Seventy years on …
As we celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we at CPRE are also celebrating the honour of having the Queen as our royal patron. And the 3 June bank holiday marks the day in 1952 we received the official letter telling us that ‘Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to grant her patronage’.
The Queen has continued to take a keen interest in our work, sending regular messages of encouragement. Most memorably, Her Majesty hosted CPRE anniversary events at Windsor Great Park, in 2001, and St James’s Palace, in 1976 and 2006; on each occasion, she was keen to spend as much time as possibly chatting to our volunteers about their local countryside.
Many CPRE volunteers and staff have also had the opportunity to attend Buckingham Palace Garden Parties over the years, because of our royal patronage.
Echoes through the decades
It’s fascinating to see where those early volunteers’ concerns were focused in the 1950s and how they are represented in CPRE’s campaigns today. In the coronation year we chose to celebrate the occasion with a three-part village-based campaign that still has echoes in our work.
The first was for commemorative village greens – and earlier this year we urged people to use planning tools to make sure their local treasured green spaces enjoyed the level of protection that they need. Many of those special places will have seen subsequent royal celebrations and, probably, a good few CPRE ones!
Within three years of Queen Elizabeth II starting her reign, CPRE pressure resulted in acceptance of the need for strongly protected Green Belts around England’s largest towns and cities, and encouraged their establishment up and down the country. Green Belts are more important now than ever, for wellbeing, biodiversity and climate and our recent report on the need for greater investment through agricultural funding highlights this.
At the same time, we were calling for new village hall facilities for young people, recognising that they are often at a loose end as the pre-war shift of population to the cities gathered apace. Now CPRE is looking to make sure there is support and resources for this generation’s rural young people. Last year our research into the views of young people living in the countryside showed that consideration of their needs was more urgent than ever.
A thought for a jubilee present
The third element of CPRE’s coronation celebrations were initiating a Tidy Village Competition that led to numerous county-based best kept village competitions. Several local CPREs still run or encourage participation in similar competitions but often with a more modern theme of community spirit or sustainability, for example.
‘Tidyness’ continues to return as a concern for the countryside. At the WI’s AGM three years after the coronation CPRE’s Herbert Griffin seconded a resolution to establish a Keep Britain Tidy Group. That of course still runs today. And one of CPRE’s most gratifying wins of recent years was when the government committed to a deposit return system.
Now wouldn’t that be a lovely jubilee present to set before a queen?