In January we were joined by a new Rural Adviser – Duncan Anderson Margetts, who joined the South West’s advisory team alongside Mark Burton and Chris Farr, having previously worked in the CLA's eastern region for two years.
Our events programme has been jam-packed in 2023, and there were plenty of member events in February, including our first race yard visit of the year to Brian Mehan’s stables on Marlborough Downs. Members also enjoyed a visit to Uppingdown Shetlands, Cerney Gardens and The Cornish Cheese Company.
In March we hit the road for the CLA’s Agricultural Transition Roadshows. We also marked a rather snowy International Women’s Day with a CLA Women’s Network event at Beaufort Polo Club in Gloucestershire. As well as enjoying a sumptuous two course lunch, members and their friends heard from CLA Director General Sarah Hendry about the importance of creating networking, mentoring and social opportunities. This was followed by a polo demonstration where one of the Beaufort Polo Club's very own Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) accredited coaches and a player guided attendees through the game of polo.
Our first Branch AGM of the year took place in Cornwall in April. We were joined by Victoria Vyvyan at Spaceport Cornwall. Despite it being a very windy day thanks to Storm Noa, we were joined by nearly 100 members to learn more about the Space Systems Integration Facility located at Newquay Airport.
May started with the popular Energy Roadshows where we were joined by CLA Energy providers, Troo Energy. This was closely followedby Devon County Show kicking off our busy show season. We were joined by the Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP, who at the time was Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries. In front of a sold-out audience of 220 guests, he was keen to impress that through the government’s new funding for farmers and landowners to support projects that create new habitats for wildlife, help protected sites and boost efforts to reach net zero, alongside sustainable food production, that “We've made sure there is something for everyone in our new offer.”
Our show season continued in June. At the Royal Bath & West, 130 members heard from James Heappey MP for Wells. He urged farmers and landowners in the south west to stand with Ukraine and highlighted the crucial role the rural economy can play in delivering UK security. He told members: “Three of the key pillars of economic security are our energy security, our food security, and our supply chain security. Our rural economy can play a really major role in delivering the economic security.”
The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP, then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, took to the stage for the Political Breakfast on the first day of the Royal Cornwall Show. During her time with the CLA, she touched on a variety of topics. One of these was the issue of Bovine TB in the south west, in response to comments made by Deputy President Victoria Vyvyan, who shared the stage. In front of a packed audience of 220 guests, she took the opportunity to reinforce the importance of respecting the countryside, saying “I think it’s critical that we make sure that when people come, they respect the countryside. It is that symbiotic relationship that really is critical to making sure our countryside continues to be beautiful and healthy.”
It was a very busy month as we also headed to Smedmore House for the Dorset Branch AGM. During the meeting, Paul Tory was announced as the new Branch Chairman, with David Chismon elected to take on the role of Vice Chairman.
Our social calendar continued in July with members enjoying a visit to Jonjo O’Neills yard.
Our show season came to a close in August as we hosted members breakfasts at both Gillingham & Shaftesbury and Melplash Shows.
September was a month full of Branch AGM meetings, with Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset all taking place. The Gloucestershire AGM was held at Badminton House by kind permission of the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort where we were joined by the CLA’s then Deputy President Victoria Vyvyan. We were then joined by then CLA Vice President Gavin Lane at our Wiltshire AGM held at Ramsbury Estate – which was held in conjunction with the Hampshire Branch and our colleagues in the South East – and the Somerset AGM, held at Aldwick Estate with a tour of the vineyard operations. Gavin also joined the South West team for our regional committee meeting, which included a tour of Lanhydrock Estate.
Our final Branch AGM took place in October at Beer Quarry Caves, with the Devon Branch welcoming a new Chairman. Mary Alford, a hill farmer whose family has grazed ponies on Dartmoor for more than six generations, replaced Craig Hodgson who takes over the role as Branch President. Hayley Parker, was elected to take on the role of Vice Chairman.
Members also enjoyed tours of Ben Pauling’s race stables in the heart of the Cotswolds and Harry Fry’s yard in Dorset.
In November our team was on the road once more for a highly successful planning and development seminar, and the CLA Natural Capital Roadshow. Our three events across the region were well attended and provided an opportunity for members to hear from the CLA’s Chief Land Use Policy Adviser about to hear about how natural capital is relevant to their business, the range of current and future income sources for sustainable farming and where they can get started.
December may be a quieter month in terms of events, but our team is being kept busy fielding member queries and planning for 2024.
The South West team would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members, sponsors and partners for their support across the year and wish you all the best with your rural business endeavors in 2024.