BT boost for conservation project which transformed life of cancer patient

“Osprey Project brought me moments of total joy,” says mother of two 

A pioneering Osprey conservation project is set for a £1000 boost after helping BT administrator Lydia Hocking through a debilitating battle with breast cancer. 

Mum-of-two Lydia, now 45, was diagnosed with the disease in January 2012 and, over the next few months, endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. 

On the days when she was too ill to leave her home in Bedworth, Warwickshire, or even her bed, the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust’s Osprey Project helped her escape to another world. 

As a lifelong lover of all wildlife, but particularly birds of prey, the West Wales conservation project put a smile on her face on a daily basis. 

Ospreys were once widespread throughout most of Britain but the magnificent species was persecuted by gamekeepers, egg collectors and trophy hunters. 

By the 17th century Ospreys were extinct in Wales and by 1916 they had become totally extinct as a breeding species in Scotland and England too. 
Many decades later, Ospreys were once again breeding in Scotland and, as a result of the translocation of several chicks from their Scottish nests to Rutland Water Nature Reserve, Ospreys once again began to breed in England. 

In 2011 history was made when Nora, one of the Rutland chicks, paired up with an unringed male, named Monty, at the Cors Dyfi nature reserve on the Dyfi estuary. Monty and Nora successfully raised the first Osprey chicks born in the Dyfi Valley for more than 400 years, and the Osprey family became the stars of BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch nature programmes. 

Lydia began to follow their story and, when she read on Facebook that the Project needed some telecommunications support, she stepped in to help get new nest webcams up and running just in time for the hatching of three chicks in 2012. 

She explained: “Around this time I was diagnosed with cancer and my life became one of absolute terror. I could not get away from it and was haunted by the thought that my five-year-old daughter might grow up without me. My whole life revolved around cancer – it occupied my every waking moment. 

“I went through months of treatment, being sick, bald, bloated and burned. I had fantastic support, but it was all about the cancer. The ospreys became the best form of therapy. They took me on an emotional roller-coaster and brought me moments of total joy. I could speak to people online about something totally different where no-one knew I had cancer. It was an absolute distraction. 

“I finished treatment in September when the birds migrated, but I continued to feel very anxious. There are no guarantees and you are on your own. Monty and his new mate Glesni returned in April and have helped me to feel calm again.” 

Lydia, who also has a grown-up son, added: “I started to get involved with fund-raising for the Project and over the months it has become a bit of an obsession – but before, I was obsessed with cancer.” 

This time last year the Project’s live stream viewing audience was around 500 people a day; today more than 10,000 people tune in daily from all over the world to view the most precious, intimate and sometimes heartbreaking moments of these very rare birds’ lives. 

After witnessing the respite the Project had brought her friend and colleague Lydia, BT business support manager Joyce Clark applied for a grant from BT’s staff giving fund, Give As You Earn, to help improve the live streaming. 

Both were delighted to be given £1000 from the fund and Lydia will make a special trip to Wales on Friday, July 5, to hand over the cheque and meet up with some of the friends she has made via the project’s online presence. 

Joyce, who works from home in East Lothian, Scotland, explained: “As a mother with a young family breast cancer was, and still is, the thing of Lydia’s nightmares. These beautiful birds of prey made my friend laugh and cry and brought her absolute joy – and some moments of devastation – at the most difficult time of her life. 

“The project has also helped educate her – and me – and given her a whole new network of friends. They have provided Osprey therapy in every sense of the word and have been wonderfully uplifting for many, many people. 

“None of this would have been possible were it not for those few Scottish chicks that were translocated to England. These chicks have gone on to raise families of their own and have been instrumental in repopulating England and Wales - what a legacy. 

“I wanted to do something to help the Project realise its ambitions as a way of saying thank you for all the help and support they have given Lydia. We’re both thrilled to have been awarded £1000, but the ongoing costs of live streaming are way beyond this. 

“Every penny that’s given may help someone else in need, so hopefully our story may encourage other people to support this wonderful cause.” 

Give As You Earn is one of the UK’s largest and most successful payroll giving schemes. More than 11,000 BT people donate direct from their salaries each month and the company matches up to £1 million worth of funds a year. 

Find out more about the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust and their Osprey project and make a donation via BT MyDonate at www.dyfiospreyproject.com