BY BEN EAGLE Last week I travelled down to the west country to speak to a group of National Trust staff and volunteers about communications in the countryside. In short, the message I was giving went thus: from rural homelessness to internet connectivity to biodiversity loss the countryside faces a wide range of challenges and with an increasingly urban population it is vital that people … Continue reading The Countryside After Brexit
BY BEN EAGLE It is looking increasingly likely that Britain will be crashing out of the EU without a deal. Whilst I don’t condone the recent words of Donald Tusk condemning leading Brexiteers, as somebody trying to look to the future in farming I cannot pretend that part of me wanted to thank him for saying it. Brexit has unleashed uncertainty in all sectors but … Continue reading Sheep Farming & No Deal
BY BEN EAGLE It was with a sigh of relief that I learned that Michael Gove was not moving to the Department for Exiting the European Union last week. Quite understandably most people were probably focused on the destination rather than the starting line. However, my eyes, as usual, were pointing towards Defra. The last thing that food, farming and the environment needs at this … Continue reading We Need Stability at DEFRA
BY BEN EAGLE It has been a funny old year. A few months ago the Beast from the East gripped the country with snow and icy weather unlike any I have seen in my lifetime, rivalling the winters of old described by older generations. Jumping ahead to today, in the current weather context we haven’t seen any rain here in Essex for 53 days. Further, … Continue reading Keep Calm and Carry On
BY BEN EAGLE Striding along the cow-parsley avenue my mind wanders, escaping the everyday. Jess the spaniel jumps among the sheaves of wheat in the field adjacent and I call her to my side. She initially ignores the demand, as usual, and then sprints towards me, over-passing on the path. I am sauntering towards the wood which lies just a few hundred metres from where … Continue reading The Wood
BY BEN EAGLE There are many ways of getting into the farming sector today but if you want to farm in your own right on your own land, unless you are fortunate enough to inherit land, you have to be very wealthy indeed. In fact it will cost you far more than it ever has in the past to buy land, at least if you … Continue reading The Heady Heights of Land Prices
BY BEN EAGLE How confident are you that British workers will embrace the fields and step into the shoes of the growing number of European migrant workers who are choosing to work in countries such as France or Germany instead of the UK? Personally, my confidence levels are low. The early indicators suggest that Britain is facing a labour crisis and there needs to be … Continue reading Emerging Farm Labour Crisis
BY BEN EAGLE Anybody involved in British agriculture should have accepted by now that the days for direct payments based on land area are limited in number. Instead we will be embracing a system of ‘public payments for public goods’, whatever that means. Although Michael Gove has in recent weeks offered a trickle of potential policy changes and words of general direction, there has been … Continue reading The End of Direct Payments?
BY BEN EAGLE The call for an agriculture GCSE has entered public discussion once again as Conservative MP for York Outer, Julian Sturdy, called for the introduction of a GCSE in agriculture for schools in England and Wales. He hopes that this would encourage more young people to enter the agricultural sector as well as improve their awareness of food, farming and environmental issues. The … Continue reading Time For GCSE Agriculture?
BY BEN EAGLE Normally I write about general countryside or farming issues for Country Squire Magazine but, this time, the editors asked me to write about something that has become surprisingly significant for my family’s farm on the Essex coast. Almost all farms have diversified to a certain extent in recent years and our farm is certainly no exception, with lots of diversified enterprises going … Continue reading Sea Buckthorn: Britain’s Secret Superfruit
BY BEN EAGLE I admit it, I’m a Gove convert. However, when he was appointed to his role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the Cabinet reshuffle of June last year I took a big gulp and expected the worst. I was highly sceptical, looking back on his history in the Department for Education and his status as a Leave … Continue reading Converting to Gove
BY BEN EAGLE Yesterday I joined a local birder on the regular BTO survey (of wading birds) for our local patch. As we set out across the marsh it was still well below freezing, but the sun was bright and the frost glistened. A beautiful day. It was my job to act as scribe, as Paul (not his real name) called out numbers of various … Continue reading Wildlife Volunteer in 2018?
BY BEN EAGLE It’s now under a month to go until we all revel in the Christmas festivities (those of us who celebrate Christmas at any rate, which is most people in this country). It will almost be time to wave goodbye to 2017, which, with my hat on at least, has not been the most optimistic of years, particularly it seems as it draws … Continue reading View From the Countryside
BY BEN EAGLE “To me, England is the country, and the country is England. And when I ask myself what I mean by England, when I think of England when I am abroad, England comes to me though my various senses – through the ear, through the eye and through certain imperishable scents. .The sounds of England, the tinkle of the hammer on the anvil … Continue reading The Myth of England
BY BEN EAGLE People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have lost the plot. A couple of weeks ago a representative from their organisation appeared on ITV’s This Morning programme with Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield to ‘inform’ viewers that sheep shearing is an inherently cruel practice and should be banned. Elisa Allen called on viewers to stop buying and wearing wool and instead … Continue reading PETA Have Lost the Plot
BY BEN EAGLE If there’s one place where you can gauge opinion in an area it’s at the local pub. The world is put to rights over a pint of ale or a glass of ginger beer (my own preference when fulfilling the role of designated driver) and local, national and international politics worm their way into conversation, alongside the footy results, moaning about the … Continue reading Brexit in the Pub
BY BEN EAGLE I was due to be walking the Coleridge Way in a few weeks’ time. For those of you who don’t know it, the Coleridge Way is a 51 mile long distance walking route in Somerset and north Devon, starting (or ending depending on whether you walk east to west or west to east) in Nether Stowey and finishing in Lynmouth. It crosses … Continue reading Wild Camping For All
BY BEN EAGLE On the 18th July this year 33-year-old Devon farmer Todd Riggs was killed in a farm accident. He had been trapped under a trailer and despite the efforts of the emergency services Mr Riggs lost his life. Unfortunately this case is far from unique. Agriculture tops the charts when it comes to the rate of people fatally injured as a result of … Continue reading How Many More Must Die?
BY BEN EAGLE For many of us, it’s a standard part of our day; the phone rings and when you answer you find yourself speaking to somebody who is trying to sell you something or convince you that you have recently had a car accident and should claim compensation through them. You almost certainly didn’t ask them to ring. At best the call will irritate … Continue reading The Nuisance of Nuisance Calls
BY BEN EAGLE ‘’I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.’’ Henry David Thoreau, Walking Since I discovered his works as an undergraduate I have regularly enjoyed losing myself in the writing … Continue reading The Benefits of Walking