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All the best: Joanne Sherwood on her favourite things

The 47-year-old is the director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Northern Ireland. She lives in Annahilt, Co Down, with her husband Adam and their son Finn (7).

My best moment

That has to be the birth of my son seven years ago. He's a ball of joy and mischief all rolled into one. He's very like my husband and I find him doing ordinary things like sitting on the sofa in exactly the same way his father does. Having him is a joy, a privilege and an honour.

My best way to relax

A long walk in beautiful countryside with friends or family followed by a dinner and a nice glass of wine or a pint. I'm very lucky in that the RSPB office is based in Belvoir Forest and there are some wonderful walks around there.

My best job

I've had a range of jobs – my first was in a butcher's shop and a post office and I've worked on big civil engineering projects. I then moved into the public sector by working for the water service in England before coming here. I was really excited at the opportunity with the RSPB and at coming home to Northern Ireland. My whole family are big into nature so being able to engage people in conserving nature is something I'm really looking forward to.

My best advice

If you don't ask, you don't get. I can't think who it was that gave those words of wisdom to me. The worst thing that will happen if you ask a question is that someone will say no but if you don't ask then the opportunity will be missed.

My best song

It's hard to choose because different songs have different memories for me. One, though, is Perfect Day by Lou Reed (right) which reminds me of my geology classmates at Leeds University and singing it in a minibus as we bumped over the Highlands in Scotland on field trips.

The second song is The Day We Caught The Train, by Ocean Colour Scene, which takes me back to doing fundraising for the charity WaterAid at the Glastonbury Festival.

My best gift

You don't always realise the gifts you get in life until later – like the very supportive parents I've been very fortunate to have. There are other things, though, like driving lessons which I got at 17 and which opened up a whole new world to me. I also got a violin when was 16 – I had been getting lessons but this meant I could continue playing it after school and I was always very grateful for that.

My best achievements

The biggest thing I've ever done was to renovate a house. It was in a village called Dursley in Gloucestershire – that's where the name of the family in Harry Potter came from, in fact. Adam and I did it together and it took about 18 months as it had to be completely gutted. I learned how to put in a fireplace, tile, put in a kitchen and lots of other little things. I also had a Reader's Digest DIY manual which really helped.

I don't think I would take on such a large project again, although I wouldn't be afraid to tackle small projects – mind you, never say never!

My best buy

I would have to say it's my passport. I've got friends all over the world so it has enabled me to see some wonderful sights that I might not have visited if there hadn't been someone there to visit.

My best movie

West Side Story - it's a bit of a tear-jerker and I love musicals anyway, but that one is a personal favourite.

My best book

It's the first one I ever bought because it introduced me to a lifelong love of reading. It's called Haki The Shetland Pony by Kathleen Fidler, about a pony from the Shetland Islands who joins a travelling circus. I still have it and although it's not exactly an important work of literature it's where everything started for me.

  • The RSPB is currently encouraging everyone to Give Nature A Home in their own back gardens, through activities such as building a home for birds or creating a small water feature. For more details on the project, visit

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