Dozens of guests from across the UK have been in the North East for a special event marking a regional landowner’s commitment to excellence in the management of his estate.
Viscount Ridley, owner of the Blagdon Estate in South East Northumberland, was named earlier this year by the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) as the winner of its Bledisloe Medal for 2015.
The Medal is awarded in recognition of a landowner who demonstrates outstanding achievement in the successful land management and development of an agricultural estate in England, and has a particular focus on the creation of features of benefit to the local community, the environment or for the wider public good, and the development of alternative sources of income.
RASE President Sir John Beddington presented the award as part of his annual President’s Day event, which was held at the Blagdon Estate.
The event also included a tour personally hosted by Viscount Ridley of many of the different elements which make up the Estate, including rural retail village The Milkhope Centre, a number of restored parkland areas and the world-renowned ‘Lady Of The North’, Northumberlandia.
Now over 300 years old, the Blagdon Estate is a thriving rural centre for enterprise which provides a home for dozens of North East businesses, and supports a wide range of local charity, school and community activities.
Around a quarter of the Estate land is farmed by Blagdon Farming Ltd, with just under half farmed by tenants and the remainder occupied by woodland, roads and properties.
Blagdon has a long history of supporting local good causes, and hosts thousands of visitors at numerous charity Open Garden events every year. It also runs various events for the local community, including Easter trails, Halloween parties and summer picnics, and is an active member of the Country Trust, a charity which provides farm visits to children from urban schools.
Restoration of Estate land mined by regional employer The Banks Group over the last decade has already resulted in the creation and re-creation of woodland, lakes, wetland and farmland, as well as the reinstatement ofa 200 year-old parkland landscape that was lost decades before.
Robert Downer, chief executive at The Blagdon Estate, says: “Hosting the RASE President’s Day is a real honour for the Estate, and being able to show so many people from outside the region the range of activities we undertake here added real depth to the day.
“The Blagdon Estate is host to dozens of families, hundreds of jobs and tens of thousands of visitors, and our commercial activities allow for significant funding, without public subsidy, to be allocated towards improving local community and tourism facilities which otherwise simply would not be available from any other source.”
Humphrey Salwey, chair of the Bledisloe Medal judging panel for the Royal Agricultural Society of England, adds: “We found the Blagdon Estate to be excellent in many respects, and especially wanted to highlight the extensive environmental improvement work that has been undertaken across the land.
“Blagdon is a well-rounded Estate which has both an impressive past and a very promising future, and our great congratulations go to Viscount Ridley and his team.”
Matthew Williamson, an associate at Land Factor, who are the managing agents of the Estate, says: “Managing an historic estate such as Blagdon in the 21st century demands an outward-looking and inclusive approach, with appropriate diversification as a central theme of its operation, and having the validity of our work credited by the Royal Agricultural Society of England gives great credence to the approach we take.”