Sunday, 30 August 2009

Word is getting round!


Word is getting round regarding my likely candidature as an independent for the South East Cambridgeshire parliamentary constituency in the general election and I now want to make some things clear:

First, I nurse no personal animosity towards our present M.P., Mr James Paice. Indeed, having known Mr Paice for at least thirty years, I have a lot of personal respect for him, despite there being several disagreements between us on matters of policy and his performance locally.

Second, whilst I was for many years a Conservative party activist and a Conservative county and district councillor, I left the party in 1999 having, in part, become disillusioned by the attitude of many conservatives to much of what I hold dear, such as proper political support for essential public services, especially those that ordinary people rely on in their daily lives.

Third, I am opposed to hunting and hare coursing and my understanding is that the present leadership of the Conservative Party, Mr Paice included, is privately plotting to overturn the ban brought in under Labour with the support of a few honourable Conservative 'rebels.' Those latter, including to her everlasting credit, Ann Widdecombe, defied their colleagues and voted to bring civilisation to the hunting field. Hunters should accept the decision of the House of Commons and should go drag hunting instead. But, they say, 'it's not the same.' Of course it's not the same. I know it and they know it, because there is no 'kill.'

So far as hare coursing is concerned, Mr Paice and I both dislike it intensely. He says, somewhat illogically, that he dislikes 'hare coursing intensely but would be reluctant to ban it because of my libertarian instincts.' By that logic, we would still have bear baiting and cock fighting.

Fourth, I have urged Mr Paice to speak up against the pointless and wasteful Afghanistan venture in which more than 200 of our boys have already been killed and hundreds more injured. But Mr Paice feels 'constrained' on this, presumably because he is subject to the party whips and because he is part of the party line. As an independent M.P., I would never feel 'constrained' and would have no party line to toe. I want our boys brought home now.

Fifth, I have campaigned against the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' with some success. The case of those of us who want to stop this silly scheme rests in part on our opposition to losing so much fine food-producing Fen land and I would have thought that Mr Paice, as 'shadow minister of agriculture,' would want to side with the farmers and food producers. But what have we had from him? Not a squeak, and it's not good enough.

But what do I stand for?

I want the electors of South East Cambridgeshire to be put 'on the map' and what a turn-up it would be if they returned a truly independent M.P., un-whipped by any party machine? I have a feeling that Mr Paice's predecessors, of whatever party, were more 'independent' (Lord Pym, Sir Harry Legge-Bourke and Sir Clement Freud come to mind) and I know that our local electors are very independent-minded. Perhaps it's an historic phenomenon in the very earth and air of old Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely?

I want our local economy to thrive and I will do all that I can to promote our County's interests, but I also want a slowing down of inward migration to Cambridgeshire and a slowing down of immigration nationally. I am not a supporter of multi-culturalism and I have severe reservations about Great Britain becoming more multi-racial. I have no desire for our country soon to suffer the same race problems as the Americans have in their homeland.

My wife and I look upon South East Cambridgeshire as our home area. It was also the home area of our ancestors. A decision will soon be made regarding my candidature and readers will be among the first to 'hear' of it. I have no party machine to answer to nor to dictate to me. I am independent.

199 comments:

  1. This is a comment posted on-line to The Independent regarding an article entitled 'How the Tories will bring back hunting':

    "Although I have always held right-of-centre political opinions, my Conservative odyssey only began in 1963 when Harold Macmillan left office (I always thought that he was an old fraud) and I went on from being a branch chairman to becoming fairly prominent at area and national level in the party.

    I admired Alec Douglas-Home and thought that Heath was an up-to-date leader (I'll never forget over-hearing some Tory worthy remark, 'Hasn't he done well, for a grammar school boy?'), but I was in heaven during most of Margaret Thatcher's rule. She helped to bury Socialism, and Tony Blair stepped neatly into her shoes.

    Then I came to admire New Labour for its attitudes to social and moral matters. The ban on hunting and hare coursing clinched it for me and I shall never again vote Conservative at national level unless old Labour revives and we fear a return of old-style Socialist thievery.

    The Conservatives under Cameron are supposed to be 'new Conservative' and he 'heir to Blair' and so tolerant of many aspects of 'modern' Britain that they make some Tories turn in disgust to such as the UKIP or the BNP. Well, the present leadership may get away with it, but those among them who are working tirelessly for the return of hunting and hare coursing - sometimes for so-called 'libertarian' reasons - are on to a loser. This is so, even in the rural areas such as mine in South East Cambridgeshire.

    Given that there is little visible differences between the major parties on economic and foreign affairs, voting now may be decided by social and moral issues. I believe that Labour has an edge in this respect but I don't really want to vote Labour. I certainly don't want to vote for the Liberal Democrats as even their best man, Vince Cable, is nothing more than an inconsistent socialist beneath a veneer of respectability.

    What is required, in my opinion, is for a handful of truly independent candidates to stand in seats held by prominent pro-hunting Conservatives in order at least to compel them to spend time defending their bases rather than traipsing up and down the country advocating their revolting plans to bring back these disgusting so-called 'sports.'

    If someone is willing to take on Nick Herbert (whom I actually taught to write minutes when he was working at Central Office) and, say, Nicholas Soames, then I, for one, will continue to give serious thought to tackling James Paice here in South East Cambridgeshire. And, lest anyone should think that this is being planned on the sly, Mr Paice knows exactly how I feel.

    (There are other reasons for voters to go against the Conservatives, not least their slavish support of the pointless and wasteful venture in Afghanistan, but this column and these comments are about hunting and hare coursing).

    Geoffrey Woollard."

    ReplyDelete
  2. News has just come through that two more of our boys have been killed in Afghanistan. That brings the total dead to date to 210. When will the politicians come to their senses and call a halt to this pointless waste?

    ReplyDelete
  3. A book review for Amazon:

    "Man and Wife: Richard and Kay Titmuss - My Parents' Early Years"

    A family history surprise from 'the left'!

    By Geoffrey Woollard

    The hobby of studying family history is fascinating as one never knows what surprises are out there. I was very surprised to discover that through my great grandmother, Sarah Titmuss (1840 - 1881), her father, Joseph Titmuss (1805 - 1873), his father, Joseph Titmuss (1774 - 1824), his brother, Samuel Titmuss (1776 - 1852), his son, Herbert Titmuss (1835 - 1913), and his son, Morris Titmuss (1873 - 1926), that I had a third cousin twice removed called Professor Richard Morris Titmuss (son of Morris) who lived from 1907 until 1973 and was described in his Times obituary as 'an outstanding social administrator.'

    Moreover, as someone who has often been on the right in political matters, the surprise of having a relative who lived much of his life on the left meant that I had to get this book written by Ann Oakley (born 1944), the daughter of Titmuss's marriage (in 1937) to Kathleen Caston (Kay) Miller (1903 - 1987) and my fourth cousin once removed.

    The book is an account of 'life with the Titmusses,' derived from diaries, letters, press cuttings, records and memories and is fascinating but, in a sense, I wish it had been written by a family historian rather than by a professor of sociology, which Ms. Oakley is (with a 39-page CV at [...]). I say this because I have a feeling that Richard Titmuss, who was formally educated only to the age of 15, may have had something of a social chip on his shoulder and I got the impression that his daughter knew this and has tried to analyse it. It seems also that Mrs (Kay) Titmuss knew it, too, and she gets the Oakley analysis treatment as well. Further, Ann Oakley also seems to had 'a thing' about her parents and she appears to analyse this 'thing,' which may merely have been that she was not particularly fond of her parents (who only had the one child). Well, it happens. It also happened that many others in the Titmusses' time were poorly educated. Life is better in many respects now, partly due to the Titmusses, who seem to have had a reasonably good relationship one with the other though not with many others. That happens, too. Lots of things happen, some good, some bad, but, on balance, Richard and Kay Titmuss seem to have been on the side of the angels - though with an intriguing interest in eugenics which might have been pursued more in the book.

    I think that I have been more impressed by my late cousin from what I have read in the archives of The Times, particularly by his obituary and by some of the names of those who bothered to turn out for his memorial service at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields - Baroness Seear, Baroness Serota, Lord Collison, Lord Robbins, Sir Keith Joseph, Mrs Shirley Williams, Mr Richard Crossman, Mr Frank Field (before he was an MP) and Canon Eric James, etc., etc.

    I would give Ms. Oakley's efforts five stars were it not for some horrible howlers that appear in the text, e.g. a transcription from her mother's letter to her father of July the 6th, 1944: 'Only a bit of C.'s [Chamberlain's] speech on the 1 p.m. news.' Neville Chamberlain by then had been dead for nearly four years: Mr Churchill was the one speechifying. The book needed more careful editing than it has had. But that happens, too, even in the very 'best' books and the most learned circles.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Today, the 1st of September and the first of the month, saw me performing my monthly job of helping to deliver the Bulbeck Beacon, Swaffham Bulbeck's village magazine. This excellent publication, one of the first of the community magazines or newsletters in Cambridgeshire, was started 43 years ago. I was on the Parochial Church Council at the time and I well remember the late Mr Walter Bedford pushing the idea for the whole village. We eventually adopted it and, with the practical assistance of Mr Keith Pratt and many others, the first issue went out and was well received, not only in my home village of Swaffham Bulbeck, but also in the individual homes of 'emigrants' far and wide. My part has always been that of delivering it to what we call 'the outback' of the parish and, though I now live in the parish of Swaffham Prior (it has its very own 'Swaffham Crier,' which is enjoyed enormously), I continue to work for Swaffham Bulbeck because I doubt if anyone else (except my wife, Sue) knows exactly where all of the houses are, either on the higher ground or in the Fen. Both parishes, running side by side, are long and narrow ones, extending from close to the Newmarket to London and Cambridge roads (now the A1304 and A1303 respectively) right down to the River Cam.

    My 18-mile Swaffham Bulbeck round trip includes calling at my old home and birthplace, Chalk Farm, various farms and stud farms, the most notable of the latter being New England Stud which is owned and run by Mr Peter Stanley, and, then, in the Fen, Adventurer's Farm, which used to be farmed by my Woollard relatives, and other houses and farms close by Swaffham Bulbeck Lode. The Fen farms are some of the most productive in the country and, sadly, if the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' becomes more than a mirage, they will be a waterlogged jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles, and this is already happening within a mile or so of my home. It is both wrong and a moral crime for this to be permitted.

    Anyway, I saw a number of people whom I have known for many years and included in my enjoyable task the collection of my daily newspapers from the Swaffham Bulbeck shop. There is no shop in Swaffham Prior, greatly to everybody's regret, and very little in the way of a newspaper delivery service. If we are not careful, more village schools will go the way of the shops as many of our smaller villages in South East Cambridgeshire are no longer predominantly agricultural in nature and population and are now home to those whom I have described as 'rich retirees.' Meanwhile the bigger towns and villages get the bulk of new development. We need not only to reduce inward migration to our county and the overall growth rate of the area, but also to spread what development there is going to be more evenly into the smaller villages as well so that schools and services can be maintained for everybody's benefit. This means more homes for our young people and their children in their home communities. Controversial, maybe, but surely right?

    ReplyDelete
  5. The 1st of September is also the start of the partridge shooting season. Partridges are dear little birds that are increasingly rare and, I believe, they mate for life. Since I am so 'anti' hunting and hare coursing, I am often asked what are my attitudes towards fishing and shooting. I do not fish; I know very little about fishing; I have no worthwhile opinion on fishing; many of my friends fish and I would not wish to ban fishing. I was a shooting man; I am no longer a shooting man; I prefer to see such as partridges go unshot. I am, therefore, uneasy about shooting. However, many of my friends still shoot and I would not wish to ban shooting. I am not a natural banner. But, we British led the way in banning the slave trade and in banning slavery in the Empire, we led the way in banning bear baiting and cock fighting, and we led the way in banning hunting and hare coursing. My preference is not to ban anything more for a while but my intention is to do all in my power to stop Conservatives and others 'un-banning' hunting and hare coursing. We must continue to make progress and not let our civilisation take a backward step.

    Finally, Sue and I were delighted this morning to receive by E-mail pictures of our son, James Woollard, becoming a citizen of the United States. He emigrated several years ago and did the necessary yesterday in Seattle. We are very proud of him.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is a comment posted on-line to The Independent regarding an article about Clarissa Dickson Wright and Sir Mark Prescott, Bart., pleading guilty to offences involving hare coursing at Scarborough magistrates' court:

    "Hare coursing is a particularly disgusting so-called 'sport.' Even my pro-hunting M.P., Mr James Paice, says - somewhat illogically, I admit - that he dislikes 'hare coursing intensely but would be reluctant to ban it because of my libertarian instincts.' By that logic, we would still have bear baiting and cock fighting.

    Sir Mark Prescott, one of the leading lights in hare coursing along with Ms. Clarissa Dickson Wright, is said also to approve of bull fighting. Well, anybody who has read about 'the little white horse' in Sir Alfred Munnings's autobiography would never give his approbation to bull fighting, but perhaps Sir Mark hasn't read Munnings. These people have a cruel and nasty streak in them and I don't like it."

    ReplyDelete
  7. To Ely today for a meeting of the Planning Committee (ably chaired by Cllr. Philip Read) of East Cambridgeshire District Council. Members were to discuss a proposal from the National Trust for a new and large bridge over Reach Lode. All of the Parish Councils most affected - Burwell, Reach and Swaffham Prior - had sent in very critical comments and I, also, had sent in a letter of objection that read as follows:

    "Proposed New Bridge over Reach Lode - The National Trust

    I write to OBJECT to the application by the National Trust to erect a new bridge over Reach Lode.

    I regard the proposed new bridge as an obtrusive and unneeded excrescence in these otherwise attractive Fens. Swaffham Prior and Reach Fens, in particular, are known for their expansive and unimpeded landscapes, vistas and skyscapes, and they want not this National Trust erection.

    This bridge, if erected, would be large enough to be visible from my house in Swaffham Prior Fen and from many residences in both Reach and Swaffham Prior. (I am a member of Swaffham Prior Parish Council, the members of which, at an extraordinary meeting held last evening, voted unanimously to oppose the application).

    As an enthusiastic supporter of the retention of the Cambridgeshire Lodes in their present form, I note - though I still have fears - that some efforts have been made by the Trust's 'experts' to avoid disturbing and/or endangering the integrity of Reach Lode, its banks and its associated rights, including navigation, but the efforts have resulted, of necessity, in plans for a structure that would, with its associated access ramps, etc., and railings, be absolutely enormous in relation to the Lode, its banks and the surrounding countryside. An analogy - and I exaggerate but slightly to make my point - might be the Orwell Bridge at Ipswich which, though beautiful in its own way, sticks in the eye as monstrous in relation to the river and to the surrounding Suffolk countryside. The proposed new bridge over Reach Lode would look equally monstrous in relation to the Lode and to our Cambridgeshire Fens. And, of course, the Orwell Bridge fulfils a local and national need: none such exists for a bridge over Reach Lode.

    The National Trust appears to have based its case upon the bizarre assumption that visitors to Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property, are likely to desire to push on to Wicken Fen, another National Trust property, on foot, by bicycle, or on horseback. The new bridge, as I understand it, is intended to respond to the assumed desire by helping to facilitate a 'through-route.' Presumably, if some visitors to yet another National Trust property, Wimpole Hall, were to express a similar desire to make their way via a 'through-route' to both Anglesey Abbey and Wicken Fen, the Trust would be bothering all of the communities on that 'through-route' in order to meet that desire.

    The National Trust should learn - or should be made to learn - that an assumed desire is not necessarily a need. There is no need for a new bridge over Reach Lode where one has not existed before and where one so large is not wanted now. This is a bridge too far.

    Though it is not a planning matter, I am also appalled by the estimated cost of the proposed new bridge and associated access ramps, etc., which, according to the Trust itself, is budgeted at £370,000. (I understand that the cost of the whole Anglesey Abbey to Wicken Fen 'through-route' could be as high as £1,400,000). To me and to others, this is beyond all reason in these straitened times.

    I hope that members of the appropriate Committee(s) of your Council will give careful consideration to the points that I have made. As a former member of the Council with a lifetime's knowledge of the area, I do not make them frivolously, lightly or without due thought and care."

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was allowed to speak briefly at the meeting as a member of the public, making three points: first, that my letter of objection had been 'cut down, sliced up and summarised' (I then distributed full and unexpurgated copies of the letter to the Councillors who were present); second that, even if members didn't wish to agree with all of my points, the opinions of the three Parish Councils and other objectors should be taken proper account of; and, third, that if members of the Committee were minded to refuse the application and run the risk of an appeal by the all-powerful National Trust, then, even if criticised by a government-appointed planning inspector at a later date, they could hold their heads high provided they were seen to have done their duty by the people.

    In the event, though the proposal was recommended for approval, several District Councillors complained bitterly and vociferously regarding the lack of information provided by the Trust and especially the absence of an artist's impression of what the proposed bridge would look like.

    It was unanimously agreed that a decision be deferred until more information was forthcoming and until a site visit by members could be arranged.

    I want particularly to thank Cllr. Allen Alderson, who represents 'The Swaffhams' Ward and, though not a member of the Planning Committee, took the trouble to attend the meeting and to speak splendidly, at length and in considerable detail. He represented his people well, as did Cllr. David Brown of Burwell.

    I came home from the lovely City of Ely satisfied that it was an afternoon well spent.

    ReplyDelete
  9. From the Ely Weekly News (3/9/2009):

    Letters

    Not a vision of fen tranquility

    Sir, Your paper last week contained several reports of activities connected with the National Trust's Wicken Fen nature reserve and the trust has recently drawn attention to its having organised the following: Wild Child Pack, Fen Pirates Go Wild, Pony Party, Wildlife Detectives, Wicken Warriors, Pond Pandemonium, Wild Art, and Mini-Beast Hunting For All.

    What has all this to do with Wicken Fen being a quiet nature reserve and is this a sign of what is to come for Wicken and for the rest of us and the poor hunted wildlife who live nearby?

    Some have said that the so-called 'Wicken Vision' really envisages a giant theme park. I didn't believe them at first: maybe they were right.

    If your readers would like to assist with our resistance to the Wicken Vision and are connected to the internet, please go to our on-line 'SaveOurFens' E-Petition at - http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SaveOurFens/

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm
    Upware

    ReplyDelete
  10. From the Ely Standard (3/9/2009):

    Letters

    Food waste part of problem

    I checked the current Ely Standard to see if Mr G Woollard had sent in his continuing letter crusade against the Wicken Fen Vision. There it was in all its glory. He reminds me of all those people in the USA using any argument to defeat President Obama's efforts to improve medical services for the poor.

    No doubt his quotes from Hilary Benn were accurate but, of course, that was not the full story.

    When discussing food production we need to consider the enormous amount of food waste in the UK and most western countries. Most of the problems of food shortages could be solved if we did not waste so much. Reducing the incidence of obesity would help too.

    At Wicken the loss of farmland amounts to 0.01 per cent of arable farmland in the UK so far and will reach just 0.16 in 100 years. I cannot believe that these amounts will make any real difference to food production. Certainly farming could be more efficient and no doubt Mr Woollard has plenty of advice to give on that subject.

    The people of Cambridgeshire and indeed the east of England need more open spaces for recreation of all sorts. The National Trust has been and will continue to be an organisation, supported by hundreds of thousands, making sure that some at least of the countryside will be protected for the use of all of us.

    Frank Bowles
    Lynn Road
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  11. From the Ely Standard (3/9/2009):

    Letters

    Farmland needs to be saved

    I'd like to lend my support to Geoffrey Woollard's campaign against the Wicken Vision. The Wicken Vision isn't the only flooding of agricultural land taking place. The Great Fen project near Peterborough, Wallesea Island and the many "managed retreats" around our coast add up to thousands of hectares of land.

    I met an Afghan refugee who cried when he saw our fabulous farmland set-aside, land that would have fed his entire starving village. Why isn't Oxfam and Save The Children campaigning on this?

    Peter Dawe
    Stuntney
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  12. From the Cambridge News (3/9/2009):

    Letters

    Cut population

    While I would be quite happy to see an extension of Wicken Fen, I acknowledge the difference of opinion on the subject.

    However, the loss of a few acres of arable land is peripheral unless conjoined with a demand for a one child per family law - something which is already long overdue.

    Aircraft and vehicle emissions are nothing more than cosmetic unless something positive is done about human over-breeding.

    More people mean more manufactured goods (consumerism) as well as food and fresh water. There will also be a demand for more animals to eat, therefore producing more of the much ignored methane. Rotting household waste ditto.

    More demand for dwindling oil and gas supplies. Have we not been virtually promised power cuts in the not too distant future?

    Not to mention a lack of landfill sites. Incinerators produce toxic fumes.

    Science may come up with an answer to some things but not to the rigorous expansion of the human race. We humans have destroyed so much yet have no divine rights. We owe the other creatures of the world a lot, it is their planet also.

    I care little about the loss of farmland at Wicken as it will not make an iota of difference to the wellbeing of the human race. For we are witnessing the introduction to a catastrophe which will affect humans more than any other creature.

    Neither wind farms nor a few acres of ground is the answer. That can only come from a reduction of the human population.

    Paul Hayhoe
    Colville Road
    Cherry Hinton

    ReplyDelete
  13. As readers can see, today (Thursday, the 3rd of September, 2009) has been a busy one in the letters columns of Cambridgeshire's local newspapers. I must say that I prefer the communications from Peter Dawe, the businessman planning a tidal barrier across the Wash - www.washbarrier.org - and myself over those from Frank Bowles and Paul Hayhoe!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Two other thoughts occur on this day, the 3rd of September.

    First, on the 70th anniversary of our declaration of war on Nazi Germany, one can't help but dwell on the immediate cause, the German invasion of poor Poland. I say 'poor Poland' because, whilst there is little doubt that we British did the right thing, no Western aid was forthcoming for the Poles and they soon saw their country carved up by not one, but two, vicious and totalitarian regimes, Hitler's and that of the Soviet Union under Stalin. Poland was effectively obliterated from the map and did not emerge again as a free country until 1989. (2009, of course, marks the 20th anniversary of the collapse of most of atheistic Communism and, when I was doing my earlier politicking, I never thought that I would live long enough to see the end of the Soviet 'empire' and all that it entailed). By that time (1989), the Poles had suffered enormously for fifty years and their country's boundaries had been moved westward. Not much fun, that, suffering enormously as a result of your neighbours' actions and having your country moved at the same time. However, many thousands of Poles fought valiantly with us during the war and I recall afterwards that my late father employed former soldiers and other 'displaced' Polish people on the farm - there was a 'D.P.' (Displaced Persons) camp at Bottisham on the site of the former R.A.F. and U.S. Army Air Force base - and I liked them. I have also liked Poles whom I have met since. I will never complain about Poles 'taking our jobs' as, by and large, they appear to be both pleasant and industrious. The same cannot be said for all of the other so-called 'economic migrants' that make their way here, either legitimately or illegitimately.

    Second, today is the anniversary of the death, in 1658, of Oliver Cromwell, arguably one of our greatest leaders and certainly one of Cambridgeshire's greatest sons. Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector from 1653 until he died and he was, of course, the first 'commoner' so to have done. He lived at Ely from 1636 until 1647 and his house is now open to the public as well as being base to the excellent Ely tourist information centre. I was for several years honorary treasurer of the Cromwell Association and am a life member. I was proud, as a member of East Cambridgeshire District Council, to have been one of those who were instrumental in the acquisition of what is now called 'Oliver Cromwell's House' and its subsequent restoration and opening. Oliver Cromwell still 'lives' on in the hearts and minds of many Fenmen and his old home is well worth a visit.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Here follows the full text (in two parts) of the resignation letter from Eric Joyce, M.P., delivered yesterday, the 3rd of September, 2009. It is a good letter and well worth reading:

    "Gordon,

    As you may know, I told Bob Ainsworth some weeks ago that I intended to step down as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Defence Secretary before the start of the new parliamentary term. This seems to me the least disruptive time to do that.

    I have been privileged to work as PPS to four senior Labour ministers in four government departments and now feel that I can make my best contribution to the Labour effort in parliament by concentrating on helping, as a regular back-bencher, to show that Labour remains sound on matters of Defence.

    Labour was returned to power in 1997 on the back of your great success in turning the economy from a weakness into a strength for Labour. Our continuing success in helping people from all parts of society become more prosperous, while helping the least well-off most, is built upon that. More quietly, during the 90s, Labour's then shadow defence team showed how Labour had become, after the disaster of the early 1980s, 'sound' on Defence. It seems to me that your personal success on the economy won the deal in 1997, while colleagues at Defence sealed it.

    We are now, I think, once again at a critical time for Labour and Defence. The Conservatives, of course opportunistically, think they can convince the public that we have lost our empathy with the Defence community. We must not allow this to happen. I know that you have great commitment to our armed forces and this was clear when you visited Afghanistan this week, yet there seem to me to be some problems which need fixing with the greatest urgency.

    ReplyDelete
  16. As you know, two Black Watch soldiers gave their lives during your visit. I do not think the public will accept for much longer that our losses can be justified by simply referring to the risk of greater terrorism on our streets. Nor do I think we can continue with the present level of uncertainty about the future of our deployment in Afghanistan.

    I think we must be much more direct about the reality that we do punch a long way above our weight, that many of our allies do far too little, and that leaving the field to the United States would mean the end of Nato as a meaningful proposition.

    The British people have a proud history of facing such realities. They understand the importance of the allied effort in Afghanistan/Pakistan and I think they would appreciate more direct approach by politicians. We also need to make it clear that our commitment in Afghanistan is high but time limited. It should be possible now to say that we will move off our present war-footing and reduce our forces there substantially during our next term in government.

    We also need a greater geopolitical return from the United States for our efforts. For many, Britain fights; Germany pays, France calculates; Italy avoids. If the United States values each of these approaches equally, they will end up shouldering the burden by themselves. The first place to start is an acceptance this week by them, and by the Afghanistan electoral authorities, that there must be a second round in the elections there. I do not think the British people will support the physical risk to our servicemen and women unless they can be given confidence that Afghanistan's government has been properly elected and has a clear intent to deal with the corruption there which has continued unabated in recent years.

    Most important of all, we must make it clear to every serviceman and woman, their families and the British public that we give their well-being the highest political priority. Behind-the-hand attacks by any Labour figure on senior service personnel are now, to the public, indistinguishable from attacks on the services themselves. Conversely, in my view we should allow our service personnel greater latitude to voice their views on matters which make distinctions between defence and politics pointless.

    I believe the next election is ours to win, thanks greatly to your personal great economic success. But we cannot win unless we grip Defence. Above all, Labour must remember that service folk and their families are our people. We say that we honour them for their risk, bravery and sacrifice and we must at literally all costs continue to show by our actions that we mean it.

    I intend to do what modest amount I can to help from the back-benches.

    Yours sincerely

    Eric Joyce MP."

    ReplyDelete
  17. To Ely again this afternoon for the thanksgiving service for Mr Derek Crawley, who died on the 20th of August aged only 74. The service was held in the lovely St. Mary's Church, which was packed. This was no surprise as Derek was very well-known and well-liked in the area and had, in his time, been Mayor of Ely three times. There was a goodly attendance of City, District and County Councillors, as well as our present M.P., Mr James Paice, and the present Mayor of Ely, Cllr. Richard Hobbs, was one of those who spoke in tribute.

    I had known Derek for many years, principally from the period when he was secretary of the National Farmers' Union. He worked diligently and professionally at this and, sadly, it was during this time that he and I had our one disagreement. Even then, it wasn't at all personal and he was always the perfect gentleman towards me and everybody else with whom he came in contact. In any case, it was the senior members of the union who disagreed with me and I always thought that Derek was paid to be their voice.

    The disagreement, such as it was, concerned Cambridgeshire County Council's smallholdings (now called 'County Farms'), of which, in the 1970s, there were some 1,500, with tenants renting farm land totalling around 47,000 acres (more than any other county in the country). I and the late County Councillor Robert James came to the conclusion that county councils, faced with a multiplicity of problems in the provision of the statutory services, need not necessarily be in the land-owning business. I recall Cllr. James and another senior colleague, Cllr. David Huckle, comparing Cambridgeshire County Council's ownership of so much land and its provision of a small number of tenancies in a given year with the implausibility of its owning and sponsoring, say, corner shops. Of course, the situation was only too clear to some of us and my preference was to give all of the tenants a 'right to buy' their holdings at an appropriate discount, along the lines of Margaret Thatcher's 'right to buy' for those renting council houses This would have created hundreds of new owner-occupiers and would have benefited the council's coffers by many millions of pounds. We ran into resistance from the more 'paternalist' Conservative councillors and from Labour and other councillors who actually believed in public ownership of agricultural land, but the opposition of those listed above combined with extreme conservatism on the part of the leaders of the N.F.U. stymied our ideas. We lost the vote.

    What has happened since has not been to our liking, for hundreds of the holdings have been amalgamated into larger ones (which is fine for those getting the larger holdings, but not so good for those aspiring to a step on the farming ladder), and some farm houses and land have been sold off to incomers or to larger neighbours. There was even an under-cover sale of one farm, Hurdle Hall at Reach, hitherto farmed by two excellent tenants, to the National Trust, the purchase price being £300,000 for about 103 acres and including the site of a farm house and a semi-derelict barn. Those 103 acres are destined to be a small part of a large jungle, along with the rest of the Trust's land that is to comprise the so-called 'Wicken Vision.' Thousands of acres of the finest food-producing land in England are to become a waterlogged jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles and it's already happening within a mile or so of my home.

    The above is a bit off the subject of the late Mr Derek Crawley, my friend of old from Ely, but one thing just lead to another. It happens!

    ReplyDelete
  18. From the Cambridge News (5/9/2009):

    Letters

    Too many folk

    In his attempt to become famous for something and in the midst of a country governed by dullards and mediocrities, it would be preferable if Mr Juniper (Letters, August 31st) paid more attention to the control of inward migration and over procreation of the human race.

    Turning good arable land into a swamp for the creation of weeds, insects, fungi and a few amphibians is a very poor substitute.

    Alan Shepherd
    Beechwood Avenue
    Bottisham

    ReplyDelete
  19. From the Cambridge News (5/9/2009):

    Letters

    I see Tony Juniper, the Cambridge "Green man", is wrong again. Far from the National Trust's so-called "Wicken Vision" involving 1,300 acres, the Trust's own website states that the scheme is to cover "around 56 square kilometres" (why can't these people talk about acres as our Cambridgeshire country folk still do?) which, by my on-line calculator, is 13,837 acres - more or less. So Mr Juniper is not only wrong: he's at least 1,000 per cent wrong.

    Being wrong is not a crime, however. Some of us are wrong sometimes.

    But, in this case, we are talking about a very substantial area of the finest food-producing Cambridgeshire Fen land that the Trust's "Vision" envisages becoming a waterlogged jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles, and it's already happening within a mile or so of my home. It is both wrong and a moral crime for this to be permitted.

    I am now looking to the present Defra Secretary Hilary Benn, following his "conversion" to British food production on the July 9 - "I want British farmers to produce as much food as possible" - to put a stop to it or for his possible Conservative successor to show his intention of doing so. We can't wait much longer.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Near Upware
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  20. Matthew Parris, who used to be a Conservative Member of Parliament (West Derbyshire) but is much better known now for his writing, has an excellent article in today's Times headed 'Whisper it, we are on our way out of the war.'

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article6822522.ece

    In it he analyses the latest developments in the 'war on terror' in Afghanistan and suggests that the end may be in sight or, at least, in the not-too-far distant future. He also excoriates Gordon Brown's speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    But by far the most interesting sections of Parris's article are observations on evolving Conservative attitudes. I quote verbatim:

    "What of the Tories? How are they feeling about Britain's souring task in Helmand? Having once been one of them, I can tell you this: there's no point asking. You won't get a straight answer. There are three good reasons for this, and one bad one. The bad reason is that most MPs don't stick their necks out or they wouldn't have heads.

    As an at-first heretical opinion gains ground among the Parliamentary Conservative Party (I remember the growing worries about the Poll Tax) the early indications are deeply coded: internal mutters, raised eyebrows and notable failures to volunteer the party line with any enthusiasm.

    They duck. Did you see Liam Fox, chief Tory defence spokesman, trying unedifyingly to make some cheap "Support Our Boys" capital out of Mr Joyce's resignation? Dr Fox seemed to be pretending that Mr Joyce was backing the present Tory line, which (so far as it is possible to abstract any policy at all from Fox populi) is to send more troops and equipment. This was safe, but it wasn't honest.

    But there are three better reasons for discretion. To admit failure in Afghanistan is to tell the families of all the troops who have died there that they died in vain. It's hard — and arguably wrong — for a politician heading for government to do that.

    It is, secondly, to tell the troops already there, whose withdrawal may take many years, that their original mission has been aborted — and what does that do for morale?

    Finally it is to pre-empt our senior partner in this exercise, the United States, who, as they led the charge, must lead the retreat, with a right to offer the first draft of a public explanation. The years between now and the day the last British soldier comes home, years in which scores, perhaps hundreds, more will be killed, could prove a very difficult time for responsible politicians to handle the message.

    So if we are not yet to hear the sound of a frank U-turn on Afghanistan from influential Tories, what signals should we be looking for? Two in particular. The term "mission-creep" used disparagingly. This means "stop throwing more resources into failure" — but is more diplomatic. You hear it all the time. Second (and you heard it from Mr Brown, too, yesterday) "Afghanisation" used enthusiastically. This means "we can't do it; let's hope they can".

    Significantly, this was the central thrust of an article in Thursday's Times by a senior and careful Conservative, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. There were two halves to his argument. The first (put compellingly and with conviction) was that the present policies aren't working. That is what Malcolm really thinks.

    The second (put more speculatively) was about the Afghans taking more control, and Hamid Karzai acting responsibly. That is what Malcolm really hopes. With what confidence this vastly experienced foreign and defence policy expert actually believes that an Afghan National Army larger than Britain's, and costing many multiples of that country's entire GDP, would prove a politically stabilising force in the long term, you must permit me to doubt.

    ReplyDelete
  21. (continued) We won't be the first to run, of course. We have left that honour to the Dutch, the Canadians and the Spanish. Aiming a few derisive hoots in their direction, we British will hang around a bit, take our cue from the United States, and retreat only as and when they do. But in British hearts already, and in our heads as the mood of resignation sets properly in, we are waiting for Washington's signal.

    Long military campaigns are rarely won or lost on a decisive pitched battle, even if that's the way history's camp-fire storytellers like to cast the tale. The fortunes of war rarely turn on events or moments that can be tagged neatly to a place and date. More often, doubt, anxiety and a calculation of loss build gradually in the back of a nation's mind, until finally a newsworthy reverse trips a switch, the despair is projected to the front, somebody whispers "let's get out of here", and soon everyone is edging for the door, claiming it's what they thought all along — which it sort of was.

    The whispers have begun. Slowly but surely, tentatively at first, with many fits and starts, in flurries of denial, and protesting that all's well and nothing has changed, we are on our way out of Afghanistan. If a dying Labour Government doesn't begin edging towards the door, the next Conservative one will. Whatever they say."

    The Times permits on-line readers to write 'comments.' I have picked up Parris's two sentences -

    "To admit failure in Afghanistan is to tell the families of all the troops who have died there that they died in vain. It's hard - and arguably wrong - for a politician heading for government to do that."

    and I have commented as follows:

    "I agree with much of what Matthew Parris has written, but those sentences say it all regarding the disillusionment of many electors with many politicians, especially the Tories, since Parris is writing mostly about them. It is right to tell the truth and, though hard, much more than 'arguably wrong' to do otherwise. A hint of honesty on the part of the Tories would be very welcome, but what do we get? Weasel words about 'more resources' and 'better backing for our troops.' Some even support yet another 'surge.' The truth is that this 'war' has been lost. It was embarked upon in order to 'smoke out' Osama Bin Laden. It has failed and our boys have died in vain. Many have tried to tame Afghanistan: all have failed. Let's get our boys home now."

    ReplyDelete
  22. Sunday.

    Sue and I were both christened and confirmed in the Church of England and we both have great affection for the C. of E. tradition, but Sue now attends regularly at the Swaffham Bulbeck Free Church, partly because many of her friends do, too, whilst I am something of a back-slider in religious matters. However, there is nothing I love better than a 'church crawl,' especially around East Anglia and in the researching of family history. Every church is different and every one a building of great beauty.

    As we live so close to 'The Little Chapel in The Fen,' we both have roles in its ongoing upkeep and in the continuation of the traditional annual Harvest Thanksgiving Service. The latter is always held on the afternoon of the first Sunday in October and, as well being what it says it is - a harvest thanksgiving service - it is also regarded as a re-union of people with family or other connections with these Fens. Anyway, we enjoy it, and we believe that those who come do so, too. A potted history of the Chapel follows:

    "A place of worship appeared in Swaffham Prior Fen in the 1830s, but the present building, located in the far north-west of the Parish, close by the River Cam and about a mile from the hamlet of Upware (which is in the Parish of Wicken), was erected during 1884 to replace the earlier 'Wesleyan Chapel' that had then been 'for a long period ... in a dilapidated state.'

    Money was raised by many means, ranging from donations of ten guineas by Frederick Munns, a Cambridge picture dealer, who laid a foundation stone, to 'a bag containing over 300 farthings collected by a little boy, who had set himself to this work long before the congregation took the matter up.'

    Among the Trustees of the then 'new' Wesleyan Methodist Chapel were: William Stevens of Upware, engineer; William Housden of Swaffham Fen, farmer; Charles Pratt of Swaffham Fen, farmer; Thomas Ivatt, junior, of Cottenham, farmer; Josiah Chapman Munsey of Cottenham, basket-maker; William Munsey of Cottenham, basket-maker; Robert Norman of Cottenham, farmer; Thomas Miller of Waterbeach, farmer; James Neal of Cambridge, tailor and robe-maker; and John Shrive of Cambridge, basket-maker.

    Of course, this was well before the Fen Droves had been concreted, when access from Waterbeach Fen was via a small ferry over the Cam, and when the influence of the Cottenham Methodists was powerful.

    An analysis of the 1881 Census shows that about 130 people lived then in Swaffham Prior Fen alone, the majority being involved in agriculture. There were also a post office, a shop, and, just over the river, a pub, 'The Jolly Anglers.'

    A former Fen resident, when asked why 'everybody' (including himself) went regularly to the Chapel in earlier times, said: 'Well, there weren't nothin' else to do of a Sunday in them days.'

    The Chapel prospered for many years, serving families in Swaffham Prior and Waterbeach Fens and elsewhere, until the 9th of July, 1958, when, with a declining population and congregation, the Methodist Church decided to sell the property. It came to the hands of Edward Palmer Brand, a large-scale farmer in the Fens who was actually based at Ramsey, Huntingdonshire.

    Some regular Sunday services continued, one of the last being held on the 22nd of November, 1959, when Mr Harry Cranfield of Burwell was the preacher and the collection was ten shillings.

    It is evident that Mr Brand did not wish for the Chapel to be destroyed or to have a different use, for it was eventually conveyed, in 1969, to a small group of Trustees who have, with their successors, cared for it ever since. It is still subject to a legal covenant that it 'shall not be used for the manufacture, distribution, sale or supply of intoxicating liquor, nor for use as a public dance hall, or for any purpose in connection with the organisation or practice of gambling in any of its forms.'

    ReplyDelete
  23. (continued) The Chapel, which is now 'non-denominational,' is best known for its annual Harvest Thanksgiving Service which is held on the first Sunday in October, at 3 p.m. The regularly sung 'Sankey' hymns include 'Shall We Gather At The River?,' 'We Plough The Fields And Scatter,' and 'Bringing In The Sheaves.' It is always packed for these occasions and the collections, which are partly for the building's upkeep and partly for 'good causes,' often amount to three or four hundred pounds."

    The Trustees have recently spent considerable sums on the maintenance of the Chapel and providing a disabled access ramp and rails. 2009 has seen the much-needed re-roofing of the Chapel by Messrs. Lander and Linsey of Milton and at a cost of £8,052.30. The job was done effectively, efficiently and quickly, and we are very grateful to the firm and to the many who gave money to pay for it. Not all of the cash collections were recorded but the following made contributions:

    Mr and Mrs Michael Aves, Mr and Mrs Alva Badcock, Sylvie Ballard, Mrs Bowers, Burwell and Reach Parochial Church Council, Mr and Mrs Gilbert Butler, S. Butler, Mrs Josie Chalklin, Mr and Mrs Peter Cockerton, Mr and Mrs Richard Doe, Betty Edwards, Mr and Mrs James Faircliffe, 'Fenland History on Friday,' Mr and Mrs Bryan Fuller, Joan Fuller, Mr Peter Fuller, Mr and Mrs Richard Housden, Mr and Mrs Rodney Housden, Mrs Ann Jennings, Mr Martin Jones, the Lode Social Club, Mr and Mrs Michael Marshall, Mr and Mrs David Miller, Mrs Janet Morton, Mr and Mrs Denis Moules, Messrs. Keith and Malcolm Pratt, Mr and Mrs David Sennitt, Mrs Stonehouse, Swaffham Bulbeck Free Church, the Customers of Tiptree Marina, Mr Christopher Walkinshaw, Messrs. Geoffrey and Ian Watts, Mr Ralph Wedd, the Family and Friends of the late Mr Cyril West, Mrs Jane Williamson, Mr and Mrs Frank Wright and Mr and Mrs Alan Wyatt. We thank them all for their generosity.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I had a pleasant experience yesterday afternoon. A couple of cyclists were sitting down alongside their bikes and looking a little lost outside our gate. Because they looked a little lost, I asked them if I could assist. It transpired they were both Lithuanians, he being a twenty-year-old student at Anglia-Ruskin University in Cambridge, and she a nineteen-year-old visiting locally. They wanted to take a different route back to the Newmarket Road area of Cambridge. When I heard that they were Lithuanians and when I knew their ages, I remarked that 1990 was a great year for their country, it and its people having then at last broken free from the old and almost dead Soviet Union. I also bragged to them that I had actually met the first president of free Lithuania, Professor Vytautas Landsbergis (who is now an eminent M.E.P. in the group of the European People's Party - Christian Democrats). Lithuania became a full member of the European Union and of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 2004. I was thrilled to meet this pleasant young couple who epitomised, for me, the extraordinary changes wrought in my lifetime in and around the ravaged countries of Eastern Europe that are now free and with democratic institutions and governments. I wished them well.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I have just received a message from the 10 Downing Street E-Petition people to the effect that my new E-Petition has been approved and is now available on the Number 10 website at the following address:

    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoToHareCoursing/

    The new E-Petition reads as follows:

    "The Hunting Act 2004 outlawed hare coursing in England and Wales. It appears that hare coursing enthusiasts have been attempting to test the law. (Ms. Clarissa Dickson Wright, from Midlothian, Scotland, and Sir Mark Prescott, Bart., of Heath House, Newmarket, are reported to have admitted attending one hare coursing event on March the 2nd, 2007, near Nunnington, North Yorkshire, and another the following day near Amotherby, also in North Yorkshire). MPs of all parties are known to 'dislike hare coursing intensely' but it is feared that there might be moves in the future to undo the Hunting Act 2004 so far as it affects hare coursing. We the undersigned therefore petition the Prime Minister and/or his successor to do all in their power to resist such moves."

    ReplyDelete
  26. There was a report in today's (London) Times regarding the Queen being said to be 'furious' and, the report said, 'a royal historian claimed today that the Queen personally complained to the Prime Minister.' The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales were all reported to be 'worried about an alleged shortage of resources for British troops' in Afghanistan.

    I wrote and left the following comment on the Times website:

    "So the Queen is furious about an alleged shortage of resources for British troops in Afghanistan.

    One of the blokes in the big trial reported on today was "the most unlikely plotter, the art student son of a former Tory election agent."

    How about we all get a bit furious about what may be brewing in Leeds, Luton and London and even in Tory enclaves?

    Bring our boys home now: they're wasting their lives and our money in Afghanistan."

    ReplyDelete
  27. Another book review for Amazon:

    "Playing with Fire" - Nigel Havers

    By Geoffrey Woollard.

    Enjoy this book, despite what the critics say!

    Some reviewers and some critics have 'panned' this book and I readily admit that it is no literary masterpiece. However, books are surely for enjoying, too, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Nigel Havers's charmed upbringing and sometimes hare-brained adventures in the social, film and theatre worlds. Mr Havers may not be a star writer, but I give him five stars for entertaining me, and he is undoubtedly one of Britain's finest theatrical and film stars. His tales are well worth telling, too, and have been well told.

    If I have a criticism at all to offer, it is that some may object to the author's 'Hooray Henry' language and lifestyle. I also found two disconcerting and inexcusable spelling errors, one being when he brags to a gun enthusiast film director in Los Angeles of having a pair of 'Purdys' (they're Purdeys, Nigel!), and another when, in various instances early on in the book, he mentions his old prep school headmaster, 'Charles Blackburn.' As I attended (several years earlier) the same school near Bury St. Edmund's, in Suffolk, I remember very well Charles Blackburne. We boys were encouraged to call him 'Charles' and that was thought to be very progressive at the time.

    From his happy and privileged childhood to his present 'maturity,' Nigel Havers has been a fun person and this is a fun book through and through: get it now!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Today to Soham, the only town wholly in South East Cambridgeshire (Ely is a cathedral city which we love, but Sue and I regard Newmarket as 'our town' though a substantial part of it is in Suffolk and 'governed' by Forest Heath District Council and that, of course, is another story, perhaps for another day), for a visit to the dentist. I have a charming and very helpful lady dentist who is more merciful than I deserve.

    Soham is a great place and I am often there, either for getting my newspapers and bits and pieces from the BP filling station, other shopping, going to the marvellously helpful library, or visiting relatives. My grand-daughter bought a nice new house there when the low point in property prices was reached in about December of last year. Her house is on the Taylor Wimpey development of the old Lion Mills site that was formerly the base of Clark & Butcher, the millers to whom we used to take huge tonnages of wheat in 'the old days.' It wasn't certain then when the house purchase was made - just a few months back - that Taylor Wimpey would survive, its share price then being around 4p. Indeed, work had stopped on the development and the scene and the outlook were bleak to say the least. I visited the building site again a couple of weeks ago and dozens more properties had been completed and many of them sold. Of course, Taylor Wimpey has a first-class reputation and that has helped. But it is also very clear to me that we have turned the corner on house prices and that a Taylor Wimpey home is once again a good investment. I also recommend the company's shares at 49.5p.

    Of course Soham is also famed for its excellent schools, especially the consistently successful Soham Village College, and I was a member of the college's governing body for many years, going back as far as when the late and great Mr Bert Lawrance was Warden (that's old Cambridgeshire for 'head' or 'principal'). I was talking with District Councillor Mr Mike Rouse the other day - Mike used to teach at Soham V.C. - and he suggested that Soham could well do with a Sixth Form of its own. The idea is not a new one but, with the increased school numbers in the Soham area, it might be worth looking at again. My own ideas on this are usually coloured by my family experiences. Both 'children' and both grand-children went to Bottisham Village College until the age of 16, and then on to Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, and Sue and I have no complaints whatsoever regarding those two excellent establishments.

    ReplyDelete
  29. David Cameron's piddling ideas on public spending - reducing the number of ministerial cars and putting up the price of MPs' salads - don't seem to have cut much ice, let alone shown how to cut much expenditure. I and others are becoming increasingly concerned that the 'Bullingdon Club' leadership of the Conservative Party may not be an adequate alternative to Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling, however much those two irritate many patriotic British people.

    I am sorry to say that George Osborne, in particular, often sounds like a Socialist intellectual of the 1960s. I am re-reading the late Richard Crossman's diaries. Crossman was a Socialist intellectual until he realised that his family's ownership of Prescote Manor Farm was making him more Conservative (with a big C or a small c). Ownership of a farm and capital undoubtedly changed Crossman's thinking. I hope that Osborne changes his thinking, too.

    Another worry that I am increasingly hearing about is the poor state of the Conservative Party organisation at branch level. When I was active with them (until I became disillusioned in the 1990s), there was a branch in almost every village in South East Cambridgeshire. Now, there seem to be only three in any sort of operational order. What has gone wrong? Maybe it's the reportedly dictatorial attitude of the 'Bullingdon Club' leadership towards the Constituency Associations who resent, for example, the imposition of 'ethnic' and/or foreign-born candidates or others who are obviously unsuitable outsiders. What shall we see next in order for the Conservatives to be seen to be even more 'inclusive'?: a 'Roma' immigrant from Romania, perhaps?

    Cameron and Osborne and the others at the top should be very wary of riding for a fall before or at the general election. Is anybody listening? I wonder.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thursday, the 10th of September, is another busy one in the local newspapers that serve South East Cambridgeshire. We begin with a short epistle penned by myself to the Newmarket Journal:

    Letters

    People with a cruel and nasty streak

    Hare coursing is a particularly disgusting so-called "sport". The present pro-hunting MP for South East Cambridgeshire, James Paice, says that he dislikes "hare coursing intensely but would be reluctant to ban it because of my libertarian instincts". By that logic, we would still have bear baiting and cock fighting.

    Sir Mark Prescott, one of the leading lights in hare coursing along with Clarissa Dickson Wright, is said also to approve of bull fighting. Well, anybody who has read about "the little white horse" in Sir Alfred Munnings's autobiography would never give his approbation to bull fighting, but perhaps Sir Mark hasn't read Munnings.

    These people have a cruel and nasty streak in them and I don't like it.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Upware

    ReplyDelete
  31. And another published in the Ely Standard:

    Letters

    Vision is a threat to our Fens

    I thank Peter Dawe, for his supportive letter, and Frank Bowles, for his critical letter, both on the vexed subject of the National Trust's Wicken Vision. They are keeping a much-needed debate going and informing the readers of your excellent paper as to the cons and pros of what I believe to be a silly scheme.

    Mr Dawe is rightly worried about losing good agricultural land and I know that he is also mindful of climate change and rising sea levels. His ambitious plan for a tidal barrier across the Wash has considerable merit.

    Mr Bowles seems to believe that our food supply problems can be solved by us all being less obese. Well, if our food supply problems get much worse and our population grows much more above the latest count of 61 millions, then we may have no choice, but to become less obese. We weren't very obese as a people when there was food rationing in the 1940s and 1950s.

    Yes, we should waste less; yes, we should be less obese; but, yes, we should grow more of our food here at home and I repeat: Hilary Benn is right in calling for this. I only hope that the Secretary of State takes action to save our Fens.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    River Bank
    Upware

    ReplyDelete
  32. The following is in the news columns of the Ely Standard:

    Ex-councillor to run as MP

    A former county councillor has announced his intention to run against James Paice at the next general election.

    Geoffrey Woollard, 71, pictured, who lives on a small farm near Upware, describes himself as '95 per cent retired".

    He has yet to make a final decision but told the Ely Standard: "I will be watching political developments nationally and locally very closely."

    Despite serving the Burwell ward as a Conservative councillor for a total of 10 years, in 1974 to 1980 and again from 1989 to 1993, Mr Woollard said he would stand as an independent candidate.

    He said: "I want the electors of South East Cambridgeshire to be put on the map and what a turn up it would be if they returned a truly independent MP, un-whipped by any party machine."

    Mr Woollard has also served as a district councillor, representing Bottisham and Lode, and he currently sits on Swaffham Prior Parish Council.

    He said: "We don't even know for certain when the general election will be although my own personal guess is May next year."

    ReplyDelete
  33. And this is in the Cambridge News:

    Letters

    Paul Hayhoe's arguments regarding the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' are 'interesting', to say the least.

    He says he cares little about the loss of farmland involved in what I believe to be a silly scheme and he also appears to call for a reduction in our population.

    I have a feeling that population reduction policies will find little support among electors. Although we now have a population of 61 millions, I really can't see much likelihood of anybody volunteering to be 'reduced'.

    In the absence of effective policies to reduce the population, it makes more sense for us to use to the fullest extent the very best of our natural resources, the food-growing Fenlands.

    In the interests of ourselves and of the peoples of the rest of the world, we should grow more of our food here at home and I repeat: Hilary Benn is right in calling for this.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    River Bank
    Nr Upware
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  34. And, in relation to the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision,' the following report appeared in the Ely Weekly News with a picture of myself:

    Site visit to help rule on fen work

    By Jordan Day

    Opposed to the 'vision': Geoffrey Woollard has welcomed the deferral on a dcision.

    Controversial plans to build a cycle track, bridge and wetland habitats as part of the ambitious Wicken Fen Vision have been deferred.

    Planning chiefs have postponed making a decision on the National Trust's proposals until a thorough site visit has been conducted. East Cambridgeshire District Council's planning committee said it wanted to assess the impact the work would have on the area before making a decision.

    The proposals could see further work carried out as part of the National Trust's vision, which aims to create a massive nature reserve and cycle route near Ely.

    The plans put before the committee focus on Reach lode in Swaffham Prior and involve the construction of a cycle track from High Bridge to Straight Drove.

    There are also plans to build a three-metre wide bridge for public access across Reach Lode, including embankments, which has created uproar among nearby residents.

    The plans also include creating two wetland habitat areas and temporary buildings to aid with the construction of the bridge and other work.

    The scheme is part of a £2million project to transform 22 square miles of former wetlands between Cambridge and Soham into a haven for wildlife, local people and visitors.

    Many landowners criticise the revamp of such prime farmland into a "jungle", including resident Geoffrey Woollard, who is spear-heading a campaign against the project.

    Speaking after the planning meeting, Mr Woollard said: "I think this deferral is good news and shows the committee does have concerns.

    "I regard the proposed new bridge as an obtrusive and unneeded excrescence in these otherwise attractive Fens."

    But the district council's head of planning and sustainable development, Giles Hughes, said the deferral did not necessarily mean the plans would be refused.

    Mr Hughes said: "People should not read into this deferral. It is not a decision and does not mean the plans have, or will be refused.

    "Members want to go on a site visit so they can look at the impact the bridge and other proposed works could have on the area.

    "I must also point out that we are looking at these plans as a specific application and not at the Wicken Fen Vision as a whole."

    A decision on the plans, which are recommended for approval, will be made at a later date

    ReplyDelete
  35. A splendid and supportive letter from Tony Day, the famed Fen artist of Wicken, is also in the Ely Weekly News:

    Letters

    We don't want this Fen 'vision'

    Sir, It's a wonderful walk the year through and I've done it many times in company and alone and never more satisfying than on such an August day of sunshine and soft, still clouds, the fen perspective glorious to the eyes and soul.

    On one side a vast patchwork of flat fields, green to gold stretching to the blue high ground, a herd of cattle grazing serenely from this vantage height of the flood bank from Upware towards Cambridge; on the other side the broad lush green washland for grazing, the catchwater in season, a haven for wildlife undisturbed by humans, a man-made sanctuary serving all, becalming and wondrously beautiful. Who could want hills!

    And who could want disruption here, into this great resource of food, calm and peace? Who could lend their names to a scheme to disrupt this choice environment by churning it into a morass for decades ahead, pollution from machines and dead water a certainty, the aim so vague that it stinks?

    And, oh dear, my village has been associated with it. They dare to call it "Wicken Vision". Well, it doesn't come from the people I know here.

    Anthony Day
    Pond Green
    Wicken

    ReplyDelete
  36. The day's most uproariously funny and best letter in the Ely Weekly News is by Bill Pickess:

    Heed warning from a dream

    Sir, I write about a dream I had.

    After a lazy day in the garden I retired to bed early and was soon with Morpheus.

    My dream started in a putrid, marshy, foggy bog teeming with mosquitoes and biting insects.

    I was approached by a Roman officer who said his name was Britanicus sent, to where we know today as East Anglia, by his Emperor, the famous Aurelian Holdenimus Eddicus.

    His mission was to find reasons for the high mortality rate of the soldiers in the area and to investigate ways of producing local crops to reduce costly imports. He started draining some of the fenland into healthy fertile land.

    My dream changed and the landscape was again a marshy infertile bog after the Roman era.

    I encountered another man who informed me he was an engineer employed by the Bedford Level Corporation. The corporation had been set up by landowners to reclaim the fens for agriculture.

    He began taming the rivers and flood plains, creating new waterways with numerous small drains. He overcame the different water levels by using windmill lifting power. He boasted that the beautiful fertile land inherited by our generation owed much to his Dutch engineers.

    My dream changed yet again to a fetid insect infested swamp. I could see wretched under-nourished people. My dream focused in on one who I recognised as my old friend, Geoffrey Woollard.

    I awoke with a start his words ringing in my head: "I warned you, I warned you".

    W J Pickess
    Pilgrims Way
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  37. The monthly meeting of Swaffham Prior Parish Council was held last evening in the Village Hall (formerly called 'the Reading Room' and given to the village by members of the Allix family). I was a member of Swaffham Bulbeck Parish Council for twenty years and I am now (we having moved some fourteen years ago) a member at Swaffham Prior. I have always enjoyed parish council membership as at that level of local government it invariably appears that once something is decided action soon follows, whereas at District and County levels the same tired topics come up year after year without resolution. I recall that when I was first elected to Cambridgeshire County Council in 1974 debates that had been on the go for years were still seemingly interminable and some of those self-same debates were still alive when I retired from the Shire Hall in 1993. All of the sitting around in endless committees can also be bad for one's health and sanity, too.

    I am so enthusiastic for Parish Councils that I allowed myself to be elected chairman - and, later, president - of the Cambridgeshire Association of Local Councils (CALC), that is the 'trades union' of parish and town councils in the County. I enjoyed that, too, and used to take my old friend, Mr Alec Sadler, then of Great Wilbraham and now of Waterbeach, to our executive and other meetings at Huntingdon.

    Swaffham Prior Parish Council's members are Mr David Almond, Mr Andrew Camps (Vice-Chairman), Mr John Covill (Chairman), Mr Eric Day, Mrs Sandra Gynn, Mr Peter Hart, Mr Steve Kent-Phillips, and myself. In attendance at the meeting was our County Councillor, Mr David Brown, who is already proving himself proficient at pulling the levers of power at the Shire Hall. Absent this time was our diligent and hard-working District Councillor, Mr Allen Alderson. We have one vacancy on the parish council and I urge any qualified resident to apply to our very able Clerk, Mrs Karen King.

    One of the most amusing agenda items to come up last evening turned out to be the Clerk's salary, which was reviewed. Without mentioning figures, her pay was raised to £Xs per hour. I turned to Mr Day, who has either been a member or the clerk for over fifty years and was recently honoured for his service, and said, "What was your salary when you were clerk, Eric? £Xs (the unmentioned amount as above) per YEAR?" To my very considerable surprise and, I think, to everyone else's, Eric said, "Yes!"

    Our activities are well-reported and we had present not only Mr Alastair Everitt who writes extensively for the Swaffham Crier - http://www.swaffham-crier.co.uk/ - but also Pat Kilbey, the editor of the Burwell Bulletin - http://www.burwellbulletin.co.uk/ - a newly-emerged but already superb twice-monthly newspaper that is circulated free in Burwell and the surrounding villages and is greatly appreciated by its readers.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Yet another very helpful letter supporting the 'SaveOurFens' campaign appeared in today's Cambridge News:

    Letters

    Prime land

    In order to judge the impact of the Wicken Fen Vision on agriculture and food production, we need to qualify Tony Juniper's statement (Letters, August 29) that "in England there are over 22 million acres of farmland".

    The national agricultural statistics for 2008 show that only about half of this is in arable cultivation; the other half is permanent grassland, rough grazing or moorland which bears no comparison with the land in question.

    The Ministry of Agriculture land quality surveys in the Wicken Fen area, carried out in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a national survey, showed that the land was predominantly of very high quality (Grade 1), capable of producing high yields of a wide range of arable and horticultural crops.

    Nationally, less than 3 per cent of agricultural land is in this category and a high proportion of it occurs in eastern England. Some of this land will have reduced in quality over the years due to losses of organic matter as a result of cultivation and climate change, but it will still be among the most productive and versatile land in the country.

    When gauging the potential impact of wetland creation on this scale on our food security, we should do so on the basis of a proper appreciation of the impact on our land resource, not simplistic and potentially misleading use of a national statistic.

    Alan Hooper
    The Lane
    Hauxton

    ReplyDelete
  39. I have sent out a 'progress report' to the people on my 'SaveOurFens' mailing list, as follows:

    (From Geoffrey Woollard, Chapel Farm, River Bank, Nr. Upware, Ely, Cambridgeshire. CB7 5YJ. Telephone 01223 - 861823).

    Some 'killer facts' and 'we need a full public inquiry'!

    The 'SaveOurFens' campaign has had a busy couple of weeks. The public debate continues apace and a letter from Mr Alan Hooper of Hauxton, Cambridgeshire, in today's Cambridge News provided what I can only call 'killer facts.' Mr Hooper knows what he is talking about and I have thanked him personally by telephone. His letter, headed 'Prime Land,' may be viewed at -

    http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/cn_news_letters/displayarticle.asp?id=448181

    In addition and in the context of the National Trust's proposal for a massive and obtrusive new bridge over Reach Lode, I have sent the following letter to the Cambridge News and to its sister newspapers:

    "Dear Editor,

    Well done all of the members of East Cambridgeshire District Council Planning Committee for taking seriously local concerns regarding the National Trust's proposal for a new and enormous bridge over Reach Lode. Contrary to what the Trust is saying, there is no need for this monstrosity in an otherwise beautiful Fen landscape.

    But Mr Giles Hughes, the District Council's Head of Planning and Sustainable Development, is reported to have said:

    "I must also point out that we are looking at these [Reach Lode bridge] plans as a specific application and not at the Wicken Fen Vision as a whole."

    I have no criticism of Mr Hughes but that, actually, is the nub of the problem.

    Many people in and close by the ancient Fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach have expressed opposition to the National Trust's stupid plans to turn thousand of acres of fine food-producing Fen land into a waterlogged jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles, but, so far as I am aware, the so-called 'Wicken Vision' which the Trust's own website states is to cover "around 56 square kilometres" (by my on-line calculator 13,837 acres) has never been the subject of a formal planning application or a public inquiry as a whole. Component parts, yes, but never all of it. And it's a scheme that is estimated to cost over £100 millions! [not £2 millions as was reported].

    We need a formal planning application or, better still, a full public inquiry, and we need it now before the Fens are ruined.

    Yours sincerely

    Geoffrey Woollard."

    Note: Attached is a picture taken today of Maris Peer potatoes in full flower and flourishing in Swaffham Prior Fen. For a piece on Maris Peer potatoes go to -

    http://www.britishpotatoes.co.uk/maris-peer/

    Thanks for your continuing and encouraging support!

    Geoffrey Woollard.
    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SaveOurFens/
    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoToHareCoursing/

    ReplyDelete
  40. The following extract from today's Cambridge News requires no introduction nor explanation:

    Letters

    It's disgusting

    The magnificent photograph of an English brown hare in the News reminded me yet again that hare coursing is a particularly disgusting so-called "sport".

    The MP for South East Cambridgeshire, James Paice, says that he dislikes "hare coursing intensely but would be reluctant to ban it because of my libertarian instincts".

    By that logic, we would still have bear baiting and cock fighting. However, Mr Paice is entitled to his opinion.

    The "sport" is presently banned by the Hunting Act of 2004 and I just hope that he doesn't have the opportunity to vote to remove the ban, for that is becoming more and more likely as we approach the General Election and a probable Conservative victory.

    Sir Mark Prescott, one of the leading lights in hare coursing along with Ms Clarissa Dickson Wright, both now, according to your paper, with criminal convictions, is said also to approve of bullfighting.

    Well, anybody who has read about 'the little white horse' in Sir Alfred Munnings's autobiography would never give his approbation to bullfighting, but perhaps Sir Mark hasn't read Munnings.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm
    River Bank
    Nr Upware
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  41. I attended a meeting in Swaffham Prior's churchyard on Friday morning in order to discuss the state of the trees therein and my mind was diverted by the sight of the old gravestones. One of the tombs contains several members of the Witt family, all of whom were my relatives, and I must tell you about the one old Witt who amuses and interests me the most.

    John George Witt (1836 - 1906) was my second cousin three times removed. He was born at Denny Abbey (now managed by English Heritage and the home of the Farmland Museum and well worth a visit) at Waterbeach, the son of a prosperous farmer, James Maling Witt (1799 - 1870), whose family leased Queens' College Farm, Swaffham Prior, from the eponymous Cambridge college. J.G. Witt attended Eton, where he was a King's Scholar, 'Keeper of the Wall' and 'Captain of the School,' and founded 'College Pop.' He went from Eton to King's College, Cambridge, where he was a Fellow from 1859, won the 'Hulsean Prize' in 1860, played football for the University against Oxford, and obtained his B.A. in 1860 and his M.A. in 1863.

    Called to the Bar in 1864, he was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1892, and was elected a Bencher of Lincoln's Inn in 1895. He was caricatured by 'Spy' in 'Vanity Fair' in 1898. His recreations were recorded as football, cricket, hunting (uh, oh!) and driving. He wrote well, often and informatively, his works including 'The Mutual Influence of the Christian Doctrine and the School of Alexandria,' 'Then and Now,' 'A Life in the Law' and 'Three Villages,' the last-mentioned referring to his successive places of residence, at Waterbeach and Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, and, latterly, at Finchampstead, Berkshire. John George Witt died in 1906 'in an omnibus in the Strand, on his way to the Law Courts.' He was mourned by bench and bar.

    Much of his youth and early manhood was spent at Swaffham Prior and in 'Three Villages' J.G. Witt provides brief descriptions of village customs in the 1850s and 1860s:

    "Plough Monday was a great day in the village. Before the dawn all the boys, with their faces blacked, assembled and sang under the windows of the sleeping household an extraordinary verse about a bottle of hay and whinnying colts; and at night the ploughmen and other labourers came, with a dozen young fellows yoked to a plough, their caps adorned with ribbons, neighing like wild horses, to the crack of many whips, and prepared to drink any quantity of hot-spiced beer, and to devour big rounds of toast soaked in it.

    On Valentine's Day troops of small boys and girls came down and sang at early morning, and on May Day the lawn was invaded by fifty or sixty little girls, each with her doll beautifully dressed and seated in a chair.

    At Christmas singers came and hand-bell ringers. These were delightful customs, but they required and received much customary tribute.

    On Rogation Monday, the Mayor, Aldermen, and Councillors from Cambridge opened Reach Fair, and honoured us with their company to luncheon."

    Only Reach Fair continues to this day.

    Mr Witt was an enthusiastic propagandist for the Confederate cause in the American 'Civil War' and one can imagine the pleasure that he must have derived from being friends, following that calamity, with both ex-President Jefferson Davis and the latter's most senior cabinet colleague, Judah Philip Benjamin, who was actually born British and who thrived as a Q.C. in London until he retired to his house in Paris. In 'A Life in the Law' there appears the following fascinating paragraph (to be continued):

    ReplyDelete
  42. (continued)

    "Mr Jefferson Davis came to England after his release from prison and some time before the Attorney-General of the United States had entered a nolle prosequi, dated 6th February 1869, in his prosecution. Mr Davis was a delightful man of the most simple manners, and it is worthy of remark that, like Mr Eustis, he spoke with an English accent. He and Mr Benjamin went with me one summer day to Eton College where we had lunch with Provost Goodford, and after a look at Windsor Castle drove to the river-side inn, the Bells of Ouseley, to tea. Mr Davis walked about the old-fashioned room adorned with prints of race-horses and coaches. No man could be more delighted. "I have read," said he, "heard and dreamed of such a room in such an inn in England, but never hoped to visit one," and I am sure that he enjoyed the tea and bread and butter and boiled eggs more than any dinner ever set before him. "Now," said Mr Benjamin, "this is the first time he has laughed since the fall of Fort Sumter." If any American will visit the College Library at Eton he will find the signatures of Mr Davis and Mr Benjamin in the Visitors' Book, and I am proud to think that my signature is bracketed with them. We also visited the Island of Runymede where King John signed Magna Charta. We were all affected by the genius loci, and Mr Davis lingered on the island, recalling that here the barons had won these liberties which are the rich inheritance of our race."

    ReplyDelete
  43. There is an extraordinarily interesting interview with Lord Myners, Gordon Brown's 'City Minister,' in today's Sunday Times. It is well worth reading and is to be found at -

    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article6832204.ece

    In it, his Lordship voices criticism of the Conservative 'shadow chancellor' as follows:

    "George Osborne evidences little more than a thin veneer of economic understanding. He is a child of privilege who has never really experienced the real world."

    And I have commented 'on-line' as follows:

    "This must match in terms of political insults Winston Churchill's alleged gibe as to Clem Attlee's capabilities, "a modest man with much to be modest about.""

    ReplyDelete
  44. I have received overnight a message from a distant cousin of Sue's who lives in Virginia and who has read this blog. The message speaks for itself:

    "Bravo!

    What a pleasure to read the latest from you. Good common sense above blind party loyalty. We need that here, too.

    You hit the nail on the head with getting troops out of impossible Afghanistan. It isn't run as a country it is many tribes living in a land that is ungovernable as many before have found out after wasting countless lives. You would have my vote in a heartbeat!

    Around here while natural wetlands are well protected the farm land is also protected with much lower property taxes, etc. and to think some don't treasure every inch of ability to grow food in your area. Appalling is the proper word. You sent along some fascinating reading.

    My county counts around ***** as citizens here but the influx of Mexicans is worse than worrisome. In this little county the bank ATM has both English and Spanish, and Wal-Mart brand foods such as cereals contain English on one side and Spanish on the other. We are heading down a terrible slippery slope where we will become a two language nation where it is not considered at all necessary to speak English. Spanish speaking television stations abound now.

    BTW, Your "potato" picture is lovely with beautiful colors against such a cheerful sky. It is so nice you find simple beauty like that and share it with others. Thank you!

    My best to you both, and keep on with your busy days.

    ******."

    ReplyDelete
  45. Message received 14/9/2009:

    Dear Geoffrey,

    With a scheme of this size there most certainly should be a public inquiry.

    I feel sure the idea will gather support even from our MP's

    Kind regards,

    Alan

    ReplyDelete
  46. There are two more helpful letters in today's Cambridge News:

    Letters

    Land in danger

    The East of England Regional Assembly is seeking views on how many more homes are needed.

    I am seriously concerned with problems relating to food supplies and the supply of water.

    The populations of the world, including the UK, are increasing.

    There is a need for an increase in food production and in the supply of water.

    With climate change, some lowlying land will flood due to sea levels rising as a result of ice melting. Other areas, due to drought and high temperatures, will increase the area of desert and affect the growth of crops.

    In the UK we can expect lowlying areas to flood and some areas being lost to food production due to drought.

    When anyone is proposing to use land in food production for some non-food use, they should be required to state how the loss of food production is to be replaced and how the extra water required can be assured for the life of the proposed buildings.

    Mr J.M. Milner
    Gough Way
    Cambridge

    And:

    Letters

    My sources

    The Green Party's Tony Juniper (September 4) asks where I get my information from.

    The answer is simple: we are now importing 37 per cent of our food and must become more selfsufficient, information source - a Government report featured in the Cambridge News; deliberate flooding of fertile arable fenland, information source - various, including letters to the News from Mr Juniper; humans need to eat vegetables and fruit, information source - the basic survival guide; Earth has existed for an estimated 4.5 billion years and the Ice Age began to decline some 13,000 years ago, information source - any public library; 'global warming' taxes, information source - the reintroduction of the 'automatic fuel price escalator' for example; job creation (courtesy of the council tax payer), information source - local authority appointments of 'climate change officers', again, for example.

    I have duly noted that Martin Rees does not believe that the behavioural patterns of the sun have been wholly responsible for climate change, but that does not invalidate the points I have made, and I suggest that no conclusions can be made from any survey that has observed a brief 50-year period.

    A. Seymour
    Morley Drive
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  47. I had an interesting hour and a half yesterday afternoon in the company of a young Oxford undergraduate who is doing a dissertation on the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision.' It was very clear that his preliminary study work had been extremely thorough and he is now carrying out a series of interviews with those who have local knowledge and/or opinions. I heard that he had already questioned National Trust staff including Mr Chris Soans, who had been helpful and who is still based at Wicken, and Mr Adrian Colston, who is credited (by himself, at least) with having originally envisaged and invented the 'Wicken Vision.' Mr Colston has long since departed, of course, having originated so much harm, hassle and hurt to us locals, and I understand that he is now 'on Dartmoor.' Lucky Mr Colston!

    ReplyDelete
  48. Yet another headline has appeared in the press regarding the Soham murders and their aftermath.

    Today's (London) Times carries the following: "Soham Police Officer Attacks Government's New Vetting Scheme" and an extensive article about retired Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Stevenson, the officer who led the investigation into the Soham murders and who, the article states, 'has attacked the Government's new vetting scheme, which will force 11 million adults to have formal criminal record checks.'

    I have submitted an on-line 'comment' as follows:

    I am not commenting on the issues in this piece. I am just putting a word in for poor old Soham, a delightful town in rural South East Cambridgeshire that has hit the headlines far too much. Sadly, Soham now represents in many minds something extremely nasty whereas I know that the town contains some of the nicest and most genuine people one could hope to meet. I live nearby and know many of them and, given good fortune, I may get a chance to represent them and the best of Soham at Westminster in due course.

    Go to my 'blog' at -

    http://woollard4southeastcambs.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  49. Today I request my readers to spare some thoughts for the wives/husbands/partners, children, parents and other close relatives of any of our boys and girls who are presently serving or are about to serve in Afghanistan. I do not approve of the mission that we and our NATO allies are involved in. It was initiated by President George W. Bush in 2001 to 'smoke out' Osama bin Laden and supported strongly by Great Britain, Canada and others, but it has not succeeded. Indeed, there are many who believe that the situation in that so-called 'country' is now worse than it was in 2001. However, Sue and I do have a close relative - a middle-ranking officer in the British Army who had better remain nameless - who is presently serving or is about to serve out there. We hope and pray that good fortune will accompany him and the men under his command whilst they are out there or, as our American cousins and friends say, 'over there.' And we also hope and pray for his and their speedy and safe return from doing his and their duty. He and they are greatly admired.

    What we really need, however, is for all of our boys and girls to be brought home from that God-forsaken place - and soon.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Here is another self-explanatory extract from the Cambridge News:

    Letters

    Inquiry needed

    Giles Hughes, of East Cambridgeshire District Council, is reported to have said they are looking at plans for Reach Lode bridge "as a specific application and not at the Wicken Fen Vision as a whole".

    I have no criticism of Mr Hughes but that, actually, is the nub of the problem.

    Many people in and close by the ancient fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow-cum-Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach have expressed opposition to the National Trust's stupid plans to turn thousands of acres of fine food-producing fenland into a waterlogged jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles, but, so far as I am aware, the so-called Wicken Vision which the trust's own website states is to cover "around 56 square kilometres" (13,837 acres) has never been the subject of a formal planning application or a public inquiry as a whole. And it's a scheme that is estimated to cost over £100 million!

    We need a formal planning application or a full public inquiry and we need it now before the Fens are ruined.

    Geoffrey Woollard.
    Chapel Farm
    Near Upware
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  51. Message received 16/9/2009:

    Dear Geoffrey,

    Your letter in today's Cambridge News reads well. I think the subject to go for now is the public inquiry. Too many people let these monstrous plans 'wash over their heads' without taking in what is really happening. This would give much more publicity than at present.

    Kind regards,

    Alan

    ReplyDelete
  52. I said on Tuesday that I had had an interesting hour and a half during Monday afternoon in the company of a young Oxford undergraduate who is doing a dissertation on the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision.' As part of my assistance to him, I agreed to his request to use a disposable camera that he provided in order to photograph those aspects of our Fens that I wished to draw further to his attention. As it is 'partly sunny' here today, I broke off from some other work and did the job this morning.

    I took 'snaps' of our River Cam which, at this time of the year, is probably at its most beautiful, winding its reed-edged and willowed way from beyond Cambridge to its junction with the Great Ouse. I thought of the film, "A River Runs Through It" and, though Cambridgeshire ain't Montana, our river has something very special about it and I am proud of it. It is a wonderful haven for all sorts of wildlife.

    I next photographed 'The Little Chapel in The Fen' because it features prominently in both my thinking and the 'SaveOurFens' campaign. As a Trustee of the Chapel I have a duty to ensure that it is not threatened in any manner nor undermined by water from flooding of the Fens. This historic building, also, is surrounded by havens of wildlife, mostly man-made.

    Having 'snapped' some nice views of Reach Lode and a few of the boats thereon from the Upware end, I then went a mile or so up 'our road' (Great Drove) towards Reach village and got what I hope will be some useful shots of fine fields of carrots, parsnips, potatoes (the Maris Peer ones are especially splendid now that they are in full flower and obviously flourishing), leeks, maize (corn), sugar beet, etc.

    Though the grain crops have been successfully harvested and the stubbles are bare or awaiting more plantings, it was so clear yet again that we have in this area a huge variety of agricultural cropping set alongside the drainage ditches and the Cambridgeshire Lodes (canals carrying 'high land' water across the Fens to the Cam and dating back to Roman times) and other man-made wildlife havens - field corners, plantations of mixed trees and extra-wide field and roadside verges dating from when the Droves were laid out in the early 1800s - that are already wonderful for our huge variety of wildlife.

    Neither we nor our wildlife need the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' which will, if implemented, create an unkempt and water-logged jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles where mosquitoes will abound and where increased numbers of visitors will scare off the much-loved wildlife. What we do need as a nation of over sixty-one million people (and those are the ones who have permitted themselves to be counted) and as a world with a population racing towards nine billions and beyond, is to keep the best food-producing land in the kingdom. Here, in the Cambridgeshire Fens, we have just that and it must not be abused nor lost.

    Lastly, I obtained pictures of land that the National Trust has taken over and what did the camera's eye see? Why, the said jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles. To someone who loves the Fens for their beautiful skyscapes, their productivity and their wildlife, this was and is an obscenity. We must stop it.

    There is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the so-called 'Wicken Vision.' If it is 'successful' by the National Trust's standards, it will draw thousands more visitors who will frighten off the wildlife. If it is not 'successful' and few additional visitors come, then what is the point of the huge loss of food production and the expending of over £100 millions?

    ReplyDelete
  53. The following is in today's Ely Standard:

    Letters

    Dont Ruin Fens - Open An Enquiry

    Well done all of the members of East Cambridgeshire District Council Planning Committee for taking seriously local concerns regarding the National Trust's proposal for a new and enormous bridge over Reach Lode. Contrary to what the Trust is saying, there is no need for this monstrosity in an otherwise beautiful Fen landscape.

    But I understand that Giles Hughes, the district council's head of planning and sustainable development said the council were not looking at the Wicken Fen Vision as a whole.

    I have no criticism of Mr Hughes but that, actually, is the nub of the problem.

    Many people in and close by the ancient Fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach have expressed opposition to the National Trust's plans to turn thousand of acres of fine food-producing Fen land into a waterlogged jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles, but, so far as I am aware, the so-called 'Wicken Vision' which the Trust's own website states is to cover "around 56 square kilometres" (by my on-line calculator 13,837 acres) has never been the subject of a formal planning application or a public inquiry as a whole. Component parts, yes, but never all of it. And it's a scheme that is estimated to cost over £100 millions! [not £2 millions as was reported].

    We need a formal planning application or, better still, a full public inquiry, and we need it now before the Fens are ruined.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    River Bank
    Upware

    ReplyDelete
  54. And something very similar is in the Ely Weekly News:

    Letters

    Full inquiry on vision for fens

    Sir, In your article, ‘Site visit to help rule on fen work’ (Weekly News – September 10), Giles Hughes, of East Cambridgeshire District Council, is reported to have said: "I must also point out that we are looking at these [Reach Lode bridge] plans as a specific application and not at the Wicken Fen Vision as a whole."

    I have no criticism of Mr Hughes but that, actually, is the nub of the problem.

    Many people in and close by the ancient Fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach have expressed opposition to the National Trust's stupid plans to turn thousand of acres of fine food-producing Fen land into a waterlogged jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles, but, so far as I am aware, the so-called Wicken Vision - which the Trust's own website states is to cover "around 56 square kilometres" (by my on-line calculator 13,837 acres) - has never been the subject of a formal planning application or a public inquiry as a whole. Component parts, yes, but never all of it. And it's a scheme that is estimated to cost over £100 million!

    We need a formal planning application or, better still, a full public inquiry, and we need it now before the Fens are ruined.

    Yours sincerely

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm
    Upware

    ReplyDelete
  55. And Mr Hooper of Hauxton has also re-produced his list of helpful facts for the Ely Weekly News:

    Letters

    Look at facts on food production

    Sir, In order to judge the impact of the Wicken Fen Vision on agriculture and food production, we need to qualify Tony Juniper's statement (Letters, August 29) that "in England there are over 22 million acres of farmland".

    The national agricultural statistics for 2008 show that only about half of this is in arable cultivation; the other half is permanent grassland, rough grazing or moorland which bears no comparison with the land in question.

    The Ministry of Agriculture land quality surveys in the Wicken Fen area, carried out in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a national survey, showed that the land was predominantly of very high quality (Grade 1), capable of producing high yields of a wide range of arable and horticultural crops.

    Nationally, less than 3 per cent of agricultural land is in this category and a high proportion of it occurs in eastern England. Some of this land will have reduced in quality over the years due to losses of organic matter as a result of cultivation and climate change, but it will still be among the most productive and versatile land in the country.

    When gauging the potential impact of wetland creation on this scale on our food security, we should do so on the basis of a proper appreciation of the impact on our land resource, not simplistic and potentially misleading use of a national statistic.

    Alan Hooper
    The Lane
    Hauxton

    ReplyDelete
  56. The huge sum of money - £69 billion (that's sixty-nine thousand million pounds) - being mooted for new high speed lines by those in overall charge of our railways worries me. A study says that the new lines would cut the journey time from London to Edinburgh or Glasgow by almost two hours and London to Newcastle, Leeds or Manchester by an hour and it is further claimed that the lines would deliver £3.50 of economic benefits for every £1 invested. Network Rail has predicted that the West Coast route from London to Birmingham and Manchester would be the first to reach capacity. The study suggests that construction of that new line could start in 2015 and be completed by 2021. Well, big deal, especially if one is in the business of travelling from London to Manchester!

    The study also says that the next line to be built should run (from London again) to the North East via Cambridge, Nottingham and Sheffield. The whole programme represents very big money for very little apparent benefit to the average taxpaying traveller and the R.A.C. has said, rightly in my view, that "quite apart from where £69 billion is going to come from, to claim that benefits outweigh costs by 3.5 to 1 sounds very optimistic. And even if [the] figures were correct, previous government analysis shows you'd still get a much better return from investing in motorways," and, "the message is clear. If you have got money to spend, put it into road schemes."

    Our greatest concern in Cambridgeshire is for the much-needed improvement of the over-loaded and very unsafe A14, and, if I wished to go to, say, Peterborough, from my home near Upware, I would always travel by road and be far more interested in my safety and the safety of others on the awful and only-too-real A14 than I would be in an imaginary rail trip from Cambridge to, say, Nottingham. I have reasons to go to Peterborough but none that I can think of to go to Nottingham and, even if I did, I would still go by road. Let's also not forget the need further to improve the A10 from Ely to the A14 junction and Cambridge. And, though I know that the Cambridge to London train services (to Liverpool Street and King's Cross) are important for our commuters, we in South East Cambridgeshire are going to continue to use our cars in our everyday lives and the proponents of ultra-expensive high speed rail and ever-increasing public transport use by such as us are whistling in the wind.

    Sue and I drive a Jeep Compass Limited, by the way, and I'm very surprised that one doesn't see many more of these around. We like ours a lot. We bought it to replace a Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland which we found to be too costly to tax and to run and, whilst the Jeep Compass is smaller, it has a powerful engine and is great to drive. We especially like its overall design and appearance, its better economy, its good road-holding, and the excellent range of gizmos, which include a power sun roof, heated front seats, cruise control, and a good sound system with a 6 CD player and changer. All in all, a fine vehicle in the Jeep tradition. (And I am getting no reward for this free plug!).

    ReplyDelete
  57. I received the following from an old friend and I appreciated it:

    I think your latest letter would be impossible for any any sane person to argue against. Your campaign surely cannot fail. But we do live in a mad world.

    Best wishes,

    John W.

    ReplyDelete
  58. And another encouraging message from another old friend:

    Geoffrey,

    I like it – well said

    Regards

    David

    ReplyDelete
  59. The latest issue (number 22) of the Burwell Bulletin, the excellent twice-monthly newspaper produced by Pat Kilbey (the wife of our recently-elected County Councillor, David Brown) for Burwell and greatly enjoyed by readers in the surrounding villages and probably way beyond, contains a letter from me which I submitted to Pat on the 15th of September under the title 'Yet another headline has appeared in the press regarding the Soham murders and their aftermath.' The letter as now published reads as follows:

    Today's (London) Times carries the following: "Soham Police Officer Attacks Government's New Vetting Scheme" and an extensive article about retired Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Stevenson, the officer who led the investigation into the Soham murders and who, the article states, 'has attacked the Government's new vetting scheme, which will force 11 million adults to have formal criminal record checks.'

    I am not commenting on the issues in this piece. I am just putting a word in for poor old Soham, a delightful town that has hit the headlines far too much. I know that the town contains some of the nicest and most genuine people one could hope to meet. I live nearby and know many of them and, given good fortune, I may get a chance to represent them and the best of Soham at Westminster in due course.

    Geoffrey Woollard

    ReplyDelete
  60. Yet another nice message has come in:

    Well done Geoffrey - I totally endorse your views.

    M.B.

    ReplyDelete
  61. And yet another message, this one from Alan James of the 'No To Mereham' campaign:

    Geoffrey,

    What an excellent letter.

    I think you are winning the argument.

    I was speaking to Michael Church, Secretary of Haddenham Drainage Board, at the Steam Rally last weekend and he was explaining to me how all of these schemes, Wicken Fen vision, the Great Fen project, Lakenheath Fen and now the RSPB Ouse Washes sanctuary replacement, are not being honest about their long term impacts on drainage. Firstly the wetting up process will cause problems for farms outside the project but within the catchment as the average level water table rises and secondly, they all claim that the land can be returned to farming in an emergency but neglect to say that the souring and acidification of the land takes years, probably tens of years to clear and so the land would only be fit for rough grazing for a very long time if it ever was returned to farming. I just wondered if it might be worth studying some contour maps to determine the full potential impact on food production of the 'vision' and the other projects.

    Regards,

    Alan

    ReplyDelete
  62. There is an article in today's (London) Times regarding the problems that the new and enlarged Lloyds Banking Group (of which I am a shareholder) is having with the European Commission - especially Neelie Kroes, the 'Competition Commissioner' - in Brussels.

    Go to -

    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/markets/article6840707.ece

    I have added am online 'comment' as follows:

    I don't see what the hell it's got to do with Neelie Kroes in Brussels. What has Neelie Kroes provided in the way of support for our British banking system? This sort of stuff just makes British voters more anti-Brussels and I have to say that Neelie Kroes should be told to get her tanks off our Lloyds Banking Group lawn.

    ReplyDelete
  63. The Party Conference has season started in earnest with the Liberal Democrats and, to be honest, these people puzzle me. On the one hand, Nick Clegg, their leader, is now talking about 'savage' cuts to Government spending and, consequently, to the public services. But, on the other hand, all of the local Liberal Democrats whom I know personally invariably vote for increased spending. Their record when they were in control of East Cambridgeshire District Council was not distinguished and their people on Cambridgeshire County Council are for ever complaining about what they say is the comparatively low spending of that Council.

    I have been watching Mr Clegg on the BBC's Andrew Marr show this morning and, whilst he is a clever young man, I am not convinced that he will continue to carry his own people with him. It doesn't actually help his case, either, for him constantly to give the impression that he is in with a good chance of being the next Prime Minister - 'we will do this, we will not do that, etc.' It just sounds ridiculous for even Mr Clegg must know that either Gordon Brown will survive for another term at Number 10 or David Cameron will succeed him. The national choice is between New Labour and the Conservatives and Mr Clegg must know it in his heart.

    Having said that, it is a tonic to hear any of our principal party politicians talk of the need for some radical decisions and I, even as one independent MP acting and voting alone, will, if elected in South East Cambridgeshire, be more than happy to help bring our country's finances back into better balance - and by saying that I am not criticising the present government under Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling for taking the necessary swift action to deal with the credit crunch and the international banking crisis which, let us not forget, started in the United States and subsequently spread worldwide.

    However, the cost of the credit crunch and dealing with the banking crisis ought to make us all focus on what it is really necessary for our government to support with our cash. Take, for instance, our overseas commitments. We British, because of our old and proud imperial past, might still be in a unique position to deal with, say, the tragedy of Zimbabwe, but are we doing any good any longer in such as Afghanistan at such enormous cost in men and matériel?

    We are suffering from classic mission creep in that part of the world. What began with the overthrow of the Taliban 'government' of that benighted non-nation and President George W. Bush's understandable aim, post 9/11, to 'smoke out' Osama bin Laden, has turned into a seemingly endless attempt at 'nation-building' hopefully complete with democratic institutions, the rule of law and Western-style rights for all. After floundering around for nearly eight years, we now need urgently to take stock. The Taliban appear to be as strong as ever, Osama bin Laden hasn't been 'smoked out,' a 'nation' has not been built and doesn't look like being built, democracy is seen as a sick joke evidenced by the rigged presidential 'elections,' the rule of law has no writ even in Kabul, and such as women's rights are still subject to men's whims. We British tried to tame that place: we failed. The Russians tried to subdue that place: they failed. We and our brave NATO allies are also failing. We should all be out of there - pronto.

    How much longer are our major political parties going to take to decide that discretion is the better part of both valour and financial common sense?

    ReplyDelete
  64. We don't always see the Cambridge News on its day of publication, but another very helpful letter appeared in yesterday's paper. It was from a dear old friend of mine, Mr Keith Pratt, formerly of Swaffham Bulbeck and now of Lode. Mr Pratt has used in his arguments a novel analogy, that of the 'Highland Clearances' of eighteenth-century Scotland. But it is a valid analogy and it is very appropriately introduced because the effect of the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' will be to clear out the farming and other families who are presently standing in the way of this silly scheme. As it happens, I know that Mr Pratt is also only too aware of the 'Highland Clearances' as his late grandmother, Mrs Jane Pratt, was born in Scotland. She was, in her day, headmistress of the little school at Upware, the premises of which are only a mile or so from where I live. Mrs Pratt's husband (and Mr Keith Pratt's grandfather), the late Mr William Newson Pratt, was a farmer in the Fens here. Mr Pratt's father, the late Mr Newson John Bernard Pratt, after distinguished service in 'The Great War' as a Sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps, became headmaster of Swaffham Bulbeck School. Mr Keith Pratt himself served his country in the Second World War and went on to be a director of J.L. Newman & Son Ltd., corn merchants, of Swaffham Bulbeck. At the age of 87, he surely knows what he is talking and writing about!

    Letters

    Don't alter fen

    Re: The Wicken Fen clearances

    During the 18th century, whole communities in Scotland were summarily evicted from their dwellings by absentee landlords. They suffered great hardships. Huge flocks of sheep were installed and vast fortunes were made during the booming wool trade at that time. A certain amount of rancour still exists among families who are direct descendants of the victims. Those events are still referred to as "The Clearances".

    Now what is the National Trust up to? Is it their intention to acquire vast stretches of land in our fens? Is their intention to take out of production vast acres of prime fertile agricultural land? As a consequence of this will many farmsteads and homes become untenable and their occupants forced to lose their livelihoods? Does the National Trust intend to undo a lot of the work carried out over the centuries by the Romans, the Dutch and more recently the dear old War Ag (War Agricultural Executive Committee)? Apart from the National Trust and the mosquitoes, who will benefit?

    As a member of a family which has lived, farmed, taught, worked and played in the area for over a century, I believe I have a right to an opinion. I prefer the status quo.

    A third of a million for a bridge over our little Swaffham Lode! What price the Bridge of Reeds? I suggest they get a quote from Isambard Kingdom Brunel!

    Keith Pratt
    Swaffham Road
    Lode

    ReplyDelete
  65. Another generous message came in from a relative of mine who lives in Salisbury:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Mike. It’s an excellent letter. Keep at it Geoffrey.

    The countryside needs many more people like you, to ensure it will be safe from dangerous idiots, who ignore facts and common sense, to pursue their ‘dream’ of a utopia of tangled weeds and overgrown prime land.

    As our Australian cousins will say - ‘good on yer’!!

    Cousin Dot

    ReplyDelete
  66. And my friend and ally Alan James has written again:

    Hi Geoffrey,

    Thanks for the background information. As someone who moved around a lot in my early years and someone who has been involved in science and technology all my working life, I always find it unbelievable that we have so much long term local history and so much local knowledge built upon that history which institutions, government and local government seem to want to collectively ignore based upon some wish to prove that the last six months of knowledge is all we should be concerned about.

    Regards,

    Alan

    ReplyDelete
  67. To Newmarket last evening and to the Bedford Lodge Hotel (where, incidentally, Sue and I had our wedding reception over 47 years ago) for the ninetieth birthday party of Mr John Moore, Sue's first cousin once removed, a retired bookmaker and a former chairman of Newmarket (Suffolk) Magistrates' bench. John's daughter, Mrs Lesley Sanders of Waterbeach, telephoned me a couple of weeks ago and asked me to 'say a few words as you know all about the family.'

    Well, I prepared in my mind a few amusing remarks based in part on my knowledge of the Moore/Day family's history (John's mother, Florence Day, was my Sue's great aunt) and I also prepared a typed script of a longer version using mock-biblical language but including what I hoped would be enough to make people laugh. Sue and I had no idea that it was going to be such a large dinner party (we estimated that there were eighty or more guests) and that the gathering would include the greatly-respected and much-loved Revd. Canon Geoffrey Smith (always known as Father Geoffrey), a former Rector of St. Mary's Church, Newmarket. I looked at him and I thought, 'Dare I?'

    Anyway, having had another word with Lesley and having had it confirmed that Father Geoffrey has a fine sense of humour, it was decided that I should go ahead with my longer version and I delivered it as follows (below):

    ReplyDelete
  68. "Four score and ten years ago a boy baby was born in the city of Dullingham in the land of Cambridgeshire and the people of Dullingham said, 'This is a wondrous thing.'

    We come tonight to this inn to venerate the man that was the boy baby and who is now great with years and hath much wisdom.

    The boy baby's parents were Elijah, a farming man (with a bookie's business on the side) of the family of Charles Moore and his wife, Kezia, who was most blessed in the first month of the year of our Lord 1914, in that he married a woman from one of the most exalted families of the place called Newmarket by the name of Florence Day.

    It being cold in January when they were married, Elijah and Florence went straightway to the town of Monte Carlo, which is in the South and warmer part of the land called Gaul, perhaps for a bit of pigeon shooting, he (the said Elijah) being skilful with both sling and shot. And, besides, Elijah felt at home at Monte Carlo, for there were many temples of gambling there.

    In the course of time (in 1915), there arrived a girl baby and Elijah and Florence said, 'What a lovely girl baby: we shall call it Eileen.' And a year went by and in 1916, there arrived a girl baby and Elijah and Florence said, 'What a lovely girl baby: we shall call it Iris.' And another year went by and in 1917, there arrived a girl baby and Elijah and Florence said, 'What a lovely girl baby: we shall call it Doreen.'

    And, lo, another year went by and in 1918 Elijah said to Florence, 'Shall we give it another go? - the Lord may bless us with a boy baby, and the men in the gambling temple at Newmarket (they were those that made the 'profits' of Baal) say the odds are evens.' But Florence said, 'Hold you hard until this war with the Huns be over,' and Elijah did as Florence told him.

    When that Hunnish war was over, they gave it another go, and, lo, on the 22nd day of September in the year of our Lord 1919, there arrived a boy baby and Elijah and Florence said, 'What a lovely boy baby - at last: we shall call it Elijah.'

    And, lo, neither Eileen, nor Iris, nor Doreen, the daughters of Elijah and the sisters of Elijah, could cope with this and they said unto one another and to anyone else listening, 'Have we not got one Elijah too many?' And, 'Besides,' they said, 'We cannot get our tongues round the name Elijah: we shall henceforth call this boy 'Boy.' And so it was.

    But, years having passed and 'Boy' having grown, he determined that he was no longer a boy and should not be called 'Boy.' And it was agreed that henceforth he should be called John, possibly for John the Baptist. But Elijah the elder said, 'We cannot have a John the Baptist in the family, for we are all Church of England.'

    But, behold, by the time that John married the maiden Edna at the end of another war with the Huns, he was well-known as John and was not a Baptist.

    John who was not a Baptist became much famed and greatly loved in the place called Newmarket and was honoured in the lands of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk and, like his father, Elijah, gathered in much gold from the people known as the Punters. He was also a Judge like none other, for he kept the Peace.

    John hath lived twenty years beyond the allotted three score years and ten. Indeed, due to the curative miracles wrought by St. Aneurin Bevan of Ebbw Vale, six score years is the new allotted span. Elijah or 'Boy' or John is therefore three fourths through his earthly life and we present thank him for setting out such a feast for his ever-loving kinfolk and friends. We look forward to seeing him and having a repeat performance in the year of our Lord 2039.

    Happy birthday, John, and many more of 'em!"

    My speech seemed to go down well as it produced prolonged applause and, much more importantly, it was obviously appreciated by Mr Moore.

    ReplyDelete
  69. By way of explanation of some of the afore-mentioned, I now include in this 'blog' the report of the marriage of Elijah Moore and Florence Day as it appeared in the Newmarket Journal of the 31st of January, 1914:

    'Marriage Of Mr E. Moore And Miss F. Day.

    The marriage was very quietly solemnised at the parish church, Woodditton, on Tuesday at 9.30 a.m. of Mr Elijah Moore, the well-known racing commission agent, of Newmarket and Dullingham, to Miss Florence Day, a daughter of Mr F.W. Day, one of the most successful trainers of his time. The bridegroom, apart from his connection with racing, is a famous pigeon shot, and won the Grand Prix at Monte Carlo a year or two ago. Few were aware of the time fixed for the ceremony. The Rev. A.D. Taylor, vicar of the parish, officiated. Mr Reg. Day, trainer, of Terrace House, escorted his sister, and gave her away. The bride was attired in her travelling costume - a coat and skirt of saxe-blue cloth, and a hat to match, trimmed with a feather in a lighter shade of blue. She also wore a set of furs. There was no bridesmaid. The bridal party also included Mrs Reg. Day, Mr and Mrs J.E. Watts, Miss Gertie Day, Mr C. Heckford, Miss Bruckshaw and Miss Lye. While the bridal party were arriving Mr A.A. Carter-Brown, the organist, played the Bridal March from Lohengrin, and a piece by Mozart. After the ceremony he played suitable airs , concluding with Mendelssohn's Wedding March as the happy couple left the church. Mr and Mrs Moore were greeted with showers of confetti on emerging from the porch; and left in the bridegroom's motor car for Cambridge, en route for Monte Carlo, where they will spend their honeymoon.'

    ReplyDelete
  70. I see in today's (London) Times that the American government is increasingly concerned that Afghanistan is becoming another Vietnam. I quote:

    "The memory of the Vietnam War is holding an increasingly powerful sway over President Obama and his White House team as they explore ways to avoid the surge of troops into Afghanistan urgently being demanded by the US military.

    Mr Obama and his foreign policy circle have begun openly to use language born of the Vietnam disaster, such as "mission creep" and "quagmire". It is a clear sign that the President harbours doubts about a deeper military commitment in Afghanistan. Vice-President Biden is leading calls for a change of plan, with a scaling back of troops in Afghanistan and a narrow focus instead on destroying al-Qaeda with increased aerial drone attacks in Pakistan. He has been warning for months against getting into a political and military "quagmire" in Afghanistan.

    His warnings failed to prevail early this year when, after a major review, Mr Obama announced to great fanfare a new strategy: a classic counter-insurgency mission aimed at protecting the population and stabilising the central government. He also ordered the dispatch of 21,000 more US troops."

    It was only a day or so ago that I used the words 'mission creep' and I, too, have the same concerns. Vice-President Joe Biden, whose principal expertise is said to be foreign affairs, seems at last to have observed what many of us have seen for a very long while. This mission is in a 'quagmire' and the sooner we all get out of it the better.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Another generous message came in:

    Dear Geoffrey

    I have recently read your comments in the Newmarket Journal, and am writing to add my support for your candidature as an independent MP at the next general election.

    What we need now, as you say, are MPs who do not need to toe the party line.

    I look forward to hearing your decision about standing and if you decide to go ahead, I wish you good luck and please let me know if you have need of helpers when the time comes.

    With best wishes,

    S***** W*****

    ReplyDelete
  72. I have been asked my opinion on the MPs' expenses issue, its least attractive aspects again being aired in the Daily Telegraph today.

    As I wrote some time ago, the puzzle for me is what has motivated the Daily Telegraph in this affair. Does the usually-Conservative newspaper really want to wreck all of the major parties and Parliament itself? It appears that some people or someone, somewhere, are/is working to an agenda that is hidden in mystery and it worries me. It seems that the principal political beneficiaries of the newspaper's actions could be the UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) or the BNP (British National Party). I may be wrong, but that is what I fear.

    I do not believe that the majority of MPs have deliberately set out to diddle the rest of us. Having said that, it is slightly surprising to see (in the Daily Telegraph's special supplement published earlier in the Summer) that many of them have contrived for their 'Additional Costs Allowance' (ACA) to total (for the 2007-08 financial year, the last for which details are available) exactly the maximum of £23,083 and I cannot believe that their second home expenses (what the ACA was intended to cover) coincided so exactly with this maximum.

    The expenses problem derives, as I understand it, from successive expansions of the ACA which nearly all members draw almost as of right and in substitution for what would have been the more proper method of dealing with MPs' pay, that is, to settle it openly and without semi-hidden complications. Conservatives, Labour and Liberals are all to blame for this unpleasant ruckus.

    Noting the foregoing and the continuing national hysteria over MPs' expenses, I think it would be better if the ACA were to be withdrawn altogether and members' taxable pay increased by the amount presently allowable under the ACA.

    There will be some who say that MPs should work without reward as the honour of being an MP is enough and, besides, there are always more people aspiring to be a member of the House of Commons than there are seats. That is not my view because, whilst the country was governed remarkably well before MPs were paid anything, in those days it was a fact that only those with landed estates or large fortunes could afford to be at Westminster.

    We cannot go back to the virtual exclusion from membership of the House of Commons of working men and women and those with few financial assets. And, besides, it is surely preferable for MPs to be paid adequately in order to ensure that many or most - if not all - of them are kept relatively 'safe' from the obvious temptation of selling their votes and their efforts.

    All members of the House of Commons should devote their time to doing their best for their constituents - full stop.

    ReplyDelete
  73. As a post script to the above, I remember the late Mr James Wentworth Day saying to me many years ago (at Spinney Abbey, Wicken, in the company of members of the Fuller farming family), 'My boy, the country should be governed by dukes and bishops and farmers.' Mr Day was a romantic but he was wrong!

    ReplyDelete
  74. To St. James's Church at Lode this morning for the funeral of Mr John Brand, a former long-serving Parish Councillor in Lode and Longmeadow whom I got to know well when I was the County Councillor for the area. John was very highly regarded and, not surprisingly, the parish church was packed. My sympathy goes out to Mrs Rotha Brand, John's widow, and to all of his extended family, some members of which made excellent contributions to the impressive service which was taken by the Revd. David Lewis. I was especially pleased to see that the Bottisham and District Branch of the Royal British Legion was well represented.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Another book review for Amazon:

    A Peace To End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East

    By David Fromkin

    This brilliant book - an historical thriller through and through!

    I am an enthusiastic amateur family historian and I have puzzled a while over an important (to my wife and I) family question: how come my wife's great uncle, Captain Thomas John Catchpole (1888 - 1917), of Lidgate, Suffolk, and of the 5th Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment, was killed by the Turks at Gaza?

    Subsidiary questions have also been in my mind: why were the Turks/Ottomans our enemies in the so-called 'Great War'?; what determined the demise of the Turkish/Ottoman Empire, under which many races, including Jews, Arabs and Turks, had lived relatively peaceably?; and how did the present-day 'Middle East' become such a problem area?

    I am also a member of the 'what if' school of history: this book is one of those that inspire endless speculation. If decisions had been made differently and events had taken a different course, maybe my wife's great uncle's descendants could still be living at Lidgate.

    For example, what if the British Cabinet had acted on Winston Churchill's urging in 1911 to make an alliance with the Turks/Ottomans?

    And if the 'Great War' had gone on for two years only (the German General Ludendorff believed the entry of the Turks/Ottomans into the war allowed the outnumbered Central powers to fight on for two years longer than they would have been able on their own), my wife's great uncle would not have been killed at Gaza in 1917.

    And if Winston Churchill's Dardanelles plans had prevailed over those of Lord Kitchener in March, 1915, Constantinople would have fallen, and my wife's great uncle would not have been killed at Gaza in 1917.

    As it was, it appears that numerous attempts were made to subvert, to attack, and to conquer the Turks/Ottomans, the defeat of whom could - and, maybe, should - have been accomplished in 1915, and my wife's great uncle would not have been killed at Gaza in 1917.

    This brilliant book - an historical thriller through and through - has provided me with much information and most of the answers and I am so grateful to David Fromkin for researching and writing it and to Amazon for selling it to me.

    It is quite clear to me now that the alliance between Germany and the Turks/Ottomans was at best an unintended mistake and at worst the secret design of a very few of the Turkish leaders. It could have been done very differently, with Turkey and the Ottoman Empire continuing to maintain their neutrality, to the benefit of the British and of the world.

    And it also appears from Fromkin's account that the successive collapses of the British, French and Russian Governments were directly attributable to the Dardanelles disaster. In the case of Russia, of course, this meant a fatal finale for the Czar and his family and the rise of Lenin and Bolshevism.

    ReplyDelete
  76. (continued)

    There came on the scene in 1917 one Woodrow Wilson, as ignorant regarding Britain, France, Russia and the Turkish/Ottoman Empire as many Americans, but as determined, nevertheless, to do down the British as his later successor, Franklin Roosevelt. Despite having some high-flown thoughts, Mr Wilson helped little.

    All in all, it is once again amazing to me that two great British statesmen, Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George, should have been so full of foresight and wisdom. It's all too obvious that the others, including Wilson, were political pygmies.

    I suppose now and with hindsight that I would probably have preferred for the Ottoman Empire to have been maintained, as Churchill often wanted, or, failing that, for the British Empire to have been vastly extended - for good!

    I spotted one error (on page 299, in a section on the role of Louis D. Brandeis, later the first Jewish member of the United States Supreme Court): 'Only one Jew [Oscar Strauss] had ever been a member of the president's cabinet.' Not true: Judah Philip Benjamin played prominent roles in the cabinet of President Jefferson Davis.

    (An extremely interesting piece of information gleaned from the book is that Baghdad and Jerusalem, before the War, were home to the largest populations of Jews in the Middle East. 'Jews in large numbers had lived in the Mesopotamian provinces since the time of the Babylonian captivity - about 600 BC - and thus were settled in the country a thousand years before the coming of the Arabs in AD 634.').

    There has been some criticism that this book is too much about Great Britain and its leaders and people. To answer the criticism I quote the following (from page 385): 'The Prime Minister (Lloyd George) claimed that Britain was entitled to play the dominant role in the Middle East, recalling that at one time or another two and a half million British troops had been sent there, and that a quarter of a million had been killed or wounded; while the French, Gallipoli apart, had suffered practically no casualties in the Middle East, and the Americans had not been there at all.'

    Thoroughly recommended: I couldn't put it down!

    A personal post-script:

    In the Autumn of 1917, following two earlier failed attempts by General Murray in the first half of that year, General Allenby invaded (from Egypt, which was under British protection) Palestine, and my wife's great uncle, Captain Thomas John Catchpole, was killed, during the third battle of Gaza, on the 3rd of November (reportedly fatally injured by a Turk soldier and then shot by a fellow British officer, in the presence of his own younger brother, to put him out of his misery, there being no chance that he would live), and lies buried at the Deir El Belah War Cemetery. And the Middle East is still a problem.

    ReplyDelete
  77. We didn't see yesterday's Cambridge News until today but it was well worth waiting for as Alan Seymour of Ely had another splendid missive published:

    Letters

    Try it in city

    Green Tony Juniper has clearly adopted the role of an ecological expert in his quest to flood thousands of acres of fertile fenland.

    However, I am increasingly unimpressed with the word "expert", as there is a general assumption we should blithely accept all of their utterances but, after all, meteorological experts consistently offer us erroneous weather reports.

    Mr Juniper's misleading use of statistics has already been exposed by Alan Hooper (Letters, September 11), but I believe there may be a solution for Mr Juniper. Perhaps he should campaign closer to his own backyard to create his vision. Midsummer and Stourbridge commons appear to be ideal spots and the benefits would be threefold.

    Farmers would continue to cultivate vegetables in the Fens, cattle grazing would be eliminated from common land, alleviating a cause of global warming (allegedly) and many more members of the public would be able to view Mr Juniper's utopia of wetlands attracting insects and weeds, totally free of charge.

    Alan Seymour
    Morley Drive
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  78. A charming letter came via our ever-helpful postman this morning:

    Dear Mr Woollard,

    Just to say how heartening it was to read your letter in the [Newmarket] Journal.

    As someone who worked in hunting, etc., and saw the light (it was the otter hunting debate that woke me up), it really cheered me up.

    Thanks again,

    Your sincerely,

    Gill Delaney.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Yes, I know it must be surprising to readers who have known me for many years but, yes, I approve again of what Hilary Benn, the DEFRA Secretary has said. He was speaking this afternoon at the Labour Party Conference at Brighton and he repeated what he said some weeks ago on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, namely, that he wants British farmers to produce more food. I agree. And they must be permitted to continue to grow more food in the huge Fen area that the National Trust wants to grab for its so-called 'Wicken Vision,' a nonsensical scheme if ever there was one.

    And, for good measure, Mr Benn pleased me again by reminding us all of what we are in for if we go for the Tory choice - 'a return to fox-hunting' - and this additional denunciation of the line to be followed by many Conservatives drew considerable applause from an appreciative audience at Brighton and, I would guess, many thousands more in Mr Benn's TV audience.

    I never thought I would say such a thing or write it, but here is my opinion of Mr Benn and his speech: 'Well done, Hilary!'

    ReplyDelete
  80. The (London) Times reported this evening that "the jury at the inquest into the deaths of a mother and daughter who suffered years of torment at the hands of a mob of youths has criticised the police and the local authority for their handling of the case.

    The jury decided today that Fiona Pilkington committed suicide and her disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick was unlawfully killed."

    It seems to me that Leicestershire Police and Conservative-controlled Leicestershire County Council's Social Services have some serious questions to answer, but I also wonder what Liberal Democrat-controlled Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council's housing department knew about this dreadful tragedy. Also, what were the twelve members of Barwell Parish Council hearing locally? And the County and District Councillors? And the neighbours? Did nobody know anything?

    By far the most appalling aspect of the report on tonight's Channel 4 News was the local Conservative M.P., Mr David Tredinnick, who was speaking from Nairobi, Kenya, twice attempting to blame the Labour Government. What a nerve this man has. As well as nerve, Mr Tredinnick (Eton and Oxford) also has 'form' but his latest idiotic outburst has really brought his style of party politicking into thorough disrepute.

    ReplyDelete
  81. David Cameron has gone on record following the tragic Pilkington inquest and is reported to have said, "Everything will be done differently by a Conservative government."

    I say, yeah, yeah, yeah. And how? I remember telling an earlier Conservative Home Secretary (in the context of rural crime and the 'traveller' problem in South East Cambridgeshire) that what we wanted was not more law but more order. But how do we get more order if we are all to be 'inclusive' and more tolerant?

    ReplyDelete
  82. I am only able to watch snips and snatches of the successive party conferences and most of my readers will have gathered that I found the Liberal Democrats distinctly unimpressive, their leader, Nick Clegg, failing pretty abysmally to 'cut the mustard.'

    But this week Labour has been meeting at Brighton and I have to admit that its performance seems so far to be most impressive. I approved of much of the speech of Hilary Benn, the DEFRA Secretary, and I enjoyed yesterday the performance of Lord Mandelson.

    The Prime Minister's efforts today have been of his best. He spoke for about an hour and, whilst I had lots of other things to get on with, I was riveted to the TV screen and actually rather wished that I were present in the conference hall where, incidentally, I have myself performed to some effect.

    Gordon Brown made much - and rightly so - of Labour's affection for the National Health Service. He also alluded to further improvements in the pipeline. He did not allude to the equivalent of health 'vouchers' which the Tories have toyed with in the past and seem to have forgotten for the time being.

    For those of us of pensionable age, Mr Brown said something extremely important, namely, that a new 'National Care Service' is to come if Labour is re-elected. Presumably, this is to be along the lines of what the Scots already have and it will be very welcome to those folk who find that family assets built up by hard work can be completely dissipated by the cost of care of the elderly.

    The Prime Minister also touched upon possible constitutional changes - a referendum on AVS (the alternative vote system) and a right for electors to 'recall' MPs who don't behave with appropriate propriety. I have doubts about AVS but I have no doubt about another proposed constitutional change, that of the complete abolition of the hereditary principle in the House of Lords. This is not before time.

    Mr Brown concluded by commenting on the need to tighten up on the behaviour of the yobs who make life miserable for hard working and law abiding families and, in the extremely sad Pilkington case, caused indirectly the loss of two precious lives.

    All in all, a creditable performance from a Prime Minister who is 'up against it' and we now await that of his only serious opponent, Mr David Cameron of the Conservatives. I will be watching if I am able and if I can spare some more time.

    ReplyDelete
  83. An American correspondent writes to me: "I still remain convinced ... that it's right for us to be there [in Afghanistan]. Remember 9/11? This is truly a good vs evil war (like WWII). America cannot go it alone and the western world needs to stand united. I agree with the assessment of the US commander who says that more troops, not less, are needed. See http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/09/24/60minutes/main5335445.shtml ..."

    I believe that my American correspondent is mistaken, for the following reasons:

    1. Osama bin Laden and the top Al-Qaeda leadership were supposed to have been based in Afghanistan, more specifically in the Tora Bora mountains near the border with Pakistan. President George W. Bush said that he/we were going in there to 'smoke him [Osama bin Laden] out.' Success in smoking him and them out has not yet been claimed. Therefore, we have not yet succeeded in that 'war on terror' aim and, with the benefit of hindsight, it could be said that special forces might have had more success than unwieldy armies.

    2. Notwithstanding that the 'war on terror' is being pursued principally in Afghanistan, it should be remembered that Osama bin Laden is/was Saudi-born. Moreover, most of the terrorists who took part in the 9/11 raids were also Saudi-born. I do not know if any of them had Afghan connections.

    3. Whilst an Afghan immigrant to the U.S., Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old Denver, Colorado shuttle driver, has recently been accused of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction in a suspected terror plot in New York, many if not most of the people involved in terrorist activity after 9/11 in both the U.S. and Great Britain have been 'home-grown' or Pakistani-born and, in many cases, U.S. citizens or British subjects.

    4. I am of the opinion that rather than more and more U.S. and British troops being sent to Afghanistan to fail where all previous invaders of that benighted 'nation' have failed, instead they should be deployed to guard our peoples at home and, in Britain's case, a more close eye should be kept on certain residents in such as Leeds, Luton and London.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Another of my most helpful friends has written an excellent letter to Hilary Benn, the DEFRA Secretary:

    Dear Mr Benn

    I was heartened by your recent comments concerning the need to increase UK food production. It seems that at long last the Labour Administration has realised that it cannot rely on the current high levels of imports to secure our food safety, in terms of quantity, quality and bio security.

    In the light of these comments I am, however, puzzled by your government's support for the National Trust's ill conceived "Wicken Vision" project, which seem more aligned to the extreme views of the Green Party and Tony Juniper than to moderate Labour policy.

    If you study the implications of this "Vision" you will realise that as it proceeds it will lead to the dereliction of several thousand acres of Cambridgeshire fenland. Land which is the most fertile and productive arable land in the UK and probably in the entire world.

    Proponents of the scheme maintain that it will increase the natural habitat and consequently wildlife population of the area. In reality it will reduce rich arable fenland to bog and marsh infested with nettles, brambles, elder and mosquitoes.

    If the project is successful in the eyes of the National Trust, it will result in the construction of new infrastructure to cope with the increase in visitor numbers. The N.T. already has a planning application on the table for a monstrous new bridge, which will no doubt be followed by car parks, interpretation centre, metalled roads and board walks.

    This development coupled with the increase in visitor traffic will disrupt and inhibit any expected increases in the wild life of the area.

    Currently, Mr Benn, this area is farmed to a very high standard, producing cereals, potatoes and vegetable crops. It is a quiet area with few visitors to disrupt the many and varied species of indigenous flora and fauna.

    Perhaps the National Trust should be reminded of its own Mission Statement which is to "Protect Everything for All", and celebrate the achievements of Cornelius Vermuyden whose work gave us this productive farmland which is highly valued by those who farm and understand the land.

    I urge you, Mr Benn, to intervene to stop the National Trust from acting beyond its remit in this way. Halt this wanton destruction of our wonderful countryside, and permanent loss of this vast area of farmland.

    Should you require endorsement of the views expressed in this letter, you need only to consult those currently living and working in the area whose lives and livelihoods will be blighted by this vandalism.

    Yours sincerely

    Graham Smith

    ReplyDelete
  85. The first day of October is a very dry one in East Anglia and I could see the effects of the drought on the 'high land' in and around Wicken, Soham (to where I have moved my vehicle insurances, my brokers now being Saffron Insurance Services), Fordham, Burwell, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck and Bottisham this morning when I made a round of calls and kept some appointments, as well as delivering the Bulbeck Beacon to the 'outback' homes of Swaffham Bulbeck parish. We need a good rain, even in the Fens.

    My appointments also included one with Mr Mark Lawrence, the long-time and indefatigable business manager of the Bulbeck Beacon (I am chairman of the committee that generally oversees activities). Mark and his lovely wife, Joan, re-asserted their personal support for our fight to 'SaveOurFens' and, they being life-long residents of the area, that was especially re-assuring. I also had a brief chat with my friend, Mr Peter Stanley, of New England Stud. Peter asked me if I was now an M.P. I said, 'No.' He then asked me if I was planning to stand for Parliament. (Peter's late uncle, the Captain Hon. Richard Stanley, also of New England Stud and a very helpful friend and neighbour when we lived at Chalk Farm, was the M.P. for the North Fylde division of Lancashire. Captain Stanley was also for many years president of the now-defunct Swaffham Bulbeck Conservative Branch). I said, 'It's likely.' Peter then said, 'Well, best of luck!' I get on well with Peter Stanley.

    Having travelled quite a few miles in South East Cambridgeshire, I was pleased to get back to the Fens and had the pleasure of looking at a marvellous crop of leeks being harvested at Lord's Ground Farm, Swaffham Prior. It was a most impressive sight. We really must save these Fens for food-growing which, of course, is and has always been perfectly compatible with the encouragement and continued welfare of our wonderful native wildlife.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Geoff Griggs writes a weekly column (entitled 'Griggs @ Soham') for the Newmarket Journal in which he gives his views on what is happening in and around Soham. This week's column contains a corker of a comment:

    I had reason to visit Reach the other day. I went round there via Burwell and came home across the fen. It struck me that this could be a 'last chance to see' it if the project to flood it comes to fruition. Perhaps Stephen Fry would like to do an episode of his Last Chance to See series on this apparently doomed area of prime arable land, but then again, probably not. Mr Fry, you see, is president of another hare-brained scheme to flood agricultural land. The Great Fen Project aims to flood vast areas between Woodwalton and Holme Fen so he probably thinks that even more flooding is an even better idea. He probably has allies in Soham, though. One of the ideas put forward at the Vision exhibition at the pavilion recently was to re-flood part of the Mere.

    ReplyDelete
  87. Clare Short annoys me intensely. She was on TV yesterday saying that she had tried when in government to stop various arms export deals by such as BAE. Well, fine, if that's what she and others of the moralistic but unrealistic left want, let the deals be banned. But that is a different matter from considering prosecuting such as BAE for doing permitted business in foreign lands where the rules are different. All I can say is that our authorities must be crazy to pursue BAE for doing such business in such foreign lands. If a British company were bribing British officials in order to get British government business here it would be very wrong and ought to be stopped. But dealing with immoral and unscrupulous overseas governments and even more unscrupulous international competitors is another matter entirely. BAE has had to play by different and foreign rules in order to get export orders and should not be penalised. If the present British government wants to ban such exports to certain countries, then it should ban them, but, in the meantime, it should let BAE go about its business in the best way that it can, to save British jobs for British workers - have I heard that somewhere before?

    ReplyDelete
  88. There is an important article by Giles Whittell in today's (London) Times. Go to -

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/Afghanistan/article6857667.ece

    "Obama faces agonising decision over Afghanistan strategy

    Giles Whittell: Analysis

    For three hours 17 men and one woman sat round a table in the windowless Situation Room beneath the White House on Tuesday night, debating how to define and achieve victory in a war that could otherwise become America’s next Vietnam.

    The same war council will meet twice next week, but even then President Obama says he will not be ready to decide whether to endorse the strategy of his top general in Kabul, nor whether to send the tens of thousands of reinforcements he has requested.

    There are two reasons for Mr Obama’s agonising indecision. First, he is being asked to risk more American lives in defence of a corrupt regime, in pursuit of an enemy that can retreat at will to Pakistan, in a fight with Taleban forces that know the terrain better than any foreign troops and for whom every civilian casualty inflicted by Nato serves as a recruiting sergeant.

    Second, Mr Obama has the least experience of military operations of anyone in the room, and those with more experience cannot agree on the way forward.

    His uniformed advisers are calling for reinforcements for a full-blown counter-insurgency that they believe can prevail provided it heeds the lessons of Vietnam and Iraq. General Stanley McChrystal, backed by General David Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wants up to 40,000 troops to be deployed with emphasis on the protection of civilians. “We don’t win by body count or the number or raids . . . We win when the people decide we win,” he said.

    The alternative that Mr Obama has decided he must consider is, bluntly, to forget the Afghan people and refocus the US mission in Central Asia on the target that drew US forces there eight years ago — al-Qaeda. His Vice-President believes that target is best hunted in Pakistan, with drones and special forces. There are others, chief among them the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, who insist that al-Qaeda cannot be beaten “on the cheap” but who fear that it will mean more casualties and antagonism from the Afghan people.

    Retired General Colin Powell and Senator John Kerry have joined the debate on the side of restraint. Both have reminded the President that his top brass can issue requests but not demands, and he can turn them down. But to do so and then be seen to “lose Afghanistan” would likely be fatal for his presidency. On this issue more than any other, Mr Obama is finding it very lonely at the top."

    For the record, I am 100% with Vice-President Joe Biden.

    ReplyDelete
  89. This message was received from another of my 'agents':

    Good article in Lode Star!

    Doug

    ReplyDelete
  90. Contrary to what some people believe, the good old Cambridge News (with which my family had links: in 1913, my late great uncle, Charles Yorke Woollard, married Miss Winifred Mary Taylor, daughter of the paper's founder, Mr William Farrow Taylor), the present editor doesn't publish all that I send him.

    Here is one (a letter) I 'made' earlier in response to another missive from Mr Tony 'Greenie' Juniper:

    Dear Editor,

    I am not surprised by Tony Juniper taking his time to reply to Alan Hooper's killer facts regarding land quality in the Fens. It is fact that there is not much top quality land in our country and it is fact that most of that land is in the East, particularly in our Fens. It is also fact that our Fen land will grow practically anything and, for the record, I have no problem regarding some of it having been used in the past to grow the most beautiful daffodils I have ever seen. Facts are inescapable, as Mr Juniper really ought to know if he is planning on a parliamentary career.

    Despite Mr Juniper's support for the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision,' neither we in the Fens nor our much-loved wildlife need this scheme which will, if implemented, create an unkempt and water-logged jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles where mosquitoes will abound. What we do need as a nation of over sixty-one million people (and those are the ones who have permitted themselves to be counted) and as a world with a population racing towards nine billions and beyond, is to keep the best food-producing land in the kingdom. Here, in the Cambridgeshire Fens, we have just that and it must not be abused nor lost.

    There is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the so-called 'Wicken Vision.' If it is 'successful' by the National Trust's standards, it will draw thousands more visitors who will frighten the wildlife. If it is not 'successful' and few additional visitors come, then what is the point of the huge loss of food production and the expending of over £100 millions?

    Yours sincerely,

    Geoffrey Woollard.

    But today the Cambridge News did me proud in that the paper published the following:

    Letters

    Good for Benn

    I approve again of what Hilary Benn, the Defra secretary, said on Monday at the Labour Party Conference at Brighton.

    He repeated that he wants British farmers to produce more food. I agree.

    And they must be permitted to continue to grow more food in the huge Cambridgeshire Fens area that the National Trust wants to grab for its so-called "Wicken Vision", a nonsensical scheme if ever there was one.

    And, for good measure, Mr Benn pleased me again by reminding us all of what we are in for if we go for the Tory choice at the General Election - "a return to fox-hunting". This drew considerable applause from an appreciative audience at Brighton and, I would guess, many thousands more in Mr Benn's TV audience.

    I never thought I would say such a thing or write it, but here is my opinion of Mr Benn and his speech: "Well done, Hilary!"

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm
    Near Upware
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  91. I have doubts about the latest Tory idea for taking care of the oldies. As a 71-year-old, I look very closely at any proposals put forward by either Labour or the Conservatives. (I ignore the Liberal Democrats' policies for there is no chance of them forming the next Government).

    Labour has proposed a new 'National Care Service' and, from what I have heard and read, it seems that the present Government is moving towards what the Scots already have, namely, a method of ensuring that all forms of care for the elderly, regardless of means, are effectively free of charge. This is, of course, an extension of the 'nanny state,' but there is little doubt that it is popular in practice in Scotland.

    (Incidentally, Sue and I are friendly with some Amish families in America and those good people seem not to rely on the state - or States - at all. Amish 'family values' mean that the elderly are cared for in and by the family. But have we 'English' the family strength to emulate them? I fear not).

    The Tory idea, it appears, is for individuals, upon reaching the age of 65, to pay the sum of £8,000 either to the Government or directly to an insurance company, the consequence being that people so 'insured' need have no more worries about such as the cost of residential care in extreme old age.

    There appear to be a number of flaws in the proposal, the first being that it appears only to cover the cost of residential care in extreme old age. Well, lots of us would prefer to avoid residential care in extreme old age if we are able. Indeed, as I understand it, the proposal is based upon an assumption that most people will not need to go in to residential care at all.

    And then I looked at the Tory proposal from the selfish point of view of Sue and I.

    First, we are both over the age of 65, so we have already 'missed the Conservative boat.'

    Second, we are fortunate in having a caring family. Therefore, whilst not wishing to take unfair advantage of our caring family, why should we, even if we were under 65, be compelled (can it work at all if it is not to be compulsory?) to divvy up £8,000 apiece in the fairly certain knowledge that our caring family would be looking after us Amish-style and not at the expense of others?

    Third, how can we be assured that this is not another insurance 'con' to relieve us of £8,000 apiece without the full follow-up benefits? I have known of many insurance 'cons' in the past and there will be more, believe me.

    At present I am rather more than wary of 'buying a pig in a poke'!

    ReplyDelete
  92. I have put out the following self-explanatory press release:

    "The annual Harvest Service at 'The Little Chapel in The Fen,' near Upware, was held in perfect weather on Sunday, the 4th of October. Nearly one hundred people attended and the total of cash and cheques collected was £526.70.

    The principal offering was for the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) appeal and this came to £365.00. There was also a retiring collection for the maintenance of the fabric of the Chapel and a further sum of £161.70 was raised. (The interior of the Chapel needs re-decoration).

    Dr. Ray Gambell, O.B.E., of Landbeach, took the service, which is always held on the first Sunday in October. This was the 125th such service (the present Chapel having been built in 1884) and this fact was remarked upon by Mr Alan Wyatt, one of the Chapel's trustees.

    The lessons were read by Mrs Jean Nash, of Swaffham Bulbeck, and Cllr. Allen Alderson, of Reach.

    Another trustee, Mr Geoffrey Woollard, said that he was delighted with the outcome and reported that all of the produce - vegetables, fruit, flowers, eggs, preserves - much of it grown and harvested in and around the Cambridgeshire Fens, as well as a superb harvest loaf baked by Mr Gerry King of Swaffham Prior, will be delivered to the Burwell Day Centre on Monday morning. The Day Centre makes good use of everything that is taken there.

    'The Little Chapel in The Fen' has recently been re-roofed at a cost of over £8,000 and gratitude was expressed by Mr Wyatt to those who contributed so generously towards the success of this major work. The following made contributions:

    Mr and Mrs Michael Aves, Mr and Mrs Alva Badcock, Sylvie Ballard, Mrs Bowers, Burwell and Reach Parochial Church Council, Mr and Mrs Gilbert Butler, S. Butler, Mrs Josie Chalklin, Mr and Mrs Peter Cockerton, Mr and Mrs Richard Doe, Betty Edwards, Mr and Mrs James Faircliffe, 'Fenland History on Friday,' Mr and Mrs Bryan Fuller, Joan Fuller, Mr Peter Fuller, Mr and Mrs Richard Housden, Mr and Mrs Rodney Housden, Mrs Ann Jennings, Mr Martin Jones, the Lode Social Club, Mr and Mrs Michael Marshall, Mr and Mrs David Miller, Mrs Janet Morton, Mr and Mrs Denis Moules, Messrs. Keith and Malcolm Pratt, Mr and Mrs David Sennitt, Mrs Stonehouse, Swaffham Bulbeck Free Church, the Customers of Tiptree Marina, Mr Christopher Walkinshaw, Messrs. Geoffrey and Ian Watts, Mr Ralph Wedd, the Family and Friends of the late Mr Cyril West, Mrs Jane Williamson, Mr and Mrs Frank Wright, Mr and Mrs Geoffrey Woollard and Mr and Mrs Alan Wyatt."

    ReplyDelete
  93. This is from the latest Burwell Bulletin, an excellent local newspaper that is distributed free in Burwell itself and several surrounding villages in South East Cambridgeshire:

    Letters

    Response to earlier Fen letters

    I refer to an earlier Burwell Bulletin in which Peter Green 'had a go' at me - as he is entitled to do! I will ignore his derogatory comments about the productiveness or otherwise of our Fens. Suffice to say that, whilst I, too, find it incomprehensible that a small-scale landowner near Swaffham Prior should have let his land become a jungle like the National Trust's large holdings, I believe that most of your readers know that there is no more productive land in England than the Fens in Cambridgeshire.

    Also in response to Peter Green and lest there should be any misunderstanding as to my own Fen property position, I have a house and sixteen acres some of which are around 'The Little Chapel in The Fen.' About two years ago I offered to sell my house and land to the National Trust, my wife having had a hankering for living close to the Suffolk coast. Soon after, I realised that I was so angry with what the Trust was and is doing and that I was so apprehensive for the future of the Chapel which would be undermined by land being flooded or becoming water-logged that I told the Trust's officers that my offer was withdrawn.

    I also realised that I could not let my many friends down and I am now continuing to take the fight to the Trust, both locally and, possibly, nationally. Some of your readers will recognise a saying of Martin Luther (in an entirely different context) - "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise."

    Geoffrey Woollard

    ReplyDelete
  94. This message came in following my visit to the Burwell Day Centre this morning:

    Dear Geoffrey

    On behalf of everyone at the Day Centre, would you please pass on our thanks to all those lovely, generous people who have donated such wonderful Harvest bounty.

    We have found homes for it all. The flowers and bread were shared amongst our Members and the remaining vegetables and fruit will keep us supplied for many weeks to come.

    It is very kind of you to support the Day Centre once again and much appreciated by us all.

    With best wishes,

    Dawn

    ReplyDelete
  95. There was a pretty scary story in the Sunday Telegraph.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/6258137/New-al-Qaeda-body-bombs-that-can-beat-airport-security-are-alarming-terror-experts.html

    I was reminded of it by hearing Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, stating on the radio this morning that her worst nightmare was not 9/11, nor 7/7, but 21/7, the day when terrorists failed in London and the security services seem to have succeeded. Dame Eliza wondered aloud as to how we and she and London would have coped had there been regular rounds of suicide bombing attempts at, say, fortnightly intervals and often 'successful.'

    Now, apparently and according to the Sunday Telegraph, Al-Qaeda's people have found a devilish method for suicide bombers to do their awful deeds with explosive devices hidden in their intestines.

    A frightening episode was reported by Richard Barrett, head of the United Nations' Al-Qaeda monitoring group, and is said to have happened on August the 28th last when Abdullah al-Asiri, one of Saudi Arabia's most wanted men, offered to give himself up to Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, the head of Saudi Arabia's counter terrorism operations. Prince Nayef is responsible for overseeing Saudi Arabia's much trumpeted terrorist rehabilitation programme, and some two dozen senior Al-Qaeda terrorists have already surrendered to him in person.

    This time the would-be assassin, the ostensibly repentant Asiri, gave himself up and took two flights, one aboard the Prince's private jet, and spent thirty hours closely guarded by the Prince's personal security detail. It was during the month of Ramadan, a time of repentance for Muslims, and Asiri was granted an audience with the prince at his private palace in Jeddah by declaring that he would persuade other militants to surrender.

    Asiri briefly called other militants on his cellular 'phone to tell them that he was standing alongside Prince Nayef. It was all recorded by Al-Qaeda which has turned the episode into an animated movie boasting of their exploits.

    Asiri then said that more Al-Qaeda figures wanted to surrender and asked the prince to take the cellular 'phone. During the conversation a bleep was heard and the keypad sound may have activated a short fuse on the bomb, according to security experts.

    Some 14 seconds later the bomb went off. The explosion blew Asiri to pieces and left his left arm embedded in the ceiling.

    Good, one might think: serve him right. But he didn't care a bit.

    This has made me think carefully about whether I want to board an airliner along with anyone who looks in the slightest bit suspicious.

    And, would I now continue with equanimity to use, say, tube trains or ordinary trains or buses? Well, I'm becoming more doubtful again.

    And what about walking along a crowded street in, say, Leeds or Luton or London, where there might also be suspicious-looking people about?

    Remember, we are not talking about a bloke with a belt of bombs round his middle nor a burqa-clad woman with something nasty in her underclothes. These can be detected by frisking or by X-ray. No, this new and potentially awful weapon of mass-destruction could be in the gut of the guy next to you on the 'plane or the train or the bus or in our British streets.

    All I can say is that, at present, I regard myself and my wife as being ultra-fortunate and ultra-safe from such fanatical criminality as we can be in rural South East Cambridgeshire.

    But for how much longer?

    ReplyDelete
  96. I have been watching the Conservative Party Conference on TV again.

    Andrew Lansley struggled with the discussion on the National Health Service. He had on his platform, amongst other worthies, a gentleman from the Stroke Association, a lady Professor of Psychiatry and a gentleman from Cancer Research UK. They were all impressive.

    However, I looked at the TV view of the conference hall: hardly anybody was there and some were even asleep. It almost seemed that there were more people on the platform than in the audience. Poor Andrew Lansley. Poor NHS. Poor us.

    Sad to relate, even that great old trouper, Ken Clarke, failed today to make much of an impression. Is he past it or is his pro-Europe past inhibiting him? I hazard a guess that it's the latter. George Osborne did speak well, though.

    We also saw Nick Herbert, the shadow DEFRA Secretary, and the conference hall was only about half full again for a further discussion of green issues and farming. I recall well the times when Conservative conferences always had special debates on food and farming. Indeed, I took part in them on a number of occasions, but Mr James Paice, M.P., the 'shadow minister of agriculture for the last 100 years' (Nick Herbert's words, not mine), barely got a look in.

    My goodness me, the Conservative Party ain't what it was: it's worse!

    ReplyDelete
  97. The following (from the Cambridge News) is self-explanatory:

    D-Day for bridge

    Controversial plans for a new bridge will be reconsidered tomorrow.

    The bridge, across Reach Lode, at Swaffham Prior Fen, is part of the National Trust's plans to extend the Wicken Fen nature reserve, but has been branded an eyesore by objectors.

    East Cambs planning officers are recommending approval.

    ReplyDelete
  98. To Ely again today for another meeting of East Cambridgeshire District Council's Planning Committee. I have issued a press release which is self-explanatory:

    Reach Lode Bridge - First Round - David: Nil - Goliath: One!

    The Planning Committee of East Cambridgeshire District Council today approved by a majority recorded vote the National Trust's proposal for a massive new bridge over Reach Lode, put forward ostensibly for people who might want to make their way from Anglesey Abbey to Wicken Fen.

    The National Trust appears to have based its case upon the bizarre assumption that visitors to Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property, are likely to desire to push on to Wicken Fen, another National Trust property, on foot, by bicycle, or on horseback. The new bridge is intended to respond to the assumed desire by helping to facilitate a 'through-route.'

    It is now evident that the planners were sweet-talked by the Trust and, with some dissent from local and other members of the Committee, the bridge plan - part of the Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' - is to go ahead.

    I described the decision as 'disappointing' and said that, after the first round of a David and Goliath fight, the score was 'David: Nil - Goliath: One.' 'There are many more rounds to come but, of course, the National Trust is extremely powerful and will attempt to bulldoze more of this scheme through against the declared wishes of local people.'

    I was permitted to have my say and my speech went as follows:

    ReplyDelete
  99. "Mr Chairman,

    My friend and my diligent District Councillor, Mr Allen Alderson, with whom I have discussed this matter on several occasions, will make the local case well. He knows that people in his ward - Reach, Swaffham Bulbeck and Swaffham Prior, as well as in Burwell - are incensed by this proposed bridge and he has told you and will tell you why. It is a grotesque proposition and entirely unsuitable for the fine Fen landscapes of Reach and Swaffham Prior Fens that are adorned by Reach Lode, probably Cambridgeshire's best such waterway.

    Cllr. Alderson will suggest an alternative route* for the people who are assumed by the National Trust to want to make their way from Anglesey Abbey to Wicken Fen on foot, by bicycle, or on horseback. The alternative route could be useful if we were to be convinced that there was a genuinely perceived need or if we were to be convinced that those people were anything other than a figment of the National Trust's fertile imagination.

    I was for years a member of this Council and of the County Council. At no time was I a member of a Planning Committee. Therefore, my approach to planning matters has always been that of a Parish Councillor, first for twenty years at Swaffham Bulbeck and, in more recent times, at Swaffham Prior.

    In all of those years, when faced with a planning application, I have looked initially to see if there was a perceived need, either on the part of the applicant or in the community. I have then looked at the acceptability or otherwise of the application especially with regard to location and overall design.

    In Swaffham Prior we have a perceived need for some additional 'social housing.' Therefore, in examining proposals that may involve an element of additional 'social housing,' I would move straight from the question of need to the questions of location and overall design. That is logical.

    But there might come a day when some well-meaning men and women were to put forward a plan to erect somewhere at Swaffham Prior a fifty-foot high statue of marvellous design to mark the life and achievements of Parish Councillor Mr Geoffrey Woollard.

    Then the people of Swaffham Prior would say straightway - and rightly - 'Nah!' - that there was and is no need, perceived or otherwise, for such a nonsense and that they would not go so far as to look at location and overall design. The plan would be thrown out neck and crop and without further ado. That is logical, too.

    Mr Chairman, we know that there is no proven need for this monstrous and nonsense bridge over Reach Lode. You and your colleagues should throw it out neck and crop and without further ado. That is also logical and you all know it."

    * In the event, Cllr. Alderson did make the local case well, but he was not permitted to describe the alternative route (which would have taken people via Upware). I regret this decision as, in my opinion, he was attempting to be constructive towards the Trust as well as helpful towards the people he represents.

    Geoffrey Woollard.
    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SaveOurFens/

    ReplyDelete
  100. Michael Gove, the Conservative shadow schools secretary, said at Manchester today that 'hundreds of schools' don't have students who are entered for A Level examinations in a whole range of named subjects. He described this as 'unacceptable.'

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00mzvnm

    Well, my children and my grand-children went to Bottisham Village College, an 11-16 Cambridgeshire comprehensive secondary school and, so far as I am aware, no students at Bottisham Village College have ever been entered for A Level examinations. Bottisham Village College is one of the best schools in Cambridgeshire and the reason that students are not entered for A Level examinations is because potential A Level candidates go on to 16-plus establishments, most notable Hills Road Sixth Form College and Long Road Sixth Form College, both in Cambridge.

    I was at a meeting of East Cambridgeshire District Council's Planning Committee this afternoon and one of the committee members is Mr Mike Rouse, of Ely. Mr Rouse was for many years a teacher at Soham Village College, another of Cambridgeshire's excellent 11-16 comprehensive secondary schools.

    I asked Mr Rouse how many students at Soham Village College had ever been entered for A Level examinations. He said, 'None.' I then told him why I had asked him this question and told him what Mr Gove had said. Mr Rouse, a Conservative District Councillor, said, 'Well, he's a prat.'

    Just about sums it up, doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  101. A quick response to my press release regarding the bridge over Reach Lode:

    Dear Geoffrey,

    Disappointed. This is the National Trust taking over control of planning in the area. It is bad news for us.

    Sue Wade

    ReplyDelete
  102. My old mate, Alan Shepherd, expresses what I agree with:

    Dear Geoffrey,

    More about power and influence than commonsense. It's almost as if we are now dominated by lunatics right throughout the nation.

    Kind regards,

    Alan

    ReplyDelete
  103. And my son writes from America:

    David eventually defeated Goliath because Goliath was too big to miss!

    James

    ReplyDelete
  104. My Swaffham Bulbeck-based cousin writes:

    Can we appeal against this ridiculous planning permission?

    Sophie

    ReplyDelete
  105. And a buddy at Lode makes good points:

    It’s not over till the fat lady sings or - errmm - runs out of money!

    Where is the money coming from? I am sure in a roundabout route it is out of public funds.

    Would the public prefer a bridge or for it to go into the NHS?

    Doug.

    ReplyDelete
  106. Another cousin writes generously:

    What a great speech you gave. I am so sorry.

    Maggie

    ReplyDelete
  107. Another close relative is also generous:

    Very good. Found the statue paragraph particuarly amusing!

    ReplyDelete
  108. A dear friend is even more generous:

    Geoffrey,

    You speak and write beautifully, and from the heart.

    Marcia

    ReplyDelete
  109. A loyal supporter at Fordham very sensibly says:

    You'd think in these days they would realize what a colossal waste of money.

    ReplyDelete
  110. A very good farming friend from Longmeadow writes:

    Sheer stupidity!!!!!

    The type of people who visit Anglesey Abbey are not those who would even think of cycling, walking or horse riding to Wicken. Where would they park their horses at Anglesey???? Next project fot N.T. provide stables for such folk while they wander around the Abbey before embarking on the next phase of their expedition into the wilderness.....

    Cyndy x

    ReplyDelete
  111. To Burwell Village College last evening for a meeting of the 'South Area Neighbourhood Panel.' This was set up a couple of years ago by East Cambridgeshire District Council and representatives from Ashley, Bottisham, Brinkley, Burrough Green, Burwell, Cheveley, Dullingham, Kirtling, Lode and Longmeadow, Reach, Stetchworth, Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Westley Waterless and Woodditton (and Saxon Street) get together with officers of the District Council, the local Police, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue, Sanctuary Hereward Housing, etc., and, whilst an agenda is always prepared, the meetings at their worst are no more than another talking shop whilst, at their best - and last evening's meeting was a better one - they enable ideas and moans to be aired in a semi-public forum and sometimes there are useful outcomes.

    I have several times contended that if the Parish Councillors, the District Councillors, the County Councillors and the various Council officers all did their jobs diligently and properly, there would be no need for Neighbourhood Panels, but my friends, Cllr. Peter Cresswell, the present Chairman of East Cambridgeshire District Council, and Cllr. Carl Poole, the Panel's Chairman, are both enthusiastic, so I keep going along to the meetings.

    Incidentally, both Peter and Carl are District Councillors for the Cambridgeshire part of Newmarket and, in the various discussions/debates, the fact of much of Newmarket not being in our County of Cambridgeshire, despite the ancient history of the town where All Saints' parish was wholly in Cambridgeshire, was dealt with helpfully. I and others who want the town to be wholly in Cambridgeshire are gaining ground and winning the arguments.

    Also discussed were ASBOs and other methods of keeping order in the villages, speeding problems, dog fouling, etc. So far as law and order were concerned, we had the benefit of the presence of the new Police Inspector for the area, Andy Bartlett. Inspector Bartlett undoubtedly impressed and I took the opportunity to ask him if he and the force had the same opinion as I, namely, that, following the banning of hare coursing in 2004 and the initiation of 'Operation Dornier' (I have no idea who thinks up these names and nor does Inspector Bartlett) by the police against illegal hare coursers, the incidence of this so-called 'sport' had greatly diminished. Inspector Bartlett confirmed that this was so. I then attempted to inject a little humour into the proceedings by saying that if Clarissa Dickson Wright and Sir Mark Prescott should show themselves in our area [hare coursing], then the police should not only activate 'Operation Dornier,' but also 'Operation Heinkel' and 'Operation Messerschmitt.' This went down pretty much OK with all of the audience except one lady whom I know very well indeed, but shall not name on this 'blog.'

    ReplyDelete
  112. This more than generous message was received from another dear relative:

    Great stuff Geoffrey

    It’ll take more than one blow to keep David down. There must surely be a way of stopping this even though it went through on the vote. We can’t let the b*****s win!!

    Much love Dot

    ReplyDelete
  113. The Cambridge News newspaper group have been kind enough to put a letter of mine in today's Ely Weekly News as well:

    Land is needed for growing food

    Sir, I approve again of what Hilary Benn, the Defra secretary, said last Monday at the Labour Party Conference at Brighton.

    He repeated that he wants British farmers to produce more food. I agree. And they must be permitted to continue to grow more food in the huge Cambridgeshire Fens area that the National Trust wants to grab for its so-called "Wicken Vision", a nonsensical scheme if ever there was one.

    And, for good measure, Mr Benn pleased me again by reminding us all of what we are in for if we go for the Tory choice at the General Election - "a return to fox-hunting". This drew considerable applause from an appreciative audience at Brighton and, I would guess, many thousands more in Mr Benn's TV audience.

    I never thought I would say such a thing or write it, but here is my opinion of Mr Benn and his speech: "Well done, Hilary!"

    Geoffrey Woollard
    River Bank
    Upware

    ReplyDelete
  114. To Bedfordshire on business this morning.

    I passed through the western part of our County of Cambridgeshire and by the land that was farmed in the 1870s by my great, great grandfather, Charles Josiah Clark (1823 - 1888). The land he farmed is some of the toughest clay in the country and, though people can cope better with it these days using strong and heavy farm machinery, it must have come close to breaking my ancestor's heart, for he eventually died (at Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire) in relative poverty and very probably of a broken heart.

    This trip reminded me yet again that there are all sorts of land in this country of ours, some good, some not so good, and I returned home to the rich black fen at Swaffham Prior resolved again to continue the fight to keep it free from the National Trust's stupid and wasteful so-called 'Wicken Vision.'

    ReplyDelete
  115. Finally for today, I watched on TV this afternoon the man they call 'Dave.'

    Mr Cameron's party will never get my vote again at national level but, to give him his due, he spoke well.

    He didn't say much, but he spoke well.

    ReplyDelete
  116. We had another good meeting of Swaffham Prior Parish Council last evening and dealt very satisfactorily with the 'casual vacancy' by co-opting Mr Paul Latchford. I had the pleasure of proposing him and Steve Kent-Phillips seconded the motion, which was agreed unanimously. Paul is in his forties and has lived opposite the village's two churches - I believe that Swaffham Prior is unique in having two churches in one churchyard - for about twenty years. I knew him long before he moved to the village, however, as his parents, Derek and Pam, live at Bottisham and Paul attended Bottisham Village College and Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge with our son. Indeed, they being contemporaries, we saw quite a lot of Paul when we lived at Chalk Farm. Further, when I organised a current affairs discussion 'society' called 'The Sixth Form Group,' Paul and others of his and our son's age used to come to the regular meetings at Chalk Farm and I can well recall Paul being an outstanding contributor to the wide-ranging debates.

    We (the Parish Council) still haven't resolved the question of what to do - or what not to do - with certain trees in the churchyard though, having had a meeting there with Mr Alastair Everitt, it was quite clear that something serious has to be done to a cedar the root or roots of which have crept perilously close to undermining the wall of St. Cyriac's church. I described this cedar as a 'triffid tree' and it's doings are pretty scary. Another cedar whose life had been threatened received a reprieve. I described this one as a 'weedy cedar' and, having been a weedy creature in my young days and not so weedy now, I successfully pleaded the cause of 'weedy' things in general. Sue and I actually find it hurtful to harm any trees (always excepting elders) at all: we feel their 'pain' and it was with the greatest reluctance that I lopped a low branch from a plane tree that is close by 'The Little Chapel in The Fen' before the Harvest Service last Sunday in order that the branch should not obstruct a picture of part of the large congregation we had here.

    Other matters discussed by the Parish Council included our diligent District Councillor's regretful report on the planning approval given by the District Council on Wednesday for the National Trust's new and huge bridge over Reach Lode. Cllr. Allen Alderson, though he did his best which is as good as anybody else's best, was and is still sore about this. We commended our County Councillor, Mr David Brown, who is also a District Councillor (for Burwell) and a member of the Planning Committee, for speaking and voting the 'right' way.

    Cllr. Brown also alluded to the County Council's discussions on how and whether to 'bid' for hundreds of millions of pounds of 'Government' (our) money in attempts to sort out Cambridge's traffic problems. I ventured to suggest that market forces might have a role in solving the problems. Firms which cannot cope with getting their people into Cambridge will move out of the centre of the City and others will continue their work in other towns and villages. I made mention of my grand-daughter who has been working in Cambridge and who has just landed a good job with an up-and-coming firm based nearer to her home which is in Soham. This promotion and change has caused family rejoicing all round. I also suggested that, as with the £100-million-plus guided bus way scheme, the County Council might again be getting ideas above its station. Cllr. Brown was listening carefully the while.

    ReplyDelete
  117. There's an interesting article by Charlie Brooks in today's Daily Telegraph -

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agriculture/farming/6278542/Conservative-Party-conference-farmers-have-something-to-look-forward-to.html

    The headline is 'Conservative Party conference: farmers have something to look forward to.'

    Brooks praises Nick Herbert, the shadow DEFRA secretary, and Jim Paice, the shadow minister of agriculture, the latter thus:

    "He [Jim Paice] was straight with his would-be constituents, too. Gone, he emphatically told them, were the days when farmers could produce food without consideration for wildlife and the environment. But at least they know he wants them to farm. And that's more than can be said for the current lot."

    I have commented 'on-line' as follows:

    I know Jim Paice. I am one of his actual constituents in South East Cambridgeshire and I am a farmer, albeit a 95% retired one.

    Of course, it is right that farmers should not produce food without consideration for wildlife and the environment but, here in South East Cambridgeshire, in the middle of Jim Paice's constituency, in a large area of the fertile Cambridgeshire Fens where farmers have consistently produced massive quantities of food with full consideration for wildlife and the environment, the National Trust wants to buy up, partially to flood and to take out of food production between 13,800 and 15,000 acres of the finest food-producing land in the country in order to further its so-called 'Wicken Vision.'

    Jim Paice says he believes 'that wildlife and farming can be delivered together,' but farming for much-needed food production will soon disappear here if the Trust has its way and Jim Paice, our present M.P., who is obviously trying hard for electoral reasons to keep in with all sides, is disappointing concerned farmers and, it appears, is sitting firmly and squarely on the fence. Quite frankly, I would have thought that Jim Paice, as 'shadow minister of agriculture,' would want to side with the farmers and food producers who are also environmentalists. But what have we had from him? Not a squeak, and it's not good enough.

    Go to -

    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SaveOurFens/

    and sign our non-political E-Petition to 'SaveOurFens.'

    ReplyDelete
  118. 221 dead Brits to date in Afghanistan. How many more are to be sacrificed before we and the Americans see sense?

    ReplyDelete
  119. Further to the above, there was a service in St. Paul's Cathedral today to commemorate the 179 British lives sacrificed in the Iraq war. Film shown tonight on Channel 4 News included a shot of former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at the service and, just behind him, General Sir Richard Dannatt. General Dannatt is soon to be appointed a member of the House of Lords and is to advise the Conservative defence team on, presumably, military matters. Reports have suggested that, whilst in office as Chief of the General Staff (commonly called 'the head of the army'), General Dannatt this year asked the present Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, for 2,000 more troops for the Afghanistan war. Gordon Brown is said to have refused to send these troops. Given the enthusiasm for the Afghanistan war in the Conservative Party, are we to assume that General Lord Dannatt will advise the likely next Prime Minister, David Cameron, to send more troops and are we to assume that David Cameron will follow General Lord Dannatt's advice?

    I hope that wiser counsels will prevail.

    N.B. General Sir Richard Dannatt has often been 'in the news' and is regarded as having been a controversial Chief of the General Staff. See his Wikipedia entry at -

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dannatt

    ReplyDelete
  120. British Ploughing Returns to the Cambridgeshire Fens!

    A glorious day at Soham for the British National Ploughing Championships held on the farm of Mr and Mrs Eric Day (to whom very grateful thanks are definitely due). It was a real treat for an old farm boy like me.

    The two-day event seems to be bigger than ever. It is organised by the Society of Ploughmen and their indefatigable chief, Mr Ken Chappell, and draws participants, spectators and trade stands from the whole country.

    Because of my own distant ploughing past (I used to turn over a lot of acres in my younger days and was also for a period president of the Burwell and District Agricultural Discussion Society that annually ran a ploughing match in the area) and my more recent past when I ploughed at matches until a very few years ago with a beautiful pair of American Belgian mares, my attention was initially and inevitably drawn to the vintage tractors and ploughs and even more so to the horse ploughing plots. The horses, their ploughmen and the work being done was wonderful to behold, but my greatest pleasure was seeing a lovely pair of French Comtois horses for, with their chestnut body colour and flaxen manes and tails, they reminded me so much of my American Belgians, now sadly deceased. I had never come across the Comtois before and, having returned home, I looked up the breed on 'Google,' as one does, and I found the following information on Wikipedia -

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comtois_(horse)

    There are pictures on that website as well and readers will soon see why I describe the horses as 'lovely.'

    I bumped into several folk I knew including Les and Judy Christopher of the Eastern Counties Heavy Horse Association and my former farming colleague and very good friend, Mr Harvey Harrison, who was chairman of the Newmarket (Cambridgeshire) magistrates and now has his own road haulage business.

    I was pleased to see prominently placed among the trade stands that of Ben Burgess & Co. The firm sells John Deere tractors and machinery and was started in 1931 by Sue's late uncle, Mr Ben Burgess (1902 - 2000). Ben's first marriage (in 1928, at St. Martin's Church, Exning) was to Sue's greatly beloved Auntie Pearle (née Catchpole), also sadly no longer with us. The much-enlarged company is now run by Ben and Pearle's grandson and Sue's first cousin once removed, Mr Ben Turner, and, though headquartered in Norfolk, this very successful young entrepreneur opened big new premises at Exning in 2003. (Ben didn't know at the time that his grandparents had been married at Exning church all those years before). Mr James Paice, our present M.P., cut a ribbon to declare the new premises open in July of that year.

    Harvey Harrison quizzed me again about my standing for Parliament in South East Cambridgeshire at the next General Election. I give the same answer to all such queries and it is, 'Yes, it's likely, but, no, it's not decided yet.' It's what's called a 'holding' reply!

    ReplyDelete
  121. Generously supportive messages continue to come in:

    So James Paice is tipped for the Minister of Agriculture, while highly productive fen is turned into a wasteland under his nose, eh? The only thing that I can say is that all those wretched ponies are adding fertility to the soil ready for it to be returned to production in the future. A sort of modern Norfolk four crop rotation. There is a clause in their Vision that says the land can be returned to agricultural use if there is a future need. Bring it on!

    Sylvie

    ReplyDelete
  122. Some might say that Sue and I are 'sad,' but, provided we don't have to go out, there's nothing we like better of an evening than reading, and, in addition, on Saturdays we usually nod off after listening to Richard Spendlove's excellent two-hour 'phone-in programme (from 9 until 11) on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Mr Spendlove is unique in local radio broadcasting in that he has a world-wide audience through the internet and a great personal following in Cambridgeshire and the South and East of the country due to his considerable charm and despite his forthright opinions, which he is not scared of sharing with his listeners.

    Anyway, at about 10.35 p.m. Richard introduced yet another topic for his listeners to get their teeth into - the very vexed and controversial suggestion that, if the Conservatives are returned to power at the next General Election, they will 'un-ban' fox hunting, hare coursing, etc. Well, of course, I couldn't resist calling in and, when I was 'on-air,' I gave him my usual line, namely, that whilst I was and am not naturally a 'banner,' I was and am against 'un-banning' these disgusting so-called 'sports,' that we British had led the way in banning the slave trade and in banning slavery in the Empire, that we had led the way in banning bear baiting and cock fighting, and that we had collectively (through the more enlightened of our law-makers) led the way in banning hunting and hare coursing.

    I was pleased to hear several subsequent callers support my line. We must continue to make progress and not let our civilisation take a backward step.

    What I did not say on-air was that I know these Tory people well and they expected at Manchester that young Nick Herbert, the shadow DEFRA Secretary, was going to give the Tories' much-heralded hunting pledge to provide Government time for a vote to un-ban the so-called 'sports' of hunting and hare coursing. And, when he didn't, presumably because he was frit, they must have been pretty wild, for these people - Nick Herbert himself and the rest of them - are perverts. They derive perverted pleasure from the chase and the kill. They sicken me. I will work here in South East Cambridgeshire to outvote them and to prevent them ever practising their perversions again.

    For a re-hearing of the Richard Spendlove programme go to -

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p004mb7g/Richard_Spendlove_10_10_2009/

    ReplyDelete
  123. From today's Sunday Telegraph:

    'Hunt supporters in new clash with Tories over repeal of ban

    Hunt supporters have clashed with the Tory party over its plans for the repeal of the controversial hunting ban.

    By Melissa Kite, Deputy Political Editor

    Countryside campaigners have warned of a “firestorm” if the Conservatives fail to force through a flagship government bill to overthrow the controversial ban.

    They fear that David Cameron is close to reneging on a promise he made last year to throw the full weight of a future Tory Government behind the repeal the Hunting Act which makes it illegal to hunt with dogs.

    Senior Tory figures have told The Sunday Telegraph that the major change in party policy is under active consideration by the shadow cabinet. They fear that a new Conservative government could find itself bogged down in parliament if it tried to force through the legislation.

    But the suggestion of a change in policy has caused deep concern among countryside and hunting campaigners.

    One leading hunt supporter said: “There will be a firestorm if it is not a government bill.”

    Hunt supporters have been pouring into marginal seats to help Conservative candidates campaign. Many could withdraw their support if they do not believe the Conservative leader is fully committed to a bill that will work.

    When an aide of Mr Cameron hinted to journalists last year that hunting would not be a priority, several major donors threatened to withdraw millions of pounds of party funding.

    The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the shadow cabinet is considering using a private member’s bill instead of a government bill, to overthrow the ban.

    Campaigners fear that the bill could be vulnerable to wrecking amendments from anti-hunt campaigners and could run out of time.

    The shadow cabinet member in charge of hunting last night confirmed that the party was considering the move. Nick Herbert, the shadow environment secretary, said: “We are working up various options about how we will do repeal.

    “We will give time for a vote on repeal but we have also said we don’t intend to waste parliamentary time on this. We haven’t said what form repeal would take in terms of a bill.”

    He added: “I’m aware of the distinction between a private member’s bill and a government bill but I don’t think it is sensible to rule out options.”

    Mr Herbert said it was unlikely that the manifesto would spell out how the bill would be piloted and would simply repeat the pledge to offer MPs “a free vote”.

    One frontbencher involved in negotiations over planned Tory legislation said: “It’s better if this is a private member’s bill.” The senior MP said the party might also take hare coursing out of the repeal bill so that the practice of chasing a hare with dogs purely for sport, which is seen as more controversial than foxhunting, remained illegal.

    Dropping a Government bill would break a promise Mr Cameron made in February last year. He said: “We have a very clear position on this. There will be a free vote, and if there is a vote to repeal the hunting ban there will be a government bill in government time,” he said.

    A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: “The commitment to a free vote has been clear since the last Conservative manifesto and David Cameron himself has talked about that leading to a government bill in government time. We think this is the most open and sensible route for getting rid of what everyone accepts is a ridiculously bad piece of legislation and any other option is likely only to complicate what should be a straightforward process.”'

    A straw in the wind?

    ReplyDelete
  124. The Sunday Telegraph also carried the following editorial:

    "Don't break the pledge on hunting

    David Cameron appears to be toying with the idea of reneging on his promise to introduce as a Government Bill a measure repealing the Hunting Act, which makes it an offence to go hunting with dogs. We can understand the arguments in favour of that move: the country faces a terrible fiscal crisis that must be the government's first priority; there is a desperate need to unstitch incompetent or mistaken Labour policies on vital matters such as defence, health, and the welfare system; and the Cameron team is desperate to avoid giving ammunition to those who label its members "Tory toffs".

    Yet to listen to these siren voices would be a grievous error. It is not just that the Hunting Act was a thoroughly bad measure, motivated by class envy, which has proved utterly unworkable in practice. It is not even because those living in the country are strongly against the measure, which they rightly regard as a symbol of the neglect of and hostility towards the countryside prevalent on the Labour benches (overwhelmingly populated by urbanites). It is that the ban is one of the most egregious examples of Labour's authoritarian determination to prevent ordinary people from living their lives in the ways they choose.

    For the Tory leadership to break its pledge would send a signal that the new administration was happy to live with a far greater degree of meddling in the private lives of ordinary citizens than millions of us find tolerable. Indeed, it will be in the hope of electing a more tolerant, less restrictive government that many people will vote Conservative at the next election. They will feel profoundly let down if the hunting ban is consigned to the lottery of the private members' ballot. Mr Cameron should keep his promise to have a Government Bill in Government time."

    Readers are encouraged to comment on-line, and one did:

    "If Cameron cant [sic] stand his ground on this issue he's not worthy of our trust. Robert"

    So I commented in response:

    "If Cameron cant stand his ground on this issue he's not worthy of our trust."

    "Typical. Even if Cameron is a genius and even if he becomes a good and wise Prime Minister, 'Robert' says 'he's not worthy of our trust' unless he brings back hunting and hare coursing.

    Something was certainly absent from the pre-election Tory Conference at Manchester. I know these people (the 'Roberts' of this world who won't give us their surnames) and they expected that young Nick Herbert was going to give the Tory hunting pledge to provide Government time for a vote to un-ban the 'sports' of hunting and hare coursing. And, when he didn't, presumably because he was frit, they must have been pretty wild, for these people - Nick Herbert himself and the rest of them - are perverts. They derive perverted pleasure from the chase and the kill. They sicken me. I will work here in South East Cambridgeshire to outvote them and to prevent them ever practising their perversions again.

    We British led the way in banning the slave trade and in banning slavery in the Empire, we led the way in banning bear baiting and cock fighting, and we led the way in banning hunting and hare coursing. We must continue to make progress and not let our civilisation take a backward step.

    'Robert,' take note."

    ReplyDelete
  125. Headline in today's (London) Times: 'Brown announces £16 billion asset sell-off'

    A good candidate for a sell-off is state- or local authority-owned agricultural land.

    I was Chairman of the Finance Committee of Cambridgeshire County Council in the late 1970s and I tried to get the Council to sell its smallholdings to the sitting tenants. The Council's smallholdings (now called 'County Farms') amounted then to some 1,500 with tenants renting farm land totalling around 47,000 acres (more than any other county in the country).

    I and the late County Councillor Robert James, the Conservative leader, came to the conclusion that county councils, faced with a multiplicity of problems in the provision of the statutory services, need not necessarily be in the land-owning business.

    I recall Cllr. James and another senior colleague, Cllr. David Huckle, comparing Cambridgeshire County Council's ownership of so much land and its provision of a small number of tenancies in a given year with the implausibility of its owning and sponsoring, say, corner shops.

    Of course, the situation was only too clear to some of us and my preference was to give all of the tenants a 'right to buy' their holdings at an appropriate discount, along the lines of Margaret Thatcher's 'right to buy' for those renting council houses. This would have created hundreds of new owner-occupiers and would have benefited the council's coffers by many millions of pounds.

    We ran into resistance from the more 'paternalist' Conservative councillors and from Labour and other councillors who actually believed in public ownership of agricultural land, but the opposition of those listed above combined with extreme conservatism on the part of the then leaders of the N.F.U. stymied our ideas.

    So we lost the crucial vote in 1980. How about having another go now?

    What has happened since has not been to our liking, for hundreds of the holdings have been amalgamated into larger ones (which is fine for those getting the larger holdings, but not so good for those aspiring to a step on the farming ladder), and some farm houses and land have been sold off to incomers or to larger neighbours.

    There was even an under-cover sale of one farm, Hurdle Hall at Reach, hitherto farmed by two excellent tenants, to the National Trust, the purchase price being £300,000 for about 103 acres and including the site of a farm house and a semi-derelict barn. Those 103 acres are destined to be a small part of a large jungle, along with the rest of the Trust's land that is to comprise the so-called 'Wicken Vision.'

    Thousands of acres of the finest food-producing land in England are to become a waterlogged jungle of brambles, elder bushes, ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles and it's already happening within a mile or so of my home.

    Go to -

    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SaveOurFens/

    ReplyDelete
  126. It was nice to have a night in and for Sue and I to do what we both enjoy enormously - reading.

    I am re-reading the diaries of the late Labour cabinet minister, Mr Richard Crossman (1907 - 1974). The diaries are in three thick volumes and, though I have had (and read) the first two from when they were first published, it wasn't until recently that I acquired the third which covers the period when Crossman was Social Services Secretary in the Harold Wilson government that lost office in June, 1970.

    I was greatly surprised - because I didn't know it before - to discover (on page 865 of volume three) that Mr Wilson was insistent (in March, 1970) on including a Bill to abolish hare coursing in his government's forward agenda. Presumably the 1970 intention fell foul of Conservative Party opposition upon Wilson's losing office. (It appears that Mr Wilson tried again in 1975, he having become Prime Minister again in 1974, but he was stopped again by the then Conservative-dominated House of Lords).

    Having read this I reflected upon my farming life from 1970 onwards. It was a life plagued by hare coursing, carried on by the most awful thugs one would ever wish not to meet, but they were 'encouraged' in their so-called 'sport' by so-called 'legal' (with the landowners' permission) hare coursers such as those involved with the old Isle of Ely Coursing Club. The Secretary of the latter would telephone me every year to seek permission to course hares on my land. I consistently refused but the 'legal' coursers were invariably to be seen a week or so afterwards on some of my then neighbours' land. I watched their activities through field glasses and was as sure as I could be that some of the participants would be seen again in the near future coursing 'illegally' (without the landowners' permission) on my land and that of others of my neighbours who had never given their permission. And so it came to pass - on hundreds of occasions.

    This was one of the reasons why I retired from large-scale farming in 1995. I virtually gave up fighting these vile people. But it's different now - as I have already reported - in that, following the banning of hare coursing in 2004 and the initiation of 'Operation Dornier' by the Cambridgeshire police against illegal hare coursers, the incidence of this so-called 'sport' has greatly diminished. Police Inspector Andy Bartlett has confirmed that this is so and it is a cause for great rejoicing. Everyone knows now that this so-called 'sport' is illegal: there is no longer any confusion nor misunderstanding of what was 'legal' and what was 'illegal.' It is all banned, by law. I rejoice greatly, but I will continue the fight against anyone who wants to 'un-ban' the 2004 ban.

    ReplyDelete
  127. The following report appeared in yesterday's Cambridge News:

    "Soldiers finish the long journey home

    Soldiers who spent six "arduous" months dealing with explosive devices in Afghanistan have been welcomed home by their families.

    More than 75 soldiers from the Royal Engineer Corps and Royal Logistic Corps, who specialised in bomb search and disposal, returned to Carver Barracks, Wimbish, near Saffron Walden, yesterday.

    The soldiers, who were part of the Joint Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Group, were responsible for tackling all explosive ordnance and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) within Helmand Province.

    Among the sappers who returned were four female soldiers.

    One of them, Captain Charlie Sklenar, who is second in command of 58 Squadron, said it had been an "immensely busy" period.

    She said: "We knew we were facing a busy summer. They had nine months preparing for it so they knew what they were going to and they have done us proud.

    "There has been a marked increase in the number of IEDs but we knew what we were going to do."

    According to Army sources the Taliban had diverted from their "conventional" tactics leading to a larger number of IEDs being used.

    Within the past six months there have been more than 1,400 reports of IEDs in the Helmand Province alone.

    Captain Sklenar said the soldiers who returned today, mainly from 58 Field Squadron (EOD), which is part of the 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD), searched for "high-risk" areas and disposed of "conventional munitions".

    With the rest of the group, they were also tasked with training more than 20,000 Nato personnel on the threat of IEDs. Five soldiers from the squadron were seriously injured in the conflict.

    The men and women who returned yesterday afternoon are due to receive service medals at a ceremony on Thursday."

    And I have written the following letter to the Cambridge News:

    Dear Editor,

    It is right for us to rejoice in the safe return of our soldiers to Carver Barracks from Afghanistan but we also need to spare a thought for the loved ones of those who haven't returned and for those who are still out there.

    It is also right for us to recall why we have been involved in that benighted 'nation' since 2001. Our men and women went there to support our American allies and to help them to 'smoke out' (George W. Bush's words) Saudi-born Osama bin Laden. As regards the latter matter, no success has been reported thus far.

    We also went there to help with 'nation building' and, as John Reid said, 'We hope we will leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot.'

    But, with lots of shots fired and 221 dead Brits to date, are we perhaps entitled to ask, 'How many more are to be sacrificed before we and the Americans see sense?'

    It is very evident that the Afghans don't want any of us in their country and, though there is now increasing danger from an unstable and nuclear-armed neighbouring Pakistan, I respectfully suggest that the advice of such as General Sir Richard Dannatt be ignored and that our men and women be brought home as soon as possible.

    And, though I may seem somewhat old-fashioned, I do not like the idea of women going to war at all.

    Yours sincerely,

    Geoffrey Woollard.

    ReplyDelete
  128. I am trying my hardest to understand the present woes of MPs but their collective performance today beggars belief. During the semi-pantomime of Prime Minister's Questions, the House of Commons was packed. During the following Statement by the Prime Minister on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the House was less than half full. Is this a measure of how much these people are interested and do half of them not care about what is happening to our men and women presently serving in the hell-hole of Helmand?

    ReplyDelete
  129. Letter written to The Times and the Daily Telegraph:

    Dear Sir,

    The picture of Polish Konik stallions fighting at Wicken in the Cambridgeshire Fens may have intrigued your readers.

    The Koniks were brought in by the National Trust and, along with Highland cattle from Scotland, are supposed to be helping to re-create the old Fens on thousands of acres of hitherto fine food-producing land.

    These 'native' breeds are frightening the lives out of the native Fen villagers and are regarded as a sick joke by food-producing farmers.

    Yours faithfully,

    Geoffrey Woollard.

    ReplyDelete
  130. This article, along with a large picture, appeared in today's Cambridge News:

    Stallions spar in the fens

    It may look like the plains of America but incredibly this rare shot of two wild stallions sparring was snapped in the Cambridgeshire countryside.

    The two konik horses were spotted fighting on the wetlands of Wicken Fen just 10 miles away from Cambridge.

    The stallions reared up and boxed with their fore legs in a sight which has rarely been seen in Britain for 4,000 years, when the last herds of wild horses roamed these fields.

    The koniks, which share many characteristics of the now- extinct Tarpan, the original wild horse of Europe's forests, are one of the largest animals ever to be introduced in to the UK.

    They have been imported to help manage the 325-acre nature reserve.

    Carol Laidlow, conservation grazing warden at Wicken Fen, said: "It is a pretty amazing sight to see two stallions fighting like this in Britain and it gets the heart racing. Sometimes the stallions are just playing and enjoying a bit of rough and tumble, but other times it could be a bachelor stallion challenging the dominant stallion."

    ReplyDelete
  131. And I have sent the following letter to the Editor of the Cambridge News:

    Polish Konik horses in the Cambridgeshire Fens - a sick joke!

    Dear Editor,

    Geoff Robinson was extremely lucky to get close enough to photograph the wild Polish Konik stallions fighting at Wicken Fen. He was also fortunate that they went after one another and not him.

    Other visitors to the National Trust's extensive lands in the Fens should be very wary. The Trust itself advises that these animals should be observed 'from a respectful distance.' A single stallion, even from a tame breed, can be unpredictable. Several stallions, of a wild and untamed type, can be dangerous.

    Your readers may be wondering why we have wild horses in the Cambridgeshire Fens. The Koniks were brought in at great expense by the National Trust and, along with Highland cattle from Scotland, are supposed to be helping to re-create the old Fens on thousands of acres of hitherto fine food-producing land.

    These 'native' breeds are frightening the lives out of the native Fen villagers and are regarded as a sick joke by food-producing farmers.

    Yours sincerely,

    Geoffrey Woollard.

    ReplyDelete
  132. A quick and encouraging response:

    It is a pity that one of the stallions did not kick him along with the NT off 'our' land and leave us alone to enjoy what we have and keep it as it is.

    Sophie

    ReplyDelete
  133. And another:

    Keep it up Geoffrey.

    I love horses, but in the right place. These obviously are not.

    Best wishes with your campaign.

    Maggie

    ReplyDelete
  134. Another helpful and thoughtful message has just come in:

    Dear Geoffrey,

    I also saw the article on the horses and you are certainly right, on another issue, regarding the infamous bridge over the Reach Lode.

    As you know I have lived in Lode and Longmeadow a long time so I know the area quite well, it occurred to me that this bridge which apparently is for people to walk from Anglesey Abbey to Wicken Fen and I assume to return to their transport at the abbey. At a guess I would say that the journey on foot is a good 8 to 10 mile hike over the current footpath system either way, to actually walk this both ways would take a reasonably fit person I'd say 5 to 6 hours at least, as Anglesey Abbey doesn't open until 10.30am usually and closes at 4.30pm most of the time it doesn't leave much time to enjoy Wicken Fen, or have a break along the way and return to the Abbey before closing time to collect their vehicles. Most people I would assume would drive to Wicken Fen anyway in order to have enough time to spend there taking in the scenery etc., or getting trampled by some mad horse or steer. Hence no real need fotr the bridge at all.

    Just my thoughts on what is becoming quite an issue.

    Regards

    Gordon Brown
    Longmeadow.

    ReplyDelete
  135. This report appeared in today's Ely Weekly News:

    Bridge to fens gets go-ahead

    National Trust bosses are celebrating after the latest phase of the Wicken Fen Vision was approved.

    Planning chiefs have given the green light to proposals to build a new bridge and cycle route over Reach Lode as part of the vision's "spine route".

    Last month, East Cambridgeshire District Council's planning committee deferred the plans until a thorough site visit had been conducted.

    But after assessing the impact the work would have on the area, the scheme was given the go-ahead last Wednesday.

    Wicken Fen property manager, Chris Soans, said: "This is great news and really helps us improve public access to the countryside.

    "The bridge will provide a direct link to Anglesey Abbey and open up access to a network of walks and trails for local residents and visitors to explore the vision lands."

    With work expected to start early next year, the three-metre wide bridge will be built over Reach Lode, in Swaffham Prior, where a cycle track from High Bridge to Straight Drove will also be constructed.

    Plans to build two wetland habitat areas and temporary buildings to help with the constriction work were also approved.

    The scheme is part of a £2million project to transform former wetlands between Cambridge and Soham into a "green lung" for wildlife, local people and visitors.

    But the vision has been at the centre of controversy, with residents blasting the transformation of prime agricultural land into a "jungle".

    Geoffrey Woollard, who launched the Save our Fens petition in a bid to halt the vision in its tracks, described the planners' decision as "disappointing".

    He added: "There are many more rounds to come but the National Trust is extremely powerful. It will attempt to bulldoze more of this scheme through against the declared wishes of local people.

    "There is no proven need for this monstrous and nonsense bridge over Reach Lode."

    But the National Trust says the bridge has been designed to blend into the landscape.

    ReplyDelete
  136. A good buddy writes:

    Hi Geoffrey,

    Were there ever wild Polish horses in the Fens? I don't remember reading about them in any historical account of Fenland!!!!!

    I also thought that Highland cattle were built to withstand cold weather and poor grazing on hard land. Aren't they likely to be very uncomfortable during our hot dry summers on a diet of rich grass and on soft winter ground?

    Maybe the RSPCA should take a look??

    A

    ReplyDelete
  137. And another has written ironically:

    Oh Geoffrey.......

    How wonderful.......

    C x

    ReplyDelete
  138. And another report was in today's Ely Standard:

    Bridge plan approved

    Plans for a new bridge over Reach Lode have been approved by councillors - despite calls from residents to scrap the project. Members of the district council's planning committee voted on Wednesday last week that the National Trust would be allowed to press ahead with plans for the 120ft bridge, which will link Anglesey Abbey to Wicken Fen. The plans include provision for two wetland areas and a new 2km cycle track, but the decision was greeted with concern by local residents and councillors who labelled the bridge "obtrusive" and "unacceptable".

    ReplyDelete
  139. Followed by a first-rate letter to the Ely Standard from Tony Pearson of Prickwillow:

    Who's thought of crops?

    I attended the Harvest Festival/Civic Service in Ely Cathedral on Sunday. The Bishop delivered an interesting address. Sticking with the Harvest theme, he spoke about farming and food production in this country.

    In transpires that next year, for the first time ever, we will not be self sufficient in the production of wheat. The reason he gave was that on top of what is required for food there is now the added pressure of crops that are needed for the production of bio-fuels. It appears that there is just enough land available in the right places to produce the increased tonnage required.

    I wonder how this fits in with two local schemes, which are presently being discussed. I refer to the expansion of Wicken Fen and the Ely Masterplan, both of which involved the removal of agricultural land from production, the former returning to its undrained state and the latter creating a Country Park. These would be good ideas if the space was available but unfortunately, on the authority of the Bishop, it is not.

    I do hope that all the civic dignitaries that were present took his word to heart.

    Tony Pearson
    Ely Road
    Prickwillow

    ReplyDelete
  140. A regular correspondent writes - briefly and to the point:

    Well done G

    Highlights the indigenous management approach being undertaken.

    D

    ReplyDelete
  141. And another similarly:

    Dear Geoffrey,

    Hear! Hear!

    Janet

    ReplyDelete
  142. Yet another short and sweet message:

    Keep it up.

    Yours aye,

    Don

    ReplyDelete
  143. Another of my relatives is even more 'gloom and doom' than me:

    Hi Geoffrey

    I had no idea that these horses and cattle had been shipped into the Fens. The more I hear, the more I wonder if the National Trust has a conscience at all. Perhaps their next step will be to depopulate the Fens entirely, so they can recreate the Iron Age landscape. If you hear they are insisting on farmers planting Emma Wheat you’ll know what’s coming!!

    Much love, Dot

    ReplyDelete
  144. I'm not a big fan of the Daily Telegraph. Indeed, I have threatened several times to stop our subscription. But today's issue contains an article by Jeff Randall that I could have written myself - if I were a better writer. At the risk of infringing copyright, I reproduce it here (in two parts), as follow:

    'Make Britain safer - pull our troops out of Afghanistan

    The real danger lies within our unpoliced borders - not from the Taliban, argues Jeff Randall.

    Having been fed so many lies by a discredited Government – weapons of mass destruction, immigration numbers, education standards, the Lisbon Treaty, boom and bust – we risk a collapse into "falsehood fatigue". This is the point at which, says comedienne Lily Tomlin, our accelerating cynicism fails to match strides with official mendacity. We simply can't keep up.

    It's a particularly gloomy view of the relationship between voters and ministers, highlighting the electorate's vulnerability to pork-pie politics. There is one issue, however, where Average Joe appears to be ahead of the game: Afghanistan. For, no matter how many times Gordon Brown tells us that British soldiers are dying in Helmand to make safe the streets of London, polls keep showing that a majority rejects his assertion.

    Ever since 2006, when John Reid, then defence secretary, offered hope that our troops could be home within three years – an outcome that seemed unlikely even then – the Government has been on the wrong side of public opinion. With more than 200 fatalities, plus scores of terrible injuries, the true price of our soldiers' engagement is being counted in cemeteries and hospitals across these isles.

    Decent people are sick of the carnage, not because they have no stomach for the fight, but because they cannot fathom what the fight is for. In desperation to justify a textbook example of mission creep, the Ministry of Defence has resorted to emotional blackmail. The remarkably unimpressive Bob Ainsworth suggests that in failing to show enough support for the war, some parts of the public are wallowing in "defeatism".

    This is offensive rubbish. Support for the Armed Forces remains widespread and undiminished. What has cracked, however, is enthusiasm for their task, largely because too few of us have the faintest notion of what victory looks like. The idea that, after a bloody military campaign, we can leave behind a "normalised", democratic Afghanistan, free from the Taliban, with sufficient resources and appetite to police itself, tests credulity to destruction.

    For those who seek to dismiss this view as the bellyaching of limp-wristed liberals, I point you to two MPs from either side of the Commons, both of whom served in the Army: Eric Joyce (Labour, Falkirk) and Adam Holloway (Conservative, Gravesham). Mr Joyce resigned recently as a parliamentary aide over government strategy, while Mr Holloway refers to Afghanistan as "a giant film set for al-Qaeda propaganda".

    The corrupt Karzai administration in Kabul will never be able to contain the Taliban on its own. General Sir David Richards, head of the Army, gave the game away in August when he conceded that Britain could be involved in Afghanistan for another "30 to 40 years". This is the nightmare scenario.

    At the heart of the horror is a deceit: that those who would terrorise Britain use Afghanistan as a preferred meeting point, thereby affording us the opportunity to pick them off until their threat has been eliminated. Believing this is easy, but only after an encounter with Afghanistan's most lucrative crop. Perhaps our leaders are chasing the dragon. How else do we explain their folly?

    ReplyDelete
  145. (continued)

    Global terrorism operates beyond traditional bases. It is fluid, amorphous, drifting seamlessly from cave to capital city. To conflate al-Qaeda, a terror group sans frontieres, with the Taliban in Afghanistan is to misrepresent wilfully the deadly challenge we face.

    Taliban leaders, according to Sir David, are "ruthless fanatics who will stoop to anything in the pursuit of power, readily killing by design children and women in order to terrorise." True, but they are not marching down Whitehall. Hitherto they have shown little interest in bombing overseas. By contrast, al-Qaeda exports violence. It infiltrates points of weakness. It does not need Afghanistan when there is a welcome in the Horn of Africa. The world has plenty of "failed states" with an open door to our enemies.

    Reza Aslan, an academic at the University of California, makes the point in his book How To Win A Cosmic War that appears to have been deliberately ignored by Downing Street: "This battle will take place… not in the mountains of Afghanistan but in the suburbs of Paris, the slums of East London, and the cosmopolitan cities of Berlin and New York. It is a battle that will be waged not against men with guns but against boys with computers."

    If we are to protect ourselves, we need to confront a domestic embarrassment: we have allowed, indeed encouraged, a radicalised version of Islam to grow within our borders. The bombers who brought devastation to London's public transport system in July 2005 came from Aylesbury, Dewsbury and Leeds. Securing safety at home requires effective policing and round-the-clock focus by intelligence agencies.

    We must re-establish authority over who comes to this country. Labour's shameful abandonment of border controls has led to tens of thousands of "undocumented" asylum seekers settling in the United Kingdom. Who are these people? How do we know that they wish us no harm? I'm sure that the vast majority are law-abiding, but it takes only one to create mayhem.

    A well-meaning desire to be an open and civilised society has stripped us of powers of self-protection. As The Sunday Telegraph revealed last weekend, dangerous foreign criminals, including killers and sex attackers, cannot be deported, even though the Home Office seeks to do so. They claim that life would be intolerable in their native hell-holes and, thanks to the legal perversion that is the Human Rights Act, we have to put up with them.

    The invasion of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan have not made Britain safer – quite the reverse. The Government was warned by MI5's top brass that these military adventures would damage our national security. Latent enemies have been given fresh motivation for revenge strikes in Britain.

    According to the Royal United Services Institute, Britain must pay the financial and human cost of conflict in Afghanistan, "or accept that it has lost its presumed status and influence, and relax and be a normal European country that does not take hard power seriously."

    This is a flawed analysis. Even in straitened times, Britain should take hard power very seriously, but it must be power with purpose. We have lost sight of what ours is in Afghanistan. Expected by Nato partners (excluding the Americans) to do more than our fair share of heavy lifting, British troops are dying for political vanity – to save face in London and Washington.

    This week, the Prime Minister promised an extra 500 soldiers for the campaign, but gave himself some wriggle room: he must be satisfied they have the appropriate training and equipment. This invites us to infer that hitherto such a basic condition has not always been in place.

    The sooner we get out of Afghanistan, the better.'

    ReplyDelete
  146. A dear friend from Swaffham Bulbeck writes:

    Oh Geoffrey! what will they think of next. I for one will not be going for a walk in the Fens.

    M.B.

    ReplyDelete
  147. And another very helpful lady says - tongue in cheek, I hope:

    Maybe they could re-introduce bears, wild boar and wolves whilst they're at it...!

    Mary

    ReplyDelete
  148. I have a cold. I hate colds. One would have thought that all of the medical advances that we have seen would have included a cold cure. But, no such luck!

    ReplyDelete
  149. There is seemingly endless speculation in the media as to the likely long-term effect of Sir Thomas Legg's investigation into MPs' allowances and Sir Christopher Kelly's soon-to-be-published recommendations as to the future. Sir Christopher Kelly is said to be considering whether Members should be prevented from employing relatives to assist them. As I am a likely independent candidate in South East Cambridgeshire, I have expressed some views and, if elected as the constituency's MP, I would want to have sensible and useful assistance and secretarial arrangements in order to serve the electorate. The most obvious person to assist me is my wife, Sue, who is already well-known in her own right, and the most obvious person to be a secretary is another younger relative. Both would have the huge advantage from day one of having my full confidence and a full knowledge of the constituency. In my case at least, it is, therefore, most unhelpful and not necessarily in the public interest for Sir Christopher Kelly to recommend that relatives should not be employed by MPs.

    ReplyDelete
  150. Yesterday there was published (on the Daily Telegraph website but not in the Daily Telegraph) the following:

    "Nick Herbert: There is a compelling case to get the hunting ban off the statute book

    By Nick Herbert, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

    Published: 9:00AM BST 18 Oct 2009

    Labour's contempt for the countryside is so brazen that rural communities have become almost inured to it. The Government's assault on rural England has been relentless. Thousands of rural post offices and hundreds of village schools have been closed. District hospital services have been downgraded and rural police stations lost. Funding is siphoned away from shire councils while regional quangos usurp local decision-making.

    People have marched and protested. They have travelled up to Westminster to lobby Parliament. But Ministers are deaf to the countryside. Rural communities have been denied a voice, and power has been taken away from local people.

    Of course the most symbolic act of Labour's arrogant disregard for rural communities was the abolition of hunting. One of only seven laws to be driven through under the Parliament Act, for the late Tony Banks MP, the abolition of hunting was "totemic". It was excused as an animal welfare measure, yet Lord Burns, who chaired the Government's inquiry into Hunting with Dogs, "struggle[d] to see how the ... Act ... passes the Minister's test that the legislation should be soundly based on evidence and principle". Indeed, the same Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary later admitted to this newspaper that "... the struggle over the Bill was not just about animal welfare and personal freedom, it was class war."

    At the time lawyers predicted that the legislation, widely regarded as a dog's breakfast, would be unworkable. And so it has proved. The law which makes it an offence for your dog to chase a hare, but not a rabbit, has seen only nine prosecutions of registered hunts in four years, just three of which have been successful. The Crown Prosecution Service has all but given up pursuing the cases and the Association of Chief Police Officers say that enforcement is "definitely not a policing priority." Hunt membership has actually increased.

    Everyone knows that this law is an ass. It has not saved the life of a single fox. Paradoxically, only the League Against Cruel Sports clings to the belief that the Act is working and should remain in force, occasionally launching a vexatious private prosecution to prove the point.

    Some argue that the Hunting Act is so ineffective that it might as well be left on the Statute Book. But this is bad law, and bad laws should be repealed. While prosecutions have so far mainly failed, it is the professional hunt staff, whose livelihoods depend on their employment, who have found themselves in the dock and who still fear arrest, with all the worry and opprobrium that very public and drawn out prosecutions entail.

    Above all, the Act sits with ID cards, the attempt to introduce 42 day detention and the removal of trial by jury for fraud cases as an affront to civil liberties. It is but one of Labour's laws that have overridden individual rights and asserted the power of the State.

    ReplyDelete
  151. (continued)

    For all these reasons, there is a compelling case to sweep this law off the Statute Book. That is why David Cameron has said that, if we are elected, we will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time. There will be no watering down or retreat from this pledge, which will be repeated in our election manifesto.

    Tony Blair used up 700 hours of Parliamentary time on hunting, far more than was devoted to the invasion of Iraq, and he prevaricated over the issue. We have no intention of making the same mistake. There is so much that we will need to do for the countryside, let alone the country: restoring respect for rural people; returning power to rural communities; recognising the social value in important local services; reviving the rural economy; rebuilding British farming; tackling regulation and paring down the rural quangos.

    There is an important agenda, too, to promote conservation of wildlife and habitats against a background of biodiversity decline and growing pressures from development and climate change. We must continue to enhance animal welfare and – as I argued this week – do far more to protect endangered species.

    Leaving this legislation on the statute book might salve the consciences of those who believe that passing a law is bound to achieve a good outcome, but in reality it will do nothing to further a serious agenda for animal welfare or wildlife conservation.

    The defence of liberty should never be a low priority. Allowing the new Parliament an early opportunity to revisit a discredited law will not be a distraction from our wider agenda: it will simply be the right thing to do.

    Labour's attack on hunting was an act of spite. It attempted to create two nations, dividing town and country. It treated the rural minority with contempt, bordering on hatred.

    I will certainly vote for repeal, and so I hope will a majority of the new Commons. And with no more ado we can then move on, forging a positive agenda for conservation and the countryside, and putting the politics of prejudice and division behind us."

    ReplyDelete
  152. And I have commented as follows:

    Nick Herbert (whom I used to know when he was a junior at Conservative Central Office) is very much mistaken in conflating rural post offices, village schools, district hospital services and local police stations with his persistent public passion and only-too-real pet subject - that of 'un-banning' hunting and hare coursing.

    He is also terribly out-of-tune with enlightened rural electors and, in pursuing his prey, he is wrong electorally and wrong politically. He is also wrong morally and the people can see this.

    He and his closest closet should be shoved to the outer margins of a party that pretends and purports to be fit for purpose in government.

    If he and the others in his closest closet are not soon shoved out, the Tories will for ever be electorally, politically and morally condemned as the truly nasty party.

    ReplyDelete
  153. From the Cambridge News:

    Fan starts petition in support of fen project

    jordan.day@cambridge-news.co.uk

    A petition has been launched in support of the controversial Wicken Fen Vision.

    Ely resident Ben Gibbs has spearheaded an online campaign asking the Prime Minister to support the National Trust’s multi-million pound scheme.

    Already, more than 620 people have signed up.

    The 100-year vision is part of a £2 million project to transform former wetlands between Cambridge and Soham into a "green lung" for wildlife, local people and visitors.

    But the plans have been at the centre of controversy for years, with residents blasting the transformation of prime agricultural land into a "jungle".

    Geoffrey Woollard, who is against the ambitious project, launched the Save our Fens petition earlier this year in a bid to halt the vision in its tracks.

    But Mr Gibbs, of John Amner Close, said the response to his petition "clearly demonstrates the level of public support for the plans".

    He said: "This will create a much-needed habitat for many threatened species of wildlife, helping reinstate the peat soils and reducing carbon loss.

    "In addition, the new reserve will create much-needed recreational space for residents of a county that has significantly less accessible countryside than the national average.

    "The vision will provide a new amenity for visitors on foot, cycle and horseback, creating a network of footpaths and circular routes, and eventually providing a safe and virtually traffic-free route from Cambridge to Ely."

    A recent investigation carried out by the National Trust showed that nearly 36 million cubic metres of soil have been lost from the vision area over the last 200 years through extensive agricultural practices.

    Mr Gibbs said: "At the end of the day, we are talking about a plan to transform a relatively small area of land into a nature reserve with important habitats for endangered wildlife and much needed recreational facilities for residents and visitors.

    "The National Trust consultations indicated a high level of public support, as does the number of people who have signed up for my petition."

    Only last week, the News reported how planning chiefs had given the green light to the National Trust to build the latest phase of the vision’s "spine route".

    East Cambridgeshire District Council has approved plans to build a three-metre wide bridge over Reach Lode, as well as a cycle track from High Bridge to Straight Drove.

    Plans to build two wetland habitat areas were also approved.

    To sign Mr Gibbs’ petition, visit http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/wickenfenvision/

    ReplyDelete
  154. Well, I ain't frit of opposition!

    The Cambridge News is seeking comments on the above and some of them follow:

    Come to your senses, Cambridgeshire, East Anglia and England!
    Posted By: Geoffrey Woollard on 20-Oct-2009
    I see that the National Trust has mobilised its people in support of the so-called 'Wicken Vision,' that the Trust is using Mr Ben Gibbs as its agent, and that quite a few of what I call 'the usual suspects' have signed up to Mr Gibbs's petition. I also see that Mr Gibbs is saying, 'the National Trust consultations indicated a high level of public support, as does the number of people who have signed up for my petition.' I respectfully suggest that the so-called consultations by the Trust were nothing more than an indoctrination exercise costing many thousands of pounds and much glossy paper. They did not succeed in convincing the people who are really threatened by this silly and costly scheme - those who live in and close by the ancient Fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach. And, of course, it is the food-growing that helps to feed the whole country that is also threatened by the Trust's advancing water and weeds. Come to your senses, Cambridgeshire, East Anglia and England!

    It's a £100 millions - and more!
    Posted By: Geoffrey Woollard on 20-Oct-2009
    It's not a '£2 million project': it's going to cost £100 millions - and more!

    Woollard - true to form!
    Posted By: Ben Gibbs on 20-Oct-2009
    Mr Woollard is quite wrong - and deeply offensive - to suggest that I am an "agent" of the National Trust. But this is true to form. When your views are as entrenched and politically motivated as his are, then of course you're going to defend them like a cornered fen tiger, throwing all manners and respect out of the window. I set up the petition because I - like the majority of people in the region - support the Trust's Vision for Wicken Fen, which would extend what is a beautiful reserve and provide residents and visitors alike with much needed recreational facilities. And, if I'm being honest about it, I also set it up because I was fed up of hearing Mr Woollard going on and on each week with the same worry-mongering misinformation. And here he goes again. At least he's no longer trying to pull the wool over our eyes with the ridiculous notion that the Vision threatens our food security.

    Mr Gibbs may not be an 'agent' but ....
    Posted By: Geoffrey Woollard on 20-Oct-2009
    Mr Gibbs may not be an 'agent' but the National Trust could have written his petition for him: it's in their sort of language. And, for the record, if we do lose so much of our best Fen land, our food security is bound to be at greater risk!

    [No Subject]
    Posted By: Dave on 20-Oct-2009
    Does the Trust Vision support the building of a ugly bridge around the Reach area that will be seen for miles around that is in the planning stages (well plans have been submitted) causeing the view around the Fens to be drasctically changed. If the bridge goes ahead then this bridge will be seen from miles around ruining the view of the surrounding areas and the area that the Trust want to protect.

    ReplyDelete
  155. And more:

    Wicken Fen Vision
    Posted By: Mary O'Toole on 20-Oct-2009
    The argument is being oversimplified and polarised...either you are in favour of nature reserves (most people are) or you are a proponent of unenvironmental farming. (most people are not) However most people are not aware of the implications for re-flooding the fen, nor of the great steps being made in agricultural practice to support wildlife. The reality of the situation is immensely complex. The fens, as a landscape, have provided food (for example fish and wildfowl which were exported to London) and sustainable building materials (sedge, rush, willow) for thousands of years. Draining began long before the Romans. Peatlands are only part of the fen, with highly fertile silt fen playing a part, and pockets of other geology forming 'islands'. Peat bogs only form over thousands of years, and are the product of specific climatic and biological conditions; they will not be re-instated just by allowing land to re-flood tomorrow. The Wicken Vision is being promoted largely by quangos without the necessity for public consultation, as 'reversion to nature' does not require any planning permission. Unless the 'Vision' is subject to public debate, through the normal planning process, such changes are profoundly undemocratic. Recent research at Durham university has shown that native species of mosquito are capable of acting as malarial vectors. Historically, the fens were plagued by 'ague' until the last drainage in the late 19th century. With the rise in global warming, is it wise to reinstate large areas of stagnant water which will become breeding grounds for vectors of malaria? (and possibly worse semi-tropical diseases which are reaching mainland Northern Europe) Such far-reaching changes to landscape should not occur without full public debate, especially as there are proposals to greatly increase the population by major housing development in this area. No-one appears to be requesting that the Norfolk Broads be allowed to fill in with peat! 'The Vision' may well be in the public good, but it should not happen piecemeal and by expoiting a loophole in planning law. Discussion at the highest public level and democratic debate is first required.

    ReplyDelete
  156. An old friend from when he lived at Swaffham Prior and when I was his County Councillor has written an excellent letter to the Cambridge News:

    Letters

    Value will soar

    Mr Juniper and Mr Woollard, when they discuss the Wicken Fen Vision programme, may wish to consider predictions made by Knight Frank (land agents) in their annual predictions.

    It is estimated the value of farmland will increase from a top price of £4,970 today to £10,000 in 2015. The surge in pricing is set to be driven by a shortage of quality farmland as the global population expands and demand for food increases.

    David Carrington
    Whitton Close
    Swavesey

    ReplyDelete
  157. Sue and I went last evening to a very well-attended meeeting of the Newmarket Local History Society held at 'The Stable' in the High Street (where the old Congregational Church used to stand - in Cambridgeshire!).

    Under the able chairmanship of Mr Eric Dunning, it appears that the Society is flourishing. We were there for a talk, illustrated by a wonderful slide show of old pictures, etc., given by our friend, Mr Rodney Vincent, formerly of Woodditton and now of Stuntney, near Ely.

    The talk was entitled 'Icewell Hill As it Was' and Rodney explained that, despite old Icewell Hill being a compact community prior to the 1960s, 'the powers that be' had decreed that the Georgian and Victorian houses and cottages should be demolished and blocks of flats put in their place.

    Sue - particularly Sue - and I knew something of this as Lt. Col. Arthur Herbert Catchpole (1880 - 1962), Sue's illustrious grandfather, lived with his second wife, Gladys (not Sue's grandmother, who had died in 1944), at The Red House, St. Mary's Square, probably the finest of all of the homes that were demolished.

    I had the privilege of meeting Col. Catchpole when I was courting Sue and, sadly, he was unable through ill-health, to attend our wedding at All Saints' Church, Newmarket, on the 21st of April, 1962. He died on the 20th of July in that same year. His obituary follows:

    Newspaper Cutting (Newmarket Journal) 26/7/1962:

    'Death of Col. A.H. Catchpole.

    The death occurred at Newmarket General Hospital on Friday, at the age of 81, of Lieut. Col. A. H. Catchpole, of Red House, St. Mary's Square, Newmarket, a well known and respected figure in the town. See obituary on page 3.

    Newmarket Loss; Death of Col. A. Catchpole.

    After many years of poor health, dating back to wounds he received in the first world war, Lieut. Col. Arthur Herbert Catchpole, of Red House, St. Mary's Square, Newmarket, died at Newmarket General Hospital on Friday. He was 81.

    Presidency.

    A keen racing man Col. Catchpole was a well known and respected figure in the town. He will probably be best remembered for his connections with the Exning Road Working Mens Club. He was one of the founder members and was elected president, an office he held until his death. He was born near Bury St. Edmunds but moved in 1884 to Lidgate, where his father farmed Lidgate Hall Farm.

    Although physically handicapped for many years, Col. Catchpole always remained cheerful and bright in spirit. He was always military minded and as a young man he joined the 49th Batt. of the Imperial Yeomanry. He sailed to South Africa in 1900 to fight the Boers. He was demobbed at the end of the war, in 1901. In 1906, he married his first wife, formerly Miss Lilian Bocock, who died in 1944. He had three children by his first wife, Pearle, Margaret and Joan.

    Wounded.

    He was seriously wounded on July 19, 1916, at the Battle of the Somme and was transferred to the Lincolnshire Regiment on his recovery. He was mentioned in dispatches and was retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel. It is said of Col. Catchpole that he never knew the meaning of the word fear. He was trusted and popular in the Services and as a civilian. Col. Catchpole leaves a widow, Mrs Gladys Caltchpole, whom he married in 1945.'

    We both met old friends at the meeting and we thank all of those involved in its organisation.

    ReplyDelete
  158. Today I sent to approximately 100 friends the following self-explanatory E-Mail, headed 'Something extremely suspicious in the Cambridge News Poll!':

    (From Geoffrey Woollard, Chapel Farm, River Bank, Nr. Upware, Ely, Cambridgeshire. CB7 5YJ. Telephone 01223 - 861823).

    Yesterday morning I sent the following message to approximately 100 friends drawing attention to a new Cambridge News on-line poll regarding the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Fen Vision.' I wrote as follows:

    "Go to -

    http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/cn_news_home/

    And vote 'No' today!"

    I voted 'No' myself and, during the day, I watched the progress of the poll. Broadly speaking, those of us who voted 'No' were in the lead in the proportion of about 60 - 40 all day and until about 7 p.m.

    During the morning, a friend from Lode wrote to me saying that he had voted 'No' and that he had found that it was possible to keep on voting (but that he didn't intend to). My wife Sue and I went out at about 7 p.m. (to a marvellous meeting of the Newmarket Local History Society) and I looked at the progress of the poll again upon our return. By that time (about 9.50 p.m.) the ratio had changed from 60 - 40 to us to 70 - 30 against us - all in the space of less than three hours. I became a bit suspicious.

    The total of votes cast was about 1,700 at about 10.20 p.m. when I turned my computer off and retired to bed. I turned my computer on at 8 a.m. this morning and found that the poll had closed and that a total of 2,377 votes had been cast. It appears that from 10.20 p.m. last night, nearly 700 additional votes had been cast and, if validly cast one at a time by individual people, this meant that nearly 700 individual people had their computers on after 10.20 p.m. and were still sufficiently alert to vote.

    I find this difficult to believe and, whilst I trust the Cambridge News, I do not trust people (on either the 'Yes' or 'No' side) who may have kept on voting as my Lode friend had said he found possible. This all makes the result - 79.1% 'Yes' to the Wicken Fen Vision' and 20.9% 'No' to the Wicken Fen Vision - extremely suspicious, very probably invalid and a useless guide to public opinion.

    I am copying this message (which is being sent to the same approximately 100 friends) to the Cambridge News.

    As ever,

    Geoffrey Woollard.
    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SaveOurFens/

    ReplyDelete
  159. And I received the following self-explanatory message from Mr John Deex, the Deputy Editor of the Cambridge News:

    Hi Geoffrey,

    It is not possible to cast more than one vote on our web poll from the same computer.

    It may appear that you can vote more than once, because the same results pop-up box appears.

    But scroll down in the pop-up and you'll see that at the bottom there is a message saying "you can only vote once" and the total number of votes will not have changed.

    Try it today and you'll see what I mean.

    So there is nothing 'suspicious' about our poll. (Perhaps you can let your 100 friends know this.)

    Despite this, it is of course possible for the results of the poll to be skewed.

    You made efforts to garner support, and it would appear your opponents have been more successful!

    It only has to be posted as a link on a popular message board, or something like that.

    But we are powerless to prevent this.

    On the plus side for you, the poll result that is published in the newspaper was taken before the poll closes, in order to meet the deadline for the paper.

    So the result published in today's Cambridge News is in your favour.

    Best wishes,
    John Deex
    Deputy Editor
    Cambridge News
    (01223) 434423

    john.deex@cambridge-news.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  160. I forwarded Mr Deex's message to my friends and I have had several responses stating that he is mistaken. The most forthright was the following:

    "That's absolute rubbish. All you have to do is clear the cookies and cache on your computer and it doesn't recognise you've been on that website and allows you to vote again. The process of this clearing takes 10 seconds if you know what your doing!"

    ReplyDelete
  161. And another message has come in basically saying the same thing but in much more alarming detail:

    "Hello Geoffrey,

    I am still around but very busy! Not too busy however to investigate this IT curiosity.

    I have taken a look at this. It is a simple matter for a determined individual with some knowledge to manipulate this kind of vote automatically. The only thing that prevents a repeat vote is that the website writes a 'cookie' to the PC. A cookie is a small collection of data that tracks and sets some elements of history about a website visit.

    The Cam News website uses a cookie to control voting in a poll. Delete the cookie and you can vote again. I have done this myself today as a test and seen it to be true on the Cam News poll.

    It is possible with a small amount of coding to automate this process and thus cast multiple votes without human intervention.

    Hope this helps, and good luck with the fight!

    Best wishes

    Sean."

    ReplyDelete
  162. My Polish Konik horses letter appeared in today's Cambridge News:

    Letters

    Horses danger

    Geoff Robinson was extremely lucky to get close enough to photograph the wild Polish Konik stallions fighting at Wicken Fen (News, October 15). He was also fortunate that they went after one another and not him.

    Other visitors to the National Trust's extensive lands in the Fens should be very wary. The Trust itself advises these animals should be observed "from a respectful distance". A single stallion, even from a tame breed, can be unpredictable. Several stallions, of a wild and untamed type, can be dangerous.

    Readers may be wondering why we have wild horses in the Cambridgeshire Fens. The Koniks were brought in at great expense by the National Trust and, along with Highland cattle, are supposed to be helping to recreate the old Fens on thousands of acres of hitherto fine food-producing land.

    These "native" breeds are frightening the lives out of the native Fen villagers and are regarded as a sick joke by food-producing farmers.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    River Bank
    Upware

    ReplyDelete
  163. Despite what Iain Dale has said on today's BBC TV's local news, I have some sympathy for Cllr. Mrs Nicky Attenborough in Bedford, where the Conservatives lost the recent mayoral election.

    Mrs Attenborough, who herself wanted to be Mayor and is leader of the Conservative group on Bedford Borough Council, is reported to have complained about the eventual selection as the Conservative candidate of Mr Parvez Akhtar, who went on to be defeated in the election by the Liberal Democrat, in that she is said to have described the Conservative candidate selection meeting - an open meeting, where non-Conservatives had a vote - as a disgrace. She is also reported as having said, 'It was very obvious that the meeting had been hijacked ... I could see the Liberal Democrats on the front row, Labour on the back row and a sea of faces who couldn't even understand what the candidates were saying.'

    The film footage shown today by the BBC clearly illustrated a sea of foreign faces at the meeting. I, too, wonder if they were all Conservative faces. I also wonder whether all of the major parties have taken the supposed need for inclusiveness and diversity a bit far. I further wonder if the time will come when one of the major parties chooses, say, a traveller candidate, in the interests of 'inclusiveness and diversity.' Of course, I only wonder, for saying such things out loud is asking for trouble.

    The BBC now says, 'The leader of the Conservative group [Mrs Attenborough] on Bedford Borough Council has been suspended from the party for two years.'

    A cousin of mine, Dr. George Witt (1804 - 1869), was Mayor of Bedford in 1834. I guess that there weren't many foreign faces in Bedford then.

    ReplyDelete
  164. The Cambridge News has cut my letter on Afghanistan, but the meaning is still clear:

    Letters

    Not welcome

    It is right for us to rejoice in the safe return of our soldiers to Carver Barracks from Afghanistan but we also need to spare a thought for the loved ones of those who haven't returned and for those who are still out there.

    It is also right for us to recall why we have been involved in that benighted "nation" since 2001. Our men and women went there to support our American allies and to help them to "smoke out" (George W. Bush's words) Saudi-born Osama bin Laden. As regards the latter matter, no success has been reported thus far.

    We also went there to help with "nation building" and, as John Reid said: "We hope we will leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot".

    But, with lots of shots fired and 221 dead Brits to date, are we perhaps entitled to ask: how many more are to be sacrificed before we and the Americans see sense?

    It is very evident that the Afghans don't want any of us in their country and, though there is now increasing danger from an unstable and nuclear-armed neighbouring Pakistan, I respectfully suggest that the advice of such as General Sir Richard Dannatt be ignored and that our men and women be brought home as soon as possible.

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm
    Near Upware

    ReplyDelete
  165. And I had an early 'phone call from an old friend in Waterbeach who was in the British Army and stationed on what was then called 'the North-West Frontier' (of our Indian Empire) BEFORE the Second World War. He was kind enough to congratulate and thank me for sending the above letter in. We agreed that old soldiers like him should be listened to with greater attention and that history books should be read more carefully by those who govern us or are setting out to govern us.

    ReplyDelete
  166. More comments helpful to my case have appeared on the Cambridge News website:

    Wicken Fen
    Posted By: I Robertson on 20-Oct-2009
    It seems the people to affected by the "Vision", on the whole, do not want it. It seems highly likely that reflooding, even part, of the fens, and 22 square miles is not a small area, is quite likely to see a reappearance of Fen Fever and other problems suffered by the inhabitants before the draining of the fens. It is difficult to see how 22 square miles of marsh and wetland is going to significantly improve the provision of available open space for recreation. The Government has recently been stating that, with global warming, we are going to need every piece of agricultural land to feed ourselves as other countries will have less surplus available for export. This large block of land is not just good agricultural land but excellent arrable land. It may be that that an enlarged Wicken Fen will increase bio diversity, but does it have to be so large? The present management of the site is hardly inspiring being stocked by alien horses and cattle. The main problem seems to me to be the massive scale of the proposals although it seems the present site is too much for the local residents.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Wicken Fen Expansion
    Posted By: Alan on 20-Oct-2009
    I think it's a stupid idea and a diabolical waste of prime agricultural land. What with this, and lunatic planners intending to build 10,000 houses on Marshall's Airport, I begin to wonder if the world has gone mad. If I were still a member of the National Trust I would pack it in and ask for my subscription back. Haven't they got anything better to do with members' money?
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    ReplyDelete
  167. Some thoughts on the Nick Griffin 'lynching' last night:

    I made up my mind long ago that I would never vote for the British National Party as I believed that it was anti-Semitic, homophobic and socialist. My reasons for being thus concerned were and are that I admire the Jewish people who have suffered so much and I am basically pro-Israel; that, having had a relative jailed for practising homosexuality (in the hypocritical times when Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears were known by the establishment to be doing the same thing) and having other relatives who are extremely derogatory towards anyone thought to be homosexual, I disapprove of homophobes; and that I have always been opposed to old-style Socialism.

    Nick Griffin, therefore, had to pass three tests for me: first, that he and the BNP are no longer anti-Semitic. He described his support for Israel in its battles against Hamas in Gaza and he satisfies me on that score. Next, he said that what people get up to in the privacy of their homes is their business, but that he deplored men kissing in the street - as do I - and that he thought that neither 'homosexuality' nor 'sex' should be 'taught' in Primary Schools. I think that Primary School-age children need to be given the basics of sex for their own safety and future well-being, so Nick Griffin only partially passes that test for me. Finally, he was not asked about anything other than race and race-related issues, so I still don't know if he and his party are socialist-minded in the sense that Hitler's National Socialist (Nazi) party was.

    Nick Griffin scored last evening by emphasising the change in British society that has taken place in the last 60 years, though he might have added to his advantage that successive governments, Labour and Conservative, have never given us, the indigenous people of these islands, a vote on that change. Where Jack Straw failed abysmally was in not addressing the immigration issue adequately. Baroness Warsi scored well against both Griffin and Straw. Chris Huhne made some telling points, though I never take the Liberal Democrats very seriously, and Bonnie Greer chipped in with some amusing one-liners.

    The most disturbing aspect of the programme was that it appeared to be a BBC lynching party, four of the panel members and David Dimbleby himself all egging one another on to get Griffin, and the audience, obviously selected by the BBC as representative of the respective panel members' supporters and, therefore, four to one against Griffin, applauding and booing as appropriate. Altogether, it was pretty unpleasant.

    Mr Griffin is not a particularly attractive person (though he can't help having but one eye) and, though I am still sure that I shall never vote for his party, I do feel that what he and they have to say must be taken seriously.

    I remain independent.

    ReplyDelete
  168. To Swaffham Bulbeck for the funeral of a family friend.

    St. Mary's Church looked especially splendid following its recent restoration and re-decoration work which is a credit to those who organised and effected it.

    I reflected both before and after the service - taken by the Revd. David Lewis - that not only had I been baptised there but my sister also, and, likewise, my children, my grandson, and my father (who was born at Downing College Farm in 1905).

    As to family funerals held there, they included those of my parents, my grandparents and three of my great grandparents as well as my aunt, four of my great aunts, and one of my great uncles.

    Interestingly, because we didn't know about them before I started studying family history, several of Sue's relatives were also buried at Swaffham Bulbeck, most notably a great, great, great, great uncle, John Carsboult (1825 - 1893), who was a farm labourer, and a great, great, great, great, great, great uncle, John Chambers (1743 - 1798), who farmed at Burgh Hall and whose family provided successive Lords of the Manor of Burgh Hall.

    It would have been wonderful to have attended the funeral of Mr Chambers, which took place on the 14th of November, 1798, or, indeed, those of any of the other ancients.

    ReplyDelete
  169. Some more comments on the so-called 'Wicken Vision' have appeared on the Cambridge News website:

    But the majority do want it
    Posted By: Ben Gibbs on 22-Oct-2009
    I am pleased to see that this piece has attracted some intelligent comment on both sides, and - as per Mary O'Toole's comment - I am conscious that the debate has become rather polarised. Is that not a healthy function of critical debate though? But as for those commentators that claim the Vision doesn't have majority support, take a look at the Cambridge Evening News' poll results. It is currently 80:20 in favour of the Vision, a figure that (I think) largely mirrors the National Trust's own consultations. Now I am the first to say that one can't carry out such a large scale transformational project on the basis of a democratic poll alone, but this result - in addition to the support for my petition - surely lays to rest the notion that public opinion is against the Vision.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The result is probably invalid, Ben!
    Posted By: Geoffrey Woollard on 22-Oct-2009
    "It is currently 80:20 in favour of the Vision, a figure that (I think) largely mirrors the National Trust's own consultations." The result is probably invalid, Ben. The Cambridge News now appears to accept that clever people fiddling with their 'cookies' may have 'fixed' this ratio late on in Tuesday evening. Earlier on the ratio was 60:40 against.

    ReplyDelete
  170. If and when I am elected to represent South East Cambridgeshire in the House of Commons one of the first things that I will do (either alone or in support of other like-minded Members) is to seek leave to bring in a Bill to rid us of the need to 'change the clocks' in the Spring and the Autumn.

    Last night, we put the clocks back and we were told that we would have 'an extra hour' in bed this morning. In the Spring, when we put the clocks forward for 'British Summer Time,' we were told that we would have 'an extra hour' of daylight. This is complete and utter nonsense for there are no extra hours of anything to be had in either the Spring or the Autumn. There are twenty-four hours in every day and there are more daylight hours in the Summer and less in the Winter. This was so before anyone proposed such idiocies as 'British Summer Time' or 'Daylight Saving.'

    (Incidentally, I read in yesterday's Times that one of my historical heroes, Benjamin Franklin, thought up the whole idea of changing the clocks in 1784: I have read on Wikipedia today, with great relief, that Mr Franklin was not 'guilty' and was only responsible for the advice that I have tried to follow throughout my life, "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise").

    What I find personally is that the effect on sleep patterns and on one's general feeling of well-being or otherwise is that 'changing the clocks,' either back or forward, is much akin to jet lag: it takes me several days to adjust and I just wish that neither I nor others had thus to suffer.

    I do not care if we have 'European' time, or continuous 'British Summer Time' or 'English Time' or 'Scottish Time' or, indeed, the old royal 'Sandringham Time' (the clocks were set at Sandringham House a half hour ahead of everywhere else because, it is said, King Edward VII and King George V hated to be late).

    All I want is continuous and unchanged time throughout the year. So I shall try to alter the present rule.

    ReplyDelete
  171. To St. Mary's Church, Burwell, for the East Cambridgeshire District Council Civic Service, hosted this year by my Newmarket (Cambridgeshire) friend and the Chairman of the Council, Cllr. Peter Cresswell, and his wife, Roslyn (whose first-rate idea it was to have the service at Burwell).

    The event was well attended and the service was conducted by the Revd. Ann Gurner, Priest in Charge of the Cheveley group of parishes, and the readings were by Cllrs. Mrs Hazel Williams and Mr Carl Poole. The singing of the choir of St. Mary's Church, Burwell, augmented by the LINK choir of the Cheveley group, was excellent and greatly appreciated. Though I had thought that there was going to be a connection with the Royal British Legion and I initially wore my Legion badge (I was not in the forces, having just missed National Service, but was for many years a member and supporter of the now-defunct Swaffham Bulbeck branch), I put it back in my pocket when I noted that the service was to be 'civic.' Then in came the standards of the Royal British Legion (one of the standard-bearers being my widowed friend, Mrs Jenny Kempton), so I was wrong again!

    Anyway, it was all very successful and I met and/or chatted with many friends including County Councillor John Powley and his wife, Gill (John has been a Cambridgeshire County County Councillor since 1973 with a gap when he was Conservative M.P. for Norwich South). Cllr. Powley told me the sad news of the death of another former colleague at the Shire Hall, Cllr. Adrian Cumber, who was my successor as chairman of the Finance Committee of the County Council. John and I also bemoaned the Conservatives' loss at the June elections of Cllr. Mrs Susan Normington's seat. Susan had been Chairman of the Council and also John's vice-chairman when he was Chairman of Social Services. Moreover, Susan was and is a very nice person and was a good councillor for her area. She lost out to a United Kingdom Independence Party candidate and I must admit that I continue to wonder what is the point of UKIP people standing in local government elections. What, for example, are the UKIP policies on, say, schools, roads and social services? I haven't a clue and neither have they, I guess.

    Among others I said hello to were District Councillors Michael Allen, Brian Ashton (an old friend of Conservative Association days), David Brown (who is also our excellent County Councillor), Christine Bryant, Lavinia Edwards, Tony Parramint and Mike Rouse, as well as many others from other Councils, etc. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Mrs Gaynor Ryan, the chairman of Snailwell Parish Council, and we put the world to rights. Mr Peter Fuller, who farms at Burwell, came up to me afterwards and told me that an elderly lady friend of his had given him a donation to pass on to me for 'The Little Chapel in The Fen.' That was kind.

    There was tea afterwards at the Gardiner Memorial Hall and I fell to talking with Dr. and Mrs Alan Bullock. Alan now lives at Woodditton but, until his retirement, he was Warden (Head) of Soham Village College. I was on the Governing Body there for many years. I also chatted briefly to Charlie Westlake, an American officer based at Mildenhall and from Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love), Pennsylvania. I thanked Charlie for being 'over here.'

    It was nearly dark when I got home, due to the changing of the clocks - grrhhh!!!

    ReplyDelete
  172. Another book review for Amazon:

    The Three Emperors: Three Cousins, Three Empires and the Road to World War One - Miranda Carter

    I have long held the belief that, had Queen Victoria lived until she was 95 instead of dying in January, 1901, at the age of 81, she might have boxed the ears of two (Georgie of England and Willy of Germany) of her grandsons and the husband (Nicky of Russia) of one of her grand-daughters - 'The Three Emperors' of the title - and many millions might not have died in the 'Great War.' But Victoria was obviously as ignorant and tiny-minded as the rest of the royals and may well have been as unwilling to call the others to order as they were to call themselves to order.

    This well-researched book provides plenty of proof of the ignorance and tiny-mindedness of these people and, is therefore, fascinating and rewarding in its own right. But it also gives a disturbing insight into what many of us know already, namely, that Victoria's family carried on a long royal tradition of being dysfunctional. Not to put too fine a point on it, many members of the family were quite nasty, probably certifiable by modern standards and positively dangerous because of the power that they wielded.

    Of course, two of the emperors, Willy and Nicky, were autocrats running autocracies and that has grave and inherent dangers. But Georgie was a would-be autocrat, too, not only in his outlook on the world but also within his family. Thankfully, he was kept in check by successive Prime Ministers under our 'constitutional monarchy' system, unlike the other emperors, who were barely checked at all.

    As to the most notorious of all of the extraordinarily awful episodes involving the cousins - that of Georgie's selfish refusal to extend succour and sanctuary to Nicky in 1917 - the author expresses her revulsion in a manner that is restrained whereas I would have gone for the jugular. King George V, Emperor of India but of German blood like his imperial cousins, disgraced his adopted British Empire and brought everlasting shame on his adopted imperial subjects.

    Miranda Carter also mentions briefly another curious and seemingly cowardly act of King George V, that of changing his family name from the German 'Saxe-Coburg-Gotha' to the 'stick-a-pin-in-a-map-of-England' one of 'Windsor.' So much for this family's love of heritage and history.

    It is interesting to speculate, too, that given the mad and dangerous examples of this family that Ms. Carter has studied in such depth and given the importance that they and others attached and attach to heredity, if it is wise for anyone nowadays to place much store by the sanity and safeness of those of the descendants still living? I don't intend to divulge for this review those whom I might have in mind, but readers can infer what they want from my words.

    The downside of this otherwise excellent literary effort is that the author seems to have set out to entertain her readers as well as to educate them and, sometimes, just sometimes, her language is too slanted towards entertainment and is not as elegant as that used by more experienced historians. Nevertheless, I give it five stars and recommend it without hesitation.

    ReplyDelete
  173. An 'anti' letter in today's Cambridge News:

    Letters

    Surely, restoring nature is good?

    I continue to be amazed by the attitude of Geoffrey Woollard to the W icken Fen Vision.

    Initially, I was outraged by one of his previous letters where he seemed to feel he was talking on behalf of all local residents. Before he can become the voice of Waterbeach, perhaps he should check on the views of others.

    I am bewildered by his continuous drive to stop anything natural coming back to the area. I appreciate these ponies are not really natural to the area. Of course not, we've already destroyed all that.

    However, to try and repair some of the damage we have done - and make an island of nature in a land of 'sterile' farmland from which most of the fertility and organic matter has already been removed by decades of intensive farming - is surely a move in the right direction. As for being dangerous, I suspect the photographer used a telephoto lens and had the sense to not disturb the wonderful action he was seeing.

    Maybe a move to the massive corn fields of America would suit Geoffrey, where he can be comfortable that there is little of the natural world and animal left to disturb him?

    Lewis Turner
    Winfold Road
    Waterbeach
    Cambridge

    ReplyDelete
  174. Some more comments regarding the so-called 'Wicken Vision' are now on the Cambridge News website:

    It's all a big conspiracy isn't it
    Posted By: Ben Gibbs on 24-Oct-2009
    So first I am an 'agent' of the National Trust, and now the poll is rigged. Come on Mr Woollard. Your paranoia gives you away. Just accept that you are in a minority here. I for one might respect you just that little bit more. As things stand, you look a little desperate.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Not in a minority here, Ben!
    Posted By: Geoffrey Woollard on 26-Oct-2009
    You and the National Trust have supporters - some of them 'the usual suspects' - from far and wide, Ben, but, no, I am not in a minority here among those most affected by the so-called 'Wicken Vision,' those who live in and close by the ancient Fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach. I fight on for them!

    ReplyDelete
  175. Another 'anti' letter in today's Cambridge News:

    Letters

    Strong support for fen vision

    As a resident of Reach - a village on the edge of the fens and a mere stone's throw from the Wicken Fen Vision - I was interested to see the result of your poll on support for this project.

    The outcome - 79 per cent in favour compared to 21 per cent against (with over 2,000 people expressing an opinion) - suggests strong local endorsement for this long-term plan to create a rich and varied habitat for wildlife.

    Some of the gains are already evident - this year I have had the pleasure of seeing relative rarities such as nesting avocets, and whilst many of the fields appear "weedy" in the short term (reclamation is inevitably a slow process) this transitional stage has been alive with skylarks and other species that have shown steep declines elsewhere in the countryside.

    Ongoing improvements in cycle routes across the fen will greatly improve access by those living in Cambridge, so that it isn't just fen village residents, like myself, who can appreciate and benefit from these changes. The results of your poll indicate that the desire to see this project succeed is strong, and I hope that the National Trust takes heart from this measure of support for its plans.

    David Thomas
    Great Lane
    Reach

    ReplyDelete
  176. So I have sent in the following:

    The Fens 'sterile'? Pull the other leg, Lewis Turner!

    Dear Editor,

    The Fens 'sterile'? Pull the other leg, Lewis Turner!

    Lewis Turner of Waterbeach (Letters, 26th October) has been reading too much science fiction. His suggestion that the Cambridgeshire Fens are 'sterile' is just too ridiculous for words. According to my dictionary (Webster's) 'sterile' means 'unfruitful, unproductive, not fertile.' I can assure Mr Turner that there is no more fruitful, productive and fertile land in the kingdom than that in our Cambridgeshire Fens.

    I can illustrate the point by describing something odd that occurred here a couple or so years back. There appeared in my Fen yard a plant that just grew and grew - as does most plant life in the Fens - and it was only during this Summer that I was told that it was Japanese Knotweed. Because it is in the fruitful, productive and fertile Fen, it has grown and grown - to some 15 feet tall. Needless to say, I am going to get rid of this alien invader by using the recommended remedy, Roundup. (Thinks: I wonder if Roundup would rid us of another alien invader, the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision'?).

    As to David Thomas of Reach (Letters, 27th October), all I can say is that he is a brave man, for I know of few others in his village who favour the 'Wicken Vision.' Regarding his allusion to the Cambridge News on-line 'poll' showing a ratio of 79:21 in favour of the 'Vision,' I have to disillusion him as, having had discussions with knowledgeable friends and then with your deputy editor, it is clear that the Cambridge News now accepts that clever people fiddling with their computer 'cookies' may have 'fixed' this ratio late on in Tuesday evening. Earlier on the ratio was 60:40 against. The end result must have been invalid.

    Yours sincerely,

    Geoffrey Woollard.
    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SaveOurFens/
    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoToHareCoursing/

    Note: attached is a picture of the 15 feet tall Japanese Knotweed in my yard.

    ReplyDelete
  177. Message received almost immediately:

    Geoffrey,

    Give'em HELL, the dumb and crooked bastards that they are!!!

    MP

    ReplyDelete
  178. And another:

    Geoffrey,

    Excellent - again!

    I hardly ever see the CEN. What did they print about the poll? Did we win and if we lost did they put a correction in?

    Janet

    ReplyDelete
  179. To Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge to visit an old friend who has had some serious health scares. I arrived within a few feet of his bed just at the moving moment when a charming young doctor was making the following announcement to my friend, his wife and his sister: 'Good news!'

    It appears that the patient has been given the OK to come home and the all-round pleasure was palpable.

    On the way out, I bumped into an old farming friend who was also visiting someone and we both agreed that we were so fortunate in Cambridgeshire to have this great and grand hospital on our doorsteps. Long may it continue - and long may it continue to be free!

    ReplyDelete
  180. Following sight of a news item in today's Cambridge News, I fired off another missive to the editor:

    (From Geoffrey Woollard, Chapel Farm, River Bank, Nr. Upware, Ely, Cambridgeshire. CB7 5YJ. Telephone 01223 - 861823).

    Dear Editor,

    Friends of the Earth are predicting (Cambridge News, October 28) that a loaf of white bread will cost £6.48 in 2030 and that the price of a pint of Pilsner lager will be £18.48 in the same year. They are also predicting that 'millions more people will go hungry here in the UK alone.'

    But Tony Juniper, the former executive director of Friends of the Earth and the Green Party's parliamentary candidate for Cambridge, is enthusiastically in favour of removing from food production thousands of acres of our finest Cambridgeshire fen land for his latest pet fad - the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision.'

    Is it me that is stupid in attempting to defend farming in Cambridgeshire or is it Mr Juniper and his fellow greenies? I leave it to your readers to judge, but most people think that we need responsible representatives in these difficult times, not complete cranks.

    Yours sincerely,

    Geoffrey Woollard.
    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/SaveOurFens/

    ReplyDelete
  181. And my anti-blood sports ally from Burwell has also been published again in the Cambridge News:

    Letters

    No place for fox hunting

    Shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert says the Tories, if elected, would form a regulatory body for fox hunting to work toward minimising animal suffering.

    How can the suffering of a hunted animal be minimalised by a pro-hunt group whose only interest is the wellbeing of its wealthy patrons? This desperate primeval pleasure gained from hunting a living creature, forcing it to endure hours of terror and a brutal death simply to provide a day's entertainment is beyond my comprehension.

    There is no place in a civilised society for fox hunting and all its ritualistic butchery, butchery that speaks volumes about those who clamour for its return.

    Mike Michalak
    Swaffham Road
    Burwell

    ReplyDelete
  182. It's a whole week since I posted anything here and that is because I have been laid low by a 'bug.' I felt pretty rough for a while. However, thanks in part to the ministrations of a new doctor friend who was careful, considerate, kind, professional and thorough in his dealings with me and whom I regard as another fine example of a practitioner of the highest standards of medical care and another illustration of the need for us all to hold both the medical profession and the good old N.H.S. in the highest esteem, I am now back to 'normal' and postings will re-start this day.

    ReplyDelete
  183. There was more newspaper coverage of the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' and some of it follows.

    This from the Ely Standard of Thursday, the 29th of October:

    Support Grows For Wicken Plan

    Hundreds of people have lent their support to the controversial Wicken Fen Vision by signing a new petition.

    Only a month after the 'Wicken Fen Vision' petition was launched online, more than 700 people have shown their support for the campaign by adding their names to the rapidly growing list.

    The petition was set up by Ely resident Ben Gibbs, to help garner support for the multi-million pound project, which has increasingly divided public opinion in recent months.

    The Vision is the brainchild of the National Trust, which is hoping to convert 5000 hectares of farmland between Wicken and Cambridge into a sprawling wildlife reserve within 100 years.

    Campaigners fighting the plans however, believe that the Vision will turn thousands of acres of prime farming land into unmanageable wetland and the group have almost 400 names on a petition asking the Government to put a stop to the scheme.

    Upware resident Geoffrey Woollard, who is leading the 'Save our Fens' campaign, said: "The National Trust has mobilised its people in support of the so-called 'Wicken Vision,' and I see that quite a few of what I call the usual suspects have signed up to Mr Gibbs' petition.

    "Mr Gibbs is saying that the National Trust consultations have indicated a high level of public support for the scheme, as have the number of people who have signed up for the petition.'

    "I respectfully suggest that the so-called consultations by the Trust were nothing more than an indoctrination exercise costing many thousands of pounds and much glossy paper and they did not succeed in convincing the people who are really threatened by this silly £100 million-plus scheme."

    Mr Gibbs however, dismissed concerns about threats to the nation's farmland, saying in the petition: "We do not believe that the Vision in any way threatens the UK's food security as some opponents have stated. Rather, we feel that the country as a whole will benefit greatly from it.

    ReplyDelete
  184. And this 'anonymous' (not) letter appeared on the same day in the Cambridge News:

    Letters

    Talk to people hit by 'Vision'

    I see that the National Trust has mobilised its people in support of the so-called Wicken Vision, that the Trust is using Mr Ben Gibbs as its agent, and that quite a few of what I call 'the usual suspects' have signed up to Mr Gibbs's petition.

    I also see that Mr Gibbs is saying, "the National Trust consultations indicated a high level of public support, as does the number of people who have signed up for my petition".

    I respectfully suggest that the so-called consultations by the Trust were nothing more than an indoctrination exercise costing many thousands of pounds and much glossy paper.

    They did not succeed in convincing the people who are really threatened by this silly and costly scheme - those who live in and close by the ancient Fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach.

    And, of course, it is the food-growing land that helps to feed the whole nation that is also threatened by the trust's advancing water and weeds.

    Come to your senses, Cambridgeshire, East Anglia and England!

    Chapel Farm
    River Bank
    Upware
    Near Ely

    ReplyDelete
  185. And a similar (signed) piece appeared in the Ely Weekly News of the same date:

    Letters

    Sir, I see that the National Trust has mobilised its people in support of the so-called Wicken Vision, that the trust is using Mr Ben Gibbs as its agent, and that quite a few of what I call "the usual suspects" have signed up to Mr Gibbs's petition (Petition started to support vision project - Weekly News, October 22).

    I also see that Mr Gibbs is saying, "the National Trust consultations indicated a high level of public support, as does the number of people who have signed up for my petition".

    I respectfully suggest that the so-called consultations by the Trust were nothing more than an indoctrination exercise costing many thousands of pounds and much glossy paper.

    They did not succeed in convincing the people who are really threatened by this silly £100m plus scheme - those who live in and close by the ancient Fen-edge settlements of Wicken, Upware, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Lode & Longmeadow, Bottisham, Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, Horningsea and Waterbeach.

    And, of course, it is the food-growing that helps to feed the whole country that is also threatened by the trust's advancing water and weeds. Come to your senses, Cambridgeshire, East Anglia and England!

    Geoffrey Woollard
    Chapel Farm
    Upware

    ReplyDelete
  186. An excellent contribution from my dear old friend, the famous Fen-born artist, Tony Day of Wicken, was in the Cambridge News on Monday last, the 2nd of November:

    Letters

    Far cry from conservation

    Every new spokesman for the wretched 'Wicken Vision' farrago adds to its contradictions and its disregard for waste in our time.

    Firstly the propaganda persuaded us it was in accord with the original principles of the National Trust in creating a wetland for wildlife, but now we have a plan for pony trails and cycle paths and tracks everywhere with new bridges to let in the idle hordes, money, of course, no object for these misguided advocates sensing security no matter how far they drift from ideals of conservation.

    A hundred year plan, they call it, meaning procrastination out of indecision and inexperience. It is appalling that the National Trust has allowed itself to drift so far from true principles of conservation, clearly unable to resist the tide of money on offer. Will no devoted naturalist ever come forward to speak for his profession?

    From government circles now we are being urged to grow more food on our own land for a growing population and in view of climate change affecting fertility in other food growing countries. I can but beg fen farmers not to sell their acres for this untimely scheme, the consequences of which would prove most unsettling for those living nearby. It would be an artificial enterprise using chemical control and also damming - indeed one big mechanised mess.

    I have carried my green ticket all my life and this scheme denies it.

    Anthony Day
    Pond Green
    Wicken

    ReplyDelete
  187. The news that five more British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan makes me angry beyond words. Nevertheless, I have written on-line to The Times:

    "Five British soldiers were killed in a single incident in Helmand Province, Afghanistan ..... Next of kin have been informed."

    OK, well that's alright, then, as long as the next of kin have been informed. The rest of us can now get on with another day of nothing much. That's only 229 dead Brits to date. There's plenty more where they came from.

    Kim Howells, the former Foreign Office minister, is 100% correct. Bring our boys home. The danger to us is as much in Leeds or Luton or London as from that worthless hellhole of Helmand.

    ReplyDelete
  188. Back to the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision.' Today sees two more missives in the Cambridge News:

    Letters

    Lewis Turner of Waterbeach (Letters, October 26) has been reading too much science fiction. His suggestion that the Cambridgeshire Fens are "sterile" is just too ridiculous for words.

    According to my dictionary (Webster's) "sterile" means "unfruitful, unproductive, not fertile". I can assure Mr Turner that there is no more fruitful, productive and fertile land in the kingdom than that in our Cambridgeshire Fens.

    I can illustrate the point by describing something odd that occurred here a couple or so years back. There appeared in my fen yard a plant that just grew and grew - as does most plant life in the Fens - and it was only during this summer that I was told that it was Japanese Knotweed. Because it is in the fruitful, productive and fertile Fen, it has grown and grown - to some 15 feet tall. Needless to say, I am going to get rid of this alien invader by using Roundup. (I wonder if Roundup would rid us of another alien invader, the National Trust's so-called "Wicken Vision"?).

    As to David Thomas of Reach (Letters, October 27), all I can say is that he is a brave man, for I know of few others in his village who favour the "Wicken Vision".

    Geoffrey Woollard
    River Bank
    Upware

    And, from my very knowledgeable friend, Roger Robinson of Fen Drayton:

    Lunacy to lose more farmland

    Regarding the report on future food production needing to be increased by 50 per cent over the next 40 years (News, October 22), the Royal Society believes this to be the case.

    In Cambridgeshire the Wicken Fen and the Great Fen project will between them remove 24,000 acres of fenland food production to return them to wetlands. This is lunacy on a grand scale and someone needs to put a stop to it before it is too late.

    Roger Robinson
    High Street
    Fen Drayton

    ReplyDelete
  189. Thursday is always a good day for 'stuff' in Cambridgeshire's local papers.

    Tony Day got himself published again in the Ely Weekly News:

    Letters

    'Vision' is no green scheme

    Sir, Every new spokesman for the wretched "Wicken Vision" farrago adds to its contradictions and its disregard for waste in our time.

    Firstly the propaganda persuaded us it was in accord with the original principles of the National Trust in creating a wetland for wildlife, but now we have a plan for pony trails and cycle paths and tracks everywhere with new bridges to let in the idle hordes, money, of course, no object for these misguided advocates sensing security no matter how far they drift from ideals of conservation. A hundred year plan, they call it, meaning procrastination out of indecision and inexperience.

    It is appalling that the National Trust has allowed itself to drift so far from true principles of conservation, clearly unable to resist the tide of money on offer. Will no devoted naturalist ever come forward to speak for his profession?

    From government circles now we are being urged to grow more food on our own land for a growing population and in view of climate change affecting fertility in other food growing countries. I can but beg fen farmers not to sell their acres for this untimely scheme, the consequences of which would prove most unsettling for those living nearby. It would be an artificial enterprise using chemical control and also damming - indeed one big mechanised mess.

    I have carried my green ticket all my life and this scheme denies it.

    Anthony Day
    Pond Green
    Wicken

    ReplyDelete
  190. And Ian Robertson wrote a tremendous letter to the Ely Standard:

    Letters

    A poor idea

    Maybe I have got it wrong but reading the articles and letters about the Wicken Fen Vision, it seems as if the people living in the area that will be affected do not want to be subjected to it.

    If I am right and the support for the Vision is coming from people living outside the affected area then their support is no more than attempted dictatorship by the majority.

    Sometimes, if it is in the national or local interest, people have to be dispossessed, moved away or live near unpleasant things.

    However, this is not the case for Wicken Fen, the Vision seems to be quite the reverse and not in the national interest (loss of 22 square miles of good arable land at a time when world food shortages are being predicted).

    The Vision wants to take an enormous amount of land. What possible reason can there be for such a large area to be set aside for nature conservation?

    What can be done in 5,000 hectares that couldn't be done in a tenth of that?

    I Robertson
    Ely

    ReplyDelete
  191. But 'our' Mr Gibbs, also of Ely, has had another go in the Ely Standard:

    Letters

    I'm no agent

    I should like to take issue with the implications of Mr Woollard's comment last week that I have somehow been "mobilised" by the National Trust in support of the Wicken Fen Vision.

    I am a member of the organisation, and a supporter of their plans to expand Wicken Fen, but I am in no way their 'agent'. It is my belief that the Vision is good for residents, visitors, wildlife and the environment, together with my concern over Mr Woollard's campaign of misinformation against the Vision that lies behind my setting up the e-petition.

    I would submit, however, that Mr Woollard may be seeking a refuge in conspiracy theories?

    Ben Gibbs
    By email

    ReplyDelete
  192. There's a piece in today's Independent about Barack Obama's 'indecision' on Afghanistan. I have contributed an on-line 'comment':

    I wrote to my (Conservative) M.P. on the 9th of June, 2008, as follows:

    "the news from Afghanistan of three more British deaths is profoundly saddening and worrying. I recall President Bush (the idiot who can't even pronounce the word 'nuclear' properly) declaring, after what the Americans call "9/11," that he/they/we were 'gonna smoke him [Osama bin Laden] out.' I supported the intention of doing that but bin Laden hasn't been found, let alone been 'smoked out,' after nearly seven years. It appears to me that the time has come for us to draw a line under a disaster and to tell Mr Bush that one hundred British lives lost is enough. The British Empire (which I still hanker for) failed to tame the Afghans, the Soviet Empire admitted defeat at their hands and still we think that we can succeed where others failed and fell. If I thought that there was still a possibility of 'smoking out' Mr bin Laden, I would support as stoutly as anyone the continuing sacrifices of ourselves and the Americans. But I can't help thinking that 'special forces' might have more success than our armies and that the latter should be withdrawn forthwith."

    Now we have 230 British dead and unnumbered wounded and what has been achieved since?

    Bring our boys home now. President Obama should order likewise for the American people.

    ReplyDelete
  193. Matthew Parris usually writes very well and today's (London) Times carries one of his very best pieces:

    Here’s one way MPs can redeem themselves

    Parliament should save itself – and countless lives – by demanding the return of British troops from Afghanistan

    Matthew Parris

    Two big anxieties hang like dark clouds over the voters’ minds this November. Neither has anything to do with party politics. One is Afghanistan, the other the collapse of confidence in Parliament. The first, the Afghan war, is raw, ominous and impossible to ignore. Events this week give it a cruel new urgency.

    The second anxiety would not be high on a list of public worries, but nags in the background, like the thought of dry rot in the roof.

    Our generalised feeling that the House of Commons is unfit to discharge its responsibilities, and our particular rage over MPs’ expenses arises not because we think democracy doesn’t matter, but because we know it does.

    Beneath public disquiet about the expenses scandal an underlying disquiet feeds the aggression: a reason we are looking for sticks with which to beat MPs. It’s because we don’t just think they’re greedy, we think they’re useless. Gurkhas excepted, it is now a very long time since the Commons offered the nation any substantial or sensational demonstration of what Parliament is for.

    I know, I know. Before you wise old Sir Owls of the senior backbenches and you energetic young constituency Members round on me I concede that MPs do wonderful work helping to solve constituents’ problems; and stalwart, unshowy work scrutinising legislation away from the chamber. But a House of Commons has to be there for something more. It must be able to crack the whip; or we would recruit MPs by other means than the hustings.

    Parliament is supposed to intervene in history. Not often; not lightly; and not without a very proper sense that 650 men and women cannot drive — as a driver drives a wagon — the huge pantechnicon that is a modern state.

    But what if the wagon is going totally the wrong way? There are times when governments just get it wrong — and get it wrong big time — for reasons of pride, ignorance, or perceived constraints. They half know this, but box themselves mentally in, losing the will to break free. I’d cite, for instance, the poll tax, a groupthink blunder by the Tory leadership into which many at the top were drawn. As the disaster unfolded the argument for the poll tax was lost in Commons minds and hearts, years before the Cabinet caught up. Perhaps MPs owed the public an earlier rebellion on the subject. It didn’t happen.

    On Iraq there was a vote; but a threat from Tony Blair (probably bogus) to resign, and a speech that was as spellbinding as it was sly, narrowly won a nervous Commons over. The MPs should have called his bluff.

    People need parables. One clear and shining example of the good a man or an institution can do may exert a stronger pull on the public mind than a hundred small instances and arguments. Gordon Brown’s premiership would not now be rescued even by the coming-good of all his myriad initiatives; but if he dived into the Thames and rescued a drowning child at Christmas he’d be in with a chance again.

    Parliament cannot rescue drowning children. But it can rescue a flailing British Government from waters into which it now knows it should never have got, but sees no means of climbing out. Parliament can rescue the hundreds of troops who have still, undoubtedly, to die in Afghanistan if we push on like this. The time has passed to rail against Gordon Brown, Bob Ainsworth — and indeed David Cameron and Nick Clegg — for having supported Britain’s entry into this war. To them and to many principled and intelligent people it seemed a good idea at the time.

    ReplyDelete
  194. (continued):

    No longer.

    Believe me, for I have not a shadow of a doubt: you have no need to persuade any of our top politicians that we British should never have piled into Afghanistan. They know. Everybody knows. The military know. Even the neocons know. There’s hardly a soul left in the upper reaches of British politics who, granted a wish to rewind history back to early 2006 and Britain’s decision to accept command in Helmand, would argue for doing it again.

    So why won’t they admit it? There are two very good reasons. Such an admission has consequences: either pull out now and kick a major prop from beneath our American allies; or carry on regardless, supporting them while having publicly admitted that the game’s up.

    This latter is unthinkable. Imagine how it would then sound for a prime minister to continue reading out the names of the dead in Parliament, or an opposition leader continue paying tribute to our brave boys’ courage.

    Yet to leave the Americans in the lurch would be extraordinarily difficult. “Why? And why now,” Washington would ask. How could a British prime minister reply?

    Like this. “Barack, you’ll have heard of last week’s Afghanistan vote in our House of Commons: a major rebellion, on a motion expressing doubt on the strategy and asking ministers to reconsider the options, including a phased withdrawal.

    “I can hold the line, Mr President, for a month or two more; but we’ve got to start talking to you about either bringing troops home, or back at least from the Helmand front.”

    Few believe President Obama to be privately gung-ho about this war, and such a development might even ease the pressure on him. By giving Mr Brown or Mr Cameron an external constraint to counter the pressure they face to plough on, it could offer a useful ladder to climb down.

    In the months before the Iraq invasion, George W. Bush told Tony Blair that, given Mr Blair’s difficulties with domestic opinion, he would happily waive his request for British troops. The lesson is clear. When it comes to scaling back our military support for Washington, a prime minister can better save face if everyone knows one arm is twisted behind his back. This Parliament could redeem itself, or the next establish itself, by doing the twisting.

    Parliament should be for us both a sword and a shield. The shield looks broken and the sword is blunted. Committees of inquiry into parliamentary expenses can report and be bowed to until kingdom come, but until Parliament puts its armour back on, accepts a challenge and does something big, brave and useful, the public will only spit. Just such a challenge stares MPs in the face.

    ReplyDelete
  195. And my on-line 'comment' is:

    The answer is simple, Matthew. Too many M.P.s rely on the judgement of others more 'expert' than they or, worse still, rely on and/or toe whatever happens to be the party line. They therefore feel 'constrained' from saying the obvious - on such as Afghanistan - and acting upon it. In other words, they are frit of rocking their respective party boats and/or sounding and acting like ignorant fools. The trouble is that many of them are ignorant fools. And this applies to front benchers as much as back benchers. We need more independents.

    ReplyDelete
  196. To Swaffham Bulbeck for the Service of Remembrance at St. Mary's Church. This service used to be held at the village War Memorial but its venue was changed to the church because of the distraction of the traffic on the B1102 through the village. I did wear my Royal British Legion badge today and Sue and I had the honour of taking from her home in Maryland Avenue - not named thus for the American state but for my late cousin, Mary Josephine Rowland (née Singleton), whose father - and my great uncle by marriage - was Philip Francis Singleton (1892 - 1965), who was for many years the Newmarket Rural District Councillor (and the Cambridgeshire County Councillor) for the village - to the service Mrs Josie Chalklin, widow of the late Mr Jack Chalklin, president of the Swaffham Bulbeck branch of the Legion. The occasion was sad but well-attended with a good mixture of ages and of church affiliation - Anglican and Free Church folk both to the fore. Far East World War II veteran, Mr Ralph Wedd, read out the names of those whom 'we will remember,' though I now fear that there are very few in the village who have any memory of any of the poor chaps who died between 1914 and 1918 and comparatively few who knew the World War II casualties either. My old friend and former Parish Councillor colleague, Mr Ron Butler, himself also a veteran, remembers the latter well, however.

    I gained the impression from chatting with friends both before and after the service that there is a seething concern in Swaffham Bulbeck at least regarding our current role in Afghanistan. Several agreed with me that 'our boys' should be brought home now, but a serious point was made to me by a friend, Mr Loder Bevington, namely, that immediate withdrawal would send a mistaken signal to every extremist in the world and that we should get out in a year or so. My counter to that was simple: I said that a close relative is presently serving in the army in Afghanistan; that his people are fearful of the infamous visit and/or 'phone call from the military authorities; and that, if our forces stay in the hell-hole of Helmand for another year or so, maybe two hundred more people might receive the infamous visit and/or 'phone call. Moreover, I said, the sooner we realise and accept that we and our allies have been defeated - like the Russians before us - the better.

    Mr Bevington and I parted friends and only a little apart in our opinions.

    ReplyDelete
  197. A dear E-mail friend, Elizabeth Scott-Whipkey, of Hodgenville, Kentucky, having read the above, wrote:

    Hear! Hear!

    ReplyDelete
  198. Two absolutely splendid letters have been published in today's Cambridge News. I have some superb friends and our Fens have some superb supporters. I could not be more grateful to them all.

    This is from Alan Seymour:

    Letters

    Wild move on Wicken Fen

    Having rendered thousands of acres of fertile, arable fenland impotent for the purposes of cultivating vegetables, the National Trust have now introduced dangerous wild konik stallions, freely roaming and often stampeding Highland cattle, to their recently created "Wicken Fen Vision".

    In the midst of this mayhem, the Green Party's Tony Juniper, a vociferous supporter of the absurd "Vision", claims that the solution to the country's dependence on food imports, whilst facing an ever increasing population, is to "have a look at how much food we give to animals for meat, rather than eating it ourselves (News, October 22).

    If such ridiculous nonsense persists, both will eventually become extinct by means of starvation.

    A Seymour
    Morley Drive
    Ely

    And this from David Carrington:

    Letters

    Give us your view, Mr Page

    The exchange of views surrounding the Wicken Fen Vision programme continues to put forward interesting opinions from both sides of the argument.

    One of the most interesting I find is the claim that the fertility of the land in Swaffham Prior fen has just about expired, which will make it unviable for food production.

    When I drove through this summer, the crops looked pretty good to me and did not seem any different to when I first got to know the area some 20 years ago.

    The problem with this is, I am neither farmer nor agronomist, but I know a man who is.

    A farmer, an author, a promoter of all things rural through a national newspaper column, a founder member of the Countryside Restoration Trust and a board member of the National Trust.

    Add to that, the one-time presenter of TV's One Man and His Dog and we have Robin Page.

    So, Robin, what is your take on all of this?

    David Carrington
    Whitton Close
    Swavesey

    ReplyDelete
  199. Good news!

    The 'SaveOurFens' E-Petition to 10 Downing Street has attracted 400 signatures to date. In actual fact, the total of names that are listed on it exceeds 400 as some are multiple signatures, i.e. 'Daniel and Claire White.'

    Thanks to all friends and supporters!

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.