NEW ESSEX CLA OFFICERS HAVE A RANGE OF RURAL ISSUES TO TACKLESimon Brice who farms in the Blackwater Valley just south of Witham is the new chairman of the Essex county branch of the CLA (Country Land and Business Association).
His new deputy is Charles Gooch who manages his family farm and estate at Wivenhoe.
Together they have much work ahead over the next two years. Just some of the tasks will involve promoting sustainable fuels, protecting property rights at all levels, working to achieve more affordable rural housing and promoting local foods and services. They will be lobbying on coastal defence, encouraging rural diversification to create local jobs in the rural economy and working with Essex county council on its green energy initiatives.
"Representing the owners and managers of land and rural businesses of all kinds, we have a very wide remit to work to," explains Mr Brice, "especially as there are so many pressures on the countryside, coming from all sides.
"It's going to be quite a challenge, but one I am very much looking forward to."
As a farmer, 567 hectares of arable land are in his care, and with a range of businesses including a golf club and quarrying interests, Mr Brice already has plenty of experience of running enterprises in a rural area. "We have just been through one of the most difficult periods for agriculture, and although prospects are better than they have been for a decade or more, along with everyone else we now have to cope with the world-wide recession.
"Nonetheless, I believe that the future for farming is bright and with a growing world population, food and environmental security will become more important.
"We are also going to have to be more inventive and flexible, to look for more opportunities. This is where we are fortunate here in Essex, and in particular with our county council which has already been prepared to work with Essex CLA.".
Born and bred in Essex, Mr Brice now runs the farm where the family have lived for four generations. Today cropping is cereals and oilseed rape with willows grown for cricket bats, which his father, grandfather and great grandfather also grew. Wood from the willows at Witham has gone right round the world, and has been used by some of the foremost cricketers of the day.
Back at home these trees, traditional to the landscape of the Blackwater Valley. contribute greatly to biodiversity, providing important habitat for native birds and insects. Harvested when they reach 15 years age they are replaced and replanted in rotation every year. However Mr Brice is concerned, that if climate change continues as it is predicted, how much longer they will remain a feature of the farm.
A keen conservationist, he is a past member of the council of the Essex Wildlife Trust and past chairman of Essex Farming and Wildlife Group,
On different areas of farm he has introduced permissive paths to link up with existing rights of way to make interesting walks on the outskirts of Witham and at Rivenhall End; he also 'lends' the village its playing field.
As many farmers have done Mr Brice has diversified into other enterprises, giving him a sound knowledge of the many facets of rural business. This includes the Rivenhall Oaks Golf and Driving Range which he established and runs on 56 hectares of undulating land on the north side of the farm. Redundant farm buildings have been converted into commercial property providing storage, office and light industrial use. He is chairman of Orsett Quarry Limited.
He serves on the Essex Rural Commission looking into rural issues within the county and he is a past NFU county chairman.
Working and living on land which has been farmed since prehistoric times Mr Brice has made a particular study of its prehistory and has a fine collection of flint artefacts found there: an axe head from 4000 years ago, a flint knife for butchering animals dating back 250,000 years, fossilised sea urchins from the time when the land was under the waves.
Married to Emma Mr Brice has a son and a daughter.
Charles Gooch gained a diploma in Rural Estate Management at Cirencester and qualified whilst working as a land agent for the Fitzwilliam family in Cambridgeshire. He then worked with Strutt and Parker in Ipswich and Chelmsford, before coming home to run the 600 hectare family estate.
This is a mix of mainly irrigated arable land growing, combinable crops, potatoes and onions, grassland managed under grassland managed under higher level stewardship, one of the government's environmental schemes for farmers, and woodlands. Currently a second reservoir is being constructed through mineral extraction and income has been diversified in the form of buildings converted to industrial units as well as residential lets.
Mr Gooch is married to Claire and they have three children.
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Nicola has a Post Graduate Diploma in Advanced Farm Management from the Royal Agricultural College (RAC) and seven years experience as a Tenant Farmer, building up a pedigree dairy herd from scratch. She has also spent time in professional practice in Estate and Farm Management. This background has provided Nicola with a useful grounding to work for the interests of the CLA East regionís farming and rural businesses.
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