Northamptonshire Natural History Society: The hidden gem appealing for new members as Covid leaves group in concern

'We still want to provide a service and we're open for business as soon as we can and we want people to enjoy what there is to see'

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 4:41 pm

Despite being 145-years-old, Northamptonshire Natural History Society considers itself a bit of a hidden gem of the county.

But that can make it hard to attract new members, particularly since the coronavirus pandemic has caused many not to renew with many of its activities forced to move online and base in Northampton town centre shut.

Vice president Mike Gibson believes there is something for anyone interested in the natural world to get stuck into with the society.

Northamptonshire Natural History Society. (Clockwise from top left) Former member Walter Drawbridge Crick, the Humfrey Rooms, three members at Badby Wood in 1935 after an all-night outing to observe wildlife, and a goose on Abington Park lake, taken by a member of the photography section
Northamptonshire Natural History Society. (Clockwise from top left) Former member Walter Drawbridge Crick, the Humfrey Rooms, three members at Badby Wood in 1935 after an all-night outing to observe wildlife, and a goose on Abington Park lake, taken by a member of the photography section

"I think a lot of people in one way or another, whether it's their health or whatever, have suffered with Covid over the last few months - no aspect of society has not been affected but our message is we're still here," he said.

"We still want to provide a service and we're open for business as soon as we can and we want people to enjoy what there is to see."

Northamptonshire Natural History Society has a rich history having been founded in 1876, with an abundance of interesting collections and artefacts at The Humfrey Rooms on Castilian Street.

Mammoth teeth are among the highlights as well as what is believed to be the largest sand collection in the world and extensive plant collection.

Members of Northamptonshire Natural History Society's astronomy section in 2017 to mark its 60th anniversary

The grandfather and father of the co-discoverer of DNA, Francis Crick, count among the society's past members, with the former's fossil collection also on display.

Mike said: "It's a real hidden gem. There's so much more I could say about it, we're just looking forward to when the pandemic has eased so we can get back to some sort of normality."

Northamptonshire Natural History Society is split into 10 sections: archaeology and history, astronomy, botany, general, geology, microscopy, photography, weather and climate, zoology and ornithology, and Saturday walks.

Regular meetings featuring outside speakers, field trips, photographic competitions and practical activities are held with information provided on its website and in monthly updates while a journal is published once a year.

Three slides showing microfossils from Walter Drawbridge Crick's collection

The society collaborates with a range of other groups and societies including photographic clubs, astronomical, scientific and history societies, Northampton u3a, the Wildlife Trust, Nenescape and Friends of St Peter’s Church.

In addition, members also engage in a number of outreach events for schools and libraries to inspire future generations.

But it has been far from easy over the past 15 months with membership fees dwindling and repairs needed to the building, which has been unable to welcome visitors.

Mike said: "Our numbers have gone down quite drastically in as much as obviously the rooms are not being used we have some meetings which are on Zoom but physical meetings haven't been happening.

A male human flea, taken by Northamptonshire Natural History Society's microscope section

"We've lost nearly half of our members as they've either decided we're not going to meetings and don't see why they should renew which I can understand that but it's quite concerning.

"The building needs repairs too so it's just one thing after another. We seem to be in a financial hole at the moment - it's difficult and we're relying on the memberships and donations."

Membership is open to all, with concessionary rates for senior citizens, families and junior members. For more information, visit nnhs.info.