Paul Brummell, British Ambassador to Romania

Paul Brummell

Head of Soft Power and External Affairs Department, Communication Directorate

Part of UK in Romania

7th June 2016

Barbara Knowles MBE

Image of Barbara KnowlesI attended a moving event on 31 May at the top of the hill in the eastern Carpathians named Pogany-Havas, the Pagan Snow Cap. Friends and villagers had walked up from the pass below to commemorate the life of British environmentalist Barbara Knowles, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

Barbara was one of the Great Britons who have enthusiastically contributed their knowledge, enthusiasm and time to local communities across Romania in many different ways. Barbara was a skilled biologist, a senior science policy advisor to the Royal Society of Biology, who fell in love, as many do, with the hay meadows and pastoral woodlands of Transylvania and who made a home in Harghita county. Working with local colleagues in the Pogany-Havas Association, she championed high nature value farming and pastoral woodlands, and the rural livelihoods necessary to sustain these remarkable ecosystems.

In the face of increasingly debilitating motor neurone disease she remained both extraordinarily brave and extraordinarily active – organising symposia at the European Parliament, championing the Natura 2000 designation for the Muntii Ciucului, setting up haymaking camps in Gyimes to raise awareness of and pride in traditional haymaking, and launching the Remarkable Trees of Romania project. My only meeting with Barbara was in the context of thbke latter, as she presented the project to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, inviting HRH to measure the circumference of a particularly striking oak.  She was awarded an MBE in the 2014 New Year honours list “for services to science communication and the environment.”

More than eighty of us stood in a ring on top of the peak, as Barbara’s ashes were scattered to the mountains, a local folk band somehow materialising amidst the wild flowers to play in her honour. May she rest in peace.