Hold­ing out for heroes

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

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.

Pine­hurst II, Pine­hurst Road, Farn­bor­ough Busi­ness Park, Farn­bor­ough, Hamp­shire GU14 7BF Tele­phone 01252 555072 www.coun­trylife.co.uk

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