Sunday, 31 January 2010

Some very generous comments

"Dear Mr Woollard,

Although I live in *********** (and therefore just outside your constituency) I would just like to let you know that I hope very much that you will be elected when the next election is held.

I really believe that we need more people in parliament like you, who have their own mind and do not need to toe any party line. I think you would look after your constituents very well, and I would happily swap ****** ******* (my useless MP) for you.

I read your blog with interest and I agree with many of your policies (in particular regard to hare coursing) and I wish you the very best of luck when the election comes.

best regards,


A review for Amazon: 'I give the DVD set five stars'

My wife and I are English and we live in England. Our son has recently become an American citizen and lives in the United States. He is in love with his new country and he acquired some of his love from us, his parents, who have had some of the happiest times of our lives in the U.S.

Our son recently sent to my wife and I a present of the Ken Burns boxed DVD set devoted to the National Parks and, short of an actual visit (or a repeat visit in some cases), he could not have chosen a nicer or more enjoyable a gift. 720 minutes is exactly twelve hours of viewing pleasure and every minute of Mr Burns's astonishingly good work is worth a viewing - and then a re-viewing (and I don't mean a reviewing, which this is), for no one in his or her right mind could conceivably grow bored with or tired of such beauty. The actual parks, some of which we have seen ourselves, are marvellous, but the photography and commentary that make this set so marvellous remind me of Mr Burns's other and earlier triumph, the set on America's tragic 'Civil War,' which we also possess.

Watching the DVDs and imagining that we were with our son, a few more thoughts came to mind and they all relate to seeming contradictions in popular perceptions of the U.S.

First, there is the seeming contradiction between what most American people are said to think and to practise - the acquisition and possession of private property, whereas the National Parks are the opposite, for they are mostly the Government's property, they are in public ownership.

Second, there is the seeming contradiction between what most American people are said to think and to practise - the pursuits of commerce and commercialism, whereas the National Parks are the opposite of commerce and commercialism, for they are not there for profit, except the public 'profit' of the people's good feeling about them.

And, third, there is the seeming contradiction between what most American people are said to think and to practise - the 'sport' of hunting in all its forms. I once asked a very good North Carolinian friend why he shot a black bear. His reply was two-fold in that he said that his pa and he 'had always hunted bear' and then, when pressed again by me as to why, he said, 'To eat, of course.' And it was true: he and his family had eaten some of the best bits of the bear. This old custom and practice is off-limits in the National Parks, thank goodness - and the U.S. Government.

My wife and I have visited the U.S. many times and I am still uncertain as to whether I understand the American people and what makes them 'tick.' Having so enjoyed Ken Burns's magnificent work - again - I have come to the conclusion that it is the very contradictions of life inherent and possible in a very great country that are more of its attractions.

I give the DVD set five stars with pleasure and gratitude to our son for selecting so suitable and appreciated a present.

A good long-odds political bet!

Anybody heard of Shaun Woodward?

Despite having lived near Newmarket all my life, I am not a betting man (well, I tell a lie: I once put a pound on a one-thousand-to-one runner in the Derby: the horse came last), but if anybody is looking for a good long-odds political bet, I recommend (though I may live to regret making the recommendation and it may be the kiss of death to the man) the Rt. Hon. Shaun Woodward, M.P., as the next leader of the Labour Party.

Mr Woodward, who was a Conservative M.P., left the Conservatives in 1999, the same year that I did, and said at the time, "The Conservative Party that I believed in has left me." He is now a prominent and respected Labour M.P. and is in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. There is, of course, a major political crisis in Northern Ireland at present and, if Mr Woodward survives this with his reputation intact and, following a leadership election in the Labour Party at some point after the General Election - and it matters not for Mr Woodward if Gordon Brown wins or loses the election - I predict that Shaun Woodward will be elected his party's Leader.

There is one worry for some Labour Party members (of which I am not one and never will be: I am truly independent) in that Mr Woodward's wife is a member of the wealthy and influential Sainsbury family that has ties with both Labour and the Conservatives.

I hope very much that Labour will rise above old prejudices and eventually elect a man of courage, good judgement and sound commonsense, who possesses in abundance the other qualities of a top-rank politician: he is a good communicator and is convincing and persuasive. I am a big fan of him.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

I have been stupid!

I have realised that I have been stupid, in that I should have explained and illustrated on this blog what it is in the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision' that is so upsetting to residents of the Fens and 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.

The map (extracted from a National Trust propaganda paper) shows the extent of the area that the Trust sees as a necessary addition to the existing Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve (to which few have objected for more than a hundred years). The area coloured yellow is what the Trust wants to acquire. It extends from the village of Wicken almost to the edge of Cambridge.

We locals hate the thought that the Trust is to buy up and flood or 'junglefy' thousands of acres of the finest food-growing Cambridgeshire Fen land, the best of Britain's most basic resources.

We deplore the loss of this land, the threat to homes, livelihoods and businesses, and the grave danger to a place of worship, the well-known and greatly-loved 'Little Chapel in The Fen.' (Below is a picture of part of last year's Harvest Thanksgiving Service congregation. It was a truly wonderful occasion).

We are concerned that additional car parks and extra traffic in and through the villages - as well as more flies and mosquitoes - will affect residents adversely.

Most of all, we are angered by the pointless and enormous estimated £100-million-plus expense (to include the £20-million so-called 'Bridge of Reeds' over the A14) and believe, in this recession, that there are other and better objects and causes to support.

Here is the link to our SaveOurFens E-Petition -

She asked, 'Do you hunt?' To which I replied, 'No.'

I had an amusing experience some years ago. It's worth recalling in the context of fox hunting.

I was up in rural Derbyshire during winter and I was looking for the church at a village called Longford. My great, great grandmother was born there in 1804 and her maiden name was Mary Anne Fox. I wanted to find the gravestones of, say, her parents, Daniel and Frances Fox, or, indeed, any other Fox ancestors, some of whom I knew to have been buried at St. Chad's Church. But I couldn't find the church.

Anyway, whilst seeking it out, a bunch of fox hunters crossed the rural road I was traversing. One of the riders, a lady, stopped what little traffic there was and I willingly stopped, too, for I was not minded to be impolite. I wound down my window and asked the lady, 'Which hunt is this?' She responded, 'The Meynell' (speaking with a slightly shrill voice but pronouncing the name correctly, as I knew, 'The Mennell'). She then explained the way to St. Chad's Church, Longford. I thanked her and explained, in turn, that I was far from my Cambridgeshire home.

I was driving my Land Rover Discovery and, for whatever reason - maybe she thought that I was a 'sab' - she asked, 'Do you hunt?' To which I replied, 'No.' And she rode on. I wasn't very quick-witted then, for I should have said, 'Yes, but only dead Foxes in Longford churchyard.'

A new fox picture, not from Longford

Why would anyone want to chase this creature to the death?

Tony Blair, the Iraq Inquiry, and 'People forget'

There is much in the newspapers today about Tony Blair and the Iraq Inquiry. The former is heavily criticised for his performance at the latter.

People forget.

This is a note that I wrote to an American contact on the 18th of March, 2003:

"Here are my own views, for what they are worth:

I think that it is right to get rid of Saddam Hussein and that the task should have been finished in the former fracas. John Major, our then Prime Minister, and George Bush, senior, your then President, are to blame for that job not being done properly and I understand from a friend of mine who is a close friend of Mr Major that 'it was the Americans (who stopped us)'. Be that the truth or not, it was a major (oh dear!) error of judgement, for which we have all paid dearly ever since.

I know that the consequences of the coming conflict could be awful, but what is the realistic alternative? Saddam Hussein has been portrayed as a modern-day Hitler, and that is clearly ridiculous, for the latter was the elected leader of a modern industrial state of enormous strength and was actively threatening his neighbours and others, whereas the former is dictator of a tin-pot 'invented' country with a crashed-out economy who claims not to be threatening others nowadays. But the fact remains that S.H. did attack Kuwait, did murder other Iraqis, and did attack Israel with his missiles. If he is let off the hook now there will be no holding him and, with renewed confidence and re-arming, he will have another 'go' at his people and his neighbours in due time, just as he did before.

The people that I feel most sorry for are the Iraqis and our friends in Israel. I took our Dalmatian doggies to their vet. on Thursday last for their regular 'shots'. Their vet. is Jewish; his folks live in Israel; that place is a democracy; but they are under constant threat from socialist Arabs like Saddam Hussein and religious fanatics like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Despite any doubts about Bush and some of his 'fundamentalist' friends who scare the living daylights out of me, 'our' side is right, in your humble servant's opinion, and just has to prevail."

Friday, 29 January 2010

Poor old Burwell

Sue and I attended today the funeral service at St. Mary's Church, Burwell, of the late Private Robbie Hayes, of Burwell and the 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, who was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday, the 3rd day of this month.

I don't believe that Burwell has ever seen such a large gathering of mourners and sympathisers on any one occasion. The church was, of course, packed, with many standing, and there were many more outside in the cold and sleety weather. We were fortunate in that, whilst the service was due to start at 1 p.m., we were in the village by 11.15 a.m, had soon parked our car in the grounds of Brian and Hilary Marsh's house (with permission), and had arrived at St. Mary's by 11.30 a.m., when we were allocated good seating in a side aisle.

Our grandson, who was a Bottisham Village College school mate and a Newmarket Rugby Club friend of Robbie Hayes, also arrived in time to obtain a seat.

The opening hymn was 'I Vow to Thee My Country,' and here follow the words that were sung:

"I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace."

The event was most moving and all who had a part to play played it well. We commend especially our friend, the Revd. Canon Stephen Earl, Vicar of Burwell, whose every word was well chosen, clearly and kindly delivered, and meaningful in every sense. How on earth some of the readers - Robbie's mother and girl-friend, for example - coped with the situation, I'll never know, but cope they did, and well.

Scores of military personnel, both veterans and serving soldiers, were in attendance, as was my friend, Councillor John Powley, the vice-chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council, and my friend, Councillor Peter Cresswell, chairman of East Cambridgeshire District Council. Burwell itself was represented by many hundreds of individuals, some known to me, others not. All had come to pay their respects and all had reason to regard Robbie Hayes as a hero, which he was.

Sadly, though, our local hero is dead, and so are 250 others, killed over more than eight years of the appallingly wasteful Afghanistan adventure.

My reaction, both during the service and afterwards, was to think and to say to a few long-time friends, 'Poor old Burwell.' The village, which is only about four miles from where we live and which I represented as its County Councillor, is a sad place today and will be for many a day in the future.

Here is the link to the Cambridge News report of the funeral -

Not in my name and not with my money

"David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, has defended a plan to pay off the Taleban while British soldiers continue to die in Helmand province." (The Times, 29th January, 2010).

I have commented on-line as follows:

"Not in my name and not with my money.

My wife and I are going to Burwell, Cambridgeshire (about four miles from our home) to attend the funeral of Private Robbie Hayes today. Robbie was a school friend and a Newmarket Rugby Club friend of my grandson. Robbie's life was lost 'over there' and he and all of the other British and American dead and injured have already paid too high a price for Afghanistan.

Bring our boys home now."

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Here's where the money is going!

My friend John Aitchison, of Qua Fen Common, Soham, has written another excellent letter, this time to the Ely Weekly News, and, thanks to the good people there, it has been published today. It is similar to one that John sent to the Ely Standard three weeks back and it reads as follows:

"Land is needed to grow food

Sir, Re the Wicken vision, what a waste of highly productive agricultural land.

I feel I can no longer let my frustrations and beliefs go unreported. I have known Geoffrey Woollard well for the best part of 40 years, and I wholeheartedly agree with his efforts to do battle against this unnecessary and short sighted project.

In Farmers Weekly, December 18-25 2009, we read “The growing demand for food around the world has put UK agricultural production back at the heart of the economy and political thinking.”

Also at the Oxford Farming Conference last January, Secretary of Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Hilary Benn said: "I want British agriculture to produce as much food as possible - no ifs, no buts."

The hectarage and yield of crops has got to keep going up and up if we are to keep feeding an ever increasing population. A fuel crisis is also not that far away. Gas and oil supplies will run out eventually and we may well have to grow more and more energy either as bio-mass or as bio-diesel. So why in the light of this thinking can't the Government put a stop to this project dreamt up by the National Trust. This organisation does a superb job of preserving historic buildings, many of which the owners have been forced to vacate. Why therefore is it getting involved in removing land from agricultural production?

The British agricultural industry is one of the most productive in the world but it seems to have the most problems to overcome to be in such a position. Although I would not be directly affected by this project, I have been in and around agriculture, which includes formal training all my life and I am of the opinion we should be as productive as possible, and this project should be stopped forthwith.

W John Aitchison
Qua Fen Common

My 'friend' Ben Gibbs, of Ely, wrote to the Ely Standard two weeks ago with an attempt at a riposte to John Aitchison's earlier contribution.

A further follow-up letter from me is in today's Ely Standard. I have highlighted the National Lottery's having now to pay a larger proportion of the cost of the 2012 Olympic Games and, consequently, having less available for funding such as the so-called 'Wicken Vision.' My letter reads as follows:

"Vision is not essential

Ben Gibbs evidently derives amusement from teasing my friend John Aitchison and I, but I have to advise him that he is missing the point.

Large numbers of people in the area to be affected by the National Trust's Wicken Vision are opposed to it.. Mr Gibbs favours it. But what really counts in this undemocratic debate is not the numbers who oppose it and agree with me or the numbers who agree with Mr Gibbs.

This misconceived and controversial scheme was never going to be decided on a numbers basis. What counts is cash and the funding sources for the Vision are now in big trouble.

The National Lottery is having to pay a larger proportion of the cost of the 2012 Olympic Games and the Government - any Government of any party, now or in the future - is under pressure to keep core services going and to avoid frittering our money on non-essentials. The Wicken Vision was never essential.

Indeed, the opposite is the case, for it is now essential that British farmers produce more British food to feed an ever-growing population. Our Fen farmers work the best land in the country and their production is more and more needed.

Don't take my word for it, Mr Gibbs: take the word of Hilary Benn, the present Defra Secretary, and Nick Herbert, his Conservative counterpart.

Geoffrey Woollard
River Bank
Near Upware."

The link to the Ely Standard letters page is -

- and the picture (above) is of the developing 2012 Olympics site.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

First responses favourable

I received the following message within minutes of the 'announcement' posting:

"Wow! That is excellent. Perfect music too. You were very brave on the multi-racial theme! So, it is official now? You are in the running?  M****."

To which I replied:

"Thanks, M****, and not without more than a little help from you. Yes, it's official!

As ever,

Geoffrey Woollard."

And another came in soon after:

"Impressive use of technology. Good luck! I wonder if ex-pats can vote?


And another:

"Good luck !

A**** T*****."

And another:

"Yes good luck Geoffrey. You can count on my vote!

Love J**** x."

And another:

"Hi Geoffrey!

I disagree with your views on Hunting & Hare Coursing, but everything else is spot on!

Good Luck!


And another:

"Just viewed your Youtube. Excellent. Well put together. You have expressed what the vast majority are thinking, with the exception of the country fraternity and hunting. You will have my vote!


And another:

"Good Luck!

A*** J****."

And another:

"Good luck!!!!


And another:

"Wishing you the best of luck Geoffrey. We live in Norfolk just outside Norwich but my ancestors lived and died in Great Chishill and Crishall which was then in Cambs but now I think in Essex. (They changed the boundaries) The fens must be preserved at all costs, it's our heritage, our land and our right.

Excellent video and thanks for sending. Very moving in fact.

Kind regards.

W**** M******."

And a mystery comment on youtube from 'Floogy26':

"Very good luck Geoffrey.

I've nothing much against Jim Paice, he is a hard working MP who does his best for his constituents. Unfortunately his hands are tied by the party machine and whatever he may think he has to toe the party line.

We need a truly independent MP who is not afraid to speak his mind. You will get my vote." 

This came in from a very helpful lady friend:

"Keep up the good work!

C***** S*******."

And this from another lovely lady:

"Geoffrey, I found it all very interesting. Good luck to you. M****."

Yet another lovely lady wrote:

"Geoffrey I have just watched ... your You Tube. It is great and if I lived in your area I would certainly vote for you as you echo my feelings things over and over .... I do hope you are successful with your campaign.

Much love M*****."

And yet another lovely lady (where do I find them?) wrote:

"Good luck ought to be the voice of commonsense!"

From a gentleman this time:

"Congratulations on very excellent presentation ... "

And from another Cambridgeshire-born gentleman:

"an excellent production, well done Geoffrey

I have family connections with so many of the villages you mention, one of course being my birthplace, another my father's.

I don't agree with everything you say.....I have never thought of you as having a big nose!"

And this came in from a charming and enthusiastic Longmeadow lady:

"Go Geoffrey Go!!!!"

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The announcement!

"I urge electors who are naturally independent - or who are presently undecided - to support me. If elected, I will listen, take advice, think things through for myself and make up my own mind on the important issues of the day, and I will act and vote accordingly, hopefully in the best interests of the whole of South East Cambridgeshire - my life-time home and the home of the ancestors of both my wife and myself. If you, too, prefer to think for yourself, then ........................ VOTE GEOFFREY WOOLLARD, INDEPENDENT, 4 SOUTH EAST CAMBRIDGESHIRE."

For the youtube link, go to -

Good old Bob Ainsworth!

'Independence Day' ... It is only ninety-nine days until the electors of South East Cambridgeshire can vote to send an independent M.P. to the House of Commons.

Good old Bob Ainsworth, the present Secretary of State for Defence, let the cat out of the bag. The date of the General Election is to be Thursday, the 6th of May.

I have never said 'Good old Bob Ainsworth' before and I'll try never to be rude again about this rather unattractive politician though I have to say that his visage does nothing for his image - or is it the other way round?

Anyway, Bob has been helpful in that he made me and my team run through a checklist of what has been done and what is still to be done in preparation for the announcement of my candidature and then for the campaign itself.

1.   The proofs of the principal leaflets have been received from the printers and have been approved. The printers are waiting to go and can produce the goods within 48 hours, which is impressive.

2.   Royal Mail has been alerted. The company delivers election leaflets free of charge.

3.   Poster sites are being listed.

4.   Advertisements have been readied for the local newspapers.

5.   Canvassers and helpers are increasing in numbers.

6.   A youtube presentation is poised for putting on line.

7.   My 'blog' is being up-dated daily.

All Gordon Brown has to do is to confirm the date and we are off!

I will not make rude remarks about any local candidates either but something else has reminded me of one of my national bêtes noires.

He is Mr Nick Herbert, who is the Conservative 'Shadow' Defra Secretary (and who makes the right noises, agreeing with Hilary Benn, regarding the need for increased home-grown food production), but whom I have known since he worked as a junior at Conservative Central Office. I was on a national committee that he served as secretary and I discovered then that he was less than competent. Indeed, I actually taught him how to write minutes and about how it was needful to get said minutes out in good time.

Anyway, Master Nick has 'done well' since, but he is definitely a bête noire for me because, ever since he was a leading light in what became the Countryside Alliance, he has worked night and day for the retention and then - post the 2004 Hunting Act - the un-banning of fox hunting, hare coursing and stag hunting. I have a particular hatred for hare coursing, having fought it for the best part of five decades and that is one of the reasons why I plan to stand at this General Election. There are, of course, several other reasons.

In my opinion, Mr Herbert is too narrow in his known interests to become a Cabinet Minister in Mr Cameron's prospective government. He is obsessed with blood sports to the point of depravity. I am not saying that he is personally depraved but participation in the blood sports that I have mentioned is a form of depravity.

I oppose the un-banning of fox hunting, hare coursing and stag hunting. Mr Herbert opposes me. Well, let battle commence.

Here is my line: the Hunting Act should be strengthened so that we can be sure that chasing and killing wild animals for fun is clearly and for ever unlawful and regarded by all with well-deserved revulsion. If they know what's good for them politically, Cameron, Hague, Herbert & Co. should, at the very least, promise to let sleeping dogs lie.

In this picture, Nick Herbert looks solemn and responsible. Like Bob Ainsworth, his visage doesn't do much for his image - or is it the other way round? In fairness, I am told that the seemingly solemn and responsible Mr Herbert can be quite gay if he chooses - perhaps on foot when beagling or on horseback when out hunting?

Monday, 25 January 2010

I've just blogged!

A splendid greeting card came my way some time ago. It sits on my desk. I have just scanned it and the result of the scan is below -

Is 'Boy George' man enough for the big job?

I love the United States - though I have a special affection for the beautiful and historic states that formed the old and long-dead Confederacy - and Sue and I have had some of the happiest times of our lives whilst on vacation in the U.S. We have fine friends in both South and North and our son is now an American citizen and living and working near Seattle.

However, the last time that I was over there, I was struck yet again by how polarised American politics have become in recent years. It seems now to be factual that there is sheer hatred for President Obama from the likes of Sarah Palin, still a highly regarded Republican prospect for 2012 despite her apparent ignorance of much beyond Alaska, and Rush Limbaugh, the radio commentator who broadcasts his own special brand of bile and hypocrisy. It all worries me greatly and I still recall with fondness the eight encouraging and up-beat years of Bill Clinton's presidency. Maybe we were then living in a fool's paradise or cloud-cuckoo land but it didn't feel like it at the time.

Following the dramatic loss to the Republicans of the Senate seat in Massachusetts formerly held by the late Senator Edward Kennedy who, for all his faults, was a grand speaker and a powerful voice for his State in Washington, it seems now to have become incumbent upon Obama to try to make up lost ground by advocating punitive new measures against the larger American banks. I think that we should remember that the U.S. banking system is very different from ours with a multitude of small 'regional' banks often based in one city in an individual State and with just a handful of branches. These smaller banks are still going belly-up due in part to poor management and in part to inadequate capitalisation and too generous lending to the NINJA (No Income; No Jobs; No Assets) customers who, in this country, would be given short shrift by most of the best-known High Street banks. It is a mistake - both financially and morally - to encourage people to take out loans and mortgages based purely on the supposition that property prices can only increase. The prime British casualty in this was Northern Rock, but no depositors lost a penny due to prompt action by the authorities. We must give credit where credit is due and Labour deserves the credit.

In America, the likes of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went way too close to the wall, whilst the crash of Lehman Brothers precipitated a world-wide crisis of enormous and almost unprecedented proportions. We must not forget that the crisis started in America and spread throughout the world and Gordon Brown's government should not be held to blame. Indeed, some of the better ideas for dealing with the crisis have emerged from our side of 'the pond.'

Obama's latest attack on the larger American banks seems like cutting off the Americans' financial nose to spite their faces for the future. The larger American banks now have the resources and the standing to survive the crisis, whereas the 'regional' banks still have something of a question mark over them.

The President's plans, perhaps drawn up to steer attention away from the former male model's Senatorial triumph in the Yankee and formerly Democratic (though staunchly Lincoln Republican in the 'Civil War' years) stronghold of Massachusetts, were initially endorsed with enthusiasm by our own George Osborne, perhaps to be the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer after the 6th of May (Bob Ainsworth, the present Defence Secretary, let out the General Election date yesterday and I don't think that he is smart enough to be deceitful about it), and it was most amusing to witness how Osborne had to back-track when wiser counsels prevailed. Indeed, watching the intellectual battle between Osborne, who is still regarded as something of a lightweight, and Lord Myners, for the Government, is fascinating. Myners is winning hands down. It would be highly amusing if it were not so serious. But I ask myself, 'Is 'Boy George' man enough for the big job?'

I have to declare an interest here. I hold shares in both Barclays and in the newly-formed Lloyds Banking Group (I am not alone for I understand that Lloyds is one of the stocks most widely held by pension funds and individual investors) and I have suffered with both during the crisis. But Lord Myners and London's Conservative mayor, Boris Johnson, are right in highlighting the importance of the financial services industry, not only to London but to the whole country. If our big banks, which are comparable in size to America's big banks, are clobbered for the sake of political expediency and cheap vote-catching in the run-up to May, we shall all rue it, not least 'Boy George' Osborne - he of the Bullingdon Club - but, of course, he has lots of family dosh to fall back on and will be alright anyway. The Osbornes haven't many worries about pension funds and dividend income.                                  

I am truly sorry to be so gloomy at the beginning of another momentous week for British politics, but the above is my 'take' (as they say) on what is happening or what may happen, and it ain't looking good. Sue says that I should look on the bright side. I hope that there is a bright side but I can't see it yet.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Fred Archer (1857 - 1886), the world-famous Newmarket jockey - and another relative!

Facebook produces surprises. Yesterday afternoon, I was surprised to be contacted via facebook by a fellow fan and an especially thorough researcher of Frederick James (Fred) Archer (1857 - 1886), who was born at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and died (almost certainly by his own hand) at Falmouth House, Newmarket. Fred Archer was one of the most famous jockeys of all time and just one of his memorials is Fred Archer Way in Newmarket.

The illustration is the not very flattering cartoon of the unusually tall and thin Fred Archer as appeared in Vanity Fair in May, 1882. I own a copy.

Fred himself wasn't a relative of either Sue or I, but his wife, Helen Rose (Nellie) (née Dawson) (1861 - 1884), was a niece of Sue's ggg aunt and a first cousin of Sue's two step great-grandmothers. Moreover, Nellie's brother, John Alfred (Jack) Dawson (1855 - 1942), a racehorse trainer at Newmarket, married my brother-in-law's great aunt, Grace Hamilton Horsburgh Waugh (1858 - 1926), who was a daughter of James Waugh (1831 - 1905), a famous Scots-born Newmarket racehorse trainer, and a sister of several famous Waugh racehorse trainers and of Charles (Charlie) Waugh who lived and farmed at The Vineyards at Bottisham and was a Parish Councillor there.

Additionally, a grand-daughter of Fred and Nellie Archer - also a grand-daughter of Max Edward Oscar Tosetti (1845 - 1924), who lived for several years at Swaffham Prior Hall - married a distant Gardner cousin of mine whose ancestors farmed at Woodditton, Fen Ditton and Horningsea. It's a small world - and it's made smaller by research and contacts on the internet.

Fred and Nellie Archer lie buried at Newmarket Cemetery which in turn lies in the old Cambridgeshire part of Newmarket. But that's another story and a debate for another day.

Fred and Nellie Archer's gravestone is to the right.

Some of my research (mostly transcriptions of old Newmarket Journals) on Fred and Nellie Archer can be found at -

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Children love hunting - do they?

I received this morning the accompanying picture. It is captioned, 'Children love hunting - do they?"

George Dean's Dissertation - a triumph!

My friend George Dean, whom I have known since his childhood and who is up at Oxford, has produced his Dissertation and has sent me a copy. I have written to George as follows:

"Dear George,

I received yesterday by post and with pleasure your Dissertation on 'The Wicken Vision' and I read it between 10 p.m. and around midnight (I couldn't put it down until I had finished it). I regard it as a triumph for yourself and a lasting tribute to the thorough study and hard work that you have done, both at Oxford and elsewhere. I am honoured to have been of some assistance to you.

Well done, that man: your family and friends must be very proud of you!

As ever,

Geoffrey Woollard."

250 dead Brits in Afghanistan - how many more?

We awoke today to the news of yet another British soldier having died in Afghanistan. A report is now (7.30 a.m.) in the on-line Daily Telegraph - see below.

The question that is asked by more and more people 'over here' is how many more are to die 'over there' before the waste of it all is realised by those of 'them' who rule us and/or 'represent' us. We and our courageous soldiers have achieved nothing in that God-forsaken hell-hole; we and our courageous soldiers are achieving nothing in that God-forsaken hell-hole; and we and our courageous soldiers will achieve nothing in that God-forsaken hell-hole. The British Empire did no good in Afghanistan; the Soviet Union beat an ignominious retreat from Afghanistan; and the combined forces of Nato, led by the United States and closely followed by brave British men and women, will also be compelled to embrace 'reconciliation' (not my word, but the word of George Osborne and William Hague on a recent visit to Kabul) with our enemies. But there is still all-party support for this misadventure that was started at the behest of President Bush in order to 'smoke out' Osama bin Laden.

It is quite clear that bin Laden has done a bunk and it is also clear that the threat from 'home-grown' al-Qaeda is to be found as much in Leeds, Leicester, Luton and London.

Bring our boys home ASAP before we pass yet another milestone of death and suffering for them and loss and sacrifice for us who are appalled by what is going on in our names.

By the way, my illustration is from the time, back in June, 2008, when the British death toll was 'only' 100 and when I wrote to my present M.P., Mr James Paice, 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."

Where are the M.P.s when we need them? A few courageous individuals speak out again this pointless and stupid adventure but the remainder stay silent because they are 'constrained' by their respective party lines. I say, 'Stop it, now!"

Friday, 22 January 2010

Let sleeping dogs lie - literally!

I've also had a letter published in today's Cambridge News. It speaks for itself and I am very grateful to our excellent Cambridge-based newspaper for making room for it.

"Tories Should Leave Well Alone

I don’t know Michael Boughton- Fox of Bar Hill, but I am grateful to him for doggedly going after the fox hunters and hare coursers (Letters, January 14). I have a special hatred of hare coursing, against which I have fought for five decades. It is a disgusting so-called "sport".

Mr Boughton-Fox mentions David Cameron and the local Conservative MPs. I believe that, if anything, the Hunting Act, which they opposed, should be strengthened so that we can be sure that chasing and killing wild animals for fun is clearly and for ever unlawful and regarded by all with well-deserved revulsion. If they know what's good for them politically, Cameron, Hague, Herbert & Co should, at the very least, promise to let sleeping dogs lie - literally.

Geoffrey Woollard
Chapel Farm
Near Upware."

And the link to the letter is here -

What about the ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ of the Fen mosquitioes?

There's been an intriguing but misleading and upsetting story in the Cambridge News. My friend Jordan Day wrote it, though I guess that the National Trust provided the press release from which he worked.

The story is intriguing because it mentions 'the Google Trike' going round Wicken Fen gathering pictures to add to Google Street View. Apparently, people went round the Fen, which is supposed to be a National Nature Reserve, on tricycles with cameras mounted on poles. It's rough ground on the Fen. How did they keep the cameras steady?

The story is also misleading (though Jordan Day obviously didn't intend it to be so) because the pictures must have missed the special sounds of the Fen, especially those of the Summer months when the inimitable and inevitable ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ of the Fen mosquitioes is the dominant one.

Sadly, the story is also upsetting because, for those of us in the Fens who love our wildlife, it must have been yet another disturbing experience for what true wildlife still lives at Wicken Fen.

I have often claimed that there is more wildlife in my garden at River Bank than there is at the 'National Nature Reserve' at Wicken Fen and it's not surprising, for there is peace in my garden and busy cameramen and thousands of visitors at the NNR.

That isn't what the late Mr George Henry Verrall, M.P.,  would have had in mind when he left land for Fen wildlife to enjoy and have some peace in.

The Cambridge News story is at -

Thursday, 21 January 2010

To Swaffham Bulbeck Church for another funeral

Sue and I went to Swafham Bulbeck Church for another funeral today. I say 'another' because they come along rather too often nowadays.

Today's was special, however, for it was a service of thanksgiving for the life of Mr Donald (Don) Yeo who died on the 4th of this month, aged 81. The church was packed, as would have been expected. Don was 'a good old boy' and that is as fine a compliment as can ever be paid to a fine Cambridgeshire gentleman. Our sympathies go out to his widow, Cynthia.

I am a 'don't know' with regard to religion, but among the hymns was one of my all-time favourites, 'The Old Rugged Cross.' I loved singing it again.

"On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.


So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

O, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left his glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.


So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.


So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then he'll call me some day to my home far away,
Where his glory for ever I'll share.


So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown."

Sarah McManus says it all!

Today's excellent Newmarket Journal includes a splendid letter from Sarah McManus and all I can say is that, so far as the Conservatives and Newmarket are concerned, Sarah McManus says it all. The salient points of the letter are as follow:

"I have been a staunch Conservative voter for the past 30 years, but now question whether or not I will be voting for the party at the next election."

"There is not one single candidate from the local area on the shortlist of six candidates to replace Richard Spring as MP, and the local Conservative committee procedures to draw up the list left a lot to be desired."

"The favourite for the post, apparently, is M*** H******, George Osborne’s right hand man who is to be parachuted into the position."

"This is despite the fact that only in November last year he was on the shortlist for a seat in Congleton, Cheshire, where he originates from."

"He publicly stated that he dreamt of being in Cheshire and putting down his roots with his wife and children. Is this the type of MP we want to represent us in Suffolk?"

" ... the Conservative party is completely out of touch with the electorate, and there is nothing to choose between them and Labour ... "

Whether the new MP comes from the Conservative party, Labour or perhaps a local independent candidate [my italics], we need an MP who has empathy for our area ... "

Sarah McManus
Weston Way

Well said, Sarah!

The link to the Newmarket Journal is below.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson must do their duty

As I said yesterday, Cadbury is an iconic brand of wonderful chocolate that is proudly British.

Of course, the Cadbury shareholders' interest is important, but it's not all-important. I would have been very doubtful about Hershey as a buyer and I am now even more doubtful that Kraft can add anything to Cadbury, and the Americans may actually do harm to the brand and to the company.

My fears have not be allayed as a result of receiving a message from a very good American friend who has no axe to grind but who says, "I agree [with you]. Kraft is simply trying to find an easy way to grow its stagnant company. The Cadbury brand has a tremendous amount of goodwill, but that name will be worth less under Kraft. English jobs could very well suffer."

Moreover, Mr Todd Stitzer and Ms. Irene Rosenfeld, respectively the chief executives of Cadbury and 'stagnant' Kraft, cause me worry as I genuinely wonder if it's their respective companies' interests that they have at heart - or their own. Each, apparently, is in line for a big payout if the deal is completed.

Nor have my fears been allayed by reading that Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), which holds 5.1 per cent of the British confectioner, said yesterday that the 850p cash-and-shares bid by Kraft did not reflect the long-term value of the company.

Neptune Investment Management has described Kraft's bid as "unappealing at best."

"This deal is ultimately bad for everyone," said Robin Geffen, Neptune's managing director. "Sadly, Cadbury's management won't fight on and too many large shareholders are focused on very short-term performance."

The Government can and should now do what is needed - Cadbury must remain in predominantly British hands and under British management - and what ministers could and should home in on is the very real danger inherent in 'stagnant' Kraft's offer, the intention of the prospective buyer being to borrow some £7 billions. Even Warren Buffett is reported to be bothered about this. Bigger companies than 'stagnant' Kraft and/or Kraft/Cadbury have been brought down by borrowing too many billions.

The deal is against the public interest with yet another over-ambitious predator becoming over-burdened by debt. This could have dire results.

Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson must do their duty.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

I'm with Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown on this!

I'm with Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown on this. Cadbury is an iconic brand of wonderful chocolate that is proudly British. The shareholders' interest is important, but not all-important. I would have been very doubtful about Hershey and I am doubtful that Kraft can add anything to Cadbury and the Americans may do harm. And, besides, as a Cambridgeshire man, I cannot forget the company's association with Chivers Hartley at Histon.

It's obvious, innit?!

Pat Kilbey, the editor (and my friend) of our most local newspaper, the Burwell Bulletin, which serves splendidly both Burwell and the surrounding villages, has been good enough to publish another letter from me. It reads as follows:

"Old-fashioned remedy

Am I old-fashioned?

I say this because I recall when Cambridgeshire villages had their own snow ploughs. Farmers in the villages operated the village snow ploughs and they turned out when snow ploughing was needed, as it was in the villages during the snowy spell before Christmas. Because Cambridgeshire villages have no snow ploughs now, the farmers don't do the needed snow ploughing and the result is that when we get more than an inch or so of snow, instead of it being ploughed and cleared to the roadsides, it becomes rutted in the roads and a great danger to all.

Can we turn the clock back just a bit, please?

Geoffrey Woollard."

And the link to the actual newspaper is here -

The picture is of a village snowplough complete with faithful horses and dating from the 1920s. For the record, I am not advocating that snow ploughing should again be done with horses, though they look good.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Sunday away from Cambridgeshire - is this wise?

Sue and I spent Sunday away from Cambridgeshire - and 'campaigning' (though my independent election campaign hasn't officially started yet) - and I wondered (just to Sue and myself), 'Is this wise?'

Well, wise or not, we had a wonderful time with lots of Sue's 'Turnip Taleban' relatives and returned to Chapel Farm sated and happy. I call the Norfolk crowd 'Turnip Taleban' because the hard-working Conservative loyalists - and most, if not all, of Sue's Norfolk relatives are or were Conservative loyalists - were nicknamed thus during the serious crisis that the party experienced in that part of good old East Anglia when yet another London-based candidate - Elizabeth Truss in this case - was 'parachuted in' to the supposedly safe Conservative seat of South West Norfolk against the wishes of said hard-working loyalists.

The same problem appears to be shaping up in West Suffolk where none of the six picked for final selection to succeed Mr Richard Spring in another supposedly safe Conservative seat have local roots or connections. I know that people in the Suffolk part of Newmarket are unhappy to say the least. It's a 'rum owd do' (a native saying, not likely to be understood beyond the bounds of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk or Norfolk) when hard-working loyalists whose most important role, hitherto, has been sorting out and selecting appropriate applicants to stand in the Conservative interest are seemingly sidelined, often in the cause of 'inclusiveness.' The Conservatives should nurture their own people and 'include' them at all stages of the selection process: the opposite is now in vogue and it appears that an applicant for such as South West Norfolk or West Suffolk has the best chance of being approved and 'selected' if he/she is a Londoner with connections to the Notting Hill set and/or from some variety of favoured or fashionable 'minority.'

The Norfolk relatives were in good form, however, and we had quite serious discussions on current affairs and the up-coming election. I was actually quite surprised to hear how David Cameron is derided. They have severe doubts about him and some expressed a preference for William Hague - again. Well, despite the latter being hot stuff in the House of Commons, I don't share the relatives' preference, for beer-swilling Willie had his turn as Leader, and he muffed it. I can't see the Conservatives ditching yet another Leader, unless 'airbrushed Dave' loses in May.

Incidentally, I was also surprised to hear more serious derision - along the lines of 'what has he done in 23 years in the House?' - regarding my likely opponent and I felt duty-bound to point out that Mr James Paice, M.P., is - and has been for several years - 'Shadow Minister of Agriculture.' My 'support' for Mr Paice didn't cut much ice with the 'Turnip Taleban' and they are mostly farming folk. What has 'Jim' done - or not done - to deserve this derision? I don't know.

By the way, the airbrushing of Dave is causing huge hilarity and I have commented on somebody else's blog as follows:

"This nonsense serves the Conservative spin doctors right. I am likely to be standing as an independent in South East Cambridgeshire. I have a big nose (as did Oliver Cromwell). I have always had a big nose. Everybody knows I have a big nose. If I cut off (as in airbrushed) my nose, I would spite my public face. It would be only too obvious. What Cameron's people have done is only too obvious. The rest of us know what the deer-stalking genuine article is. Cameron and his fox hunting, deer stalking, hare coursing clique of Hague, Herbert & Co. can run (with their airbrushers) but they can't hide their unattractive but real 'faces.' We should see them without the airbrushers' efforts - big noses and warts (as in Oliver Cromwell), bad policies and all."

Another version of 'airbrushed Dave' is below. Laugh if you wish: I did!

Sunday, 17 January 2010


The Daily Mirror reports that 'David Cameron's airbrushed poster campaign sets off internet spoof craze'


David Cameron's airbrushed poster campaign has backfired - setting off an internet craze of hilarious spoof versions.

On the site jokers can adapt the "we can't go on like this" adverts to poke fun at the 15ft-high picture of the Tory leader.

One shows his smoothed-over face with the words: "We can't go on like this. I'll cut my taxes, but not yours."

Another replaces the picture with Harry Enfield's "Tim Nice But Dim" saying: "My chums from school and I are going to absolutely, thoroughly, bloody-well sort the country out." The airbrushed Mr Cameron is also portrayed as saying: "I love the BBC so much, I want to cut it up into little pieces and give it to all my friends."

The spoof posters website, unfunded and not linked to a political party, was set up by designer Clifford Singer, who said. "We've been inundated."

The site had 35,000 visits in the first week and received 200 poster ideas.

Meanwhile, a focus group report on the campaign poster said: "The general message was that it had backfired as it fed into the concerns people have about David Cameron and the Tories - that something doesn't quite add up."

The airbrushing was seen as "sly, cunning and slick" and Cameron as a "narcissist". A Labour source said: "It has massively backfired. The outbreak of online mock-ups confirms this."

We're in the internet age, now!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Two more dead Brits in Afghanistan

The Times reports two more dead British soldiers in Afghanistan.

I believe that MPs of all political persuasions - and none - need now to ignore all past decisions, divisions, opinions and party lines and rise up in revolt on our behalf to stop this pointless adventure and this terrible waste. Bring our boys home - immediately.

This book made me angry and ashamed - a review for Amazon

Sue and I love reading and, from time to time, I review books for Amazon. One such review follows:

"This book made me angry and ashamed - but read it, please!

I have read several books (though certainly not enough) about South Africa: 'The Great Boer War,' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; 'The Corner House,' by A.P. Cartwright; 'The Randlords,' by Geoffrey Wheatcroft; 'White Tribe Dreaming,' by Marq de Villiers; 'The Boer War,' by Thomas Pakenham; and 'The Covenant,' by James A. Michener, but until I got into my latest purchase, 'Diamonds, Gold and War,' by Martin Meredith, I was not entirely sure why I had become more than sympathetic to the old Boers and to Afrikanerdom.

Mr Meredith has given me all of the necessary reasons and, as a life-time admirer of the British Empire and its works, I was made more firmly angry and ashamed at what some of those ostensibly promoting the Empire had done to those to whom the British people should have been attached and who should not have been antagonised and attacked.

Cecil Rhodes's dream of colonising from The Cape to Cairo had great merit, especially if one recalls to what depths much of Africa has descended since Rhodes's day, but it was clearly a gross mistake and an unforgivable deed to betray his Cape Boer friend, Jan Hofmeyr, and his potential friends, President Paul Kruger of The Transvaal and President Marthinus Steyn of The Orange Free State. Rhodes comes out of the book badly, as do his co-conspirator, Dr. Leander Starr Jameson, the British Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, and, worst of all, the British High Commissioner and Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Alfred Milner.

(The picture is actually a cartoon of President Kruger as published in Vanity Fair: it hangs by my desk).

And, of course, there were the thousands of British soldiers lost (my wife's late grandfather, a wonderful man, volunteered for the Imperial Yeomanry, went enthusiastically to South Africa, but, thankfully, survived this shameful Imperial episode), and the thousands of Boer 'soldiers,' their wives and their children who suffered either in the war (to be more precise, the Second Boer War) or in British concentration camps. It was a disgrace and several passages in Mr Meredith's book move one almost to tears. The description of the elderly President Kruger's leaving of Pretoria for eventual exile on the 29th of May, 1900, leaving his beloved but infirm wife, Gezina, is one such and merits partial quotation:

'After conducting family prayers in the sitting room, Kruger took his wife's hand and led her into the bedroom. Nobody spoke or moved. Outside the carriage horses snorted. Then the old couple reappeared. Kruger pressed her against him, then released her, looking at her intently, silently. Then he turned and walked out to the carriage. They were never to meet again.'

I am old enough to have known a number of honourable men who went off to fight 'Old Kroojer': they were misguided, misled and mistaken. That Jan Christian Smuts later became one of the Empire's best friends is a fine reflection of Boer qualities, but the bitterness bequeathed by such as Milner did no good to Britain nor to the longer-term benefit of South Africa or its inhabitants, black or white.

I can only touch on some aspects of a brilliant and well-written history: to get the drift in its entirety, you have to get the book which, with 569 pages, is wonderful value."

For a great rendering of the old Boer song, 'Sarie Marais,' sung in Afrikaans, go to -

Friday, 15 January 2010

'This is a hunter who had later found a conscience'

I have this day received a message with a link to a website. Part of the message follows and the link to the website is below. I make no further comment.

"It is just one of many pieces of evidence from individuals involved in the hunt that was submitted to the Burns enquiry. This is a hunter who had later found a conscience."

Mr County Council, 'Take down that bridge!'

To my 'club' (Swaffham Prior Parish Council) again last evening, where one of the highlights in an otherwise amusing and enjoyable monthly meeting was the strong concern voiced by members about the latest state of the Reach Road railway bridge that carries the road from Swaffham Prior to Reach over the disused and former line of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall railway, the rails long since having been removed as a result of the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

I have expressed concern for some time because I am convinced that the road over the bridge has sunk in the middle. But the latest state was brought to our collective attention by Mr Jonathan Cook who walks his dogs that way and had taken some photographs of the underside of the bridge during the recent cold 'snap' (some 'snap' it has been, too: global warming comes to mind) showing some enormous icicles hanging from under the bridge arch. A water main is embedded in the structure of the bridge and, evidently, the pipe has been leaking or has partially burst. Anyway, County Councillor David Brown was left with no uncertain impression that the County Council, as Highway Authority, needs urgently to examine the structure and either to take remedial action or to demolish the bridge before the brickwork collapses completely. I said that I believed that the road should be closed immediately to all traffic. Moreover, I said, I would not drive over the bridge in my car unless and until remedial action or demolition takes place, nor would I be keen for heavy traffic or, most worrying of all, buses with children or adults in them, to continue using the bridge. Councillor Brown promised to pursue the matter with the County Council's experts.

I thought of the late President Reagan saying to Mikhail Gorbachev: 'Mr Gorbachev, take down that wall!'

The picture is published by permission of Mr Cook.

The Parish Council had been asked by East Cambridgeshire District Council if it could identify some land that might be appropriate for additional tree planting. My colleague, Mr Peter Hart, immediately suggested an area at the rear of 'Pulpit Corner' (which, incidentally, I have always called 'corner of Heath Road,' but have checked this since with Mrs Jean Day - wife of Mr Eric Day, our longest serving Parish Councillor - and Jean says that Eric says 'it's always been Pulpit Corner.' I live and learn). This seemed to be an excellent idea, especially since those of us with a farming background know that the land in question is 'thin' or 'hungry' (as my colleague, Mr Andrew Camps, put it). I have actually baled straw on the site in question and even the cereal crops (in the days of the late Mr Ken Easy, a County Council Farms tenant), were 'thin.' Some of the land in the long and narrow Parish of Swaffham Prior is like that - 'thin' - but other parts, here in the Fens, are just about as fertile as anywhere in England.

We received a request from Mr Finnbheara ('Finny)' O'Dowd, a former Parish Councillor and, believe it or not, a native of the area, of Fairview Grove, for a grit bin to be sited near his house. This request is to be acceded to. I then remarked that it was a pity that we had no member of the Council resident in Fairview Grove and, to that extent, the area was not 'represented.' My colleague, Mr Steve Kent Phillips, the Council's financial genius, then said that he drinks 'with them all' and that seemed to satisfy everybody - for the time being at any rate.

We concluded by agreeing to send the Council's congratulations to two recipients of awards in the New Year's Honours List, Mrs Marcia Miller, who is to receive an M.B.E., and Mr Michael Marshall, who is soon to be knighted. There must be thousands of parishes in England and a few hundred men and women who receive such honours each year. We in Swaffham Prior have scored much higher than the average this time.

The picture is of the then Mr (now Sir) Michael Marshall handing me a cheque as a contribution towards the re-roofing of The Little Chapel in The Fen in the Spring of last year.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Totally tasteless!

Someone sent me a link to a website devoted to taking liberties with an 'airbrushed' image of David Cameron and encouraging contributors to do some more 'airbrushing.' It's totally tasteless, but I couldn't resist it.

The website is at -

And my contribution is below.

Good news from a Cambridgeshire police source!

I have just received a message from a Cambridgeshire police source. It's good news.

"There has been some good news recently regarding an incident of hare coursing which took place in Burwell last November. 3 people were caught and reported for the offence and the case has just been heard at Ely magistrates court where all 3 defendants pleaded guilty to illegally harecoursing. They received a penalty of:

- £350 fine each

- £15 victim surcharge

- £85 costs

- Disqualified from driving for 6 months

- Vehicle to be destroyed."


A veritable flurry of letters!

Thursday is always a big day for local papers in our part of Cambridgeshire. Today a veritable flurry of letters is worthy of filing on this blog.

First, from the Ely Standard, is this contribution:

"Don't oppose Vision

While I was touched by W Aitchinson's show of support for his old mate Mr Woollard, I felt it only fair to warn him not to hold his breath for the Government to stop Wicken Fen's far-sighted Vision. For they, like the majority of people in this region, support the NT's plan to create a much-needed green oasis in the heart of our fens. I for one think that Mr Woollard and his neighbouring farmers will continue to do a great job in supplying the food we need, but if you are really so concerned about under-production, perhaps you should tell your friend to stop wasting his time opposing this brilliant Vision and get back to his fields.

Ben Gibbs

Rather more pleasing was this, from the Ely Weekly News:

"Not sure Wicken Project is right

Sir, After having watched Jimmy Doherty's Global Harvest on BBC2 last week and his graphic demonstration of how only a tiny proportion of the Earth's soil is actually fertile and which we rely on to grow food for the global population, I found myself doubting even more whether the National Trust has got its priorities right regarding the Wicken Project. I am a National Trust member and believe in the overall aims of the trust, but I have always had a nagging doubt in the back of my mind regarding this project.

I am not a farmer but I have always considered farming an important part of our heritage and an industry which should be protected and not allowed to go to rack and ruin, like the other industries we once had in this country.

East Anglia is blessed with rich fertile soil and this country's population is rapidly increasing. Mother Nature will sort out re-flooding the fens in her own sweet time but in the meantime, people need to eat and farmers need to make a living.

Ms K Johnson

And this was also thought-provoking, as printed in the Newmarket Journal:

"The points made about the proposed Hatchfield Farm development have raised some interesting local issues, particularly regarding the potential impact on the horseracing industry.

However, there is a wider point from the national interest and this relates to the loss of productive agricultural land to construction and other activities.

With a predicted UK population increasing to 71 million people in future decades, it will be vital to protect the nation's food producing ability by ensuring that a suitable land base is maintained and not buried under large tracks of concrete.

Indeed, the chief government scientific adviser has described the scenario of a perfect storm by 2030 regarding the potential impacts and demands on global food production.

With central government targets it is a difficult balancing act for local authorities to meet their housing requirements while preserving the green belt status of an area, but there is increasing urbanisation and overcrowding in the south eastern corner of England.

Other specific local demands on land such as the Wicken Fen project and the expansion of the local horse stud farms, means that there could be a reduction by thousands of acres of suitable food producing soils in this area over the approaching years.

England is one of the most densely populated countries on the planet and whichever national government is in power, effective policies will need to be adopted to give the most beneficial and sustainable land use to help protect Britain's food security for future generations.

Lionel Murfet
Edinburgh Road

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I've made a 'montage' - it's a miracle!

I've made a 'montage' - it's a miracle!

'Save Our Fens for food growing and wildlife, not for turning them into a wet jungle,' I have said - and I will continue to say.

My picture is from Alan Bloom's book, "The Farm in the Fen," and it shows the wartime visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to our Fens.

Go to -

Anthony (Tony) Day writes to the Cambridge News - from Wicken

My fine old friend Anthony (Tony) Day, the famed Fen artist of Wicken, writes again to the Cambridge News. His letter, excellently phrased as always, succeeds in crucifying the proponents of the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision.' Mr Day knows of what he writes, for he was born and bred in Wicken. I am grateful to him.


Conservation a lost cause

While warming to Mr Michael Johnson's enjoyment of a visit to Wicken Fen (News, December 29) he should realise that he is but one of some 40,000 a year who visit this fen, accepting it as a "fun place" sooner than a secure wildlife sanctuary. The wildlife he saw would have been disturbed by his presence.

I am sure I would enjoy Mr Johnson's company on such a walk but he might find me tedious in my advocacy of the true and intended purpose of the fen as anything but a diversion for people other than dedicated naturalists, for which it was set aside.

Our "grumpiness" in opposing a vast extension of the fen is based on our conviction that there is no "vision" within its body of supporters whose spokesmen change their aims at every airing.

Since the announcement that they were intending to flood the area in opposition to the drainage system to stimulate ancient fenland they have moved on to cycle paths, pony trails, ponds and now the planting of trees, hardly bearing in mind that the peat digging industry came of discovering that trees do not thrives in wetlands.

New bridges will bring the hordes in to drive out anything wild.

Meanwhile the loss to agriculture at a time of growing need will be seen long before any disruption, hopefully inducing a change of policy. Meanwhile, what a waste!

The supermarkets, Mr Johnson, are misleading.

They are, of course, very likeable people who administer Wicken Fen but they have moved off the route for conservation and they have money to expand their policy. In opposing them my conscience is my guide.

Anthony Day
Pond Green

As it happens, I recently photographed one of Anthony Day's magnificent paintings and my photograph is below.