Joyce obtained permission for the Trust to have a sales caravan in Dovedale car park and this proved to be the main source of income for the Trust for many years in the absence of any major grant funding bodies such as the lottery. At Tissington Well Dressings, attended back then by hundreds of American tourists, the caravan was towed to a prime site and on one occasion, working from 7am to 9pm, we sold a 1000 pounds worth of goods on the first day alone! In the early 1980’s, £1000 would pay one staff member’s wage for four months – and there were only three staff at the time!

John served on Trust committees and became Vice-Chair but his major contribution to conservation was his work to protect badgers from badger digging and baiting, both of which were rife in those days.

In 1983 three men were seen digging at a sett in Ambergate Woods by a Trust member. The police attended but ultimately refused to charge the men so John persuaded the Trust to take a private prosecution. The men were found guilty but appealed. Fortunately they lost their appeal – otherwise the Trust would have been liable for huge costs. The case was widely reported in the local and national press and was even discussed in parliament.

John’s other main love was fungi and he did much to raise awareness of them by leading fungus forays and teaching about them all over the county.

He and Joyce were pivotal in setting up the East Derbyshire (now the Amber Valley) local group. They used to attend every meeting! John remains cheerful and positive and whenever visited and always wants to know how the Trust is getting on. He attended volunteer functions, events and AGMs until a few years ago.

We wish John a very happy birthday and thank him for his tireless work over many decades for wildlife and for the Trust. Without John and Joyce, it is doubtful whether the Trust would have succeeded to develop in the way it has.

John Varty