I sit in front of my inhospitable computer screen feeling exhausted – is it the chest infection for which I am popping anti-biotics? Is it exhaustion?
Or is it a combination of both?
First of all a huge apology to all readers of the blog – I am sorry it has been missing for so long –
but this is the year of the CRT’s 25th Anniversary – the year when we have re-connected with our members, our purpose and our sanity. Last year was the year when there was an attempt by some odious and malicious people to take over the CRT – it was and is almost unbelievable. Sadly it was all too believable for Lulu and I who were in the front-line, and we have an interesting paper-trail that clearly shows the facts. Who was involved? The more important question is – who knew they were involved?
Did the Campaign Manager of Chris Packham know what she was doing and was anybody guiding her? How was she appointed as an employee of the CRT without the Chairman knowing? Was Chris Packham involved? Was Mark Avery involved? He evidently sent in a reference which I did not see until months after he had written it. Why did the lovely Mr Packham’s Campaign Manager delete most of the items on her computer as she left? The computer and its contents were the property of the CRT. Two retrieved items sent to a Scottish ex-member of staff were vile – disgusting – sheer filth – incredible.
Once the red card and the broom had been used by the Trustees, hard work has restored the CRT – for several months it has been back on an even keel. Astonishingly I have found and seen nothing that was prepared for our 25th Anniversary and so it has all been done by our current staff since we removed the offending parties who were seemingly intent on sabotage and even possibly asset stripping for their masters, whoever they were, we are deeply indebted to our remaining team including our excellent newcomers and that includes the Trustees.
Consequently 2018 has been a great year of re-connection with our “friends”. In the process I have been to every CRT property and the culmination came on November 1st at the Royal Geographical Society in London. The main auditorium was packed. The atmosphere was buoyant – our fantastic 25th Anniversary Patron Dame Judi Dench was present – what an event! What support! What Loyalty to the CRT and to the British countryside. Lulu and I just can’t stop saying thankyou 😉
Things started off in 2018 at one of our oldest properties, an astonishing Bluebell wood in Yorkshire, Margaret Wood; what a scene with the scent of bluebells matching the sight of bluebells. The only snag with this was the fact that the CRT has two fantastic bluebell woods – Margaret Wood in deepest Yorkshire and Twyford Farm in West Sussex – next year we will do both properties at bluebell time – we have a cunning plan.
We had a wonderful low-key Open-Day at our newest property in Dorset – Babers Farm – part of our “Dorset Dream”. Next year it is hoped to have a bigger event that will include an exhibition of Gordon Beningfield’s paintings – if it comes off it will be brilliant – the biggest question – do we use “the gallery” (a fine barn) before the swallows arrive, or after they have left – a major question.
At Turnastone Court Farm in Herefordshire we opened our new Education Centre and Lodge in October, that have been created from a once run-down cow yard – incredible. The ribbon-cutting was undertaken by Mary Colwell, author of the fantastic book, “Curlew Moon”; what an inspirational book – and what an inspirational lady. Let’s hope that in the not too distant future we can get Curlews back at Turnastone.
At Lark Rise Farm we had a tremendous Open Day at well as a celebration in the marquee the night before . Later-on the farm hosted the National Hedgelaying Championship. What a day that was including a visit from Dame Judi Dench and Trustee David Mills. The hedges look absolutely fantastic – those wonderful, beautiful hedgerows. The skill needed to do the work is astonishing, and it shows. The whole thing went so well and all the CRT’s staff performed wonders – a thoroughly good and well organised event – and of course we must thank the National Hedgelaying Society too for their help and advice in putting on such a successful competition.
If any of you fancy a pleasant winter stroll, or a Christmas walk to reduce the impact of the Christmas pudding- walk along the permissive* footpath at Lark Rise Farm and admire the laid hedges – I’ll see if something can be put on the website – which will include “Please keep dogs on leads”, as it is a working farm.
I take the liberty of asking dog owners who walk their dogs in the countryside to please make sure that all relevant worming and similar treatments and innoculations are upto date. There are three very good reasons for this –
Firstly: consider the health of you dog and the hope that you have that it will not suffer and even possibly die as a result of something you should have innoculated against.
Secondly: there are various parasites and diseases that can be passed on to farm animals such as worms and TB that can prove to be very distressing and also very costly.
Thirdly: there is also a possibility that your dog could pass its problems to working dogs on the farm or even heaven fobid children.
PLEASE Be A Responsible Dog Owner.
This is all a part of responsible Countryside Restoration & Management.
And then on November 1st came our Anniversary Celebration at the Royal Geographical Society. What an astonishing event – it was the “CRT goes to London” – it was almost possible to see and hear the real countryside in the capital. And who did I hear from the night before? A telephone call from Michael Gove – promising to visit Lark Rise Farm. Oh yes? As I write I have no idea if he is still in the Government or out – Secretary of State – or Government rebel.
The call came out of the blue: ”Is this a wind-up?”, I asked . The voice on the other end assured me that he was real – the real Michael Gove and that he loved the CRT. All will be revealed in due course – no doubt. But there is more. Out of the blue came another phone-call – would I contribute the ”My Week” column of Country Life for November 14th, Guest Edited by Prince Charles to celebrate his 70th birthday? What an honour; the piece will appear in this blog in due course – but it is a fantastic edition of Country Life hitting many nails that need hitting, well and truly on the head. What a good Editor; what a good man!
So, what a momentous few months. It has slowed down a bit now, thank goodness. The CRT has been restored to its members and “friends” and is now in good order again. The full story will be told in due course. For the time being I have four books to write – by the time of the fifth, more information may have come to light. The achievements of the past 25 years have been many – as are the challenges of the present and future. The hazards facing the countryside – farming, wildlife and country people are immense – but the CRT is ready to go on – join us – the CRT needs you – the real British countryside needs you.
* PLEASE NOTE a ‘Permissive’ Path is NOT either a sexually active path nor one for such activities! It is officially invented jargon from some urban office for a path where dogs or people, as defined, are permitted on privately or publicly owned land. As ever over complication of countryside regulations!
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