Clive Farrell, Colonel John Blashford-Snell and Wolfgang Grulke and their support for Tomorrow’s Museum for Dorset
PUBLISHED: 14:52 29 January 2018
James Kelly Studio
A world-renowned explorer, a palaeontologist and futurist, and a butterfly conservator reveal the importance of the past for the future of mankind
Only 1.5% of four million items reflecting 250 million years of Dorset’s evolution are currently on display at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester. The international importance of these collections is behind the plan to transform the Museum into one of the leading provincial museums in the country.
In this edition, we meet three locally-based ‘hidden gems’ supporting the exciting plans of Tomorrow’s Museum for Dorset. All of them have gained valuable knowledge and insight from museums and contributed to collections around the world.
Clive Farrell: Lord of the Butterflies
Eco hero Clive Farrell has championed the cause of the butterfly since he first saw one emerge from a chrysalis. Founder of the London Butterfly House and the Stratford-on-Avon Butterfly Farm, Clive has created an otherworldly kingdom for a huge range of UK butterflies and moths in the grounds of his Dorset home. Here dragons sleep amongst nectar rich plants, and clouds of Adonis Blue butterflies dance above his bramblearium. He also has a patch of Belize rainforest, where he breeds and nurtures some of the world’s more exotic moths and butterflies such as the Blue Morpho, as big as a man’s hand. Clive describes these as “the emissaries of the rainforest” with a very important message: don’t destroy our fast dwindling habitats.
How did your passion for butterflies start?
With a large hairy caterpillar I found in our back garden in Southampton. Like many children I popped it into a matchbox and it changed into a chrysalis. I happened to be around when it hatched and dried its wings. It’s those magical moments that stay with you throughout life.
What’s your favourite butterfly?
The peacock butterfly; my father was a Mosquito pilot in the last war, the eye spots on the wings of a peacock butterfly are like the RAF markings on their aircrafts. It reminds me of my father who is still going strong at 100! It’s a really beautiful butterfly. As a caterpillar they eat stinging nettles, extracting poisons from the food plant to make them less palatable to their enemies – a defence common in butterflies.
Why do you think museums are so important?
Musuems keep a record of local wildlife. For example, 50 years ago a boy from Sherborne School logged his butterfly collection records at Dorset County Museum. When I saw the records I realised that certain butterflies had become extinct or very rare on my land. This spurred me on to improve the habitat to make it suitable again. And sure enough, after an absence of 50 years the Marsh Fritillary has returned! With the right habitat, caterpillar food plants and nectar plants, it gives hope that you can get them to return.
I also think that educating children is vitally important. To do that you need to engage with their parents and grandparents and get them excited about going to museums to learn more.
Any other local butterfly success stories from your kingdom?
The Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue and Small Blue, have all returned to my Dorset butterfly kingdom, as well as the rare, day flying hawk moth called the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk Moth, which looks like a little hummingbird.
Colonel John Blashford-Snell: Adventurer Explorer & Youth Champion
As founder of Operation Raleigh and the Scientific Exploration Society, Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE is straight out of a Boy’s Own adventure. His tales of derring-do range from navigating the crocodile infested Blue Nile to delivering a grand piano to an Amazon tribe. The former Royal Engineer’s Dorset home has a fascinating collection of artefacts gathered from remote places around the globe, and he has a keen interest in underwater archaeology and Dorset’s hill forts. Now in his eighties, John’s next expedition features building a school in Kenya, helping some wild elephants cross the road and finding a rare antelope.
How did you become an explorer?
I was commissioned into the Royal Engineers – the “explorers of the army” – and we were positively encouraged to do interesting, adventurous and challenging things. I then became an Adventure Training Officer organising overseas projects for cadets – building schools, getting involved in archaeology, diving and much more. Many cadets went onto to do great things.
What has been your most challenging expedition?
I took several expeditions with the Royal Military College of Science to Ethiopia where we worked with Emperor Haile Selassie. He suggested exploring the Blue Nile – which is like asking an average hill walker to climb Mount Everest! Despite crocodiles, hippos, rapids and landslides, our team of scientists successfully navigated one of the last unexplored areas of Africa. The project was an international success, with 76 research papers produced. It also inspired the foundation of the Scientific Exploration Society in 1969, a charity which is still going strong today.
How did Operation Raleigh come about?
After the Blue Nile success we were approached by Prince Charles, who asked us to design an expedition for young leaders aged 17–25. They needed to be fit, compatible, speak good English and swim. Launched initially in 1978 as Operation Drake, this later became Operation Raleigh in 1984 and then Raleigh International in 1992. Over 40,000 young people have been part of a Raleigh programme, including one memorable young man who joined me on an Operation Raleigh expedition in Alaska. I took him to one side and said “Well now it’s up to you lot to reach for the stars.” That man was Tim Peake, who did indeed reach for the stars as an International Space Station crew member.
It sounds like you really enjoy working with young people?
I’m particularly keen on providing opportunities for less privileged youngsters. I got involved with fundraising and building a centre in Liverpool to help 40,000 kids, and I’ve set up charities to help youngsters in Devon, London and overseas including “Classroom in the Skies” on Mount Everest.
What is your proudest achievement?
Operation Raleigh, because it changed the lives of so many people across the world, for the good, and they in turn have changed the lives of others. These expeditions have also featured scientific discoveries or pioneered inventions. You have to keep the spirit of adventure going!
What do you think museums offer today’s youngsters?
You can save yourself making mistakes by studying the past, so museums are a very important part of education, which is why Tomorrow’s Museum will be fantastic for Dorset.
Wolfgang Grulke: Author, Futurist & Palaeontologist
Wolfgang Grulke’s extraordinary international career as one of the world’s top futurists, advising businesses on future technology, has helped fund his passion for the natural world, marine biology and palaeontology. Over the last decade he has created a world class collection of ammonite and nautilus fossils at his Dorset home. It has inspired several books including Nautilus: Beautiful Survivor; 500 Million Years of Evolutionary History and featured in an exhibition at Dorset County Museum last year.
A palaeontologist and a futurist are complete opposites?
Many people think I am two people! Business people find it hard to look even five years into the future. When you’re thinking in geological terms you have to be ready to think in millions of years. I love this dichotomy between the short-term thinking today and our distant past.
It’s always challenging putting the evolution of life into context. When you start looking at marine life on coral reefs, some has stayed the same for over 400 million years. I wanted to know why some species survived and others became extinct.
It’s quite humbling to think about how we fit in – we’ve only been here a very short time in the global scheme of life. We’re really just short-term visitors to this planet.
So has palaeontology been a lifelong interest for you?
I started collecting shells and fossils as a teenager in South Africa. I would find out about them and slot them into an evolutionary sequence. Even though I have no formal training in palaeontology some people call me an ‘expert’ and it’s really just down to my practical experience. In the UK many fossils are easily accessible. Searching along the seashore at Lyme Regis is a great way of learning. I have cast my searching rather more globally – but whether a fossil comes from Russia, Alaska or Dorset - the same lessons can be learnt.
Do you have a favourite fossil?
I have thousands of ammonites, but often the rarest are the smallest, and not that impressive to look at. It’s the story behind each fossil which fascinates me.
Do you have many fossils from Dorset?
Yes indeed – Dorset is one the best places in the world to hunt for ammonite and nautilus fossils - from the Jurassic Coast to the fields and villages around Sherborne. I also have a few very large nautilus fossils, some of the biggest in the world, that come from the hills just behind my house. There is a diversity of nautilus fossils here which is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.
Do think that museums still have an important role to play?
The 21st century museum has to provide something different by inspiring kids beyond the internet and using new technologies to create new and different memorable experiences for them. Take the role of social media - both my recent natural history books would not have been possible without Facebook. It provided a platform where people from around the world could send in their suggestions and input. We integrated more than 300 suggestions in each book.
Discover Tomorrow’s Museum
To find out more at about this exiciting new project for Dorset please visit tomorrowsmuseumfordorset.org