Earth Trust News – Issue 10
Issue 10 – Summer 2022
Championing access to green spaces for everyone
Earlier this month, the important role of Earth Trust in championing access to green spaces for everyone was marked with the return of the annual Rose Ceremony. In a tradition going back several decades, the Chair of Oxfordshire County Council, Susanna Pressel, presented a rose to the Earth Trust as a peppercorn rent for public access to Wittenham Clumps.
Public access to green spaces and the ability to connect communities with the natural world continues to be not just invaluable but critical, as we emerge from the pandemic.
Around 1 in 3 of us don’t have access to accessible nature-rich spaces near our homes, with no green space at all in some of the most deprived areas. With Oxfordshire being one of the most rapidly developing counties in the UK, we are positioned at the sharp edge of creating and managing spaces that enable
both people and nature to thrive in balance.
This year’s Rose Ceremony event was also a celebration of Earth Trust’s 40th anniversary. It brought together some of our closest supporters to celebrate our shared history and look to the future as we outlined our fresh strategic direction. To know and be able to demonstrate that we have been providing and championing accessible natural green spaces and running inspiring, award-winning programmes to help people connect with nature and the environment for this length of time, is an immense achievement.
And, it’s an achievement that we would have not reached, if it were not for the support of our volunteers, friends, staff and partners. You have enabled us to get to this point, to reach our 40th anniversary and to be an organisation that is influential – with the drive to be even more influential in future.
Together, we are demonstrating the ability of natural green spaces to address the challenges of climate, biodiversity and health. But, we need to be bolder in sharing our learning, to be noisier, to connect more with others, and to be confident in the influence that we can bring about as a result.
Our new strategy is now available on our website and I encourage you to take a look, and share your feedback.
At the heart of our plans for the next five years is building and connecting communities to proactively influence for change. This new strategy is the product of much analysis, horizon scanning and consultation. Throughout the process it became clear that bringing together a community of people with a shared ambition is how we can make real change happen.
Our vision is a society where accessible, engaging green spaces enable nature and people to thrive in balance. We cannot achieve this vision alone. We know that everyone needs access to green spaces across the UK. And, we know we don’t have all the answers. But we need to be working as a community to find the solutions. So, I want to take our bold strategic direction and continue to expand our community, and widen our circle of change-makers. We are moving from a quiet organisation that does great things to an organisation that speaks out, creates new
spaces for new, interesting and sometimes difficult conversations. So, you are making all the difference, you have made all the difference over the last 40 years, and I’m hoping that you will continue to make all the difference in the next 40 years.
Let’s work together to make a different future.
Jayne Manley, CEO
Forthcoming events this summer
Plans are underway for a range of exciting events, starting this summer, as we explore the ground beneath our feet and focus on the theme of thanking the earth. We will be offering a series of walks, talks and tours around some of our green spaces, led by our knowledgeable volunteers and rangers, as well as hosting family-fun activities in our fantastic Earth Lab classroom and around the Earth Trust centre site.
Visit the ‘What’s on’ page on our website for full details and booking information.
Thanking the earth – News on our evolving food and farming strategy.
The food choices we make directly impact our own health and that of the planet, but the farming sector is undergoing significant change, with impacts coming from many angles. Brexit and the changes to government funding, the radical focus needed on climate change and biodiversity, the need to deliver improved health and wellbeing outcomes all combine to demand change for how we farm and produce food.
At Earth Trust, our role as farmers and producers of food is an important part of our identity and the greenspaces we care for. Food itself is an important conduit to engaging people in the environment and the natural world. We have a part to play in advocating and demonstrating food production systems that support our priorities of biodiversity, climate and health.
As part of our refreshed outlook we revisited our Food and Farming strategy. Surreptitiously, the completion of this work coincided with the publication of the government’s long-awaited food strategy. Along with many others, we have expressed our concern about the watering down of earlier recommendations from food guru Henry Dimbleby, which we feel risk abandoning the cohesion of actions needed to support food production and ecological goals.
Our aim is to respond to and influence future food and farming polices and to practice, test and demonstrate the financial make-up of greenspaces and the political incentives to farm with nature. Underpinning this, is the emphasis that we need to place on healthy soils. 98%, of the food calories that we eat rely on soil. Healthy soils reduce the need for chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. Healthy soils hold on to extra carbon and in addition, act as sponges, holding on to the water that might otherwise percolate, or run off a more intensively farmed arable field. So emphasizing and focusing our time on healthy soils is critical to the management of our farm and the impact it has on biodiversity and human health.
Over the next 5 years we are seeking to evolve our arable farm operations to reflect growing soil science principles – for example, by increasing the diversity of crops we grow and minimising soil disturbance, reducing tillage, protecting the soil surface with cover crops, using livestock within the rotation and keeping living roots in the soil. Much of the farm is grassland; and this too within the mixed farm significantly contributes to biodiversity, carbon sequestration and wellbeing.
Alongside this, we are seeking to connect more people with the food we grow and how it is grown, bringing local food and farming to life for our growing population so that more people support practices that are good for the soil, climate, nature and human health.
The soil holds 25% of biodiversity within itself and supports the 75% that is above ground.
Our plans for the Earth Trust Centre include the development of a market garden in order to tell the farm to fork story. Once in place, this garden could offer an exciting opportunity for exploring community supported agriculture and providing produce, as well as eventually feeding our own café. It will also offers us the potential to further develop our Countryside Skills and other green skills development for all ages. We are developing the market garden concept further this year in readiness for fundraising for its establishment.
In the meantime we are planning an exciting Autumn season of family events and activities to involve communities in growing and harvesting, minimising food waste, and making sure food is fair and affordable. Our Thank the Earth season will include a Maize Maze, pumpkin harvesting and sunflowers – all with a focus on sustainable production practices that give back to the earth. For example, the maize will eventually be used for animal fodder, edible varieties of pumpkins and some sunflowers will be reserved for birds to eat.
Watch this space for news on how to get involved!