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Middle Marches Community Land Trust launch event, April 2019
In March 2019, six local residents met to discuss the possibility of launching a Community Land Trust in the Marches.
The idea initially came from a report on the Stepping Stones project in the Shropshire Hills written by Richard Keymer and Jonathan Brown. The background to the estbalishment of the Middle Marches Community Land Trust is summarised below.
Background to the establishment of the Middle Marches Community Land Trust
The Shropshire Hills contains two large upland nature reserves: the Long Mynd, owned and managed by the National Trust, and The Stiperstones, owned and managed by Natural England. The two organisations agreed to establish a project to create linkages between the two sites which, together with improved management, would help make them bigger, better and joined – key aspirations for improving England’s network of protected sites.
The project was named ‘Stepping Stones’ and in 2015 Richard Keymer undertook a contract for Natural England and the National Trust to carry out a scoping study for the project. This study was able to build on a long history of landscape scale and community-based projects in the area, most recently a Landscape Partnership Scheme in the Stiperstones and Corndon area, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The objectives of the Stepping Stones Project are to:
- Improve the ecological viability and climate resilience of the habitats and species on the Long Mynd and Stiperstones through better ecological connectivity (stepping stones and corridors) between these two important sites.
- Increase populations of the special wildlife species of the Shropshire Hills.
- Help buffer the two sites from change by increasing the extent of important habitats found on and around the Long Mynd and the Stiperstones and by improving the conservation management of neighbouring land and land between the two sites where possible.
- Where possible, to do this in perpetuity.
The last bullet point relates to acquiring land for conservation purposes, amongst other things, and can really only be achieved by establishing an independent Trust which can act unhindered by bureaucracy.
In 2016 the National Trust and Natural England let a contract to Richard Keymer and Jonathan Brown to set out the background to and requirements for establishing a Community Land Trust in the Marches. In 2019, Richard Keymer, Jonathan Brown and four others decided that the time was right to proceed with the establishment of the Middle Marches Community Land Trust.
What we do
BUY & MANAGE LAND
Buying and managing land of current or potential high wildlife value for conservation purposes.
WORK WITH LANDOWNERS
Helping landowners to identify existing and potential wildlife sites and manage them sustainably.
SUPPORT LOCAL FOOD PRODUCTION
Supporting the production of quality food by promoting local growers, caring for land, conserving and enhancing soil and ensuring the welfare of livestock.
WORK WITH ORGANISATIONS
Working with existing organisations and individuals to improve the connections in the landscape through sympathetic management and habitat recreation.
ACT AS AN ADVICE HUB
Sharing information, advice, skills, expertise and education for those managing, or seeking to buy and sell, land.
To help create an ecologically healthy and sustainable countryside in the Middle Marches to inspire both residents and visitors.
Meet the Team
The Middle Marches Community Land Trust elected its first official Board at its AGM in January 2021.
Sara Braune – Board member
I am a Rural Surveyor with over 30 years experience, mainly working with the conservation charities the RSPB and the National Trust. In a self-employed capacity I have also worked for utility companies such as Western Power, Scottish Power and Severn Trent Water Ltd doing land referencing, agreeing easements and wayleaves, overhead line planning. I have been employed by private landowners and farmers in Shropshire on drafting and submitting Stewardship schemes.
I am currently employed by the RSPB as Senior Rural Surveyor in North Wales and am a professional contractor to the National Trust in the Midlands (although this is on hold due to Covid). With the RSPB I am based at Vyrnwy where we have an over 4,000ha upland in-hand farm and I also cover the various reserves and interests stretching up to South Stack on Anglesey.
I was involved with MMCLT prior to joining the Board by providing advice, drafting heads of terms for agreements, registering with the RPA so that entitlements and grants may be claimed and enrolling with the Land App as a tool for producing plans, record keeping and land management.
Jonathan Brown – Board member
Janet Cobb – Board member
I’m currently the Parish Clerk in Edgton village and on the board of Restoring Shropshire’s Verges (RSVP) Board and interested to combine this with MMCLT board activities in order to extend the rewilding of South Shropshire using my experience of being a RSVP pilot site in Edgton Village.
My background is in Health/disability work and running national networks and event organisation.
In particular, I’d like to contribute to:
- Supporting Shropshire Council to move to a more conservative and restorative management of Verges, Ditches and Hedges.
- Assisting with the capture all the initiatives on Climate Action being developed all over Shropshire.
- Helping MMCLT harness all the latent expertise and volunteer time available across South Shropshire.
- Help to explore the use of bio-digesters across South Shropshire.
- Initiating a South Shropshire schools programme on rewilding, restoration and meadow making.
- Help to identify potential partner organisations, businesses and donors.
- Help with public speaking events and media briefings.
Oliver Goode – Board member (interim Secretary)
Since coming here to live 20 years ago, I have been involved in local landscape and environmental projects with the AONB and others, I’m also Chair of Trustees of Caring for Gods Acre. A former partnership development consultant and facilitator, I’ve worked for local and national organisations in the UK, EU, East Africa and Australia.
Throughout my working life I have facilitated groups and communities to design and deliver changes that improve how they live and work. My activities ranged from working with victims of crime in Inner London to subsistence farmers in Tanzania, facilitating and shaping industrial education policies in the EU to community safety policy in the UK.
MMCLT is a perfect vehicle for harnessing local support to deal with the environmental issues we face locally. Light on its feet, it can act quickly to take advantage of opportunities, as well as plan carefully based on the views of local people. As an Interim Board member, I have witnessed its capacity for filling the gap between having ideas and successful implementation. I want to use my creativity and experience to open up opportunities for wider groups of stakeholders to help develop imaginative responses to our environmental challenges.
In the future MMCLT should forge strong partnerships with other groups and organisations aiming to bring more land under community control, improve biodiversity, create employment opportunities and provide a local market for local produce. It’s a big programme but I have the skills to help MMCLT achieve it.
Richard Keymer – Board member (Chair)
Previously in the east, I was involved in founding another independent body, the Langdyke Countryside Trust which celebrated its 20th birthday in 2019 and has six nature reserves extending to nearly 200 acres near Peterborough. Their efforts are centred on Helpston, which also happens to be the birthplace of the poet John Clare who is now seen as a leading poet of the natural world. I believe that the arts can play a key role in getting the environmental message across to the wider community.
I have a background in farming and for twenty years or so I kept a small herd of Dexter cattle and latterly Wiltshire Horn sheep as well, in part because extensive grazing is an important component of managing many wildlife habitats.
In my view, an independent CLT can play a key role in bringing people and organisations together to facilitate change and to be able to act quickly to safeguard important wildlife sites, unhindered by bureaucracy. It is also a great way to give local communities more of a say over the future of the environment in which they live.
Rob Rowe – Board member
I have lived and worked in Shropshire for 42 years. Most of that time I have been involved in wildlife conservation in some way or other. I worked for Shropshire Wildlife Trust for two years and since then I have been self-employed. I am currently involved with several local wildlife groups.
My main love is native plants, the preservation of their habitats and sharing that passion with others.
I think my main attribute as well as local ecological knowledge is the network of contacts that I have built up over the decades both among the conservation and farming communities.
Tim Selman – Board member
Being part of MMCLT from the beginning has been one of the most positive and fulfilling things I have been involved with. The territory that MMCLT has occupied feels really useful and valuable, where a real difference can be made without duplicating what is already happening elsewhere. At this time of transition for our countryside and wildlife, building common ground and generating new dialogues and solutions is more important than ever.
I have always held a passion for our countryside and landscape. After a degree in Rural Environment Studies I worked in various roles, but always connected to the countryside and environment. This has been both in practical and strategic roles. For 25 years this has been in management roles, especially in protected landscapes and World Heritage Sites. Recently this included work managing a community land trust in the Wyre Forest. My first love has always been working the tools, and I started my career doing this, and most recently have returned to this in the Shropshire Hills as a conservation contractor and running a small woodyard and sawmill.
The skills I offer are creative and strategic, orientated to building projects and developing opportunities for collaboration. I have a long and successful track record bringing in funding for countryside and heritage projects.
Richard Small – Board member
I have lived at Hill Cottage, The Bog since 2011. In 2012 I retired from lecturing at Liverpool John Moores University where I had been leader of the Wildlife Conservation degree course; my academic interests encompassed ecology and its application to conservation of habitats and species. I have advised on management plans for conservation sites e.g. Mere Sands Wood, a Lancashire Wildlife Trust nature reserve, and I am familiar with writing conservation management plans. I specialised in conservation grazing – the use of grazing animals for management of habitats for conservation.
In part that interest derived from keeping a flock of Hebridean sheep, a breed widely used for conservation grazing. Sheep-keeping also led to my involvement with the Rare Breed Survival Trust, a national charity. I was an RBST Trustee and Boardmember from 1999 to 2019 (re-elected three times) and chaired its Scientific Development Committee and later its Conservation Committee.
At Hill Cottage we manage 10ha (25 acres) of hay meadow and hill grassland for both our flock and for its wildlife interest. As a smallholder I am familiar with the intricacies of claiming support payments, including agri-environment schemes, and hence with dealing with the Rural Payments Agency, albeit on a small scale.
Our hay meadows encouraged us to join Marches Meadow Group at its foundation in 2015, since then I have been MMG’s secretary. In that role I have prepared successful grant applications e.g. to the Shropshire Hills AONB Conservation Fund and helped deliver externally funded projects. I am also an active member of Upper Onny Wildlife Group.
In summary, I bring an academic and practical knowledge of habitat conservation, Trustee and Board member experience, familiarity with RPA and an involvement with other local community groups.
Rosie Wood – Board member (Vice Chair)
I was born in Staffordshire but grew up in Southern India before returning to the UK for primary school.
I have worked in conservation and for wildlife for most of the last 40 years including voluntary, private, academic and public sectors.
Ranging from BTCV and Friends of the Earth in the late 1970s and what was then a radical shift to involving people in their local environments at the start of the 1980s (with the predictable complaints from the then old guard of conservation) to the new old guard of the statutory sector in more recent years.
Living in south Shropshire since the mid 80’s, I have held leadership roles in strategy, policy, governance, delivery and organisation. I worked at Natural England in national roles, including Policy Principal, Head of Functions, and with Defra in policy and later in casework resolution. Newly retired, I am now volunteering for a couple of local and national charities, including MMCLT.
Mike Watkins – Admin support
I was a project manager for 30+ years, most of them with the Foreign Office, where I was a Principal Project Manager, before joining Hewlett-Packard and, finally, finishing my career as a self-employed consultant.
I have lived in South Shropshire for 20 years and, as well as Middle Marches CLT, am involved with many groups, including BC Sustainability (the group that drafted the BC Climate Action Plan), Marches Community Benefit Society, Lightfoot and others.
Get in touch
Enterprise House, Station Street, Bishops Castle, SY9 5AQ
01588 650 364 (Oliver, interim Secretary)