Volunteering as a Parish Councillor

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

I don’t really know a lot about politics and I have never expressed an interest in it, but last summer I was delighted to be elected onto Steep Parish Council. It’s not the start of a new career – or a midlife crisis – but a way of getting to know the community I have lived in for eight years, and trying to help it in some small way.

Most people have heard about the famous ‘Jackie Weaver’ moment during a lockdown council meeting (if you haven’t, YouTube it). We haven’t had anything quite so dramatic, but sometimes it’s not far off! What I have seen though has been really humbling. I’m in awe of the time and effort that my fellow councillors put into their roles. It is a voluntary role and we officially meet once a month, but it is all the work that goes on between meetings that I’m not sure many people are aware of. I’m limited in what I can do, and volunteer for only one area, which is encouraging the young people in the community to be seen, and to take an active role in it.

On Tuesday 8 March I spent the morning with five students from Bedales, pressure washing the play equipment on the common. They had a great time removing the dirt that had built up over the years and the equipment is now ready for a coat of wood preserver, which we hope to do in the Summer Term. Pressure washing the swing set is next on our to-do list.

On Thursday 24 March we were back on the common for the morning with four different groups of students. With the help of my colleagues Stu Barilli and Katie McBride, we planted 34 trees complete with tree guards and supporting stakes. This was funded with a grant from East Hampshire District Council, with the aim of replanting the area which has suffered from ash dieback.

Our students got a great deal from it; they connected with something outside Bedales, they contributed something to their community, and learnt a bit about tree planting along the way.

Standing for Steep Parish Council

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

Bedales has a long and proud association with Steep Parish Council. Over the years many members of our Bedalian community have been elected councillors and this year I am currently in the running to join them…

For the last seven years I’ve lived on the Bedales estate where I manage the school farm and teach Outdoor Work. Steep is where I live and work and where my children go to school.

One of the key things I teach our students is how to live and work together. Whilst we devote much time to environmental aspects such as animal husbandry, farm-to-fork education, planting hedgerows, growing, land management and traditional craftsmanship, we also look at the social aspects too. These include how to live respectfully and happily in a close-knit community.

It has been a difficult few years for our village. Not just because of the pandemic, but also because of deep rifts over the Church Road land and the proposed development which has divided this wonderful Steep community of ours, which Bedales is very much part of.

Sitting on my couch getting cross with a Brazilian president about the Amazon rain forest is easy. Taking the time to meet with the parish council in a public consultation about the future of a patch of land requires some degree of effort. However if we encourage our students to ask questions, challenge ideas, to consider alternative views, listen to others and develop their own thinking. Then certainly I need to live what I preach…

I think I could contribute to an effective, sustainable solution, however there is a lot more to our community than this one, polarising issue.

For example, what could we do for our amazing Steep School? What could we do about traffic calming and making the roads safer? Access to green spaces? Strengthening the relationship between the schools, nurseries, and local residents? How could we build relationships between the young and the old?

I would like to help bring the community together, which is why I’m asking people to vote for me in the forthcoming Steep Parish elections.

I have a deep commitment to this community and a strong desire to see it come back together. I would love to be given the chance to make a difference in it. I believe I could put this experience to great use on the parish council.

Only a small number of you may be eligible to vote in these elections, however every little helps. Vote for me on July 15!

New cattle arrive at Bedales

Bedales-calf

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

Agnes and Audrey have joined us from Cowdray Farm Estate. Their mothers are Holstein Friesian cattle used for milking, their fathers are used for beef.

Agnes is a Holstein-Friesian cross Aberdeen-Angus. Aberdeen-Angus’s are a native breed, black in colour and known for their hardiness and the quality of their beef. They have a great temperament which we hope proves true as Agnes grows up!

Audrey is a Holstein-Friesian cross Hereford. Hereford cattle are very distinctive, with their white faces and markings, and auburn bodies.  Like the Aberdeen-Angus, Herefords fed on grass produce an excellent ‘marbled’ beef that is in great demand due to its distinctive flavour and quality.

Hereford cattle are another native breed famous for their good temperament. This should make Audrey and Agnes absolutely ideal for our school environment.

The calves are three weeks old, and fed on milk, barley straw and cereal. They will have the milk for roughly another six weeks, and then be weaned entirely onto cereals and barley straw for the winter. In the summer months they will only eat grass.

Very soon they will begin their halter training which is vital in order for us to move them around the site to fresh pastures (watch out for the cow pats!) Already we have three Block 4 students claiming the halter training as part of their Outdoor Work BAC project.

Once the cattle reach roughly 20 months they will be ready for either breeding or beef. What we decide to do with them depends on their behaviour, how our fields have coped with big animals and our appetite for either calves or beef!