THE Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is not only a mouthful to say, it’s a sprawling behemoth of government. When I interviewed former incumbent Owen Paterson back in 2013, he waved at me a mind-boggling, Jackson Pollock-esque Venn diagram: food and farming overlapping with rivers, coasts, clean air and green energy, fishing, fieldsports, flytipping and fruit pickers, pet passports and pigeon-shooting licences. The conflicting interests of myriad bodies, from the NFU to Buglife, and the scope for political banana skins of the Scotch-egg variety is infinite.
In an unusual example of ministerial consistency, the affable George Eustice, 49, has worked at Defra for eight years, under five secretaries of state. He has the rare political advantage of looking like a man who knows one end of a cow from another and isn’t uncomfortable in a farmyard —probably because his family’s centuries-old Cornish enterprise includes the UK’s largest herd of British Lop pigs. This does bring pressure, however. ‘I think farmers welcomed someone with farming experience, but they also understand political judgement: that they can’t have everything they want and that I do care passionately about the environment and wildlife,’ he explains. ‘You do get polarised views and there’s a huge responsibility to exercise judgement, balance arguments and review evidence, even if you’re initiated in the subject. It’s craven to be buffeted by public opinion; you’ve got to be brave enough to do what you think is right.’
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Lost in the maze
THE world’s largest classical labyrinth is currently being constructed from traditional Cornish hedging in the heart of Bodmin Moor, a project that has unexpectedly led to the foundation of the Outdoor University of Cornish Hedging.
It takes a family to raise a village
A hangover from the days of landed gentry, there are still privately owned villages scattered throughout the UK. What is it really like to be at the helm of a community, asks Alec Marsh
My favourite painting Neil Mendoza
The Painter and his Pug
SIXTY years ago almost to the day, on March 15, when the Jaguar E-type first hit the tarmac, Frank Sinatra took one look and said ‘I want that car and I want it now’; shortly after, Enzo Ferrari dubbed it ‘the most beautiful car in the world’.
Myth and magic
Two homes in Devon offer unique insights into the county’s complex history, from witches and hounds to the village where time stood still
Black (and white) beauty
March is the month in which female hares bat away unwanted suitors, but, sadly, the sight of boxing hares is becoming ever more rare. Over the past century, a loss of habitat and predation has resulted in an 80% decrease in brown-hare numbers. Cumbrian sculptor Andrew Kay has created this 5ft-high artwork in steel, priced at £4,700, 15% of which will go to the Hare Preservation Trust. A smaller work, Life Size Hare, costs £840 (www.andrewkaysculpture.co.uk)
In pursuit of a social climber
Of wisteria, noble litter pickers, lockdown funerals and shaggy hounds
Roll me over in the clover
Finding a four-leafed example might be lucky, but, as we toast St Patrick’s Day, Ian Morton investigates why the clover (or shamrock) is so important to the Irish
Bright lights, empty city
For John McEwen, the enforced constraints of the pandemic have engendered a greater appreciation of our capital’s abundant parks and wildlife
A right basket case
From wet woodland to a warm Welsh kitchen: Nick Hammond meets the resourceful craftswoman who has woven a new career from her love for wild places
You and the law
Geoff Garrod marks the card of shooters as a new general licence regime beds in
Defra’s review into the impact of gamebird release highlights that the best way to combat Wild Justice is through rigorously tested science
The introduction of new traps is proving to be troublesome, so is it time for our major shooting organisations to step in and help out?
Shooting back on as COVID lockdown restrictions ease
In a welcome announcement, the Government confirmed that shooters in England can now return to the field to enjoy their sport once again
The land of plenty
Peter Theobald was uncertain for a host of reasons when one of his farmers asked for some lockdown help
Well chosen pond plants can be so stunning
Brad Abbott, owner of Aquamaintenance, a family run business specialising in all types of aquatic landscaping, has some advice about how to make the most of your garden pond.
Wild Justice makes its case
Dr Mark Avery of the campaign group responds to a recent article in Sporting Gun and outlines why it is conducting a legal challenge about gamebird releases
Too Much Water Or Too Little?
Early in 2019 we were worried about having too little water and by the summer we had too much. We are experiencing one of the wettest winters on record with extensive flooding of farmland taking up much of the news headlines. Droughts seems a distant memory, though we know from experience the risk is ever present. Welcome to the unpredictable nature of irrigation farming in England.
New laws will see planning and development required to follow an environmental conscience
Certain Tree Types Can Cut AC Usage
AIR conditioning can feel like a necessity on hot summer days, but a new piece of research claims its cooling impact could be replicated by planting more trees.