Lovely short film about a plotlands settlement on the salt marshes of Lowsy Point near Barrow-in-Furness in northwest England. Watch via https://vimeo.com/wurstundgritz/acre or embedded below. Read Colin Ward’s Arcadia for All to learn more about the Plotlands.
This twitter thread is really compelling and useful:
What can we learn from the ‘global land rush’ about the risks of large-scale land-based carbon removal in climate mitigation strategies?
You can click on the tweet below to open it on twitter or I have set up a threadreader page here.
This is a really great deep dive into local Sheffield history whilst at the same time providing lots of context which I imagine would make it still of interest to those further afield.
I drank it down and revelled in the geekery, for example, did you know that Mount Pleasant is the name for the part of each town or city where all the night soil (aka human poo) was taken every morning so farmers could transport it to their land for fertiliser?
Race and class in the ruins of empire
I’m not going to write about this book here because The Guardian’s book review does all really good job of inspiring you to read it.
After you’ve read this, The Many Headed Hydra is a great companion book to dive deeper.
Well this short history overview (taken from http://cabiners.wum.land/Wum-Land-Development_intro_to_LID.pdf) is really rather good and covers much of the same stations as the show plus a few more that didn’t quite make the cut, due to lack of time rather than historical badassness. There is another excellent piece more specific to the Forest of Dean here https://cabiners.wum.land/history.html
450 to 1066 – Anglo-Saxon Charters grant land to ‘lay people’ (commoners), set-up the administrative areas that correspond closely to our modern parish boundaries. The earliest surviving charter of King Hlothhere of Kent was drawn up in AD 670.
1066-7 Norman invasion displaces Anglo-Saxon commons/ land ownership model. William the Bastard declares that all land, animals and people in the country belong to him personally. This was as alien to the Isle’s customs as the colonial land-grabs were to the First Nations of America. Still today, the monarch’s land monopoly remains, in theory and practise, a legal reality. Land is parcelled up and given as payment to Williams forces. We go from a country in which >90% of people owned land, to a country of landless serfs, themselves owned by foreign lords.
1066-70 The ‘Greenmen’ resist the Norman invasion. Wearing camouflage, they run guerilla warfare campaigns against the invaders who called them the ‘silvatici’ (the men of the woods).
1069–70 the ‘Harrying of the North’, William burnt down every building between York and Durham, and killed by starvation or sword over one hundred thousand people. Many of the largest land owners in this country still today proudly trace their family tree back to ancestors who were involved in this bloodbath.
1135 – 1154 Civil war during the reign of Stephen saw the strength of the regional lords/ barons rise relative to the Crown as they established political and judicial arenas other than those defined by the Crown- creating a degree of regionalisation. England’s population more than doubled during 12th and 13th centuries stressing the economically inefficient land monopolies.
1215 Barons forced King John to limit his own power by signing Magna Carta which restated certain ancient, customary rights. Some of which were pre-Norman, and likely echoed back to our ancient oral traditions, existing long before the Roman invasion.
1217 Charter of the Forest re-established rights for Freemen to access and make use of the Royal Forests without persecution.
1235 – Statute of Merton encouraged landowners to convert arable land into pasture, as demand for British wool increased. Displacing traditional peasant agriculturalists and farmers. Commons Act 1236 allowed lords to enclose common land. Wool was the backbone and driving force of the medieval English economy between the late thirteenth century and late fifteenth century the trade (a primary driver of enclosure) was called “the jewel in the realm” or ‘half the wealth of the kingdom’. Statutes of Westminster 1275/ 85/ 90- restrict subtenure/ sale of parcels of land (a threat to state land monopoly) other than to the direct heirs of the landlord. It was prompted by certain lords who were dissatisfied with increasing amount of subtenures. These restrictions gave rise to ‘livery and maintenance’ or ‘bastard feudalism’, i.e. the retention and control by the nobility of land, money, soldiers and servants via salaries, land sales and rent. In-effect, this was the start of modern wage-slavery, and still works today, to ensure the regions remain economically dependent on the core, via state subsidised and enforced land monopoly to restrict regional economic and thus political power.
Rising European merchant class capitalised on mass production of wool being facilitated by displacing agrarian communities.
British wool became very sought after in Europe. Increasing demand for British wool, led to more mass displacement of peasants–generating an landless ‘class’ of urban dependents.
Great Famine 1315 and the Black Death 1348 killed >1/3 of the population, forcing the landed classes to value the productive members of their society (the peasants) who grew all the food.
1337-1453, Hundred Year War vs France, financed by merchant capital to gain control of the Flemish wool industry and weavers.
1340-1380 purchasing power of rural labourers increased 40%.
1351/ 49 The Labourers Acts were the nobilities reaction to the rising bargaining power of peasants, they fixed wages to ‘preplague levels’, restricted free movement and price-fixed foods.
1377 John of Gaunt imposed a new tax, the Poll (head) Tax.
1381 Peasants Revolt : Kentish rebels joined by many townsfolk, entered London. They destroy gaols, burned down Savoy Palace (Gaunts home), plundered Lambeth Palace, burnt books and buildings in the Temple, killed anyone associated with the royal government. The following day, Richard met the rebels at Mile End and acceded their demands, including the abolition of serfdom & poll tax (the only promise not reneged soon after)
1400-1409 Owain Glynd r last native Prince of Wales (Tywysog Cymru) viewed as a de facto King, led the ‘Welsh Revolt’ rapidly gaining control of large areas of Wales. Eventually his forces were overrun by the English, but despite the large rewards offered, Glynd r was never betrayed. His death was recorded by his kinsman in the year 1415, it is said he joined the ranks of King Arthur, and awaits the call to return and liberate his people.
1450 – Jack Cade led an army of Kentish peasants (described by ‘Shakespeare’ as “the filth and scum of Kent”) the rebels persuaded first army dispatched to pack up & go home, skilfully evaded a second of 15,000 men led by Henry VI, defeated third army in battle, killing two of the king’s generals in the process.
1450–1451 John and William Merfold’s Uprising centred around Sussex, mostly comprised of artisans pillaging and killing local gentry and clergy. “[The rebels wished] as lollards and heretics, to hold everything in common.” – the King’s Indictment, 1451
1489 Depopulation Act ‘agaynst pullying doun of Tounes’, Kings introduce anti-enclosure acts, due to widespread clearances, and the depopulation of entire villages. There were to be 11 similar Acts & eight commissions of enquiry over next 150 years. Henry VIII legislates against early cloth factories & enclosures, a primary source of wealth for the emerging ‘middle class’ of land owners, but lacked the strength to fully implement his changes.
1515 Henry VIII orders all pasture be converted back to arable in an attempt to reign in fortunes being made by the merchants.
1536 to 1541 – Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII privatising church lands (then 1/5th of the land), generating even more landless people, wholly dependent on urban wage-slavery.
1549 Kett’s anti-enclosure rebels 16,000 strong, took Norwich. Kett was 57 years old and one of the areas wealthier farmers. Erection of Cottages Act 1588 “against erecting and maintaining of Cottages” by people with less than four acres of freehold land. Prevent people building homes, farming remaining common land There is a surprising amount of continuity, in ‘open field systems’ from the fourth millennium BC up until the Norman invasion. Communal land management originated centuries, perhaps millennia before the Anglo-Saxon era. In Anglo-Saxon land law or ‘folkland’, as it was called, land was held in allodial title by the group, individual ownership did occur but it was limited to ensure the needs of the group were met.
1607 the agrarian changes (depopulation, enclosure) in the Midlands had produced mass armed revolts of the peasantry.
1607 to 1636, Government pursued an active anti-enclosure policy. Charles I, the ‘Commoners’ King’ was ‘re-commoning’ lands enclosed by lords and merchants, just before Civil War.
1620 Sir Edward Coke ‘greatest of English judges’, and a keen opponent of enclosure, declared depopulation against the laws of the realm ‘the encloser who kept a shepherd and dog in place of a flourishing village community was hateful to God and man.’ Ethnically cleansing ‘peasants’ is a clear violation of our ancient Common Law of Tort which is ‘cause no injury, harm or loss’
1626–1632 The Western Rising was a series of riots in the Dean and other Forests against disafforestation of royal forests
“In 1633-4 we find a proposal that all inclosures made since James I. should be thrown back into arable on pain of forfeiture” Enclosers still prosecuted in the Star Chamber as late as 1639.
1638 in the Forest of Dean “The deer were to be disposed of, as demoralizing the inhabitants and injuring the young wood; the commissioners recommended ejecting the cottagers who had established themselves in the Forest, as often before, in defiance of authority, and who numbered upwards of 2,000, occupying 589 cottages, besides 1,798 small enclosures containing 1,385 acres. As to defraying the cost of executing the above works, the commissioners recommended the sale of about 440 acres of detached Crown land adjoining the Forest” Charles I gave a short break in enclosures, he’s then beheaded. Post civil war enclosures accelerated by a largely landowning Parliament, blighting our entire population to this present day.
1642-1651 English Civil War, old feudal v.s. merchant powers.
1649 mass-redistribution, Cromwell sells 1,677 Royalist Estates
1649 Gerrard Winstanley with a peasant army, called the ‘True Levellers’ (later diggers) declaim the Earth a Common Treasury. The Diggers print radical protestant literature, aimed at reforming the social order with an agrarian lifestyle based on the creation of small egalitarian, self-sufficient rural communities, an ecological interrelationship between humans and nature, “true freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the Earth.”
1659, Forest riots ‘probably excited by the efforts which the Government had recently made for the re-afforesting of 18,000 acres; to effect which 400 cabins of poor people, living upon the waste, and destroying the wood and timber, were thrown down.’ English nationalist discourse in the mid-17th century spoke of throwing off the ‘Norman yoke’ – i.e. feudalism, land monopoly.
1671 Game Act made it illegal to hunt wild animals, considered a common right since time immemorial. Also illegal for farmers to protect crops from rabbits, other animals. Starvation or crime. Around now modern banking arrived in England from Holland leading to a century of boom and bust bubbles, expensive wars in which banking families made huge profits funding both sides.
1680 in the FOD “there were remaining about 30 cabins, in several parts of the Forest, inhabited by about 100 poor people, (The Crown) had taken care to demolish the said cabins, and the enclosures about them.” These were not the Forest “free miners”, although “they had been born in it, and never lived elsewhere,” but as “cabiners,” who had to work seven years in the pits before they could become “free.” Freedom=Slavery. Glorious Revolution of 1688 leading to the Bill of Rights 1689.
1700-1850 Parliamentary Enclosures, no longer held back by sections of the Church, nor the power of Monarchs- enclosures increase exponentially in speed and size, urban slums grow too.
By 1700 half all arable lands enclosed, by 1815 nearly all farm land was enclosed, hunting, grazing, gleaning rights all but lost.
From 1750 to 1820 desperate poachers were ‘hanged en-mass’
1790-1830 a third of rural population migrates to urban slums. Where they are put to work in factories, workhouses called by Blake the “Satanic Mills” of modernity, i.e. ‘Industrial Revolution’.
1788 Mr. Miles Hartland, assistant-deputy-surveyor stated to the Dean Forest Commissioners, “cottages and encroachments in the Forest have nearly doubled within the last forty years.”
1811 – 1816 Concerned that machines would replace their highskill labour, the Luddites smash machinery, threaten industrialist. Luddites were not anti technology, they were pro-workers rights. Early 1800’s Industrialist Robert Owen talks of a ‘moral rebirth’ and sets about improving the living conditions of his workers.
1800-1850 Highland Clearances led to the displacement of up to 500,000 Highland peasants and crofters, tens of thousands of which died in the early-mid the 19th century, to be replaced by sheep. A member of the British Aristocracy noted ‘It is time to make way for the grand-improvement of mutton over man.’
1808 Dean Forest Timber Act 1814-1816 11,000 acres enclosed
1831, Warren James with 100 Foresters, demolished enclosures at Park Hill, between Parkend and Bream. 50 unarmed Crown Officers were powerless to intervene. Soon a party of 50 soldiers arrived from Monmouth, but by now the number of Foresters had grown to around 2000 and the soldiers returned to barracks. squadron of heavily armed soldiers arrived from Doncaster and the day after, another 180 infantrymen from Plymouth James was sentenced to death, later transportation to Tasmania.
1845 – 1852 Irish Potato ‘Famine’, as British troops seized foods, to be exported at gun-point leaving the Irish population to starve.
1845 and 1849: 616 major landlords owned 95% of the British Isles and rented marginal lands to land-workers (peasants).
1849 Forest of Dean ‘a general feeling prevailed against the deer, on the ground of their demoralising influence as an inducement to poaching, and all were ordered to be destroyed, there being perhaps 150 bucks, 300 does. “if once men begin to poach, we can never reckon upon their working afterwards.” Mr. Nicholson’s statement before Lord Duncan’s Committee
1872 the British Government published ‘The Return of the Owners of Land’, only the second audit of land to have taken place in British history, the other being the Domesday book. After 2 years of gathering all the information the returns found that 1 million people owned freeholds, about 5% of the population. 10 Dukes owned over 100,000 acres each with the Duke of Sutherland owning 1,350,000 acres, 1/50th of the entire country. Return of Owners of Land, confirmed that 0.6 per cent of the population owned 98.5% of the land. Half of Britain was owned by 0.06% of the population. Findings still well hidden till this day.
Late 1800 industrialists build villages for workers, in anticipation of higher productivity. Strict, religious ‘rules’ concerning drinking, dancing, singing or fraternising with opposite sex were common.
Late 1800s – early 1900s land reforms start making headway, allotment acts, numerous attempts to introduce a land value tax- to return tax burden to large land owners. Landowners fear land may soon become a liability, so they sell >1/2million acres in a short space of time- though mostly to other large landowners.
1899 Commons Act permits district councils, national park authorities to manage commons for ‘exercise and recreation’.
1900-1946 ¼ of a billion Europeans die from war, famine or as a result of war. Enables land-grabbing on an unprecedented scale.
1920-47 Plotlands were the first chance for workers to own land and build dwellings on it – they lead to the invention of Planning Laws to prevent poor people building houses in the countryside.
1925 Law of Property Act s.193 gave the right of the public to “air and exercise” on Metropolitan commons, but not rural commons.
1925 Land registry begins, to-date about 50% of land registered.
1930’s ‘Green Revolution’, a euphemism for the petrochemical based agriculture of the (post-)war period, has succeeded only in finding and expanding new ‘markets’ for the petrochemical corporations who became incredibly wealthy and politically influential by selling fuel & chemical weapons during the wars. In fact, many of the insecticides and herbicides sprayed on our foods today are modified or sometimes even just ‘rebranded’ chemicals originally designed as weapons of war. Of course, the exact same chemical corporations also manufacture and sell pharmaceutical drugs, which make additional revenue ‘treating’ the ‘diseases of civilisation’ which so often result from exposure to these chemical. As the head of I.G. Farben infamously said… “we intend to make the human-body, our market place.” Currently more than 70 per cent of UK land is owned by fewer than two per cent of the population. Much of which is directly traceable to Guillaume (William) the Bastard/ Conqueror whose 22nd great-granddaughter sits upon the ‘English’ throne still today. Meanwhile, Britain’s 16.8 million homeowners account for barely 4 per cent of the land, about the same as that owned by the Forestry Commission. Today, Britain has the second most unequal distribution of land ownership on Earth, after Brazil.
1962 start of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), largest political bribery structure ever conceived by man.
1981, The Foresters won an exemption from Forestry Act’s land sales. Then MP Paul Marland quickly changed his mind about supporting the sale saying… “Today’s Forester is of the same independent mind and rugged character as were his forefathers. It is our duty to preserve his ancient rights and traditions”. Take note!
1986 Inheritance taxes finish off remaining Anglo-Norman landed gentry, well, those not already in-bed with ‘globalist’ financiers.
1996, 500 ‘The Land is Ours’ activists occupied 13 acres of derelict land on the banks of the River Thames in Wandsworth.
In 1999, the British activist group ‘The Land is Ours’ celebrated the Digger movement’s 350th anniversary with a march and reoccupation of Saint George’s Hill, site of the first Digger colony. CROW Act 2000 recognised ‘freedom to roam’ on common land.
2008, first low-impact development granted planning permission to Tony Wrench & ‘that round-house’, after attempted eviction failed.
2009, nearly a hundred activists converged on a piece of derelict land at Kew Bridge in south west London to create an ‘eco-village’.
2010 HOOF successfully fought nationwide forest sell-off from public bodies bill, leading to the government backing down and setting up the Independent Panel of Forestry, which concluded that, “
2012 Wilderness Centre reopened in Spring, Yorkley Court’s ‘disorderly settlement’ begins in the Autumn of that year.
2012 “Runnymede Eco-Village started by ‘the Diggers 2012’ who are modelled after Gerald Winstanley’ Diggers of 1649. Successes of Low-impact development planning policy in Wales, under the ‘One Planet Development’ scheme -the flagship project is Lammas eco-village in Pembrokeshire. Oxford University produces a DNA map of Britian which reveals that “most people in Great Britian still live in the tribal teritories which existed over 1000 years ago.” Geneticist Professor Sir Walter Bodmer of Oxford University said: “What it shows is the extraordinary stability of the British population. Britain hasn’t changed much since 600AD.
Compelling 2006 BBC documentary by Dan and Peter Snow about land rights in the UK. Section on how much of central London is still owned by aristocrats is excellent.
This is a really good insight into how it feels to be able to roam free, for those lucky enough to be able to get to remote parts of Scotland! I could personally do without some of the advertorial outdoor sports porn but Patagonia did pay for it so, we’ll let them off.
2012 BBC Panorama revealing how millions of pounds of public money are paid out to businessmen and millionaire farmers in an abuse of the farming subsidy system. Investors tell us how they have been paid without having to do any farming at all. And Samantha also sets out to see if she can take advantage of the subsidy system and become rich from the loophole.
The programme also examines the rest of the subsidy system and hears criticism of large payments to wealthy individuals like the Queen and the Duke of Westminster simply on the basis of owning large amounts of land.
Rich landowners paid millions in farming subsidies
Six-figure subsidies meant to help struggling farmers are being paid out to some of Britain’s richest landowners, BBC Panorama has found.
Recipients of the EU subsidy include the Queen and the Duke of Westminster.
The programme requested details of the number of landowners claiming a slice of the £3.5bn subsidy in the UK.
The EU’s Agriculture Commissioner has called for a cap of about £250,000 for each farmer and measures to ensure that they are actively farming their land.
Privacy rules mean that the names of most recipients are not known, but anonymised details were given showing how many landowners across the UK received more than the cap proposed by Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos.
‘Honest farmers suffer’
The data from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland shows that 889 landowners received more than £250,000. Of those, 133 were given more than £500,000 and 47 of those were given more than £1m in subsidy.
Jack Thurston, who campaigns for reforms to the Common Agriculture Policy’s subsidy, said: “These are very wealthy people and if we’re in the business of handing out public money to farmers because they’re poor, these are not the kind of people that we’d be handing that money to.”
Mr Thurston said the system is flawed because it rewards large landowners based on the number of hectares they own, not on financial need.
Officials in Scotland and Wales said they would consider a cap, while Northern Ireland has endorsed a cap of £100,000. But the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for England is against the proposal.
In a statement, Defra said charities that are also large landowners, such as the National Trust, would be harmed if the subsidy requirements were changed.
In a statement, it also said: “Successive UK government have been opposed to capping payments. This is because to avoid losing subsidies, bigger farms would restructure and the only gainers would be lawyers.”
EU Agriculture Commissioner Mr Ciolos said the system needs to change: “I am very frustrated because this means millions of very honest farmers have to suffer because some speculators who use this opportunity with the Common Agricultural Policy became more rich only because they have some hectares.”
The National Farmers Union has also defended the current subsidy system, saying some payouts to wealthy landowners are “unavoidable”.
Peter Kendall, NFU president, said it still remains the best possible system for farmers: “It is one of those side effects of the system we have at present. I want money to go to active farmers who are producing food, and that should matter whether you’re producing on two acres, or two thousand acres.
I was told about Hamish Henderson a few weeks ago and just spent a delightful hour making friends with his best known song ‘Freedom Come All Ye’.
There have been a few translations into English but I didn’t really like any of them so I’ve written my own, building on unattributed previous efforts. It’s such a shame that ‘down’ and ‘bloom’, and ‘more’ and ‘bare’ don’t rhyme in my southern English accent!
Roch the wind in the clear day’s dawin
Blaws the cloods heilster-gowdie owre the bay
But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin
Thro the Great Glen o the warld the day
It’s a thocht that wad gar oor rottans
Aa thae rogues that gang gallus fresh an gay
Tak the road an seek ither loanins
Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play
Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Merch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pitheid an clachan
Mourn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw
Broken faimlies in lands we’ve hairriet
Will curse ‘Scotlan the Brave’ nae mair, nae mair
Black an white ane-til-ither mairriet
Mak the vile barracks o thair maisters bare
Sae come aa ye at hame wi freedom
Never heed whit the houdies croak for Doom
In yer hoos aa the bairns o Adam
Will find breid, barley-bree an paintit rooms
When Maclean meets wi’s friens in Springburn
Aa thae roses an geans will turn tae blume
An the black lad frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o the burghers doun.
Robin’s English translation
Rough the wind in the clear day’s dawning
Blows the clouds topsy turvy about the bay,
But there’s more than a rough wind blowing
Through the great glen of the world today.
It’s a thought that will make our tyrants
(Rogues who fancy themselves so fine and gay)
Take the road, and seek other pastures
For their ill ploys to sport and play
No more will our bonnie callants
March to war when our braggarts crousely craw,
Nor wee ones from pit-head and hamlet
Mourn the ships sailin’ down the Broomielaw.
Broken families in lands we’ve harried,
Will curse our names no more, no more;
Black and white, hand in hand together,
Will drive the tyrants from every shore
So come all ye at home with Freedom,
Never heed the crooked hoodies croak for doom.
In your house all the bairns of Adam
Can find bread, barley-bree and painted room.
When MacLean meets with friends in Springburn
Sweet the flowers will all bloom that day for thee
And a black boy from old Nyanga
Will break his chains and know liberty
This is a lovely old Germany song which may be super old, but as ever, no one really knows… Here is what wikipedia has to say, and below is Pete Seeger’s adaptation into English. Note that these words are slightly different to the version embedded above. You can hear another version here but for some reason it will not embed outside of YouTube.
Die gedanken sind frei, my thoughts freely flower
Die gedanken sind frei, my thoughts give me power
No scholar can map them, no hunter can trap them
No man can deny, die gedanken sind frei
I think as I please and this gives me pleasure
My conscience decrees, this right I must treasure
My thoughts will not cater to duke or dictator
No man can deny – die gedanken sind frei
Tyrants can take me and throw me in prison
My thoughts will burst forth like blossoms in season
Foundations may crumble and structures may tumble
But free men shall cry – die gedanken sind frei
Original German lyrics (with translation below)
Die Gedanken sind frei, wer kann sie erraten,
Sie fliegen vorbei wie nächtliche Schatten.
Kein Mensch kann sie wissen, kein Jäger sie schießen
Mit Pulver und Blei: Die Gedanken sind frei!
Ich denke was ich will und was mich beglücket,
Doch alles in der Still’, und wie es sich schicket.
Mein Wunsch und Begehren kann niemand verwehren,
Es bleibet dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!
Und sperrt man mich ein im finsteren Kerker,
Das alles sind rein vergebliche Werke.
Denn meine Gedanken zerreißen die Schranken
Und Mauern entzwei: Die Gedanken sind frei!
Drum will ich auf immer den Sorgen entsagen
Und will mich auch nimmer mit Grillen mehr plagen.
Man kann ja im Herzen stets lachen und scherzen
Und denken dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!
Ich liebe den Wein, mein Mädchen vor allen,
Sie tut mir allein am besten gefallen.
Ich sitz nicht alleine bei meinem Glas Weine,
Mein Mädchen dabei: Die Gedanken sind frei!
Thoughts are free, who can guess them?
They fly by like nocturnal shadows.
No person can know them, no hunter can shoot them
With powder and lead: Thoughts are free!
I think what I want, and what delights me,
Still always reticent, and as it is suitable.
My wish and desire, no one can deny me
And so it will always be: Thoughts are free!
And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon,
All these are futile works,
Because my thoughts tear all gates
And walls apart: Thoughts are free!
So I will renounce my sorrows forever,
And never again will torture myself with whimsies.
In one’s heart, one can always laugh and joke
And think at the same time: Thoughts are free!
I love wine, and my girl even more,
Only her I like best of all.
I’m not alone with my glass of wine,
My girl is with me: Thoughts are free!
Mmmmmmm…. a nice academic essay called The enduring culture and limits of political song by Simon Cross – I learnt a few things from this and you might enjoy it too:
Last week a dear friend of ours was sent to prison for 16 months for a peaceful protest against fracking. Fracking is a reckless technique to get fossil fuels out of the ground which is banned in France, Holland and Ireland amongst others, which we often discuss in the show.
Please excuse the language, but this is a f*cking disgrace.
Please read his words about what happened here – https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/…/fracking-climate-change_…)
…and consider donating to the fund to support him and the others – https://chuffed.org/project/free-the-three#/
BBC Radio Scotland on the 15th anniversary of the 2003 Scottish land reform act, interviewing many of the people key to the reform bill happening – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nrtq1/episodes/downloads
It is primarily focused on the right to roam aspect of the act and it gives the best insight into how key battles were won of anything i’ve seen, heard or read.
The Green Backyard in Peterborough have just signed a 12 year lease, winning an amazing victory saving land from some dubious business people and a council which has some amazing people in it …and others with more questionable motives. Read about it in the Peterborough Telegraph:
The Ballad of the Green Backyard
In twenty zero eight, two enterprising souls
Set to work to realise their very worthy goals
They met allies and met baddies, now listen as i tell
A tale of Peterborough’s finest and some pond scum straight from hell
There’s pair of Antonelli’s, both grafters through and through
Give them tools and wellies… there is nothing they can’t do
I sure want them on my team when we build the barricades
As we fight the fight for all that’s right with rascals and comrades
Three cheers for the green backyard, ’tis a glorious hour for people power
On two acres of good land that never knew concrete
They set to work creating a paradise complete with
Veg and flowers and people, and ponds and compost loos
But a few in power (with faces sour) had some other views
In twenty and eleven, the council battle began
Machen and Kneally, they worked an evil plan
And we mustn’t forgot Cereste, they don’t get more corrupt
Someone should him soon arrestie, cos he’s such an evil fuck ….refrain
But in our growers’ corner we’ve Gillian Beasly who was
A very early ally and the council chief exec too!
And props to Jay and Allan, more people joined the team
Now the scene is set, the players met, all captured in one tune
We mustn’t forget ‘Metal’, who invite arty sorts
And let them loose around here, to sow creative thoughts
Like ‘if this were to be lost’ and ‘this land is our land’
And ‘people before profit when when we all together stand’ ….refrain
‘For sale’ the sign was raised, this was a big mistake
Gave our growers marching orders, even set a date
But the town and country planning act, a couple of VIPs
Plus a tonne of people power brought the blighters to their knees
so to conclude my story, there’s still much work to do
but this is quite a victory, so credit where its due
and i hope our children’s children can be nurtured by this land
and people far from peterborah will know of this fine stand ….refrain
I missed this last month but never to late to learn about the amazing work of trade unionist and labour rights Don Pollard who died in August. #legend
‘The trade unionist and labour rights activist Don Pollard, who has died aged 80, was one of the driving forces behind the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004, legislation brought in by the British government to curb the exploitation of agricultural and food workers in the UK.
It took the Morecambe Bay tragedy to bring his and fellow union organisers’ efforts to fruition. In 2004, 23 workers from China drowned after their gangmasters sent them cockle-picking in lethal tides. Some of the victims had been employed previously on farms in East Anglia, where Pollard had uncovered appalling conditions. His work had laid the ground for a coalition of unions, business, and MPs to push through the Labour MP Jim Sheridan’s private member’s bill introducing licensing to the gangmaster sector.’
Guy Shrubsole is doing some excellent work here digging into data to find out who owns our land – https://whoownsengland.org/2017/09/12/who-owns-england-one-year-on-what-we-now-know/
The CLA (the Country Land and Business Association previously the Country Landowners Association) has recently taken its history section off of its website. I think this is a shame as it makes for interesting reading. Luckily the internet archives much more than people realise, so without comment, here it is for your reading pleasure:
Charles Clover looks at the origins of the CLA –
In the Beginning
To open the huge, leather-bound volumes, smelling faintly of mildew, that contain the glossy monochrome pages of Country Life magazine from 1907, the year the body that was to become the CLA was founded, is to glimpse a vanished world.
I am in my forties, yet my father was an Edwardian, born in 1903. I shot with him once before he died, so the gents in tweeds demonstrating how to shoot birds on the left without moving the feet (or taking the pipe out of the mouth) do not seem so very far distant.
Country Life offers an editorial about “The cost of owning an estate”, a fascinating insight into the rural economy of the time. The owner of the estate used as an example gave employment to 74 men, excluding tenants. The total was made up as follows: house and stables, 26; garden, 20; keepers, 3; labourers, 22.
Such an estate might have been worth £250,000 to £500,000 at 1907 prices, its outgoings added up to £14,370 compared with a total income of £14,900. Then, as now, the ownership of land was not likely to attract capitalists who were not born into it as a way of life – unless for social reasons, or for sport.
The three decades leading up to the foundation of what became known as the Central Land Association (to distinguish it from county associations) were a hard, often profitless time for agriculture, caused by the global marketplace of the British Empire.
Home-produced wheat hit its lowest price for 150 years in 1894.
For the countryside the years before the First World War were a time of political and financial uncertainty. A number of rural interests felt the need to band together to make sure their views were represented, or saw the opportunity to exert more influence.
In 1907 came a pamphlet, The Land and the Social Problem, by Algernon Tumor, a high-ranking civil servant and former private secretary to Benjamin Disraeli. In it, he criticised British agriculture for failing to adapt to changing conditions and blamed politicians for their lack of foresight in their treatment of the industry. He advocated the co-operation of owners, tenants and workers in the common interest. His manifesto represented the conception of the CLA.
Copies of the pamphlet were circulated to general approval and a meeting was held on April 19th, 1907, in the junior Carlton Club. Those present were well-connected and had between them a wealth of political experience. It was chaired by Walter Long, a patrician Tory and former President of the Board of Agriculture under Lord Salisbury.
The minutes, in his handwriting, still exist in an exercise book in Reading’s Museum of English Rural Life.
Present beside Tumor were the fourth Earl of Onslow, the Earl of Harrowby and several MPs and landowners including Christopher Tumor, nephew of Algernon, a large Lincolnshire landowner and author of several books on agriculture. The meeting decided to appoint officers of what was initially proposed to be called the Landholders’ Central Association. From the beginning the association tended to be an organisation of owners and land agents – other interests having their own organisations. The National Farmers’ Union – developed from the Lincolnshire Farmers Union – was founded within a year of the CLA in 1908.
On the face of it, the survival of such an organisation after a century would appear to be surprising, given that the world that gave birth to is has vanished utterly. I suspect the clue to the CLA’s survival goes back to that original meeting and the thinking of its founders, who decided that they would engage with the interests of the day in a liberal, forward-thinking way, and not as a club of reactionaries. Lord Onslow, its first chairman, said of the Landowners’ Central Association: “It will endeavour to get rid of a rather stick-in-the-mud attitude on the part of some landowners…if we agree upon a constructive and progressive policy we shall have nothing to fear in the future.” Those still sound like wise words as the CLA enters its second century.
History of the CLA – The assault on land, 1907 – 2007
Looking back on a century of landowners trying to influence the political ideas of the day, it is remarkable how many policies – such as a tax on land – are cyclical, returning in various guises, often without success. Yet it is also worth celebrating the ultimate demise of a really bad idea from the years of the great ideological divide, land nationalisation.
As we now know, this idea caused poverty and squalor wherever it was tried, in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and even Kenneth Kaunda’s Zambia as late as 1970. It exercised the founders of the CLA for more than 30 years. We owe it to their good sense that it was not tried here.
The frontal attack on private property was seldom as fierce as after the Liberal landslide of 1906. The followers of the Liberal Chancellor, Lloyd George, openly favoured land nationalisation, following penal taxation. The first was seen off, but not the latter.
The CLA’s founders, including the Earl of Onslow, its chairman, and its president, Walter Long, wisely did not engage in partisan attacks. They successfully argued for Lloyd George to deduct maintenance when assessing estate income. Meanwhile two committees appointed by the Liberal Government reported in 1912 and 1913 in favour of state ownership of land, as a panacea for depression in agriculture and supposed insecurity of tenure.
These were worrying times for the CLA, as its annual report acknowledged in 1912:
“Probably at no time in the history of our country has there been a greater need for a strong non-party organisation to watch over and safeguard the interests of agriculture and to form and develop a sound and progressive land policy…By this means only will it be possible successfully to meet the attack directed against the landed interest by those who, without knowledge or experience of rural conditions and for reasons quite unconnected with the welfare of the industry, seek to make sweeping and revolutionary changes which, it is believed, would be disastrous, not only to agriculture, but to the country generally.”
To add insult to injury, CLA members felt its leaders had failed to state their case forcibly enough at a crucial time and membership fell.
The First World War killed off Lloyd George’s land taxation plans. It briefly strengthened the fortunes of agriculture and convinced the CLA that it needed to be more organised in representing landowners, rather than tenants and farm workers. Nevertheless, the renamed Central Landowners’ Association was confronted by Lloyd George’s National Government in 1920 with the decision to withdraw support for agriculture. There followed a decade and a half of agricultural recession.
The CLA had its victories, the greatest of which, the de-rating of agricultural land and buildings, came about in the 1928 budget. Its membership was bolstered by thousands of new owner occupiers – one of the many reasons why by the mid 1930s land nationalisation had faded into the background. But over the interwar years, and worse still in the years following the Second World War when many country houses were demolished, the break up estates through taxation and death duties had wide repercussions.
Employment in agriculture tumbled. Crafts died out. Estates became dependent on mass-produced materials from outside. Instead of nationalisation, we got a halfway house for bankrupt estates, the National Trust. Was this really desirable?
Over a century, you could argue that landowners have escaped the worst. The urban masses no longer want to appropriate their land. In part this is due to the pragmatic lobbying skills of the CLA, which have been respected by politicians of both sides. But the landowner has found himself bound increasingly, like Gulliver, by a multiplicity of gossamer threads which affect his freedom to use the land and even his leisure.
Trespassers may legally be shot under a number of circumstances in the United States and South Africa. In Britain the rights of landowners have always been more tenuous. Over here, landowners have to think hard before uttering the words: “Get off my land!” if they dare do it at all.
You might wonder why public access to the countryside has been such a bone of contention over the last century, and so time-consuming for the CLA. The proximity of the industrial towns, with their burgeoning populations, to the high moors and fells was the flashpoint for change. Access to the hills became the focus of ideological protest after the First World War, culminating in the great mass trespass in 1932 on the Duke of Devonshire’s land at Kinder Scout, part of the Dark Peak, in which five ramblers were sent to jail for up to six months after an affray with gamekeepers.
The Hobhouse committee set up by the post-war Attlee government recommended in 1947 not only the creation of national parks, but also public access to the open countryside. This led to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949, in which open country was defined as mountain, moor, heath, down, cliff and foreshore. The amazing thing is that a government otherwise hell-bent on nationalising promised to pay landowners compensation for giving up their right to exclude people from land not on a right of way.
The leaders of the CLA were probably too pressed dealing with the thicket of legislation produced by that Labour Government, which included the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act and the 1947 Agriculture Act, to do more than utter a quick sigh of relief. They did take the lead in urging the Government to write and publicise a Country Code, urging people to kept to footpaths, close gates, keep their dogs under control and put out picnic fires.
The Country Code had to be revised when the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 received royal assent. In one of his more brilliant coups-de-theatre Tony Blair appointed Ewen Cameron, now Lord Cameron, a former president of the CLA, to head the Countryside Agency charged with bringing in the new right. It is probably the case that the right came in more sensitively as a result – though the biggest rollbacks came from individual landowners on appeal.
The Greening of Farm Policy
It is a measure of the influence of the CLA that what it has called on governments for the past 25 years to do – replacing subsidies for food production with support for farming aimed at benefiting the wider rural environment and economy – has now come to be the “direction of travel” for the three main parties.
The story of the greening of farm policy is one of the little-known achievements of Britain’s landowning organisation, and it is a story worth telling, not only because it is, perhaps, unexpected, but because it is so seldom told. One reason is the CLA’s sensitive relationship with the National Farmers’ Union, set up in 1908.
The distinction between the two organisations was relatively obvious at the beginning. The CLA, by and large, represented landlords. It began at a disadvantage, and has had to trust to the persuasiveness of its brightest thinkers instead of megaphone diplomacy. The NFU, at the beginning, represented farmers, then overwhelmingly tenants.
Now over 60 percent of CLA members own 100 acres of less, and only 4 percent own 1,000 acres or more. Many farmers and landowners are members of both bodies. But the distinction between the CLA’s outlook and that of the NFU remains. As someone put it: “The NFU are the profit and loss account. The CLA are the balance sheet.”
In other words, the people who arguably worry most about protecting their assets, which also happen to be the country’s and the countryside’s, are those who would like to believe their offspring will be managing them in 50 years time. From the first, the CLA was far closer than the NFU to being an environmental organisation.
For its first 50 years the CLA was largely preoccupied with ownership issues: land nationalisation, land tax, death duties, forestry, the de-rating of agricultural tenancies and the removal of tithes. Then, as now, landowners derived much of their income from outside farming. Indeed, there is some evidence to show that in all but a few boom years of the last century, non-farming activities have produced more income.
The relationship to farming changed, however, in 1947, when landowners were given statutory recognition and new duties as partners in the drive for greater home food production under the Labour government’s Agriculture Act. The priority was growing cheap food for a starving and bankrupt Europe. There began the post-war extension of the dig-for-victory era, which lasted 30 years.
These years saw great changes. Hedges were pulled out, wetlands drained, watercourses dredged and canalised and millions of acres of moorland and permanent pasture were “improved” by farmers with grants from the Ministry of Agriculture, sometimes to the rueful regret of landlords.
The crucial change came in 1973 with UK entry into the Common Market. In Brussels, there was a growing sense that the EU budget was limited. Its finance ministers looked for an excuse to deal with excessive spending of agriculture and the resultant butter and grain mountains and wine, milk and olive oil lakes.
Around the early 1980s the CLA became, by reason of its culture, the purveyor of solutions to a political class that had decided things could not go on as they were. A recurrent theme among progressive landowners and leaders of the CLA was the feeling that: “I think I’m damn good at what I do. If my neighbour farms very badly, but you continue subsidising him to farm in that way, you will eventually put me out of business.” Then as now, the CLA’s predisposition was towards the classical Anglo-American case for free enterprise and free trade.
In the late 1980s the CLA published a paper which argued that public subsidy purely for production should be switched to a menu of environmental services. At the time I wondered how realistic they were, and whether anyone was listening.
It turns out they were pushing at an open door in MAFF. Reform started in the second half of the 1980s with the Alure (Agriculture, Land Use and the Rural Environment/Economy) package, the abolition of production grants, the creation of environmentally sensitive areas, the Farm Woodland Scheme and the subtle introduction of the “duty clause” in the 1986 Agriculture Act, which meant the ministers had for the first time to have regard to the wider rural economy, the enjoyment of the countryside by the people, and the rural environment. The support of the CLA gave the ministers of the time confidence to push the measures through.
When you look back to the late 1980s today, agricultural reform seems to have moved at a glacial pace. Environmental groups would argue that vastly more money needs to be moved from Pillar I, production support, to Pillar II, environment and rural development. But the developed world has accepted the argument that there should be free trade in agricultural goods and protection of the environment. And all who love the countryside can thank the CLA for its part in winning that argument.
This is an edited version of a series of articles written by Charles Clover to mark the centenary of the CLA.
Charles Clover is an environmental journalist, author, and columnist for The Sunday Times.
Planning and Conservation – the state weighs in
A J P Taylor wrote that before 1914 a law-abiding Englishman had little contact with the state. He could travel without a passport, own a weapon and, on his own land, shoot almost anything he liked and build what he wished.
This is the world into which the CLA was born in 1907. That the world has changed so much since is testament not only to the tightening grip of the state, but also to the growth of an increasingly wealthy middle class. The latter competed for the land previously under the control of aristocratic landowners, and had the time and resources to develop an interest in planning, animal welfare and nature conservation.
A pre-1914 landowner might find Parliament telling him he must sell land. That came with the increasing role of the state in providing public infrastructure. But by and large it did not tell him how to build on land he owned. That came with the post-war Attlee government and the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, the birth of the modern planning system.
The report of Lord Justice Scott’s committee, produced in 1942, had recommended that all new building should be in existing settlements unless there was some overwhelming reason why it should be in open countryside. Another of Scott’s recommendations was that fertile land should be retained in agricultural use. This, a novel idea at the time, was emphasised in the CLA’s evidence.
In case the 20th century looks like a story of constant encroachment of private rights by the state, it is worth celebrating one high water mark, Crichel Down. Crichel Down, near Wimborne in Dorset, was 300 acres of land owned by Mary Anna Marten. The land had been compulsorily purchased in 1937 as a bombing range for the Air Ministry. When it was no longer needed after the war, it was not offered back to the family, as it should have been by policy agreed by the Government at the time at the instigation of the CLA, but was passed to the Commissioner of Crown Lands, who found a new tenant.
Eventually, after local feeling had been whipped up, the press enlisted, and political connections utilised, Parliament came to realise that a major injustice had been perpetrated. The Conservative Minister of Agriculture, Sir Thomas Dugdale, was forced to order a public inquiry. The Martens got their land back.
We had the pleasure of singing for Frack Free Lancashire and Reclaim The Power on Friday. During the show, Robin had an excuse to teach the audience a song he wrote for Newham Woodcraft Folk group last year called ‘Let’s Lock Ourselves Here For A While‘. Here are the lyrics and a recording so anyone who wants to learn it can:
I’ve a hundred old bike locks and they won’t undo
Any idea who I could give them to?
It’s a nice sunny day in the countryside
Lets lock ourselves here for a while
So sorry Mr Big Truck what is that you say
Something quite cross about us being in your way
The birds are enjoying the day from the trees
Lets lock ourselves here for a while
No we ain’t going nowhere, let’s climb up the trees
Someone must stick up for the birds and the bees
The poor have no lawyers, the trees have no rights
Lets lock ourselves here for a while
Mr blue badge and truncheon is also upset
Doesn’t seem that grace has quite got to him yet
Filmed by a smart phone as he beats up Dave
who locked himself here for a while
They arrested our Caroline it made the lead news
One day the greens will out number the blues
Well in the meantime we’ll do what we must
Lets lock ourselves here for a while
Mr suit and tie construction has a seat in the Lords
Our tattered democracy just filed for divorce
One day the people will speak out as one
until then we’ll be locked here a while
2014 documentary about tenants’ rights, organised prevention of evictions and gentrification in Berlin. Can someone please organise a screening and invite us?