2016 has been a game-changing year. Next year we will face the real consequences of the political decisions made by the majority of people in Britain and the United States this year, as Brexit and the inauguration of President Trump actually happen. When it comes to the environment and climate change policy, we are still none the wiser in terms of the impact of both of these things. In Britain, it is clear that any of us who are involved in the broad conservation and farming sectors will have to make our voices heard clearly next year and we must spread a message that is not dominated by self-interest but one that tells of the benefits of protecting food, farming and the environment for all people.
For me, it is the uncertainty of the whole situation that has made and continues to make things so difficult. Without certainty it is very difficult to plan in life, both from a political perspective but also on a personal and business perspective. When I think of our family’s farm, how on earth are we supposed to plan our future if we don’t know the policy and economic framework in which we will be working?
Thank you for supporting the blog!
There have been some very positive aspects of this year for me personally, both on and away from thinkingcountry. The blog has really blossomed this year and I want to thank all of you, my readers, for supporting it. Visitor numbers have grown sixfold compared to 2015 and blog views by fivefold. I have introduced the ‘Meet the Farmers‘ podcast which has been a great success and I look forward to making many more episodes in 2017, giving you all an insight into the lives of individual farmers and their thoughts for the future. In June, I created the facebook page which has been steadily growing. Earlier this month I learned that I was fortunate to be nominated for the UK Blog Awards which was a real honour. Thank you to whoever nominated me! There have also been some wonderful guest blogs on thinkingcountry, including from Robert Seago and Tony Powell.
Here are a few posts from throughout the year:
Wildlife on Farms: Why Should we Care? (January 11th)
History, Environment and Complexity (February 9th)
Rewilding: To Subsidise or Not to Subsidise? (March 4th)
Visiting the Knepp Estate: A Lesson in Rewilding (April 10th)
The Problem with Being an Environment Blogger (September 17th)
Conserving the Quantocks after Brexit (October 23rd)
Why we should talk more about mental health in farming (November 16th)
Another busy year
I have continued to learn a lot this year and have spent much time reflecting on farming and conservation issues. In June I left Cirencester after a brilliant year studying for a postgraduate diploma in agriculture. Some brilliant friendships were formed during this time and my mind was influenced by different concepts as I visited lots of different farms. I’m still at the foundation end of my journey exploring farming and conservation but with each year that goes past my knowledge and experience builds. It was never going to be a quick process.
This year I have been particularly interested in exploring ideas about ‘rewilding’ and this resulted in attending a conference in Dorset back in May and visiting Charlie Burrell at the Knepp estate in April. I still have a lot to learn on this front and I will continue this exploration in 2017.
During the summer I was fortunate to spend much of my time working with the National Trust and Bristol University on a project in Exmoor, at the Holnicote Estate, specifically looking at Spirit of Place. The final report that came about as a result of this work is available to read here. I spent days out on the moor and in archives, exploring the estate from inside and out and speaking to local people about it. I experienced red deer, buzzards and numerous butterflies as well as the glorious Horner Wood NNR.
Back in January I was appointed to the A Focus On Nature national committee which has been a real privilege. I greatly look forward to future work with the organisation. AFON is a wonderful network of people who mutually support each other. Further, many of the opportunities that have come my way have come about because of AFON. In July, we published the Vision for Nature Report, of which I drafted the Food and Farming section. I look forward to seeing how AFON develops in the future.
I visited the Scottish islands for the first time in late summer, specifically Mull, as well as spending some time in the Great Glen. I saw my first golden eagles and white tailed eagles and spent days walking and opening my eyes to this new landscape. I certainly intend to return to Scotland in 2017.
Immediately prior to the Scotland trip I attended my first Birdfair in Rutland – again, something to repeat in 2017.
Earlier in the summer I spent a week traveling around farms in Yorkshire, as part of my course at Cirencester. This was a truly valuable experience and opened my eyes to the vast range of farm businesses that are out there.
I am in the process of writing a wish list of things to do in 2017 (it is growing rapidly) and I will make sure to share these with you as they happen. I certainly aim to do more traditional nature writing in 2017, as well as travel writing. As important as it is, sometimes getting overly involved in the intricacies of policy and politics can make you go round in circles and take your eyes away from the things that really matter. I still have a lot to learn and in 2017 will focus my education on the ground (although not losing touch with the written word), especially improving my species identification skills and practical farming skills. That’s the intention.
It’s a difficult time for many people and a concerning one at that. However, all we can do as individuals is keep going but remain open and supportive of other people. I am very fortunate to have some very understanding and supportive people around me, without whom the path I have chosen in life would be much more difficult to tread. Thank you to you all – you know who you are!
I would love to hear any plans you have for 2017. Also, if you are planning a trip somewhere and would like to write a guest blog about it afterwards please do get in touch.
Happy New Year!