2017 Winner – Cheshire Woman of the Year
Hilary was born and brought up in North Oxfordshire, and read Botany at Oxford University. After a gap year spent in voluntary service, she came north to Liverpool University to do a PhD, researching the way native plants grow on industrial waste sites. Hilary plays violin, piano and church organ, and met her husband John in a Liverpool orchestra. They settled in Bromborough, Wirral (where they still live) after their marriage in 1982, and they have two adult sons.
Hilary continued as a part-time botanist round the family, doing surveys, management plans and habitat creation work, mostly in urban areas. In 1987 she became involved with the Wirral Group of Cheshire Wildlife Trust (CWT) – known as Wirral Wildlife – and has been active in nature conservation ever since. This has included 28 years of writing responses to planning applications, and 30 years as Honorary Conservation Officer for Wirral Wildlife, advising community groups, local authorities, other conservation charities and individual landowners. A key project has been New Ferry Butterfly Park, a CWT nature reserve run by a local team, which has transformed a derelict railway goods yard into a thriving park centred on invertebrates, with a strong educational and people-facing focus.
When the recent recession badly hit funding, Hilary slipped out of paid work into more nature conservation; and also increased her training of new botanists, old and young – mostly by taking them out on plant surveys.
When not involved with wild plants, Hilary is a gardener, with a half-allotment on Wingate Road Allotments Association in Eastham. This is a self-managed set, of which Hilary was Treasurer for 11 years and is now President. She is organist of St David’s United Reformed Church, Eastham, which she is also helping with Eco-Church certification and a new Forest Church initiative; and she plays violin in the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Orchestra. Just occasionally she finds time to do some baking and knitting!
Hilary says “I have followed this route because it seemed to be what God wanted me to do, but most of it is and has been very enjoyable, especially wandering round some of the nicest parts of Cheshire with the excuse of looking at the plants growing there!”
Guest Speaker – Jayne McCubbin
I’m a reporter with BBC Breakfast. Britain’s most watched breakfast TV program with almost 7 million people tuning in each day. I’m also a mum of three mega boys, Jim (9) Gil (6) and Ted (4). They are the reason I’m probably the most dishevelled looking face on the box. Life is chaos! I’m married to a Scotsman Scott, who I met on my first day at Liverpool University where we both studied politics. We’ve recently moved back to Cheshire where I was born and we live in Neston which we love.
My Breakfast job is so varied. In the past few months I’ve challenged Government Ministers about imminent education cuts – set to be worst in Cheshire; travelled to Antigua as I followed a group of working mums as they became to oldest to ever row across an ocean; highlighted the plight of children trapped in an inadequate underfunded care system; featured a wonderful scheme in Cheshire to help bereaved women fill the void left by their husbands death by learning new skills in the Men’s Shed; and I spent a month looking at a funding crisis in the Hospice movement. No two days are the same and it is a privilege to meet so many interesting people.
I’m very honoured to be the holder of two Royal Television Society Reporter of the Year Awards for my previous work with BBC North West Tonight. I was also named the Consumer Affairs Correspondent of the year by Trading Standards bodies, for my work exposing conmen and frauds. My career began working for the Liverpool Echo group before becoming a video-journalist and later joining BBC Radio Merseyside. One of my first ever stories as a journalist was to warn parents of a peril they hadn’t yet heard of – The Internet. An indication of how long I’ve been in this game!
I generally can’t believe my luck at having such a cracking job and lovely family. The BBC Breakfast team are officially the nicest bunch in national television news. In my spare time I pick Lego and dirty clothes up off the floor, play the occasional board game, cycle to Parkgate and drink wine.
Nominees of 2017