With great sadness we report that Trevor James, Hertfordshire's long-time recorder for flora and beetles and an outstanding all-round naturalist, died peacefully in the Garden House Hospice, Letchworth on Friday 5 June.
Trevor made a remarkable contribution to the study, understanding and recording of wildlife in the county where he lived for most of his life. He actively promoted 'citizen science' through his own volunteering and the generous practical help and encouragement he offered so that less experienced enthusiasts could develop their skills.
Above: Trevor, at the 2009 launch of Flora of Hertfordshire. Photo: Linda Smith
Left: Trevor leading a field trip at Commons Wood Nature Reserve in 2009. Photo: June Crew
His landmark achievements are two exceptional books: Flora of Hertfordshire (2009) and Beetles of Hertfordshire (2018). The former, which covers almost 2,000 species then recorded, raised the bar for information and standards of presentation in a county-level publication. His book on beetles is unique in the UK and provides information on all 2,483 beetle species recorded in the county at the time of publication.
Trevor's book on beetles was all the more remarkable for being published at a time when he had been diagnosed with cancer for several years and had undergone radical and debilitating surgery. He not only went on to update his book with new records ? including his final recorder's report to be published this autumn in the 2020 Hertfordshire Naturalist ? but also used his last months to write a short book of memoirs. Titled Chance encounters ? following nature's lead, it returned from the printers only eight days before his death, but at a time when he was still able to appreciate the finished article.
Born in Kenton, Middlesex, Trevor moved with his family to Cuffley when he was five years old. His interest in wildlife dated from secondary school years and by the time be became a student (studying English) at the University of York he was already a prominent contributor of bird and other records from Northaw Great Wood and beyond. What he regarded as a 'false start' into librarianship jobs in Ware, Bexleyheath and London led to a life-changing decision to apply for the job of Keeper of Natural History at Hitchin Museum. Actively involved in the (then) Hertfordshire & Middlesex Trust for Nature Conservation's work parties at Oughton Head Common he met fellow naturalist Chris(tine) Smith in 1977, whom he married two years later.
Trevor's professional life progressed to appointment as Head of Ecology running the first Herts Environment Record Centre and an honorary role as first chairman of the National Federation (later Forum) for Biological Recording. With the Rev. Tom Gladwin and Graham White, he was instrumental in achieving the conversion of gravel pits at Great Amwell into an internationally important wetland reserve. His last employment move was to carry out pioneering work at Monks Wood Experimental Station near Huntingdon on use of the internet to create national biological recording schemes. He also worked as an occasional expert tour guide for the wildlife holiday company, NatureTrek.
With Chris, Trevor was a revered organiser of the Herts branch of the British Naturalists Association and leader of legendary field trips for many years. He also served on the HNHS management committee and was a former Chair. His habitual modesty made it all the more pleasing for friends and admirers when he received the Society's prestigious 1875 Award for an outstanding Hertfordshire naturalist in 2015, followed by the National Biodiversity Network's Gilbert White Award in 2018 for an outstanding contribution to biological recording. A tribute to Trevor can be found on the NBN website. Most recently, in the 2020 New Year Honours, he was given the British Empire Medal for services to nature conservation in Hertfordshire ? an award which he received in person from the county's Lord Lieutenant in March despite encroaching sickness.
Trevor's contribution, not least as county recorder for both plants and beetles for more than 40 years, has been immense. His contribution to national wildlife recording was no less impressive. To say he will be sorely missed is an understatement.
His funeral, under current rules on social distancing, will be restricted to a small number of family and close friends. His family intend to organise a memorial event when public health guidance allows it. We are, meanwhile, sure that our members' kind thoughts and sympathy are with Chris and their son Edward and family.
* Members and friends may wish to contribute their own tributes and memories of Trevor by visiting the HNHS Facebook page. Donations in his memory can, at his family's suggestion, be made to Garden House Hospice Care.