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Pam Ayres – RGS

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Beloved Hedgehogs

The third talk video this week is the illustrious poet, the entertainer, and passionate countrywoman Pam Ayres. During this talk we hear stories of her adored house with 20 acres of land that became home to many of the rehabilitating hedgehogs from the local animal hospital!

“The native birds are singing as they sing here every day,
oh who will feed my little birds when I am far away?”

The first poem Pam Ayres recites – an emotional and evocative poem about leaving her beloved house of 28 years. The house “where the swifts nested in the roof… under the same scrape of tile” on the 20 acres of land where she and her husband “planted 1000 natives trees and planted two native hedges… and developed the interest in having wildlife around [her]”. Her garden decorated with two decades of gifts of plants and shrubs. Poem running time: 07:50 – 10:07

She also describes her attempts to encourage wildlife into her now, much smaller, garden. Something so simple as leaving a pile of brash can encourage a multitude of creatures into the garden – even the illusive grass snake.

But in the next poem, written from the perspective of the “final hedgehog left on earth”, Pam Ayres stresses why you should always check your brash pile/bonfire before lighting it!

“Farewell, farewell for what its worth,
from the final hedgehog left on earth.
My cousin Henry, young and bright,
went up in flames on bonfire night”

Full of humour but some very important messages, this poem is well worth a listen!
Poem running time: 15:51 – 18:21

Living a rural life, in a small country village, Pam Ayres loves to spend a Sunday sat in her favourite seat by the fire in the local pub. Nevertheless, in her final poem she eloquently explains the one thing she really does not like about this pub – it’s so funny, so well written, I can definitely say, it’s worth a listen!
Poem running time: 20:44 – 22:25

James Rebanks – RGS

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‘What can we do to make things better?’

Continuing some of the highlights of the 25th Anniversary at the Royal Geographical Society, today we look at James Rebanks spoke about how he has changed his farm and continued traditional farming methods to increase the biodiversity calling it home.

Inspired by his late father’s love of the farming, land and love of nature, James Rebanks recalls a pivotal memory where his father that sparked his venture from the ‘new type of farming’ to the more traditional.

It was amazing to hear the variation in habitat that Mr Rebanks allows to flourish on his farm. One of his proudest achievements he discussed is the 200 different species of plant on his meadows. However, as he stated “it’s a sobering to realise that when I’ve restored those meadows in about 5 years’ time, they will amount to 1% upland meadows in the British Isles…” how is it that there is only approximately 2300 hectares left across the country?

He also described how, clearing the river banks on his farm caused “an explosion of voles” which ultimately brought back the Barn Owls! During his talk he mentioned many specialists that have visited his farm and the wealth of different species they have found, including Cain Scrimgeour who counted as defined by Mr Rebanks as “a zoo of moths”!


Another topic that featured in his talk was the need for education; the farmers need to be taught how to look after the wildlife. “We’re not going to conserve anything unless we start educating an enormous amount of people like me that didn’t know enough 10 years ago, but need to know a lot more to look after things properly… I’ve known farmers that have been in environmental schemes for 30/40 years and haven’t got a clue!”.

Through this video you can see the passion James Rebanks has for his farm and the natural world around it.

Zac Goldsmith MP – RGS

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“I think its people like Robin that make the world a better place.”

Just over a month since the 25th Anniversary Celebration at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Thursday 1st November – where has that month gone? The festive season is almost upon us!

This week we are highlighting some of brilliant talks given on the day. Some poignant, some funny, some alarming – all these talks convey the passion of those who directly or indirectly, work with the CRT to make the countryside and ultimately the planet a better place!

In this video we listen to Zac Goldsmith MP’s opening speech where he highlights how inspiring Robin Page’s passion truly is. He describes Robin Page as a ‘hero’! And it was because of this hero that inspired Zac Goldsmith to become involved with the CRT.

Mr Goldsmith also mentions quite alarming statistic that a child today is 3x mores likely to end up in hospital from falling out of bed than out of a tree! How can this be?! “We’re stripping nature of its value; we’re stripping children of their childhood.” The CRT’s education centres are more vital than ever – whilst children are on average spending 7 hours a day on a screen and NOT learning about the wonderful ecosystem the countryside, or even just their back garden has to offer!

Being one of the most controversial political upheavals in living history, of course, as an MP, Mr Goldsmith explained how “Brexit could provide us with that green dividend… how we could completely reform the way the common agricultural is organised” and the stark reality as to why it is not currently working.

“I see a hero…”

This opening speech truly portrays Zac Goldsmith’s admiration for Robin Page and how “[he] has been indescribably brave in pursuing his ambition for the CRT… because of him we have a holding bank of living, breathing, knowledge and skills. He’s shown us, not only how to reconcile farming with the natural world but why we have to absolutely do that.”

If you have 10 minutes spare, if didn’t get to go to the Royal Geographical Society, or even if you did, it’s definitely worth a watch!

Pierrepont Farm Open Day

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Adopt a calf - Elsa

Pierrepont Farm CRT Friends’ and Jersey Cow Adopters’ Day – 7th Oct

What a glorious weekend of weather was enjoyed by all the staff, tenant farmers, volunteers and visitors we had to the Pierrepont Farm open day in Surrey! So lucky considering the day prior setting up was an absolute wash out!

With wildlife talk and wildlife walks, BBQ and local crafts, there was plenty to enjoy on that sunny Sunday afternoon. There was also the opportunity for those who had adopted our calf Pickle to meet her – although she definitely wasn’t as small as when people had first adopted her! Pickle has made excellent progress this year and was brought in from the field especially so the adopters could meet her!

We also announced our latest calf to be adopted at the open weekend – Elsa – she is still up for adoption via the website

Worcestershire Naturalist’s Club visit to Awnells Farm on 7 June 2018

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An interesting and enjoyable day was had by all at Awnells Farm in Herefordshire.  Eight members of this organisation took part in the walk led by Viv Geen looking at the wildlife and traditional Hereford cattle on the farm.  Several new invertebrate species were recorded on the farm particularly moth and beetle species.  Everyone enjoyed meeting Jock; the friendly Hereford steer.  They were amazed at how tame he was and how he responded to his name.  One participant particularly enjoyed hearing the cuckoo calling.  The visit finished with a well-earned cup of tea and slice of cake.

Following on from this walk we hope to organise an invertebrate survey or bio-blitz at Awnells in 2019.

Here is a list of invertebrate species recorded during the visit provided by Carol and John Taylor:


Andrena cineraria (Andrena Cineraria)

Andrena haemorrhoa (Andrena Haemorrhoa)

Apis mellifera (Apis Mellifera)

Bombus hypnorum (Tree Bumblebee)

Bombus lapidaries (Red-tailed Bumblebee)

Bombus pascuorum (Common Carder-bee)

Bombus pratorum (Early Bumblebee)

Bombus terrestris (Buff-tailed Bumblebee)



Oedemera nobilis (Swollen-Thighed Beetle)

Pseudocistela ceramboides (a scarce saproxylic beetle)- recorded mating in the Main Orchard.


Butterflies and Moths

Common Blue butterfly

Epiblema sticticana

Garden Grass-Veneer moth

Meadow Brown butterfly

Red Admiral butterfly

Scoparia ambigualis

Silver-Ground Carpet moth

Silver ‘Y’ moth

Small Magpie moth

Small White butterfly

Speckled Yellow moth

Straw Dot moth

Yellow Shell moth



Chorthippus parallelus (Meadow Grasshopper)



Rhogogaster viridis

Tenthredo mesomelas



Chloromyia Formosa (Chloromyia Formosa)


Viv Geen

Monitoring Officer (Herefordshire)



2017 CRT Events

Where we’ll be in 2018 !

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Interested in wildlife, farming or rural conservation? Keen to volunteer and help our campaign for a living, working countryside?

The come along and meet the team in 2018 to find out more about the Countryside Restoration Trust and how YOU can help through membership, volunteering and Fundraising.


Rustics Activities for Saturday 9 June

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Dear all, this weekend is the start of the Himalayan Balsam season, hurrah!

I know this is one of those jobs that some love and some hate so we have another job or two available as well. We shall be working at Westfield and the time is right to clear the nettles around the meander route, so everyone gets the fun of Urtica dioica in one way or another. There is likely to be a bit of litter picking in the nearby meadow if we have lots of balsam refusers in the turnout; our local school enjoy visiting this remote site for parties from time to time. Empty bottles and cans are a problem for the sheep and wildlife.

For those new to balsam bashing, it is a non-native plant which can dominate the riverbanks and shade out native vegetation. Given a free rein it becomes the dominant vegetation on any damp soil; it is a short-lived annual plant which grows from seed to 3m tall in a summer, and when it dies down in winter leaves bare riverbanks highly susceptible to erosion. In summer it is good for bees, but so good that the bees fail to pollinate other plants effectively. We are part of a group of people working to reduce its impact on the Bourn Brook. The job involves getting into the brook (chest waders are provided) and pulling the plants out – the roots are very shallow – and hanging the plants up in branches etc. to dry it out and kill it before the seeds are ripe in August. In early June the plants are big enough to spot, although we will certainly miss many small ones as they germinate sporadically through the spring whenever it’s wet. The sooner we get the big ones out now, the less likely they are to flower before our next visit when we will get the second wave. It’s a great way to see the brook habitat from a different perspective.

We’ll meet at 9:30 Birds Farm for a coffee and to sort out the right size waders for everyone before setting off to the site about 9:45. I’m not sure what the catering plans are at the moment but will update later in the week



Come on You Reds

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What absolutely fabulous, beautiful animals – but unfortunately in any future life I don’t want to become one, I don’t like nuts. However, in the real world now, I believe that the red squirrel should become Britain’s national animal. England’s choice of a lion for some sporting events can be understood historically – but let’s live in the here and now – the red squirrel is beautiful, but its plight brings home the message that the environment is important and what better way to make people aware of today’s problems than by introducing them to the red squirrel.

I saw my first red squirrels in my early teens when two of my uncles had a shoot in the Breckland (the Norfolk/Suffolk border) on forest land owned by the Forestry Commission. There were many red squirrels at that time – what a pleasure. My pleasure turned to anger one day when the “guns” and beaters were resting under a large oak tree and one of the guns suddenly aimed above us and shot – a red squirrel tumbled down dead. “I thought it was a grey”, he said – if that was true he should have gone to Specsavers and he certainly should not have been carrying a gun. His colleagues were absolutely furious I am glad to say – but fury and humiliation did not bring the squirrel back to life.

My next big squirrel memory is from the Breckland again many years later. I was presenting a countryside programme for Anglia TV; it was so good that I have forgotten its name. Under the great producer, Bill Smith we filmed a feature on a group of scientists re-introducing red squirrels to the Thetford Forest? A good idea? Yes – but appallingly carried out. It is one of the reasons why I do not always believe scientists. Grey squirrels had not been removed from the area and sadly grey squirrels carry “squirrel pox” which is virtually harmless to greys but fatal to reds. Consequently the beautiful, healthy red squirrels transported in from Kielder Forest caught squirrel pox from the greys and quickly died. It was such a waste and was quite disgraceful in my view. So am I sceptical about some aspects of science and scientists? I most certainly am.

But – I have happy memories of red squirrels too. In my early twenties, with little money and an old car – a geriatric Hillman Minx – I drove up to the Scottish Highlands hoping to see red squirrels and ospreys. Money was so tight that I slept in car – now in my early ‘seventies I am almost back to the same situation – never mind.  I woke up on a cold early dawn – what a commotion – red squirrels were everywhere and chasing one another in dizzy circles up and down the trunks of Scots pines right next to the car. Only one word can describe it – wonderful.

Arguably my most important red squirrel encounters came in 2011 or 2012. A tremendous lady, Alison Mountain, was considering giving the Countryside Restoration Trust her farm, on the edge of the Ashdown Forest –  a stunningly beautiful place – and the bluebells are probably flowering as you read this – almost unbelievable.

Well, on the way to see Alison, I would pass a place that struck me as “different” – the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey – only just – very close to the West Sussex border.

One day out of curiosity I stopped at the Centre; what an amazing and pleasant surprise. I met David Mills – a farmer, who had turned his farm into the British Wildlife Centre – it was a Livingstone/Stanley moment and we became good friends instantly. David took me into his fantastic walk-through red squirrel enclosure – what an experience – brilliant. I had red squirrels hanging from my jacket, diving into my pockets looking for hazelnuts; it was one of the most memorable animal experiences I have had. I am pleased to say that David is now building a number of walk-through red squirrel enclosures – the one due for Kew Gardens sounds very special.

This meeting with David and his red squirrels then led to a very cunning plan. Islands are one of the safest refuges for endangered species. So that set us thinking and squirrel expert Dr Craig Shuttleworth carried out a survey for us on Tresco Island in the Isles of Scilly; it sounded almost perfect, with no grey squirrels, too many exotic pines but it had promise. We spoke to the Duchy of Cornwall, the owner, to Robert Dorian Smith, the tenant, to Mike Nelhams, the Curator of Tresco Abbey Gardens and to the Royal Navy Air Squadron at Culdrose in Cornwall to see if they could drop twenty young red squirrels off at Tresco while on a training flight. They could – they did and what a success that has been – the squirrels like it; visitors love them – so far so good.


Robin Page

Riverflies Monitoring at Lark Rise

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This Saturday, 26 May we shall be repeating our Bourn Brook riverfly survey, sampling at the riffle in Telegraph field close to the radio telescopes from 2pm onwards. We have nets, trays and waders if anyone wants them, though it is fairly shallow and wellies will suffice.

The idea is to repeat the standard riverfly survey which gives an indication of change in water quality. We identify the insect larvae to basic groups rather than trying to get to species level so it’s fairly simple.