Fiona Reynolds, the former Director General of the National Trust has just published her first book, The Fight for Beauty – our path to a better future.
“We live in a world where the drive for economic growth is crowding out everything that can’t be given a monetary value. We’re stuck on a treadmill where only material things in life gain traction and it’s getting harder to find space for the things that really matter but money can’t buy, including our future.”
This is a powerful book which reviews the history of beauty, aesthetics, landscape, countryside, nature conservation, farming and urbanisation. It then sets out how we can move forwards.
The book has chapters on the battle for National Parks, how nature and the wider countryside lost out, how farming made and destroyed beauty, the battles of trees and woodlands, the success story of the coast, cultural heritage and the battles around urbanisation and planning.
Fiona is not just a historian though, she has played a leading role in many of these stories, as well as working for the National Trust she has also worked for the Campaign for National Parks (CNP) and the Campaign for Rural England (CPRE). For example she has been actively involved in the battles over the intensification of farming on Exmoor in the 1980s, the threat of drainage on Halvergate Marshes in the Norfolk Broads, the trials and tribulations around the passing of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Bill, the row over the privatisation of the Forest Estate, the rumpus over the National Planning Policy Framework and the campaign to get children back outside and enjoying wildlife and the countryside.
Fiona has been a high profile campaigner throughout her career, I remember well in the 1980s and 1990s when I worked for the Wildlife Trusts how we were all envious of her and how she was always on the Radio 4 Today programme talking about the environment ahead of all the other campaign groups.
I worked with Fiona when I was at NT when I was drawing up the Wicken Fen 100 year Vision – the plan to massively expand the Fen by creating new habitats for people and wildlife – without Fiona’s support and encouragement that project would have come to nothing. I was therefore very proud to find that my work at Wicken is featured in The Fight for Beauty.
This is a good book and one that everyone interested in the protection of our countryside should read. The conclusion from all of the battles described is that we need to ensure and encourage everyone to get out and enjoy their countryside and wildlife – unfortunately such activities are now less common than they once were. This needs to change because if we don’t enjoy the beauty of our countryside and green places we won’t fight for them when they are threatened.
I hope in a small way that my blog encourages people to get out, be curious about the natural world and ultimately fight for the places they love too.