Wow! What a picnic! Ten thousand people gathered along The Mall for a picnic lunch to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday and her patronage of over 600 organisations. As volunteers for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust we were very fortunate to be picked out as the two representatives of the Trust to attend the event. After passing through two ID checks followed by an ‘airport’ security check we arrived at the picnic site which stretched along the whole length of The Mall. Unfortunately it was raining but everyone was provided with a white waterproof poncho and so the area took on a rather surreal appearance.
We found our table and seats and then collected our incredible (and extremely edible) hampers. These were provided by Marks and Spencer and together with Pimm’s, tea from Unilever and ice-cream from Walls we were definitely not short of things to eat and drink.
Unfortunately it was still raining when the first parade took place. However, it certainly didn’t dampen the carnival atmosphere as the parade took us through the decades of the Queen’s reign: 1950s - Sea, 1960s - Flower Power, 1970s - Nature, 1980s - Neon, 1990s - Gold Party, Millenium - Forces and Families, Now - Young and Old. All the 1,500 participants in the parade were volunteers from the Patron’s Organisations and they certainly put on a fantastic display. Of course it was the Nature section which we were most interested in. It contained a large model of a bird of prey followed by people waving smaller models of other wildlife intermingled with other walkers holding signs with all the Animal and Agriculture related Patron’s Organisations, including, of course, Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
After the parade had passed through, the rain began to ease off and everyone sat down to enjoy their picnic. Let’s just say that the hampers contained food fit for a queen, focussing on ingredients from all around Britain. By the time the Royal Family made their way up The Mall from Buckingham Palace the rain had stopped and the sun had made an appearance.
Our table was quite near the stage at the Admiralty Arch end of The Mall and it was from there that the Queen, Prince William and others made their speeches. Sir Stuart Etherington, Chair of the Board of Trustees for The Patron’s Fund, named just six of the organisations during his speech and we were very pleased that he chose to mention Norfolk Wildlife Trust; perhaps because it is also the 90th anniversary of the Trust. Members of the Royal Party then made their way back down The Mall to take up their positions to watch the parade. This time the parade took place in warm sunshine, much better for those of us watching, but quite exhausting for the performers, especially those inside one of the large animal costumes.
We had both decided to wear our NWT polo shirts to the Lunch and as a result a number of people came up to us to ask us about the Trust and what we did. We both feel very privileged to have been able to represent the hundreds of dedicated Norfolk Wildlife Trust volunteers at such a unique and memorable event.
Phil Davison (volunteer at Buxton Heath) and Adrian Winnington (volunteer at Holme Dunes) To read more from and about our volunteers, please visit our website.