Holding out for heroes
The modest wish list of people Country Life would like to see receive honours would include those who make us laugh and those whose talents have the power to move us; we’d like to salute those who have achieved extraordinary feats of endurance, who win Olympic gold medals or who are at the forefront of new science. We want to recognise people who save lives in war zones and disease epicentres, who give struggling youngsters a career boost, who doggedly preserve heritage and who willingly take charge when their village has been flooded.
Rude jokes about what the acronym OBE stands for are nothing new, but the saddest aspect of David Cameron’s controversial honours list is that some recipients have been made to feel that their accolade is tarnished. hurt has been expressed by people who were nominated for voluntarily improving the lives of others and for charitable works, rather than being routinely honoured for simply doing the job they were paid to do or even for writing out a large cheque.
The sheer number of honours presented and the seemingly automatic route to some of them are devaluing the system. Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Sir Paul Nurse, Dame Judi Dench and Baroness (Tanni) Grey-thompson are people who make the country proud, as do soldiers, firemen, inventors and anyone who strongly epitomises the volunteer culture that Britain is so fortunate to enjoy.
The litmus test should be how much a person has inspired and helped not whether they were in the right place at the right time when the gongs were being handed out. Then the Officer of the Most excellent Order of the British empire really would mean something.
Where’s the entente cordiale?
CONFLICT in the countryside on the eve of the grouse-shooting season is nothing new, but now rural bodies have started arguing about funding priorities post-brexit. The National Trust suggests that basic income-support payment to farmers should be stopped and all money should be poured into nature.
Certainly, there needs to be tighter funding accountability, and the Trust is an exemplary landowner, but suggesting that post- Second World War intensive farming is to blame for biodiversity loss is too simplistic—it was the introduction of subsidies and curbs on production in the 1970s that made farming less intensive and more nature-friendly. The NFU retorts that the Trust’s picture of a ‘damaged countryside’ is not one farmers recognise and that it’s irresponsible to jeopardise British competitiveness. The CLA ripostes that only a profitable farming sector can deliver environmental improvements.
As farming takes place on 75% of our landscape, agriculture and the environment are inextricably linked, so everyone needs to start getting on better before eu funding disappears.
A good example was the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation’s presence at Countryfile Live last weekend. Visitors learnt that cover crops planted for game birds provide the best avian smorgasbord and that a gamekeeper and a conservationist is (or should be) one and the same thing.
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