Monday, 20 July 2020

Mel Roberts: The Man With A Vision


Mel Roberts working hard at the Butterfly Park
Mel Roberts working hard at the Butterfly Park

It seems that all successful community projects are started by an inspiring leader or two, who build round them a bigger team. Mel was that leader, with his infectious enthusiasm, time to devote to the Park, and the boundless energy required to drive the Park project in its early stages. His attitude was always “can-do”, when the rest of us were far more cautious. But Mel was self-effacing and self-mocking, with a wicked sense of humour.

Mel was awarded Wirral CVS “Volunteer on the Year” award 2001. He was embarrassed to accept as he said he had the dreams, but many others had put it in to practice. Typical of Mel's modesty – we would never have had the idea of the Park without his dreams. Mel was a political atheist - he did not believe in any party but was politically active in getting things done. He taught us to make good use of our politicians, for publicity, making links and finding grants – which we continue to do. It is thanks to Mel that we have had good support from local councillors and MPs throughout the life of the Park.

The photograph below shows Alison McGovern MP (second on the right)


Alison McGovern MP (second right) at the Butterfly Park


Mel was adept at publicity and spreading the word about the Park in the local community. While we were seeking the lease, he made a booklet of his photos showing the wildlife of the Park, persuaded Max Spielmann (local photography company) to do around 30 copies of the photos, and used the booklet to advertise what we were trying to do. The booklet entitled “A proposal for the re-development of the old Alma Street Goods Yard at Bebington and New Ferry station” had a diagram on the front cover of a siding with light industry hitting the buffers and a nature refuge going forward. Mel was really on the ball producing that booklet just as planning permission for light industry lapsed. It was well-used in the first few years of the Park as we gradually gathered volunteers and visitors.



Mel Roberts' book "A proposal for the re-development of the old Alma Street Goods Yard at Bebington and New Ferry station"
Mel Roberts' book
"A proposal for the re-development of the old Alma Street Goods Yard at Bebington and New Ferry station"


We also still have several large boards of his photos of the park and its wildlife, used at various exhibitions.

Mel visited schools, especially Grove Street, where he was made most welcome, his quirky sense of humour appealing to children. At one stage local children called him the “caterpillock of New Ferry” and regularly greeted him in the street.

Mel became increasingly unwell from 2000 and died on 12 November 2002. But he had by then built a good team to keep the Park running. We missed him, but we carried on. His memorial event was held on the Park on 24th November 2012, with over 100 people present. An apple tree was planted in his memory and his ashes buried at its foot, where his memorial plaque stands. He regarded the Park as his greatest achievement.  Mel was delighted to know he would be recycled back into the Park and said he would look more attractive as an apple tree.

He would be amazed, but we think delighted, at how the Park has prospered since.

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