Alison Fure of Furesfen Ecological Consultancy
Even if you have only been involved in conservation in Kingston for a short while you will almost certainly have met Alison or come across her work. Alison is active across the borough in an incredibly broad range of activities in pretty much any and every way you can aid conservation. She is most well known for her bat knowledge and is a licensed trainer for the London Bat Group. She carries out regular species surveys, not only of bats but also other small mammals, birds, wildflowers, reptiles and river quality.
Alison is a passionate communicator of the wonders of nature and runs frequent walks and talks on a diverse range of conservation topics. She also has a blog on all things wild in Kingston called the Wildlife Circus which is worth following if you want to know what’s happening in the borough. Alison is a mine of useful information, she knows the nature and wildlife designations of all the green spaces in Kingston as well as the flood zones. She could probably also tell you exactly what lives, grows, creeps, flies or slithers anywhere in the borough.
Alison is a firm believer that if we really want to maintain and improve our natural heritage we have to engage with the planning process. This is the area where citizens can have the greatest impact when it comes to how Kingston will be developed. But you have to engage early. If you suddenly discover a development is about to happen near you, you are probably too late. You have to get involved right at the beginning of the process, when the overall plan for your neighbourhood is being worked up and, believe me, Alison is on top of all the strategy and planning policy in the borough.
Her interests aren’t restricted to ecology, she has recently been delving into the history of Kingston’s apple orchards and she believes that orchards can help soften the impact of urbanisation as well as protecting a vanishing habitat of its own. Alison has just published a booklet on Kingston’s apple heritage called “Kingston’s Apple Story” and she has also led a number of apple walks and a wassail. As part of the apple project, Alison has set up a petition to save the Tolworth Apple Store, as well as a fundraiser to help restore the building.
Aside from being an active campaigner in her own right Alison also supports a number of conservation organisations in the borough and she is a director of the Kingston Environment Centre, which hosts the Kingston Biodiversity Network.
Considering Alison’s extensive knowledge and expertise on all things wildlife, you’d expect that she started off with an environmental qualification but you’d be wrong. Alison actually trained to go into social services and become a probation officer. She couldn’t start the professional qualification till she was 25 years old, which meant she had to find something to do between getting her degree and waiting to go into further training. At the same time the Thatcher years changed everything for Alison, she fled the country and went to Holland. After a number of jobs but finally settled as a gardener at University land tending bulbs destined for the 5 main botanical gardens in the world including Kew Gardens. She loved the job especially as she’d always loved gardening. Returning to England to have her son she decided to continue working for herself and set up a gardening round. This gave her the flexibility she needed as a single parent. She also joined the Surbiton Birdwatching Society which introduced her to systematic surveying methodology. She got so good at bird surveying that the council employed her to survey the entire borough. Once she had birds under her belt, she moved over to bats and became a bat specialist. Finally, her son was old enough for her to hand over the gardening business to him she undertook an MSc in Ecological Management and Monitoring and became a full- time ecologist. We’re jolly glad that she did.
Blog by Marina Pacheco