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Mary-Ann Ochota elected president of CPRE

4th July 2024

We’re delighted to confirm that Mary-Ann Ochota has been elected president of CPRE, the countryside charity with immediate effect.

Mary-Ann is a broadcaster, author and anthropologist whose passionate expertise has engaged people worldwide with landscapes, heritage and the natural world. She has presented factual programmes for the BBC, Channel 4 and National Geographic, including Time Team, Mystic Britain and Ancient Impossible.

Previous CPRE presidents have included Bill Bryson, Sir Andrew Motion and, most recently, Emma Bridgewater.

Mary-Ann is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a member of Natural England’s Landscape Advisory Panel, and a patron of the Ridgeway National Trail. She is also a patron of the Tony Trust, which supports disadvantaged children to access outdoor adventure, and a member of All the Elements, a network driving better inclusion and diversity in the outdoors.

Mary-Ann’s books on British archaeology include Secret Britain: Unearthing Our Mysterious Past and Hidden Histories: A Spotter’s Guide to the British Landscape, which was selected as a New Statesman Book of the Year. She is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Telegraph, Countryfile magazine, Trail and Summit and The Great Outdoors.

Joined-up, creative and ambitious

CPRE president Mary-Ann Ochota said: ‘What an honour to be elected president of CPRE, the countryside charity, at such a critical moment for our country and our planet.

‘The countryside isn’t something “over there” – green and pleasant, minding its own business. The majority of us live in urban and suburban areas but the countryside should still be our concern. Why? Because it’s the fabric that underpins everything important – energy, climate, housing, water, food, the economy and nature. The countryside needs to thrive for all our sakes.

‘CPRE has unique authority and expertise in advocating for the countryside – for nature, for farming, for communities, for the people who visit and the people who live and work there. Their campaigns on things like the lack of rural affordable housing, planning, the Green Belt, hedgerows, and rooftop renewables have struck a chord with many of us.

‘My day job is telling stories about our heritage, about science, about the landscape. I’ve seen that when people have a sense of ownership and belonging to a place or community, a sense of pride, it transforms everything. Wellbeing, physical and mental health, social cohesion. In this country we have such a depth of history and an astonishing range of habitats and landscapes. But many of those landscapes are under threat from climate change, catastrophic biodiversity loss, poor quality development, a lack of affordable and social housing and underinvestment in the right infrastructure.

‘CPRE speaks to all these issues. What really excites me about working with the national team and committed network of local groups is that the solutions they’re offering are joined-up, creative and ambitious. We need urgent action to tackle biodiversity loss and climate breakdown. We need to secure a just transition for our farmers, land managers and rural communities. We need healthy, sustainable towns and villages with quality homes in the places people want to live. That’s what we’re working for. CPRE is a powerful movement. It points to what good looks like, championing the voices of local people and inspiring people to action.

‘CPRE celebrates its 100 year anniversary in 2026. We’re about to get a new government. We have the chance to make change and get it right for people and for nature across the country. The work has never been more urgent. CPRE’s vision is of a thriving, beautiful countryside for everyone. Across all political stripes, CPRE can unite us to make that a reality. Let the work begin!’

Advocate for the countryside

CPRE chair Simon Murray said: ‘We are delighted to welcome Mary-Ann as CPRE’s new president. She has a deep love for the countryside, a detailed understanding of the challenges it faces, and a striking ability to engage with people to explain why it matters for everyone.

‘Mary-Ann is a powerful advocate for the countryside, its communities and the wider natural world. As we approach our centenary in 2026, she will be a wonderful figurehead for CPRE’s national staff, regional network, members, supporters and tireless volunteers. We can’t wait to get to work.’

Mary-Ann Ochota selfie in the countryside


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