My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
I spent yesterday at the Cereals Show near Sleaford. Yes, I know, you envy my glamorous lifestyle. I went along to the Oxford Farming Conference debate on CAP reform and market volatility.
After a while, I felt a little strange. Something wasn't quite right. I heard three oblique references to the RSPB (we were co-sponsoring the event), but it struck me as a little odd that the audience - and panel - seemed unable to refer to us directly. We were the "environmental pressure group", or the "blue logo". Despite having dark hair and glasses and bearing a passing resemblance to a slightly haggard Harry Potter, I was feeling more like Lord Voldemort. I suddenly felt that we were the "organisation that cannot be named".
There is a serious point here. We have seemingly managed to find ourselves in a situation where we are, if not feared, then somehow different, or apart. To add to my puzzlement, just 500 yards away, the RSPB had a stand that was bustling with enthusiastic visitors - farming friends that already work with us and potential farming friends who are keen to work with us, or to get some advice about what they can and should be doing to help farmland wildlife.
Can I get something straight? We want to save wildlife in the countryside. We know that farmers want to do this too. We want to work with farmers, while trying to help government find ways of encouraging as many of them as possible to do the right thing. Improving the countryside, whilst maintaining a healthy, economically viable farming industry, is a challenge that has emerged from both the NEA and the NEWP. This is possible.
So, after leaving Sleaford, I headed for Brussels (see, my lifestyle is more glamorous than you thought). I'm here for a series of meetings with officials about CAP reform and the EU Budget. Yes, the 27 Member States are gearing up to 'agree' the financial perspective for the 2014-17 period.
It's a huge opportunity for spend to be targeted towards EU public policy objectives, such as the desire to halt biodiversity and begin its restoration by 2020. Alas, debates about UK rebate and reduction in overall levels of expenditure may scupper significant reform.
But - here's a simple stat for you - for the period 2007-13, 976 billion Euros of EU taxpayers money will be spent on eight programmes including agriculture, fisheries and biodiversity. However, just 0.2% of that budget will be spent on saving widlife. This despite the fact that 65% of habitats across Europe are under serious threat due to the lack of proper management, the negative impact of harmful subsidies and inappropriate development.
We're trying to do something about this with partners across Europe and here's a paper which outlines our position. I am looking for some glimmers of hope from my meetings today.
And I am also hoping that we can work in partnership with farmers to weave some magic on all of this.
Hi Martin that is just about the best news I have seen for a long time and great that you have taken the initiative so quickly after taking the new post.Recognise it will be a slow job as like everyone else farmers become entrenched in their ways but think in the long run if they stop seeing RSPB as the enemy then everyone will benefit and more so wildlife will.Think good relations with farmers in general if you can pull it off would be as good a legacy for wildlife as anything to leave when you leave your present post.I am amazed and applaud your effort.Of course the NFU may take a different attitude but just think well all unions do that anyway so we must not really expect them to be different.
Here are some views that I expressed to Farmers Weekly - www.fwi.co.uk/.../RSPB-to-stop-39farmer-bashing39-over-conservation.htm
Am keen to draw a line and move on.
Yes Martin you have many farming friends but it is a very small number in % terms if you look at the total number of farmers and sad to say the reason in my opinion they do not refer to you by name is that the vast majority see you as the enemy.I am very unhappy about this and my thoughts are that the RSPB is thick skinned and criticism does not hurt them but the RSPB comes out quite often with saying things about farming or farmers which they obviously see as relevant and innocuous but it is one after another that just gets farmers backs up and farmers are obviously more touchy than RSPB.Think everyone at RSPB needs to think before they ink and hopefully better relations with the majority of farmers will come in time.For sure if you manage to get better relations with farmers wildlife will benefit greatly.You may not of course agree with me but for absolute certainty time after time the RSPB wonder why on earth they are seen as opponents so I have I think given you the answer.
All the very best of luck Martin in Brussels. it is an important mission you are on. Let's hope that politics does not obscure, as it so often does, the real truth and the measures so urgently needed to protect Europe's wildlife.