Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Going round by Will's mother's!

To Bottisham and Lode & Longmeadow and later to Prickwillow and Queen Adelaide. This will seem a little illogical to those who know the constituency of South East Cambridgeshire as well as I do. Appointments and meetings dictated my route. I have to admit that it seemed like 'going round by Will's mother's.'

My mission to Prickwillow was to attend as a member the budget meeting of the Swaffham Internal Drainage Board, held at the Drainage Offices.

Prickwillow means much to me. I have fond memories of a fine farming friend with whom I also went to school. Sadly, he is now deceased, but, if I mention Green Farm and Swasedale Farm, some readers of this blog will know to whom I refer. The reception following my friend's funeral last year was held at the Prickwillow Drainage Museum, which is well worth a visit in its own right.

The Swaffham IDB members are Tim Doe, Doug Durrant, Cllr. Mrs Lavinia Edwards, Michael Gingell, Jonathan Graves (Vice-Chairman), Cllr. John Humphreys, Henry Hurrell (Chairman), Bob Lawrence, Cllr. Mike Mason, Colin McLean, Stevie Munden, Edward Shrubbs, Chris Soans, Cllr. Bob Stevens, Cllr. Mrs Hazel Williams, Eddie Wright and myself. We are well served by Ross Chilvers, the engineer, and Mrs Jean Heading, the finance officer.

We dealt with the budget and then went on, with the Chairman's permission, to discuss the recent visit of the Rt. Hon. Lord Smith of Finsbury, Chairman of the Environment Agency, to Wicken Fen last Wednesday, the 3rd of February. Farmer members of the Swaffham IDB were surprised and disappointed by his Lordship not seeking a meeting with some or all of them.

Farmer members were also surprised because, though it appears that the main purpose of Lord Smith's visit was to inform himself concerning the National Trust's intention massively to expand the Trust's existing National Nature Reserve at Wicken Fen by buying up and partially flooding several thousand more acres of Fen farmland, the fact of the matter is that any expansion of the NNR impinges upon the Swaffham IDB drainage area and the lands that are owned and/or farmed by many members of the Swaffham IDB. This his Lordship should have known.

Farmer members were also disappointed because his Lordship was reported in the Daily Telegraph as follows: "Lord Smith insisted only poor farmland will be flooded."

Farmer members took the view that his Lordship had been misinformed, presumably by the National Trust, promoters of the so-called 'Wicken Vision.'

The Fen lands in and near 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 are mostly Grade One and are, therefore, the best food-growing farmland in the kingdom.

It is understood from recent pronouncements by the Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn, MP, the present Defra Secretary, that the need for more home-grown food has moved up the political agenda. His Conservative counterpart appears to agree. The best food-growing farmland in the kingdom has an important and a continuing part to play in growing food for an increased and increasing British population. It must not be flooded, even partially.

As one of the farmer members of the Swaffham IDB, I undertook to write to Lord Smith and to ask him for a meeting at an early date and at a time and place of his choosing.

I fitted in some canvassing at both Prickwillow, where I stopped first at the Drainage Museum, and Queen Adelaide - or just plain 'Adelaide' as most know it - and again the reception that I received was most encouraging. People accept that there is a lot to be said for a truly independent candidate who will, if elected as an MP, listen, take advice, think things through for himself and make up his own mind on the issues that affect us all, and then act and vote accordingly. That is what I stand for.

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