Constituency visits had a distinctly rural feel last week as I was out and about in the stunning countryside we are blessed to have around us in Stroud, the Dales and the Vale.
First stop was Haresfield Beacon where I met the National Trust’s Stroud Landscape Project team.
The land was acquired in the 1930s by community appeal and was later donated to the trust. Around 500,000 people visit each year, so it’s no surprise that the team is currently considering suggestions from locals to solve parking problems along the narrow roads that lead to the site’s main entrance. I said I would help in any way I can, because access to nature and our countryside has many proven benefits.
It was also great to receive an update on the rewilding project from the Stroud Landscape Project. The team aims to make reseeding more accessible to landowners by providing a range of information and support, including free seed. However, he also understands that they need to work closely with farmers to ensure the plans are both practical, so farmers can continue to do their jobs, and the right decision for rural communities.
Stroud Landscape Project does wonderful work to help our wildlife and our environment. Many thanks to the landscape team – Lisa Edinborough, Chris Mitchell, Jonny Loose and David Armstrong from the trust.
More and more people are walking in the countryside, which is great news. It also causes friction. At Haresfield Beacon, the trust has worked with mountain bikers to discuss the best routes that don’t disturb unofficial wooded trails. The team also works hard to report and balance usage among the variety of people who visit.
When you go out, please use the campaign code. The National Trust and farmers have asked me to remind everyone to join. Local farmers have had to go out of business and stop raising valuable cattle, which is a crying shame given the expertise we are rightly proud of and export from Gloucestershire. Livestock concern and the resulting loss of livestock is a real concern and a reality for many farmers. Please keep your dogs under control and in sight. If in doubt, put them on a leash.
The Countryside Code can be found here: gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code/the-countryside-code-advice-for-countryside-visitors
Another recent rural event for me was one of my regular farmers’ surgeries, this time at Middlehall Farm in Eastington, where I was joined by the National Farmers Union.
Ahead of the meeting, the government announced it was taking further steps to support farmers in the face of cost pressures caused by demand and volatility seen around the world. Direct payments in England will be paid in two installments each year for the remainder of the agricultural transition period, to help farmers with their cash flow. The farmers present at the meeting confirmed that this was useful and welcome.
Agricultural commodities are closely tied to world gas prices and farmers face rising costs for items such as manufactured fertilizers, animal feed, fuel and energy.
I speak regularly to Defra Ministers to continue to stand up for our farming community and solve problems, as I do with all of our different communities, in these trying times.