Hinterland - 4 July 2022

In Hinterland this time, George Monbiot on who runs rural policy, hidden Police cameras, rural mental health, health on line, organised crime and nettles!!

*         *          *

Only a tiny minority of rural Britons are farmers – so why do they hold such sway?

Thought provoking typical Monbiot article…. Government figures show that there are 115,000 people, across all categories, working on English farms. They comprise 0.2% of the total population, and 1.2% of the rural population. If you include everyone who might be involved in farming, including farmers’ spouses, partners, directors and managers, the total reaches 306,000, which means 0.5% of the total population, and 3% of the rural population. In other words, using the most generous definition of farmers and farmworkers, 97% of rural people are not employed by the industry. But as far as government policy is concerned, farming and the countryside are synonymous. If you’re not a farmer, your interests are overlooked, your voice unheard. You’re a second-class rural citizen.


Police to use hidden cameras in rural crime hotspots

Long overdue in my opinion – I hope the flytippers are amongst the first caght. This story tells us……

Police in Lincolnshire are turning to technology to assist in the fight against rural crime.

Twenty hi-tech cameras, complete with night vision, will be installed at secret locations in remote areas of the county and can alert police to intruders within seconds. It comes after an investment from the police and crime commissioner, Marc Jones.

“It is imperative that we make use of the latest technology in our fight to keep our communities safe," he said.

Lincolnshire Police is already using drones in a bid to reduce rural crime, including hare coursing. Mr Jones has agreed to support the new Rural Spotter project, which will be evaluated at six and 12 months, with a £20,000 investment funded by money seized from criminals. He said the cameras would "seriously enhance" the police's ability to "put eyes on the most isolated locations".

“It is just the latest investment in providing the right tools for our officers to provide them the best opportunity to protect residents, homes, businesses and property," he added.

A new rural crime task force was formed in 2021 to combat criminal activity, including hare coursing, lead theft and theft from farms and rural properties.

Lincolnshire Police has also recently invested in other new high-tech kit, including night vision googles and drones.

Ch Insp Phil Vickers, lead for rural crime, said using new technology was crucial.

“Lincolnshire is a huge area to cover and the quicker we are alerted to crime the better chance we have of catching the offenders,” he said.


Mental health support must be 'tailored to needs of rural communities'

This story highlights one of the most important and oft overlooked issues in rural England, it tells us.

New research published by the House of Commons has revealed the scale of the mental health crisis currently impacting rural areas.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) is conducting an inquiry into rural mental health and has published evidence submitted by the Countryside Alliance based on a survey conducted over Christmas.

The survey uncovered a broad spectrum of experiences of mental health and healthcare, and suggested that a key driver of ill-health was a lack of appreciation and respect for the rural way of life, from policymakers to individuals.

Attracting a total of 717 responses and over 1,700 individual comments, the survey was designed to elicit information that would be useful in addressing those questions being considered by EFRA that respondents would be well placed to comment on.

The inquiry is considering questions relating to the specific mental health challenges faced by rural communities, as well as mental health services and how well they meet the needs of rural populations.

The EFRA Committee will also look at suicide rates among agricultural workers and related occupations, and the effectiveness of prevention services.


More healthcare to go online in England under digitisation plan

A radical approach which does not only represent the future but has the positive implications for rural dwellers who have the prospect of more efficient and less travel focused primary care. This story tells us:

People in England will receive more healthcare treatments online, enabling them to check NHS records, receive messages from their GP and attend virtual wards, under government plans to digitise healthcare.

Ministers hope that the expansion of technology will free up hospital beds and clinician time by enabling doctors and nurses to monitor about 500,000 people remotely.

The plan for digital health and social care, published on Wednesday, also sets out how patients will be able to manage hospital appointments, book Covid vaccines and have virtual consultations through the NHS app, which 28 million people now have, by March 2023.

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “We are embarking on a radical programme of modernisation that will make sure the NHS is set up to meet the challenges of 2048 – not 1948, when it was first established.


'Organised crime' affecting rural communities in Devon and Cornwall

This is an interesting and often overlooked area of policy research. Farming families are isolated in many cases and the impacts of rural crime can be more threatening and challenging as a consequence.

Organised crime may be having an increasing impact on rural communities, according to police.

A new project will assess the effects of a rise in rural crime on farmers and their families in Devon and Cornwall.

Farmers have been asked to complete an online survey about their experiences of crime in what organisers claim is the first study of its kind.

The police are working with academics to deliver the survey and look at possible solutions.

PC Martin Beck, rural affairs officer with Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "This project aims to use our rural communities to help map the nature of the crime, and analyse the impact of crime and fear of crime, on farming.

"It will also help us examine ways to evaluate and improve farm security."

A 2020 Rural Crime Report by NFU Mutual found there had been a 14% rise in rural crime in the South West.

The project is being led by the University of Plymouth, in collaboration with Devon and Cornwall Police and the University of Winchester.

The survey asks if farmers feel safe on their farms, and whether they feel crime is a problem in their community, but also how those feelings have changed in recent years.

The nature of crimes farmers are experiencing, and how they differ from past incidents, will also be explored in the survey.


And Finally

Dorset contest sees competitors eat stinging nettles

An abundant alternative to chilies in rural England! This story profiles a ghastly challenge, it tells us:

Competitive eaters have chewed through stalks of stinging nettles as part of an annual rural contest.

Spectators flocked to watch the World Nettle Eating Contest at Dorset Nectar Cider Farm near Bridport on Saturday.

Entrants were tasked with consuming as many 2ft (0.6m) stalks of the prickly plants as they could in 30 minutes.

Women's winner Lindie Rogers managed to eat 42ft (12.8m), while the men's winner, known only by his first name Niall, managed 54ft (16.4m).

Organisers said they were pleased so many people turned up for the event at Dorset Nectar Cider Farm.

Organiser Ryan Strong said the "nettle king and queen" were each presented with a large cup for their efforts.

"It's one of those quintessentially Dorset events like the Dorset Knob-throwing that we must keep going," he said.

Mr Strong said a "great crowd" watched the competition, which is understood to have first been held in 1996 after two farmers had an argument about who had the longest nettles.

"There are few people who who would eat nettles on purpose - it's not something I put in my salads," Mr Strong continued.

"But one of the tricks is to just get it past your lips - once its past your lips it doesn't sting as much."

And now the sting in the tail….the article goes on to tell us:

The contest had previously been held at The Bottle Inn in Marshwood - but it was relocated following the pub's closure.


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.