As a nation we ask a lot of the countryside. It must feed us, attract tourists, be accessible for recreation and exercise, generate energy and store carbon. At the same time it must clean the air, provide an escape and inspiration, manage flood water, provide habitats for flora and fauna, and be a good place to live and work for rural communities. We ask all this and much more.
Experience of the countryside is all about opportunity for me. It's a chance to look at life boiled down to its simplest form and better still, see things from a different view. Whether a career in the countryside is for you, or you just want to eat great food, one thing is for sure, understanding our environment is a good thing for everybody.
Crossing the rickety bridge to the private Isle of Eriska you get the feeling you may be about to infiltrate the land of Narnia. Perched on the west coast of Scotland in 350 acres of manicured gardens, woodland and rugged beaches, against a stunning rural landscape, Eriska lulls you into an immediate state of calm.
The CLA is exploring how countryside communities can leap ahead and achieve the ultrafast connections that will genuinely set rural businesses up for the future. Only when Government and industry show that they are looking to that horizon alongside us will they genuinely deserve the credit they crave.
Figures released by DEFRA on 16th December reveal that almost 1500 badgers were shot under license in the cull zones in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset in 2015. This brings the total number of badgers killed to almost 4,000 over the past three years, at a cost to the taxpayer that's probably in the region of £25 million.
On the borders of Windsor Great Park, less than an hour from London, Coworth Park, a luxurious Georgian country house hotel, was the ideal base for our hiking and history mini-break. And, if we'd been in the mood for a horsey weekend, there's an equestrian centre on site where we could have arranged an escorted horseback ride or lessons. Or just up the road is the famous, 300 year-old Ascot Racecourse.
I shudder to think what will happen if these amendments pass on Wednesday. Our Government will have been the one to technically legislate for a return to cruelty. We cannot let them. It is wrong. At its very best, this is misrepresentation of the electorate, dirty play and a backward step for our progressive nation.
With hindsight I should have insisted on a purse-sized mutt; a spaniel or a Chihuahua, because Sandy, the hyperactive border-collie that came to live with us turned out to be mad. It's as simple as that. He was a stark-raving-insane-out of control-lunatic. I have a hyperactive thyroid, but this dog made me feel like a sloth on Valium.
It's the attention to detail that makes Cowley Manor stand out. The rack of Hunter wellies at the door, to wear while you stroll around the exquisite Grade II listed gardens. The golden triple cooked chips that compliment the club sandwich. The funky, Scando-style rugs and throws. From the service to the salt cellars, everything feels like it's been carefully and lovingly thought out.
This place, which in area is the same as 50 football pitches, is dripping with the history that encapsulates the story of the British Isles... These jewels in the National Trust crown have drawn people for a huge variety of reasons. Whether as a place to escape the rat race, a place to be at one with nature or a place to fire the imagination.