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Celebrating trustees in the CPRE network

Countryside Voices
By Countryside Voices

Did you know there are almost 200,000 charities in the UK, with over a million trustees? This Trustees’ Week, we’re thanking all our trustees and acknowledging the massive contribution they make to our network of local CPRE charities.

It’s because of trustees that our charities achieve so much in protecting, enhancing and promoting the countryside. And to prove there’s far more to these roles than attending meetings, here we meet four trustees whose influence extends far beyond the boardroom.

Ivan Buxton, volunteer trustee for CPRE Devon

Since 2018, Ivan has helped organise the Devon’s Best Churchyard competition, using his expertise in biodiversity and his enthusiasm for rural heritage. Of course, most of the people who tend to these beautiful and characterful places are volunteers themselves, which makes it even more rewarding for Ivan. ‘The people who work so hard to maintain churchyards deserve special praise,’ he says. ‘And it’s great to see the enjoyment they get from creating wilder areas for birds and pollinators’.

a group of smiling people standing outside the entrance of a parish church with one person holding a circular wooden plaque with a blue stripe.
Happy parish volunteers at St Swithun’s church in Sandford after Ivan had presented their plaque | CPRE Devon

‘But what really shines through is the pride the winners take in receiving our beautiful plaques, made in Devon from sustainably sourced wood,’ Ivan confirms. There’s certainly nothing like the feeling of one’s voluntary work being recognised, and we salute Ivan for the dedication that took him all over this vast county for judging this year – a task complicated by coronavirus restrictions. ‘At least the sun always seemed to be shining wherever we arrived,’ he says, confirming this project is truly blessed.

Mary Booth, chair of trustees for CPRE Staffordshire

Mary is another trustee who likes to get out and about in her county, and although lockdown has disrupted the usual summer programme of events there is hope for a return to normality in 2021 – including through the CPRE Staffordshire tradition of community tree planting.

Two women and a man in wet weather holding trees and spades on farmland with hedges and beehive in the background
CPRE Staffordshire chair Mary Booth (left) with colleague Sue Kneill-Boxley and beekeeper Lewis MacDonald planting bee-friendly tree species during 2019’s National Tree Week | My Village Voice Staffordshire

‘The opportunity is there for all our trustees to take part in community activities,’ says Mary.

'The opportunity is there for all our trustees to take part in community activities.'
Mary Booth

‘In normal times they range from manning stalls at the Staffordshire County Show or Gnosall Festival to picking up litter on Cannock Chase AONB – where we also hope to do a Dark Skies project in 2021.’

Four people in hi-vis vests and litter picking equipment and bin bags
Mary (second from right) and Sue at the 2019 litter pick with Richard Harris (far left) from Cannock Chase AONB and local MP Amanda Milling (far right) | Sarah Burgess / CPRE Staffordshire

‘In 2019 I was joined on the litter pick by Amanda Milling, MP for Cannock Chase, who is now co-chair of the Conservative Party – so we made a useful contact,’ she says. Local lobbying is just one way that Mary builds support for the countryside, citing the importance of ‘getting involved early on in consultations and spreading appreciation of the landscape – through such things as our CPRE Staffordshire Calendar to mark our 85th anniversary in 2021’.

Alasdair Forman, volunteer trustee for CPRE Lancashire, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester

Someone else with a determination to help people connect with local countryside, Alasdair helped his group prioritise walking events as an important way to help build awareness and attract supporters. ‘Pre-lockdown we typically held a walk every 1-2 months and I would work as part of a small events team to help on design and delivery,’ he explains. And those efforts were clearly a great success, with three well-received events organised through the meetup website introducing dozens of like-minded people to CPRE’s work.

A man in a hi-vis vest and rucksack greeting a man in a red jacket with a cycle on a footpath in green space among a group of people
Alasdair (centre) greeting Stuart Bennett of the Friends of Rimrose Valley on CPRE Lancashire’s meetup walk to highlight the threats to this vital green space | Martin Pickup Photography

Alasdair has even found that being a CPRE trustee has helped strengthen his personal passion for the region’s countryside.A lot of my previous working life has focused on environmental issues outside of the UK,’ he says. ‘So I have really enjoyed the opportunity to concentrate on things closer to home – gaining new insights by working on issues through a CPRE lens.’

Fran Evans, volunteer trustee for CPRE North Yorkshire

One of the most successful recent initiatives for CPRE North Yorkshire has been their writing competition for primary schools, which has helped pupils engage with their local landscapes and hone their powers of description.

'As trustees we love reading about why children value the countryside and what makes it so special to them.'
Fran Evans

‘As trustees we love reading about why children value the countryside and what makes it so special to them,’ says Fran. ‘From the nature around them, to spending time with family or fish and chips at the coast!’

‘The accompanying pictures from younger entrants are such a delight to see too!’ – one primary school pupil’s striking illustration of Robin Hood’s Bay | CPRE North Yorkshire

‘The competition’s success and positive response rate continues to grow and enthuse new entrants,’ she explains. ‘And school staff report that it’s helped pupils to explore both the physical and mental benefits of spending time outdoors in their local countryside.’ For Fran and her fellow trustees, ‘appreciating the countryside from a child’s perspective is a welcome break from the day job’, which currently involves organising a new best churchyard competition for 2021 – inspired by Ivan in Devon!

Could you be the next CPRE trustee?

With 90,000 trustee vacancies advertised in the UK at any time, it can prove difficult for any charity to refresh their board – and CPRE is no exception. But with our structure of 42 local charities supported by national staff, becoming a trustee for a county or regional CPRE is a great way to make a real difference to the countryside you love.

As well as the sort of practical activities that Fran, Ivan, Mary and Alasdair are involved in, you would have a wealth of opportunities to influence CPRE’s national policies, represent your area at Parliamentary events and use our media profile to promote important local issues. Above all, you would become part of a friendly network with strong ties to local communities and partner organisations within the CPRE movement.

If you’re passionate about the countryside, CPRE is the charity for you. Why not take a look at our local trustee and chair opportunities today?

A mixed group of people in coats from behind, walking on urban green space towards docklands with cranes and industrial buildings
Some of the walkers on an awareness-raising walk in Liverpool's Green Belt organised by CPRE Lancashire trustee Alasdair Forman Martin Pickup Photography

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The legacy of Ethel’s vision and determination lives on thanks to the continued efforts of the Friends of the Peak District, and she remains an inspiration to everyone within CPRE