Surrey Wildlife Trust announces new Chief Executive

Sarah Jane Chimbwandira is named as the new chief executive of Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Director at Surrey Wildlife Trust for ten years, director and co-founder of the Surrey Nature Partnership and Trustee for the Surrey Hills Society, Sarah Jane brings a wealth of experience to the role with successful engagement and partnership working essential to the Trust’s new five year strategy. 

Sarah Jane first worked for the Trust as a university student while studying zoology when she volunteered for an invertebrate survey along the old A3 prior to the Hindhead tunnel.  She was subsequently employed by the Trust as a membership secretary in 1997 and with a brief interlude at Surrey County Council has worked for the Trust ever since across land management, GIS and mapping, planning, biodiversity, evidence and policy departments.

Seeing not only the decline in wildlife but also the importance of Surrey landscapes, such as the Surrey Hills, to local people and the economy, Sarah Jane proposed a solution to the lack of investment in the natural environment in the report she co-authored: ‘Natural Capital Investment Plan for Surrey’.  As a thought leader in this area, she is frequently invited to speak across Surrey and the UK, most recently at the Surrey Hills AONB Symposium at University of Surrey.

Sarah Jane Chimbwandira said: ‘This is a significant moment in our history for two reasons. Firstly, the Environment Bill is currently going through Parliament and is a unique opportunity to secure the future of our countryside. Even if Surrey residents do nothing else, I urge them to back a strong environment bill.  It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Secondly, it’s 60 years since the wonderful founders of the Surrey Wildlife Trust came together to increase biodiversity and engage people in the natural environment. That’s still what we’re all about. Surrey is our county, this is your Wildlife Trust and I want local groups and people to get in touch and let me know what they want us to focus on. There’s a lot of work to do and together we can really make a positive difference for wildlife.

Paul Wickham, chairman of the Surrey Nature Partnership, said: ‘Sarah Jane is an incredibly determined and visionary environmentalist. I believe her strength as a leader is down to a simple and practical approach to engaging and working with others to achieve collective success. I’m looking forward to see the changes she will make at the Trust.

Sarah Jane Chimbwandira will begin her new role by leading Surrey Wildlife Trust’s new five year strategy, ‘Restoring Surrey’s Nature’. The strategy focuses on three key areas: Thames Basin Heaths, The North Downs and Holmesdale Wetlands. It is all about creating a ‘living landscape’ with connective hedgerows, rivers, nature reserves and green spaces across Surrey where wildlife can flourish.

The new strategy depends upon successful collaboration and engagement with communities and people across Surrey.  Therefore, Sarah Jane’s first priority is to meet members, volunteers, staff, specialist wildlife groups, community groups and partners across the county to listen to what they want to achieve.