The Future of the English Countryside: online lectures celebrating CPRE Oxfordshire’s 90th anniversary


1st November 2021

Join us to look at some of the opportunities & challenges ahead.   

Speakers will be the inspirational founder of Farm-ED Ian Wilkinson, the author and naturalist John Wright on Hedgerows, Andrew Tucker from Thames Water focusing on the steps we can all take to reduce water demand, and Richard Benwell, Chief Executive of Countryside Link, on the Environment Bill and Biodiversity Net Gain. 

The CPRE Oxfordshire 90th anniversary lectures are free to attend however donations towards our anniversary appeal would be very gratefully received. Please donate online via JustGiving.
ind out more about the appeal here.

How to Farm in the 21st Century
Speaker: Ian Wilkinson, Farm-ED
Watch here

Farmland accounts for roughly three quarters of Oxfordshire’s land cover, so it has a critical role to play in how we manage our landscapes for the future, including producing the food we need and helping us to tackle our climate, nature and health emergencies.  The need to transform the farming and food sector is not in doubt and, as Ian will argue, agriculture, our food chains and nutritional choices should be seen as part of the solution, not the problem.  We will discuss the role and potential of farming systems, big and small, the consumer and market support needed to drive change, and how better to connect rural and urban to increase access to green space and good food.

Ian Wilkinson is the inspirational founder of Farm-ED, a sustainable farming & food educational not for profit organisation, based at Honeydale Farm, a diverse 107 mixed acre farm in the Cotswolds (as featured recently on BBC Countryfile).  After studying farm and grassland management at Berkshire College of Agriculture, he joined Cotswold Seeds, a family business based in Moreton-in-Marsh, becoming MD in 1998.  Ian is a passionate advocate of regenerative agriculture, farming with nature and great food.   

A Natural History of the British Hedgerow & What Comes Next…
Speaker: John Wright FLS
Watch here

John will introduce us to the natural and cultural history of hedges – from the arrival of the first settlers in the British Isles, to the modern day when we have finally begun to recognise the importance of these unique ecosystems. He will share some of his intimate knowledge of the countryside and its inhabitants, whether discussing the skills and craft of hedge maintenance or the rich variety of plants, animals and fungi who call them home.

John is one of Britain’s best known naturalists, the author of a number of books, including A Natural History of the British Hedgerow and the River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook, and an expert in both fungi and general taxonomy.  He tells us that he learned how to lay a Midland’s hedge in Chipping Norton, so already has a memorable hedgy association with Oxfordshire!

 A CPRE Oxfordshire hedgerow survey in the late 1990s estimated that there was approximately 7,820 km of hedgerow in Oxfordshire, but many have since been lost or are in poor condition.

CPRE is currently campaigning for #40by50, seeking Government support for a 40% increase in hedgerows by 2050.  Find out more, including how our local Oxfordshire Hedgerow Heroes project is working with local communities to plant and restore native hedgerows, and how you can help.

Reducing our Demand for Water
Speaker: Andrew Tucker, Demand Reduction Strategy Manager, Thames Water
Watch here

With population growth, an increasing built environment and climate change pressures all impacting on our future water supply security, water efficiency and reducing our daily demand on water is a crucial part of the solution.  Saving water is a core part of our lives at home, at work and how our water network is managed. This session will cover some key facts and figures about our daily water use, what Thames Water is doing to help reduce demand across a 10m customer base, and highlight how some simple things can save water, energy and money for everyone.

Andrew is the Demand Reduction Strategy Manager at Thames Water and is responsible for strategic direction of water savings through metering, water efficiency and customer engagement.  He was previously Thames Water’s head of water efficiency.  Key responsibilities include delivering the business’ water efficiency targets across London and Thames Valley. He is overseeing the development and delivery of multiple initiatives on household and business customers – delivered in parallel with Thames Water’ smart metering rollout and as large-scale bespoke demand management initiatives.  Areas of work include large-scale in-home retrofitting, smart water metering, businesses and schools, and water efficiency communications, retail propositions, online tools, customer advice and delivering demand reduction targets. 

Previously Andrew has been the Water Strategy Manager for the Energy Savings Trust; Principal Policy Officer for Climate Change Adaptation and the Manager of the London Climate Change Partnership at the Greater London Authority, and worked in the Australian mining industry as an Environmental Adviser, within coal and base metal mining and processing operations.

The Environment Bill and Biodiversity Net Gain: Will it Deliver?
Speaker: Richard Benwell, Chief Executive, Wildlife & Countryside Link

The Environment Bill is set to be the UK’s new framework of environmental protection, currently going through Parliament and expected to be fully enacted by the end of 2021 (possibly just ahead of this talk).  This will be a great chance to hear from one of those closest to the heart of the debate about the good and the bad of the Bill, what finally makes it through and what the implications will be for our future, including the new Office for Environmental Protection. 

If all goes to plan, the Bill will enshrine in law the requirement for all new development to deliver a 10% ‘net gain’ in biodiversity. Some argue that this is essential to ensure that, where development is allowed, there is at least some compensation for nature.  Others consider that it will allow developers to do what they like with very little constraint and that arbitrary valuations of nature lead only to undermine its intrinsic value.  It is certainly true that most local authorities currently lack the resources to provide robust assessment and monitoring of net gain proposals.  Richard will help talk us through the issues and consider how this might affect future development for both people and nature.

Richard has a long career in environmental policy, including working with the RSPB and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, and as a Policy Adviser to the Secretary of State for the Environment. He is currently Chief Executive of the Wildlife & Countryside Link, the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 61 organisations (including CPRE) to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature.