He was at the forefront of protecting Norfolk's wildlife and natural habitats for decades and has been the driving force behind numerous ground-breaking projects. 

Now, tributes have been paid to Brendan Joyce, who was the chief executive for Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) for 23 years and was awarded an OBE. 

The 66-year-old was a prominent figure in conservation and died earlier this month. 

He dedicated his life to protecting and enhancing the natural beauty of the county and went on to spearhead various initiatives to leave an indelible mark on the region. 

Colleagues from NWT paid tribute to him, and in a statement said: “Everyone at Norfolk Wildlife Trust is deeply saddened to hear of the death of former chief executive Brendan Joyce OBE.  

"Brendan rose quickly through the ranks at the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, becoming National Director of Programmes prior to joining Norfolk Wildlife Trust as CEO in 1995.  

Norwich Evening News: Brendan Joyce receiving his OBE

“He served as chief executive for 23 years – from 1995 to 2018.  

“It is no exaggeration to say that Brendan towers over NWT’s story, having been at the helm for over a fifth of our long history.  

“He contributed as much as anyone – since our founder Dr Sydney Long – to our ambition, growth and development.  

“In recognition of this, he was awarded the Christopher Cadbury Medal in 2011 and an OBE for services to nature conservation in 2017.”  

A resident of Hellesdon, near Norwich, he faced his first major challenge with NWT early on at Cley Marshes – arguably its best-known nature reserve. 

One of the first jobs Mr Joyce had to tackle was building new bird-watching hides and a new boardwalk. 

But a major flood in 1996 wrecked the whole place and required a major clean-up operation just weeks before a royal visit. 

They had only just recovered when they welcomed the future King Charles, then the Prince of Wales, in March of the same year. 

Norwich Evening News: Brendan Joyce OBE pictured with King Charles at Cley

In fact, Mr Joyce went on to meet His Majesty several times throughout his career, most notably in 2017 when he was awarded an OBE for services to nature conservation. 

In his 20s, Mr Joyce had worked for a computer firm before completing a degree in environmental studies and joining the Royal Society of Nature Conservation, which later became the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. 

He relocated from Lincoln to join the Norwich-based NWT, which marked its 90th anniversary in 2016

Many projects and initiatives were conceived and led by Mr Joyce, including the purchase of Bewick House as NWT headquarters, the construction of a state-of-the-art visitor centre at Cley, and the subsequent major expansion of the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre. 

The tribute continued: “This list alone is testament to the huge amount that Brendan contributed to NWT. 

"But is far from a full reflection of his tireless ambition for the wildlife of Norfolk, nor of the relationships he built with an entire generation of trustees, volunteers, reserve wardens, staff members, funding bodies, donors, landowners and fellow conservationists. 

“All will hold his memory dear, all are grateful for his legacy to the wildlife, people and natural environment of Norfolk and beyond.” 

Mr Joyce's tenure also included some personal challenges, including undergoing a liver transplant at Addenbrooke's Hospital after being diagnosed with primary liver cancer in 2009. 

Norwich Evening News: Cley Marshes and the Aspinall Centre

His family added: “He will always be remembered for being a man of great vision and energy, but he was also funny, warm, intelligent and loving. 

“Brendan was an exceptional and amazing leader, committed to conservation nationally and particularly in Norfolk. 

“He was passionate about conservation, music and loved his wife, children, grandson, family and friends greatly.  

“We will miss him so much.” 

Mr Joyce was born in Friern Barnet, London, on May 19, 1957.  He died from pulmonary fibrosis, after being diagnosed two years ago.