As the farmer responsible for the sheep that have grazed Coopers Meadow I would like to respond to Councillor Cook’s letter. I should disclose I am also the Treasurer of ARK.
On the whole what he says makes sense and I am delighted he is excited by the public engagement. I am sure a petition with 1,000 signatures in a town of 7,000 people has pleased our elected representatives. Clearly what we now need is a realistic and non confrontation dialogue. Richard Beale is rightly respected and ARK have worked with him well and will continue to do so.
I want to just clarify a few points in his letter. A few things he has written need a clarification of the facts.
Dealing with benefit – ARK has spent £52,620 on restoring Cooper’s Meadow and the river running through it, not including volunteer time. Revenue from grazing sheep and cattle has been £2835. Costs of managing the sheep and cattle have been £2639. Facts. I struggle to regard this as benefit. Moreover the sheep spend the winter being looked after on my farm at no cost to ARK. No money is made from conservation grazing.
ARK, through my farm policy, are covered for public liability for the farming risks in Coopers Meadow with a policy with £5,000,000 cover – a fact.
Two of the lambs suffered from lameness. For humans the equivalent is a blister or a corn. A sad fact. Apart from being lame these sheep were healthy. They were treated regularly.
Their mother seems to breed sheep that suffer from slight lameness. We should probably cull her but we have not. Calling the RSPCA was a gross over reaction.
Water meadows have been grazed by sheep for hundreds of years. The grazing is sweet. The turf is lovely.
Finally for the majority of the year the people of Marlborough have 100% access to Coopers Meadow. They can walk safely along the river bank and the back stream at all times of the year.
Before ARK were involved it was somewhat different.