Trusting times

Farm tenancies for a pound, controversial views on farming subsidies, ‘pricing out’ upland farmers – the National Trust hasn’t held back from headlines this year. A quarter of a century ago, I worked for the trust as an assistant land agent (qualifying as a rural chartered surveyor) in the Thames and Chiltern region. Great fun … Continue reading Trusting times

Collective sticks

We could say that the UK is suffering from agoraphobia – anxiety where sufferers perceive a space over which they have little or no control.  The word originates from early Greek when citizens would gather in the agora, a wide open gathering place, to hear news. It also served as a marketplace where merchants sold their … Continue reading Collective sticks

Bypassing fear

I’ve been coming up against a lot of fear recently. Fear of hearing about rewilding, fear of talk around predator control, fear within politics. We can outwit it. No one has said anything explicit, but I perceive there are some that dislike my providing the issue of rewilding with any airtime at all. The label, … Continue reading Bypassing fear

Harnessing tension

My article in The Field was one of the toughest pieces I’ve written to date. Does an unhealthy thirst for adversarial positions feed conflicts in conservation? It is now time to recognise these tensions and channel their energy towards a reconciliation of different interests. Pitching the proposal was hard enough. Editors commission stuff that keeps … Continue reading Harnessing tension

Upland enquiry

The more we explore different land uses, the more complexity we discover, the more we must accept elements of change. Much of the UK land area is upland, home to a sliver of our population. Of which a tiny slice actually work the land within industries from farming to forestry to conservation and tourism – … Continue reading Upland enquiry

Rain birds

The recovery in populations of farmland birds is long term work-in-progress. But there is hope ahead. Go count some birds (when it’s not raining). Make no bones about it – it’s a slog. After the Second World War farmers were encouraged to become more efficient (The Archers radio show was launched as a government information service for … Continue reading Rain birds

Fabulous farming

A sense that two farming conferences are getting closer together; although it’s fun to ‘spot the difference’, we can harvest more common ground. I caught two people hung between the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) and the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC). One had been ‘suggested’ by his boss to go to the OFC but his … Continue reading Fabulous farming

Knotty water

This post is not about flooding.  Well, not entirely. Perched on my ‘fence’, I see knotty problems that require us to swallow our partisan positions to work together while being more realistic about our needs. Perhaps I try and cram too much into blogs that conflate a number of issues but I’m going to take the liberty … Continue reading Knotty water

Crow politics

Ravens tumble over hills as I travel north for a novel workshop and south to Parliamentary meetings on biodiversity. The corvid family are well known opportunists. Optimistic even. Like the vision behind the ‘Understanding Predation’ workshops set up by Scotland’s Moorland Forum (29 organisations including RSPB, Scottish Wildlife) to ‘build a shared evidence base that critically … Continue reading Crow politics

Bunting’s hero

David Blake of Cranborne Chase AONB, Wiltshire shares his thoughts on how farmers can work together to help farmland birds and other wildlife. The South Wiltshire Farmland Bird Project (delivered by the Cranborne Chase AONB) started in 2009 designed specifically at reversing the decline of corn bunting (pic above), grey partridge, lapwing, tree sparrow, turtle … Continue reading Bunting’s hero