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Riding into the countryside with Lizzie

Lizzie's love of horse riding often leads her out to the countryside. Lizzie's love of horse riding often leads her out to the countryside. Lizzie Bannister

Having listened to stories from my grandfather about his work with farm horses, I asked my mother for riding lessons when I was nine. She soon re-discovered her childhood passion for horses! We had our first pony together and then my sister got involved too and different horses came into and went from our lives.

We were outdoors at least once a day every day to look after our horses, experiencing extreme weather conditions and getting to know the farmers who provided hay and access to their land. It all taught us about the dynamics of the seasons - our hands and water supply froze in the depths of winter, then the grass dried out and the ground became rock solid at the heights of summer. It helped us to appreciate the culture associated with horses – traditional and new: from the rural scenes of the hunting paintings in country houses to the markets at major horse events.

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The equestrian industry is a valuable economic asset in the countryside as it provides and protects many jobs and land uses. It also reinforces the value of countryside conservation, nature and beauty.

Galloping across the farmlands

I lived on a smallholding of 4.5 acres in the middle of the arable Fen landscape during my teens. I used to come home from school, which wasn’t that great for me, and ride or work on the land. I got my new pony and trained him to be the fabulous riding pony he is today!

I jumped in the fields or hacked and galloped across the farmlands. I cantered in between potato plantations, on stubble fields and up tracks rich with trees and wildflower. I saw birds and mammals including foxes. I learnt to deeply value the countryside. I learnt to assess risk better, although grass provided a good landing pad for the risky things I did (I’ve survived many accidents!). I also got great exercise and health benefits from all the mucking out and fresh air!

Why I volunteer

Because of my love of horse riding, I chose to do conservation studies to the Masters level. Although I fell into a job working for the NHS, I continued to relate to the countryside in my spare time - walking, horse riding and visiting National Trust places. I left the NHS and enjoyed interning in a landscape partnership programme on a summer placement. I loved engaging my brain and efforts to support the countryside and its valuable assets so I chose to volunteer for a countryside organisation - CPRE.

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I am enthusiastically involving myself in developing a team of Eyes and Ears members who protect their countryside and local landscape from unfavourable developments. To do this, I have meetings and home-based contact with my Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Branch of CPRE, which is flexible and interactive.

My work includes developing a database, creating Twitter accounts and helping to make and distribute posters, which are useful work experience. I also participate in broader work like providing photographs and writing for CPRE, which are interesting and make use of my talents. Here I am enjoying my work to protect the countryside with CPRE, and all thanks to the horse!

Lizzie Bannister

Want to get involved with CPRE? Find out more in our Ways To Volunteer section.

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