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Panel talk on the future of the English countryside

On Thursday, December 1, CPRE and the University of Reading’s Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) teamed up to present a panel discussion on rural life and the future of the English countryside.

#VisionsOfRuralEngland saw University of Reading Vice Chancellor Sir David Bell chair a panel featuring (from left to right) CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers, renowned journalist Kate Adie, former Country Life editor Clive Aslet and president of the Landscape Institute Merrick Denton-Thompson.

This special event comes at a time when both CPRE and the University of Reading are celebrating their 90th anniversaries.

MERL reopened its doors to the public in October after a £3-million makeover, including more than 300 square metres of additional space, charming new galleries and a social learning space. Each gallery gives a fresh insight into country life in England with a vast array of artifacts that tell the story of rural England.

The ties between CPRE and MERL run deep: CPRE has in effect had a supportive partner in MERL for nearly 40 years, having deposited our first batch of archives with them in 1979. The museum has the majority of our historic records, which are an important collection among holdings include the records of organisations such as the National Farmers’ Union, Country Landowners’ Association and Landscape Institute. In 2005, the museum moved to a refurbished grade II listed building (with state of the art archive storage) on the University of Reading’s campus.

It was an inspiring evening of discussion, with a chance for countryside lovers to hear the thoughts of our panel on themes including the future of farming, post-Brexit; enhancing village life; protecting rural landscapes; and maintianing the balance between town and country. 

About the speakers

kateKate Adie was chief news correspondent for BBC News for 14 years from 1989 - becoming best known for her reporting from war zones around the world - and currently presents From Our Own Correspondent on Radio 4. She was honoured with an OBE in 1993; has been named 'Reporter of the Year' (twice) by the Royal Television Society; and received the Richard Dimbleby Award at 1990’s BAFTAs.

Growing up in Sunderland, Kate discovered the countryside in family outings to Swaledale and Teesdale, becoming a farming producer for BBC Radio Durham early on in her career. Since relocating to rural Dorset in 2012 she has supported the campaign to save the village library in Puddletown, backed CPRE Dorset’s anti-litter campaign and become a patron of the Dorset Community Foundation.

cliveClive Aslet is an award-winning writer and journalist, acknowledged as a leading authority on the countryside and its way of life. He travelled the length and breadth of Britain for his definitive Villages of Britain, and his other books include Landmarks of Britain (2005) and A Horse in the Country (2001) – an account of a year spent exploring the reality of rural life from a small cottage in Northamptonshire.

He joined the magazine Country Life in 1977 and was Editor for 13 years from 1993. As well as continuing his relationship with Country Life, Clive contributes to papers such as the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Spectator, and is well-known as a campaigner on countryside issues.

merrickMerrick Denton-Thompson is President of the Landscape Institute. He was the Assistant Director of the Environment at Hampshire County Council where he was responsible for environmental policies in strategic planning, rural affairs and the countryside service. He was appointed to the founding Board of Natural England by the Secretary of State to assist in its development between 2006 and 2009.

He directed the Rural Pathfinder for the South East of England in 2002, was a member of the Cross-Compliance Board for the Single Farm Payment and a member of the Agri-Environment Review Group which set up the Environmental and Countryside Stewardship Scheme. He is the founding Trustee of the Learning Through Landscapes Trust.

An inspiring evening of discussion about the English countryside. 


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