My Shropshire Life - Chris Whittles of CJ Wildlife
PUBLISHED: 11:58 30 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:05 20 February 2013
Chris Whittles is chairman of CJ WildBird Foods Ltd, based at The Rea farm, Upton Magna, just outside Shrewsbury
Chris Whittles is chairman of CJ WildBird Foods Ltd, based at The Rea farm, Upton Magna, just outside Shrewsbury. He has turned his lifelong interest in birds into a successful business employing more than 150 local people and which is now market leader in the wild bird food industry.
Describe your connections with the county?
My family has been in Shropshire for three generations. My home and my business are here. I developed my passions for agriculture and birds while growing up, and those passions led me to develop a business here 24 years ago which is going strong today. I get to travel around a lot, meeting customers at shows like Chelsea and Tatton Park, but at the weekend I love to relax at home with my family. I also find time for gardening and bird-ringing - we identify and ring bird visitors to The Rea, and have identified 3 species of Goldfinch when there was only thought to be one.
Whats been your greatest achievement?
Turning my lifelong interest in ornithology into a thriving business, and within that two things stand out: I was one of the first people in the UK to grow a 5-tonne per acre crop of wheat, which was a major challenge and took years of research and experimentation to achieve; and dramatically extending the number of wild birds that can be fed in gardens, from 18 when I started the business to over 80 species today, due to our research and bird food development programmes.
Your favourite places in Shropshire?
I enjoy places that are peaceful and relaxing. One of my favourite pubs is The Riverside Inn at Cound because of its rural location and fantastic views of the River Severn.
What do you listen to on your MP3 player?
I do know what an MP3 player is Im not entirely sure Id know how to work one! In the car I like to listen to Radio Shropshire or Radio 2.
Which Shropshire person, dead or alive, do you most admire?
I have high regard for Charles Darwin and his forward thinking. As a frustrated scientist myself I admire his determination and self belief in his scientific theories. Im also led to believe that he is a very distant relation.
What is your greatest remaining ambition/desire?
Id love to be able to grow a 10 tonne crop of wheat per acre, but I think the laws of gravity are against me on that one! I would also love to be involved in the design and development of a bird garden for Chelsea Flower Show and then and win a gold medal for it. Its a concept that has never been done before but one that I think could be amazing.
What single thing would you want to have with you on a desert island?
Definitely a pair of Swarovski binoculars; handy to keep a look out for passing ships but even better for doing a spot of bird watching to pass the time.
What book is currently on your bedside table?
Alan Sugars autobiography its been quite compelling reading!
What are your favourite parts of Shropshire Life magazine (and which bits could you live without?)
The articles on the countryside and wildlife are my favourites. Im always interested in reading other peoples ideas and opinions on subjects that are close to my own heart. I could probably do without the fashion tips - in my line of work clothing tends to be functional and comfortable rather than the height of fashion!