Kenneth Allsop is probably best remembered for his hard-hitting interviews and news analysis on the BBC’s Tonight programme in the early 1970’s. A passionate conservationist and writer, he fought countless battles for conservation causes throughout the country, to the extent that anyone with an environmental problem tried to enlist his support.
Among his triumphs was a campaign to protect West Dorset against oil drills when he saved 200 acres of primeval oakforest on Eggardon Hill which had been scheduled for felling by the Forestry Commission.
Kenneth served in World War 2, and it was whilst on a battle training course with the RAF that he injured his knee, which eventually led to the amputation of his leg at his own request, although he continued to suffer with pain and depression until his death in 1973.
The Kenneth Allsop Memorial Committee, headed by his friend John Fowles, the celebrated author of The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Magus, was formed with the intention of creating a West Country nature reserve in memory of this remarkable man. Eggardon Hill was the first choice but the owners refused to accept offers below £42,000. It was then suggested that the committee might consider purchasing an island instead – Steep Holm was for sale at the time and, to quote John Fowles “such a project seems to me in a way much closer to what Ken stood for than buying some piece of already reasonably ‘safe’ ground (such as Eggardon Hill) because of personal association.” “Somehow I think he would still be alive on Steep Holm, purely because it is a challenge, it does need hard work and energy and people to love it and take it in hand, and it could be such an exciting and worthwhile venture, both publicly and conservationally”. The Committee registered themselves as a charity in 1974 and on the 25th March 1976 the Kenneth Allsop Memorial Trust bought Steep Holm for the sum of £10,000, the money having been raised by public subscription.
The Trust has, since then, maintained Steep Holm as a nature reserve and bird sanctuary. It is also charged with caring for the military installations that remain on the island. It receives no grants or outside funding and is run entirely by unpaid volunteers who give freely of their time, carrying out shore based administrative tasks, fund raising and promoting the Trust, staffing the visitor centre and working on the general maintenance of the island. Income is derived from members’ subscriptions, donations and profit from sales in the visitor centre.