The Hawk and Owl Trust are Very Sad to Announce the Death of Our Chairman Barbara Handley

Chairman Barbara Handley

Barbara Handley

The Hawk and Owl Trust is sorry to announced the passing of our much admired and loved Chairman Barbara Handley.

Barbara became involved in the protection of birds of prey in the early 70’s when she set up a red kite wardening scheme.

Her passion and enthusiasm were legendary and she will be sorely missed.

Close friend and colleague Chris Sperring, Hawk and Owl Trust Conservation Officer for the South West, remembers Barbara.

‘Barbara Handley died on Monday 3rd June 2013 at her home in Somerset. She was 79.
Barbara was a passionate person, who gave her all to everything she took on. Aside from her children, Patrick and Ceris and grandson, Louis, there were many things Barbara was passionate about. She loved gardening, horse racing, classical music and a decent red wine.

She was an accomplished artist and historian, and a devoted conservationist.
After studying at Oxford University she became a teacher of history and in the 1960’s moved to mid-Wales with her young family, where she developed a life-long love of Red Kites (as well as sheepdogs!). In the early 1970’s Barbara responded to a letter written by the then Secretary to the Hawk Trust, Jane Fenton, about the decline of the Red Kite. She regularly saw Kites around her cottage in Wales and wanted to help. The outcome was that, amidst strong opposition, Barbara set up the first nest wardening scheme, largely supported by her personal friends. She organized rota’s and gave the volunteers somewhere welcoming to stay each year. She was a true pioneer in Red Kite conservation, and played no small part in the success they enjoy today.
In the 1980’s Barbara moved to Bristol, where she joined forces with Chris Sperring to form the first local group of the Hawk Trust which she drove forward vigorously as it’s leader. She later became a Trustee and, in the 1990’s, Chairman of the Hawk and Owl Trust (as it had recently been re-named) for the first time.
Barbara was instrumental in the creation of South West Projects, and in helping Nigel Middleton and the late Roger Clarke to develop Sculthorpe Moor Reserve. She was a tireless fundraiser, always searching for new ideas and new opportunities.
After moving to her home on the Mendip Hills in Somerset in 2003, Barbara stepped down as Chairman of the Trust, only to take up the reigns again a few years later. She was a natural leader and was naturally decisive. The decisions she made were often difficult and sometimes controversial, but they were timely decisions, which, at times, forestalled disaster. Her determination to constantly move the Trust forward drove her to make these decisions, which were typically farsighted and courageous. She would always listen to people whom she trusted, but was ultimately independent and unwavering in her quest to ‘get things done’.
Anyone who knew Barbara will tell you that she was an inspiring person in so many ways; her energy and determination were limitless, and although always generous with her praise and encouragement, would not pull any punches if she felt someone was not pulling their weight! That said there was a softer side to her as well. She was a teacher by profession and like all good teachers was a good judge of ability and potential and could develop this and point it in the right direction – to the good of the person and the benefit of the Trust. Above all she knew that with the right people around you any obstacle could be overcome, and using this ethos she has been instrumental in the Trust’s development and evolution over the past 3 decades. To Barbara there were no such things as lost causes, only feeble campaigners!
Just weeks before she died, Barbara spent a week with friends and fellow Red Kite conservationists in her beloved Cwmystwith, mid-Wales. She was already quite ill, but this was not going to stop her. This was typical. Since becoming a Trustee, and during her 2 terms as Chairman, she never missed a Trustee’s meeting; in fact her entire year’s calendar was planned around these meetings – such was the importance of the Hawk and Owl Trust in her life.
Barbara was strong, resourceful and determined. She was an energetic driving force for the Trust who will be greatly missed, but her spirit will live on as we must sadly move forward without her.’

8 Responses to The Hawk and Owl Trust are Very Sad to Announce the Death of Our Chairman Barbara Handley

  1. I am so very sorry to hear this news. Back in the mid-70’s I lived in mid Wales, and was so thrilled to see my first ever red kite. I didn’t know then that Barbara Handley was largely responsible for me being able to see this wonderful bird – that had to wait until last year when I joined the H&OT as a result of watching the Norwich peregrines, and read her article in ‘Peregrine’. I am sure Barbara will be sadly missed by the H&OT and the wider bird conservation world, but she will definitely be remembered for all her tireless efforts on behalf of raptors.

    • Hi Sue. Thanks for your kind words about Barbara. She is going to be a hard act to follow and we will all miss her terribly.


  2. A wonderful inspiring woman with passion and love of the natural world. A great watercolourist as well. What a loss. A privilege to have known her.


  3. I’ve just come back from Barbara’s funeral.I am so privileged to have known her as a fellow artist and friend.I will never forget both her determination and her laughter.

  4. Thanks for your touching comments Shirley. I personally found Barbara an inspiration and she is the reason I work for the Hawk and Owl Trust. It’s up to us now to get the job done!

  5. The members of the East Midlands Group committee would like to offer their condolences on the passing of HOT Chairman Barbara Handley. We all had the pleasure of meeting her when hosting the 2011 HOT Members’ Weekend and AGM at Rutland Water and remember that she was very supportive of what we’d achieved as a fledgling group at the time.

  6. Lots of wonderful memories, many bottles of wine shared at her home in Bristol and latterly at her great perch on the Mendips. What a dedicated and inspirational person. Talented and hardworking a true lover of life. She will be sadly missed by all who knew her. Unique.
    Jan Richards