Honorary degree awarded to teacher

Bristol University awarded Simon Pugh-Jones MBE, with an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Mr Pugh-Jones teacher of Science at Writhlington and Mendip Studio School and founder of the Writhlington School Orchid Project, which since 1993 has been leading conservation education initiatives in Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

As well as inspiring a generation of conservationists across the tropical world, the project has won national and international awards for students in horticulture, science and enterprise.

A former railway engineer and science teacher who began studying orchids at the age of 13, Simon was awarded an MBE in 2013 for services to education.

The Writhlington School near Radstock which generates a significant income from students’ laboratory-based orchid tissue culture, and has funded fourteen overseas student expeditions to work with tropical communities, schools and conservation groups in Central and South America, Africa and Asia (and they also give the pupils who go from Writhlington School the experience of a lifetime).

Orchid Project students won the UK National School Science Competitions on three occasions, in 2018 they won the Grand Champions of Europe title for their plants at the European Orchid Show in Paris. Other highlights include Gold medals at Chelsea and Hampton Court in the UK, at two European Orchid Shows and at the Cape Town Flower Show in South Africa. He is also a regular expert visitor at the University Botanic Gardens.

As he accepted his award, Simon said “The Orchid Project has not been 27 years of following a master plan. It has been a journey in serendipity, finding interesting and valuable things by chance.  We followed up on interesting contacts we made and its led to young people involved both here and abroad doing extraordinary and life changing things across the globe. I commend you to find and embrace the serendipity in your own journeys.”

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