Board of Trustees

Our ultimate governing body is an elected Board of Trustees; a group of members who are nominated and elected. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is, therefore, governed by its membership.

The Board is responsible for ensuring that we carry out our charitable objectives in accordance with the relevant legislation. It sets the overall vision, mission, policy and goals - in line with the national strategies of The Wildlife Trusts. It must also ensure our financial stability and the effective management of our assets.

Louise Farnell

Louise has worked as a successful charity fundraising consultant for the last eight years, raising over £33 million for local and national charities in that time. She specialises in writing funding applications and is particularly proud of having raised over £20 million for Time to Change - the campaign to end the stigma of mental illness.

Prior to this, she was a senior manager at the mental health charity Rethink, where she increased their voluntary income tenfold in five years. Before this, she was a fundraiser for the British Red Cross.

Louise is a committee member and training lead for the Institute of Fundraising Yorkshire and delivers fundraising training courses for charities across the region.

She is a keen traveller and her passion for wildlife has taken her to Africa four times, the Galapagos Islands and on a 15 month trip around the world with her husband and then 5 and 7 year old children, visiting Alaska, Borneo, Patagonia and Costa Rica amongst others.

In her spare time she keeps chickens and bees and is secretary for her local Wharfedale Beekeepers group. She grew up on the Durham/Yorkshire border and has lived near Skipton for the last 13 years - despite her travels, there's nowhere else she'd rather live.

Louise has been a co-opted trustee since November 2013 and is enthusiastic about working with the fundraising team at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to raise funding for more of the charity's great conservation work across the county.

Jo Webb (Vice Chair)

Jo has worked for the last 5 years as a leadership coach, interim manager and consultant with diverse clients including Greenpeace, Norfolk County Council and Camden Clinical Commissioning Group. Previously she has had many roles in local government including Regional Associate for the Local Government Association in which she supported leading councillors and senior managers across Yorkshire's councils. She has also worked as an inspector for the Audit Commission.

She is looking forward, as a trustee, to using her expertise in strengthening governance and management.

Jo has enjoyed volunteering for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust over the last few years. She was coopted as a Trustee in October 2016.

Gurdev Singh

Gurdev has worked in the Direct Marketing industry for almost 30 years, and is passionate about data, multi-channel communications and integrated marketing. He cut his direct mail teeth at Broadprint spending 7 years with them in the 80’s when data driven direct mail was in its infancy. In 1993 Gurdev was asked to join Waddingtons (now Communisis plc) and as Divisional Sales Director was responsible for over £120M revenue across 3 sites  and  resigned in summer 2003. Gurdev moved to Howitt Ltd/Lateral Group (now DST/Paragon) and was a Group Board Director responsible for the team of over 300 at their site near Nottingham. In 2009 Gurdev was asked to return to Communisis plc as Managing Director of the team of over 550 at their Leeds site and then moved to Group Business Development Director sitting on the Group Operating Board ( In Dec 2013 Gurdev left Communisis to pursue other interests, he does consultancy work for KPMG and joined Integrated Marketing Agency Bloom ( as Non-Executive Director which has just been bought by Jaywing plc. Additionally Gurdev bought his own printing company Northwolds Ltd ( Gurdev is very well connected in the industry with long-term senior level relationships with blue chip institutions as well as various industry bodies and service providers. Gurdev has recently been co-opted as a Trustee of The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Married to Dawn they have two grown up children and live in Leeds.

Richard Tripp (Honorary Secretary)

Richard is a qualified solicitor and partner at  law firm Pinsent Masons. Outside the office, Richard is a passionate supporter of nature and biodiversity. Richard was brought up on Anglesey where he developed his love of nature and spent many happy times visiting North Wales WT sites and other wild places. Richard has lived in Leeds since 2004 and enjoys getting out and about  in Yorkshire with his young family, where has witnessed some amazing wildlife moments in some fantastic locations.  Richard hopes his legal background in the financial sector combined with his passion for the environment will be beneficial to the Trust.

David Counsell

David is a planner by profession, with experience of working in local government and in the academic and voluntary sectors. In local government David worked mainly for county councils, latterly as the head of environmental management for Cleveland County Council. Following the demise of Cleveland, David was Director of an environmental charity in Middlesbrough before taking up an academic career, mainly with the University of Hull, but also including a spell teaching environmental planning to Irish students in Cork. David has co-written three books and many journal articles on these themes and has undertaken consultancy work for national, regional, and local governments on sustainability appraisal in particular. His latest book, co-written with Rob Stoneman, is titled ‘Planning, Sustainability and Nature’, published in 2018. He also acted as a Special Advisor to a Parliamentary Select Committee on planning in 2009/10.

David has been associated with the Wildlife Trusts movement for many years as a Trustee and past Chair of Tees Valley Wildlife Trust. He also served as a trustee of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts until 2012 and is currently a member of its England Committee. With his Irish contacts, David acted as consultant to the Wildlife Trusts for a project assessing the current status of the 'Rothschild Sites' in Ireland in 2014/15.

He was Chair of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust between March 2016 and October 2018 and remains a Trustee.

Patrick Hall

Paddy Hall is an experienced public sector consultant with a lifelong passion for the countryside. He is Chair of West Beck Preservation Society whose members have been involved in developing this SSSI northern chalk stream for more than 120 years. They have worked extensively with the Environment Agency, The Yorkshire Rivers Trust, Natural England, riparian owner and more recently Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. A few years ago, Paddy acquired a small piece of overgrown woodland and with a group of families has developed and delivered a diversification plan part-funded by the Forestry Commission, including clearance, rabbit fencing, native tree planting, flora expansion and the creation of a spring fed pond.
Paddy is a Board Member of Dove House Hospice, a Director of the South Hunsley Multi-Academy Trust and is a non-executive Director of Yorkshire Health Partners. Paddy has mostly retired from a professional life leading change across the charity, public and private sectors in more than half the local authorities in England as an inspector, consultant and executive coach. He is a regular broadcaster on Radio Humberside (Thought for the day), a wood turner and rare chicken breeder. He is no longer a public fire-eater.

Christine Packer (Deputy Secretary)

As a Trustee for the Wildlife Trust Christine finds it a privilege to work with the dedicated staff and see the difference that they are making to the wildlife of Yorkshire. Christine currently works in her local authority promoting sustainable transport for the benefit of people and the environment. There are many synergies between Christine's ‘day job’ and that of the Trust so she is able to bring that experience to the benefit of the Trust, both in meetings and helping the Trust make its own activities as green as possible as part of the newly formed eco group.

Christine became interested in wildlife and concerned for the environment when as a young geologist working in the field she saw first hand some of the impact human activity was having on the natural environment. Christine began volunteering for her local wildlife trust and then changed career direction to work in environmental management and sustainability.

At her home they are creating an area of native woodland and a wildflower meadow which seems very popular with the local pheasants! It is a lovely sheltered area with plenty of blossom and wild flowers for the bees that we have recently started keeping. Now that their two sons have gone to university Christine hopes to have time to take up photography and do more walking and cycling.

Christine's personal philosophy is that care for the environment should be part of everything we do. As a trustee Christine will continue to use her environmental skills and experience for the benefit of the Trust and the Wildlife it protects

Joanna Royle

Joanna is a Chartered Marketer and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing,  with 30 years experience, including at Board level, spanning public and private sectors.

As Assistant Director of Consultancy,  for the National Trust, North Region, Joanna has a senior  leadership role in the UK's largest conservation charity. She is responsible for leading the teams of professional specialists across a range of disciplines, including visitor experience and curation, volunteering and participation, marketing and internal communications, fundraising, commercial and membership development and external affairs. As a member of the Regional Leadership Team,  Joanna is accountable for strategic planning and delivery to meet the regional targets and ensure financial sustainability.  Joanna also acts as sponsor for the delivery of a number of high profile projects within the National Trust in the North, and plays a national role in developing and delivering the Trust’s commercial strategy.

Joanna believes strongly in partnership working and is used to representing organisations at national and regional level.

Joanna's previous experience includes the role of Marketing Director for Welcome to Yorkshire, with a seat on the Board, where she led regional tourism marketing strategy. As Business Planning and Marketing Manager at the Peak District National Park she was responsible for income generation to support the Authority's conservation work and its public engagement and educational programme; she also has several years' private sector marketing experience.

Joanna is deeply passionate about wildlife and the natural world. Having been a Trustee for the past 4 years she has been delighted to continue for a second term,  to offer her expertise to support and advise Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in its quest to conserve Yorkshire's wildlife.

Hugh Williamson

Hugh’s lifelong love of wildlife and wild places started with his parents' passion for the Scottish Highlands and visits as a child to the Cambridgeshire Naturalists' Trust's nature reserves. Living in Yorkshire since 1975 he and his wife Lisa introduced their own children to the pleasures and importance of nature with the help of the York Watch group in the 1980's.

Since retiring from a career in local government Hugh has been a regular volunteer on practical workdays on Trust nature reserves around York. First elected a Trustee in 2014, Hugh was Deputy Treasurer from 2015 to 2018 and has been Honorary Treasurer since April 2018.

He hopes to continue to contribute to the work of the Board of Trustees and the growth and progress of the Trust, particularly with regard to financial and performance management.

Alastair Fitter

Alastair has been a member of YWT for nearly 50 years, and this is his third stint on the Board. He has had a long-standing engagement with Askham Bog, chairing its then Management Committee until 1985 and jointly writing 'A Wood in Ascam', an account of its natural history, with Clifford Smith, one of the founders of the (then) Yorkshire Naturalists’ Trust.

Alastair is a naturalist and ecologist, with plants and moths as his main taxonomic interests, and has written several natural history guides and books, some jointly with his father, Richard Fitter, who was a pioneer in this area until he died in 2005. Alastair's career was at the University of York, where he ended his time as Professor of Ecology, Head of the Biology Department and finally Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2005.

Alastair has been a council member of the Natural Environment Research Council and of the Science Advisory Committee of Natural England, and President of the British Ecological Society, among other things, but nowadays prefers to focus his activities in Yorkshire, where he currently chairs the trustees of the Yorkshire Arboretum and acts as President of the River Foss Society.

Mike Cooke (Chair)

Professor Mike Cooke CBE became Chair of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in October 2018 after a two year apprenticeship as Vice Chair having moved back to beloved Yorkshire in 2015. He lives on Pocklington Canal which gives great access to local wildlife and his passion for birds. YWT is a great organisation and as Chair of Board of Trustees Mike will do all he can to support everyone in partnership build a wilder better Yorkshire whilst helping the organisation grow and develop.

Mike is a recently retired NHS Chief Executive with 16 years CEO experience of running high performance provider Trusts latterly in Nottingham. A lifelong interest in leadership for patient benefit and leadership development to help transform and sustain an NHS through change , high demand and huge political and public expectations have been features of Mike's career.

He served two terms on National Institute for Health Research National Advisory Board to support research, founded and Chaired Foundation Trust Mental Health Network, founded and Chaired East Midlands Leadership Academy and promoted recovery in mental health nationally over many years. He also chaired Notts, Derbys and Lincs  and East Midlands Research Collaborations, MindTech Health Technology Co-Operative and Trent Clinical Research Network. Mike was honoured in 2010 with a CBE for services to mental health.

Mike was Special Professor in Healthcare Innovation and Leadership at University of Nottingham and Professor of Practice in Healthcare Innovation and Leadership at Warwick Business School. Currently Mike Chairs UCL Partners Embedded Steering Group and University of York Mental Health Research Knowledge and Impact Group.

Mike is now affiliated with University of York, a proud Trustee of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Non Executive Director of Humber Teaching, NHS Foundation Trust and an Independent Executive Mentor and Coach.

Martin Randle (Honorary Treasurer)

Martin is a Chartered Accountant, now retired from full time work after a career in Finance across a wide range of businesses and industries. Brought up in Yorkshire he qualified in Bristol and then moved to Zimbabwe in the 1980s where he joined Plessey Telecoms as Financial Controller. Whilst in Zimbabwe he was able to experience the amazing animal and bird life of the country but also saw the threats from growing populations and poaching, and became a supporter of the local ”Save the Rhino” group.

He has now lived in Sheffield for many years and after a late change of career he became a civil servant, so learning a different culture and way of working. Martin finds the nearby Peak District an inspiring place for all ages to enjoy the great outdoors., A few years ago Martin lived for five years in Hong Kong which proved to be an excellent base for travel across South East Asia and Australia with opportunities to see a whole new range of wildlife. Surprisingly, 40% of Hong Kong is National Park and the Wetlands are an important wintering stopover for rare birds. Potentially these, like others elsewhere, are threatened with further building and population expansion and Martin firmly believes that pressure to preserve wildlife sites and reserves and to raise public awareness is paramount.

Martin is now the voluntary Company Secretary for the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Enterprises PLC, (the business side of the Railway), and a Railway Pension Trustee. As a Trustee of YWT he hopes to contribute some of his extensive practical finance experience in a common sense way to assist in the running of the organisation.