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400 mile cycle ride for woman who saved one million birds

Manchester Councillor Andrew Simcock is to cycle 400 miles to raise funds for a permanent statue to the female founder of the UK’s largest nature conservation charity.

Andrew on a training run in Bollington, Cheshire

The Emily Williamson statue will be placed in Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury, Manchester, where Emily Williamson lived when she founded the RSPB in 1889.

Cycling 400 miles and visiting eight RSPB nature reserves across six counties Andrew is aiming to raise £5,000.

Half of the funds raised will go to the statue fundraising campaign and half will go to supporting vital conservation efforts at the reserves visited.

To donate to the fundraising campaign visit:

Dates, times and details of the reserves being visited can also be found there.

Andrew’s epic cycle ride, branded the RSPB Eastern 400, will take him to eight RSPB reserves in the six counties of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire, beginning 23 July and finishing Wednesday 2 August, taking one of these bronze maquettes with him to display for visitors to see. He is aiming to raise £5,000 towards the fundraising goal of £100,000 and half of the funds raised with be shared among the RSPB reserves he is visiting.

Eve Shepherd with her winning design

Andrew begins the tour at The Lodge at RSPB Headquarters on Sunday 23rd July from 11.00 a.m. to midday where the statue design will be on display.

He then cycles the 40 miles to Ware ahead of the visit to RSPB Rye Meads the following day.

In December 2020 a competition was launched by author and journalist Tessa Boase and Andrew, in partnership with the RSPB, to design a statue of Emily Williamson (1855-1936). The four shortlisted designs were unveiled on the centenary of The Plumage Act (1 July 2021), the RSPB’s first legislation triumph and the result of Emily’s long campaign.

Brighton based sculptor Eve Shepherd’s winning design was then made available as 20 limited edition 40 cm high bronze maquettes which are also for sale as part of the fundraising efforts for the life-sized sculpture of Emily.

Andrew, who in 2018 successfully campaigned for a statue to Emmeline Pankhurst for Manchester city centre, said,

“This statue will be another milestone in recognising important women from our history through public sculpture. It will be an ever-lasting legacy to a nature pioneer and celebrate Manchester once again as a place of progression, inclusivity, and ground-breaking ideas. The cycle ride will be a huge personal challenge too, but I hope I’ll be spurred on by the great British public along the route.”

“We intend to put Emily Williamson’s name back on the map by making her garden a place of pilgrimage for RSPB members, budding environmental activists, eco feminists and young people in search of inspiring role models.”

Eve Shepherd, Sculptor, said, “I want this sculpture to tell the story of Emily and how her legacy is still helping nature today. She is still making a difference. Without her we would not have half of the birds we have today. Young women can make such a difference in this world and at a time when we are losing species of animals and plants at an alarming rate, they need to know their voices are important. I hope that learning about women who have made such a difference in history will inspire new generations for centuries to come.”

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of the RSPB, said, “Today we are facing a climate and nature emergency. Our skies are emptying of birds. A statue of Emily will help provide focus for a new generation of young people, including girls, helping them to understand the value of nature and power of activism. I wish Andrew every success on his epic cycle ride and hope as many people as possible will turn out to meet him at the reserves he is visiting.”

The plan is for the statue to be unveiled in Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury, on Emily’s birthday on 17 April 2025. This is the location of Emily’s former home, The Croft, which still stands in the park and is where she held her first meeting in 1889, that would lead to the founding of the RSPB.

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