I’ve just had a lively three days talking about the Parish Grasslands Project. On Tuesday evening I popped in to the St Briavels Get Together. This is an event at the Pavilion where representatives of local organisations are invited to tell an audience of local people, many of them representing said organisations, about their activities. The brief was to talk about last year’s achievements and this year’s ambitions, and to do so in three minutes. Quite a tall order, as there was a bit to report from last year. However I tried to emphasise the inclusive aspects (“you don’t need to own a meadow to be involved”) of our current projects: the community orchard “feasibility study” and the wild flower survey. Because it was my choir rehearsal night I asked for and received an early slot, and so tantalisingly had to miss the fantastic buffet laid on by Deborah and Neil Flint of Cinderhill Farm.

Next day I was off to Cinderhill Farm myself, to talk about the PGP to visiting members of the Farmers Club. They were on a two-day visit to the area, and the party included members of the Dunning family, farmers in Cumbria and the founders of the original Tebay Services at the top end of the M6, and much more recently of the excellent Gloucester Services on the M5. The party were going on the following day to visit the M5 site, where Deborah and Neil’s now legendary Foggies (giant sausage rolls) are a major attraction. After hulling a giant bowl of strawberries while waiting for the visitors to arrive, I had a very convivial time chatting with farmers from many parts of England and Wales. Many of us climbed to the top meadow to talk about meadow management and I gave a brief outline of the PGP’s aims and activities. After another extraordinary spread laid on by Deborah and Neil – this time I was able to partake, and it was delicious – I set up my stall in the barn during desert and sold a few copies of our booklets. A highlight of the day for me was a very enjoyable chat with Mr Dunning Senior, recalling my Cumbrian fell-running days in the late 1970s in places like Wet Sleddale and the Howgill Fells, when his recently opened Tebay Services took motorway food in Britain to a whole new level, and provided very welcome hot meals for weary runners after races.

Another day and another PGP gig. And more food! This was a response to an invitation from the Monmouth Field and History Society to give their members a talk about the PGP after lunch at Lindors Hotel. Very generously they invited my wife Judy too. Frankly I was a little nervous about speaking after lunch. So much easier, I thought, to get the talk out of the way first and enjoy the lunch in a more relaxed state. I should not have worried. The Field and History Society are a very convivial bunch, and I thoroughly enjoyed the lively conversation at the table. Then to my talk. I hope I didn’t ramble on excessively; it was well received and provoked some excellent questions (and a request to talk to a Women’s Institute). Members seemed genuinely interested in our activities and some were surprised that they had not previously known about the PGP’s existence. This left me wondering if we should try to raise our profile in the immediate area. Are we too parochial? That’s something for us to consider. Again I sold a few of our booklets, and donated copies of both Flowers in their Fields and Our Fields to the society’s chair, Sue Miles, to place in the Nelson Museum in Monmouth. So hopefully that will do something to raise the profile of the Parish Grassland Project beyond the parish boundaries.