Cooksbridge, Offham & Hamsey

CHURCH SERVICE: Sunday, St Peter’s Church, 10.15am Sunday School in the church hall, 10.30am Family Communion followed by coffee in the hall.

OPEN GARDEN: It’s that time of year again when the most beautiful gardens in Sussex will be taking part in the National Open Garden Scheme when gardens are open for charity. I know that a lot of people look forward to visiting the garden at Offham House, which will be open on Sunday April 29 from 1pm to 5pm. Offham House is two miles north of Lewes on the A275 and is on the main road between Offham filling station and the Blacksmiths Arms. Admission £5, children free. Tea and home-made cakes. Romantic garden with fountains, flowering trees, arboretum, double herbaceous border, long peony bed. 1676 Queen Ann house (not open) with well knapped flint facade. Herb garden and walled kitchen garden with glasshouses, coldframes, chickens guinea fowl, sheep and a friendly pig. The garden will also be open on Sunday June 3. Reminder later.

LEFT BEHIND: this was a headline in my April issue of the British Farmer and Grower which goes on to say that NFU calls for fairer police funding. It reports that rural communities risk being left behind on police funding according to details of provisional grants contained in a Home Office report. The plans would continue to provide almost 24 percent less per head in rural areas, despite rising levels of concern about crime, and prompted a strong NFU response. Analysis by the Rural Services Network suggests per person direct funding in predominantly urban forces will be £206 on average in 2018/19, compared to £167 in their more rural counterparts. NFU land management expert Sam Durham said the countryside faced unique policing challenges and the NFU would continue to fight for appropriate resources. He says: ‘The report highlights concerns rural areas are being left behind to become a soft target for criminals’. The bill for rural crime is around £40 million and NFU members are experiencing fear and threats of violence. Vehicle theft, hare coursing and fly-tipping are contributing to widespread anger, frustration and worry and a recent NFU Mutual report found that being watched, or staked out, is now the biggest concern for people living in the countryside. Under-reporting, sometimes due to intimidation, had masked the sale of problems and impacted government funding. The report compounds the need for farmers to ensure that all crimes are reported, no matter how minor, but the NFU recognises isolated communities are often deterred because they feel intimidated by criminal gangs. The NFU are working with government, police forces and police and crime commissioners to raise these issues and find solutions. The NFU’s Combating Rural Crime report calls for fairer funding, a better understanding of rural offences and a consistent approach to tackling them. The NFU sits on the executive board of the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) of police and crime commissioners and has been active in the design and delivery of the National Police Chief’s Council’s rural strategy. Recent work saw representatives of 31 forces and the Crown Prosecution Service meet the NFU at its Warwickshire headquarters for a hare coursing seminar. Responding to the Home Office grants figures, the NRCN said it’s rural forces continue to be unfairly funded. It added, ‘While urban areas undoubtedly face particular challenges so do rural communities. These may not be as well publicised or understood, but their impact is substantial and the NRCN is disappointed efforts have not been made to reduce the gap.’

WILDLIFE TRUST: Dr Tony Whitbread is retiring as chief executive of Sussex Wildlife Trust. He joined the Trust in 1991 as head of conservation and took on the role of chief executive 12 years ago. During this time, Dr Whitbread has played a huge role in seeing the trust’s membership double to 30,000.

OART: I missed an important piece out when I wrote about OART last week, as I think there maybe some people who would like to get involved to help protect their local river and its wildlife. OART ask: Will you help protect your local river and its wildlife? Why not go along to one of their river Task Force events. For details email taskforcce@oart.org.uk or call Rachel on 07789 442 687.

LOVELY SIGHT: Recently I spotted on one of the bird feeders, a little family of lesser spotted woodpeckers. Four of them all feeding together. There are four that seem to stay together and visit daily. We also have the great spotted woodpecker that visits. There are a lot of goldfinches this year and a lot of tiny wrens. It is wonderful to hear the birds singing again and the familiar sound at first light of cooing pigeons.

Another lovely sight is on one of the verges on the B2116 near the farm, a whole mass of celandines, one of my favourite early spring flowers. Even on the dullest of days they shine like little stars and take away the gloom of all the rainy days that we had in March.

RURAL CRIME: Having written about rural crime, I then read a piece headed Manners Making Man, which then says: Crime in the UK has leapt in the past year, with anti-social behaviour the most reported offence of 2017, up 44 percent.