CGI is currently working with farmers on a nature conservation scheme, namely the ‘Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area’, that has been kick started by the government. It covers over 25000 acres of chalk downland just south of Swindon. We were able to contribute towards this initiative due to our weeks of presence and ‘collecting and helping at the gate’ this year. Evidently the recipient was “thrilled” with our contribution. (No surprises there!) A cancer organisation was also a beneficiary as was a local church that is used in a multi faith capacity.
Apart from being constructive and worthwhile, this conservation scheme allows the CCs through CGI, to warm the climate towards the farming community by helping with something close to their hearts. This is the key…connect with the community; a needs led approach. We are now trying to establish a down-to-earth practical working relationship with them by collecting, promoting and raising awareness towards ecological issues in the Wiltshire landscape.
Spending so much time literally ( and legally I may add ) camped in the landscape gives one an added insight, a real understanding of some of the farmer’s concerns far beyond crop circles…like the little blue butterfly that is slowly becoming endangered. Seems like a small thing in some ways within the bigger picture doesn’t it, but the empathy is much bigger in the sense of helping to relate. I am an Englishman born and countryside-bred so it’s not so hard for me to understand these folks and their concerns.
It is only in this way in my view, that we can forge a more positive pathway into the future enabling visitors to enjoy the countryside and all within it and at the same time helping to stabilise the Wiltshire Tourist Industry as a whole which brings many millions of pounds into the area each year. Farmer perception of the CC visitor, that is one of… ‘them and us’… perhaps in time will become less of a dichotomy and more one of… ‘us all’… as we will show that we are all working together towards a common goal. We cannot separate one thing from the other, all is connected and CCs perhaps in time will be seen as a resource rather than a nuisance. The constant battle that has been waging for years is a direct result of the polarity within the CC/farming world; perhaps after 30 years we are now at last being given the opportunity to action something new; a fresh approach.
Farmer's wife Gill Hussey (with Coco her Spaniel ) who was passionate about conservation.
So the bottom line here is I suppose, without the farmer’s cooperation this whole thing is going nowhere apart from friction and unpleasantness and even cutting. In contrast, and in theory, if all farmers and visitors were to cooperate with our scheme, we could achieve the MDNIA goal and support many others in a relatively short period of time. Running in parallel to this of course, CGI would be looking after, as usual, the farmer’s interests in terms of people, land and traffic issues around the event site. Hackpen Hill and Silbury Hill events last year were for CGI, shining examples of how this works so well .The potential sums raised from CC visitors, who may in actual numbers increase (and boosting local tourist revenue) due to an improved political climate, could be huge. However, in practice the likelihood is that this process will be of a more organic nature, gradually growing as individuals warm to the idea and a culture of trust and respect become more established. Personally I prefer this as one can naturally grow with the organisation rather than be overwhelmed by it!
I will be looking at other ways we can help MDNIA, such as voluntary work, in a future article.
But in the meantime please check out the link below for more information.