2nd June 2021: I attended a Zoom presentation to launch The Queen’s Award for Enterprise. The event, hosted at Oswestry company Aico’s new state-of-the-art headquarters, was compered by Carl Jones, editor of Shropshire Business, and introduced by Lord-Lieutenant of Shropshire Anna Turner.
Some of the previous winners explained why the scheme was good, not only for their businesses, but the county in general.
It is the most prestigious business honour in the country and Shropshire celebrated its best-ever year in 2021. Four Telford-based organisations – Aviramp, Landau, Reconomy and Scanning Pens – were all successful and talked about their achievements alongside 2020 winners Grainger and Worrall from Bridgnorth.
There are clearly some fabulous businesses in Shropshire that have won this award but plenty of others who should put themselves forward.
The Lord-Lieutenant said: “The success the county enjoyed in 2021 is testament to the excellent work which goes on right across Shropshire, and we know there are very many more companies and organisations with their own success stories to tell.”
Closing date for entries in September 8. I hope this year’s success encourages more of our best companies to take part in the 2022 awards and raise not only their own profile but that of Shropshire too.
3rd June 2021: I had a Zoom meeting with Roger Chapman, Edward Marvin and Ian Coley about the Trust Your Local scheme.
The aim is to encourage people to shop locally, not only supporting local businesses but helping to benefit the wider Shropshire economy. The concept is good, as people can benefit their own communities as well as reducing their carbon footprint.
Edward has been able to set up a scheme in Condover and Dorrington, including the Dorrington Business Network, setting a template that could be rolled out in other communities in Shropshire. Visit https://trustyourlocal.co.uk/ for more information.
3rd June 2021: I spoke to Julia Roberts, who is responsible for the Ginger and Spice Festival in Market Drayton, due to be held on September 25.
It is arranged that I will visit Julia in August to take a tour of Market Drayton, a town has had more than its share of economic struggles in recent years but which I feel has much potential in terms of attracting visitors and, with them, revenue.
I’m keen to do what I can to highlight Shropshire’s market towns which I think can play a big part in the county’s future as a day trip and staycation destination.
While in Market Drayton I shall discuss the heritage trail and town’s jazz festival as well as talking about other ways in which we can promote the town.
10th June 2021: I attended the virtual AGM of the West Midlands branch of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (RFCA).
The event was chaired by Lord-Lieutenant of Worcestershire, Patrick Holcroft and the main speaker was politician and former soldier Lord Lancaster who has produced an eloquent paper on integrating the reserve forces into the main army.
He explained that there were three models to work from – the Scandinavian, the US and the Australian.
He underlined the importance of the reserve forces, particularly as the main body of the army was diminishing. The whole military strategy was having to adapt to the cyber world rather than, necessarily, direct combat.
Forces helped more with civilian issues such as flood relief and had been very much to the fore during the Coronavirus pandemic.
There are 13 RFCA groups in the country, drawing on ex-servicemen, civilian volunteers and cadets.
The whole military strategy was having to adapt to the cyber world rather than, necessarily, direct combat.
10th June 2021: had a Zoom meeting with Jill Dean, Acting Relationship Manager for The Children’s Society in the Lichfield Diocese.
Her role is to try to raise funds and, as with many charities, they have struggled with the lockdown.
The charity was formerly called The Church of England Children’s Society and there is still a close bond with the Church, from which it receives some funding. However, the Children’s Society is autonomous and relies largely on fundraising itself.
Among the biggest fundraisers are Christingle services which raise about £1.3 million a year. In 2020 the services were virtual and, not unsurprisingly, proceeds were down by 50 per cent.
The Children’s Society has quite an extensive remit, helping young people, particularly those with mental health issues or who are under threat in disruptive homes.
In the past, most consultations with young people were done face-to-face but now about 50 per cent are by Zoom calls.
During our conversation, a plethora of problems came up, linked by, yet again, the violent exploitation of children in county lines drug dealing.
The Children’s Society is an extremely good cause, struggling like so many charities in the current environment, but I shall do all I can to promote its work.
11th June 2021: I have made no secret of the fact that I think tourism is a major way that we can rebuild Shropshire’s economy after the damage of the past year and a half. I shall do everything in my power to bang the drum for Shropshire’s tourist industry.
To that end, I had a really positive face-to-face meeting with Katrina Kerr, a consultant appointed by Shropshire Council to create a Covid tourism recovery marketing campaign.
Katrina has previously run Visit Cheshire and clearly knows her market.
Partnerships and collaboration are vital in the process, as is top quality PR. One of the problems is that an important promotional arm for the county – Visit Shropshire – has a dynamic project leader in Mark Hooper but absolutely no budget whatsoever.
Shropshire Council funded much of the county’s tourism promotion in the past, through a development agency that has now been disbanded.
The encouraging news is that Lezley Picton, who has taken over as Leader of Shropshire Council, has a background in tourism.
At present tourism is probably worth £1.5 billion to Shropshire. Proper investment could help to add a further £1billion.
Katrina Kerr is working with tourism consultant Melanie Sensicle on a business plan, which includes a strategy and business model for Visit Shropshire.
In terms of consultation, they have taken soundings from 28 different parties.
I regularly made the point that they need to encompass both Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin councils.
They are also putting together a destination plan for Shropshire – and again I made the point that it must include Telford & Wrekin.
They are drawing up a list of potential business partners.
We talked about my project to get schools involved in promoting Shropshire as a tourist destination. I’ve challenged local schools to devise a marketing campaign, rather like a task in Alan Sugar’s BBC TV show The Apprentice. The response has been very encouraging and Katrina has read the marketing plans of all the student teams involved so far. She says they are very well-constructed.
The children stressed the importance of social media and promoting activities rather than places.
We talked about seeking funding from central government. Two of our local MPs, Owen Paterson and Daniel Kawczynski, are prepared to take any tourist offering to the Minister of Tourism in central government. However, they do need to have a cohesive business plan from both Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin.
14th June 2021: I met Beth Abbott from Bridgnorth and Gary Thompson from Ludlow, who both have a powerful story to tell about their battles with addiction, alcohol in Beth’s case and drink and drugs in Gary’s. Both have turned their lives around, are very eloquent and aim to spread their message through a series of BTDT (Been There, Done That) workshops, which they aim to take into schools, targeting primarily young people aged 13 to 16. Their motto is that prevention is better than cure.
They plan to use creative arts like poetry and drama to cover sensitive issues such as drug and alcohol dependency, domestic violence, mental health issues and homelessness.
I suggested they put together a short video presentation to promote their ideas in the hope that schools and organisations for young people will be inspired to get involved in this ambitious and important project.
I’m pleased to say that Beth and Gary are already pressing ahead with plans to produce their video.
15th June 2021: I visited Shrewsbury School for my project to get local schools involved in promoting Shropshire as a tourist destination. As I explained above, I’ve challenged pupils to get into teams to devise a marketing campaign, rather like a task in Alan Sugar’s BBC TV show The Apprentice.
At Shrewsbury, Head of Futures Chris Wain had arranged for 12 groups to prepare presentations.
The groups promoted 12 towns and villages – Ludlow, Bridgnorth, Newport, Oswestry, Telford, Shrewsbury, Ironbridge, Market Drayton, Much Wenlock, Craven Arms, Church Stretton and Ellesmere.
The common themes were to try to encourage people to come to Shropshire for staycations, possibly on the way to Wales or, alternatively, to combine visits to a number of different places.
All the parties talked about employing social media and blogs but none mentioned using PR in the conventional sense, which is quite an interesting generational point.
I explained that Shropshire Council does not currently have a plan for tourism with the last one dating back to 2007. However, marketing consultant Katrina Kerr is in the process of helping to organise a new post-Covid tourist strategy.
I led a panel of judges who looked at the 12 marketing pitches. Other members were Paul Hinkins, who has been involved with the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and Telford College; Andy Connell, Head of Shrewsbury School’s digital marketing; Sally Themans of Love Local in Bridgnorth; Lucy Cook of Let’s Go Ludlow; Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID (Business Improvement District); Glyn Ferriday, Director of Marketing and Communications at Shrewsbury School and Sarah Williams, Head of Middle School.
15th June 2021: I had the pleasure of meeting Rod Hammerton, Shropshire’s Chief Fire Officer, and his assistant, Chief Fire Officer Dan Quinn.
Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service plays a pivotal role in the county. There are 23 fire stations in the combined area of Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, Hereford and Worcester. There are some180 fulltime firefighters together with about 80 support staff.
In addition, there are 350 to 370 firefighters on call, who are absolutely vital. The willingness of their employers to be flexible plays a big role here.
Rod Hammerton asked me to do all I can to encourage more employers to allow people to act as part-time firefighters, who have to live and work within 12 minutes of a fire station. I shall be happy to help.
A new £12million fire station is to be built in Stafford Park, Telford, to be financed out of reserves.
There is a High Sheriff’s Award for the Fire Service which I shall look forward to presenting to an ‘unsung hero’, once lockdown has eased.
17th June 2021: Today I enjoyed a fascinating tour of 2 The Mount in Shrewsbury – birthplace of Shropshire’s most famous son Charles Darwin. My host was Glyn Jones, who recently bought the property, known as Darwin House. Work is already under way on a major renovation. Glyn outlined exciting plans to transform part of the house, which dates back to 1800, into a museum, with interactive attractions for children.
This is just what the tourism industry in Shrewsbury has been crying out for. Glyn is working closely with Shropshire Council and there is talk of developing a tourist package involving a river trip, tour of the museum and refreshments.
We were joined on our tour of The Mount – which included a peep into the room in which Darwin was born – by mutual friend Mark Scutt, a student of Darwin who has taken a keen interest in the project.
Tourism is a big part of Shropshire’s economy and promoting it is one of my main aims for this year. I have always thought we should make more of Darwin, one of world history’s most important figures who spent most of his early life in Shrewsbury.
Glyn aims to have the museum up and running within two years – sooner if he can and with his passion, energy and track record of success in business, I wouldn’t bet against it! I came away greatly inspired by this project and the entrepreneur at the head of it.
I wasted no time in putting Glyn in touch with contacts whom I feel could help him take the project forward.
Charles Darwin is world famous and a museum dedicated to his memory will be a great attraction to visitors from far and wide.
22nd June 2021: I attended the opening ceremony of a brand new 3G artificial pitch at Shrewsbury Town. The state-of-the-art facility will be used both by the club and wider community through the charity Shrewsbury Town in the Community.
This will be a huge benefit to the area. It is just the start of the development of community amenities on the site, says Jamie Edwards, the CEO of Shrewsbury Town in the Community (STC), to whom huge credit must go.
The new playing pitch was largely funded by a Community Infrastructure Levy payment by Lidl connected with planning permission for the new supermarket next door.
Our thanks must go to others who helped make this happen including The Football Foundation, The Premier League, The EFL (English Football League) Trust, Shropshire Council and, of course, Shrewsbury Town FC, a football club with a true sense of community.
I had the chance to meet Shrewsbury Town chairman Roland Wycherley, CEO of Shropshire Homes Howard Thorne, who is chairman of STC, Lezley Picton, leader of Shropshire Council, and former Wales international Dave Edwards, an STC trustee and a fans’ favourite during his time as a player with both Shrewsbury and Wolves.
We watched sessions on the pitch including a SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) session and a Shrewsbury Academy girls’ session.
It was a superb event!
23rd June 2021: On this, Shropshire Wellbeing Day, I met health and wellness coach Laura Butler and Greg Swift, CEO of Craft & Jam Venues, a private company owned by Karl and Rebecca McGuire, which runs six well-known pubs.
We met at one of them, The Malthouse in Ironbridge – the other five are The Swan at Ironbridge, The Last Inn in Newport, The Smokey Cow in Beckbury, The Bull in Rodington and The Tilley Raven, near Wem. I also met chef Sam Levi.
The initiative was aimed at promoting good mental health and wellbeing and Craft & Jam are playing their part by giving their staff free, healthy and balanced meals.
Wellbeing is a major issue as we emerge slowly from 16 months of lockdowns and restrictions and I welcome initiatives like this one that recognise the challenges and try to help.
23 June 2021: I was delighted to attend a virtual presentation to Jessie Vaughan and Steve Evans, two outstanding and inspirational teachers at Derwen College, near Oswestry.
The awards were presented virtually by the Lord-Lieutenant of Shropshire Anna Turner.
Jessie and Steve reached the finals of The Pearson National Teaching Awards. It is a phenomenal achievement to be chosen from thousands of nominations of Britain’s very best teachers.
Performing Arts lead Jessie was recognised for her creative use of Digital Innovation to engage students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) during lockdown.
Sports & Leisure Co-ordinator Steve was rewarded in the Specialist Teacher of the Year category. Many congratulations to both.
26th June 2021: My wife Clare and I dined at Upton Cressett Hall, near Bridgnorth, as guests of William Cash and his wife Lady Laura Cathcart-Cash. William’s parents, MP Sir Bill and Biddy Cash and members of the Cressett family, were also present.
Our visit coincided with the re-opening of the historic Hall and Gardens near Bridgnorth to the public for the first time since 2019.
I had the opportunity to experience a new 40-minute audio tour of the award-winning heritage tourism destination, led by Sir Francis Cressett who was Treasurer to Charles I and lived at the house in the 17th century. Powerfully voiced by an excellent actor, it is a superb, atmospheric addition to the visitor experience at Upton Cressett.
Upton Cressett was awarded ‘Best Hidden Gem’ in the country at the Hudson’s Heritage awards and this Elizabethan jewel in Shropshire’s architectural crown can certainly play a significant part in the tourism drive which is essential to our county’s economic recovery in the post pandemic world.
Upton Cressett, closed for an entire season, survived thanks to the Cultural Recovery Fund and has re-opened with the focus on a family day out in the gardens and new woodland trail and the new audio tour led by Sir Francis Cressett who was with Charles I when he was executed in 1649. Upton Cressett was a royalist stronghold and Francis was the king’s personal steward and treasurer.
Upton Cressett worked with leading audio heritage company ATS Heritage, which produces tours for St Paul’s Cathedral and Highclere Castle, to create the socially-distanced audio tour along with commentary on the house paintings from BBC’s TV’s Fake or Fortune presenter Philip Mould OBE and commentary from Sir Bill and Biddy Cash about the 50 year restoration story of Upton Cressett, which hosted one of the two Princes in the Tower (young Edward V) on his ill-fated journey from Ludlow to London in 1483.
Tourism accounts for over 10 per cent of the local economy which demonstrates the continuing importance of places like Upton Cressett, with its own Grade I listed Norman church, to Shropshire.
The opening weekend was a great success with visitors from all over the county and beyond. The Bosworth Tea Pavilion served homemade cake and tea, while Lady Laura, who makes hats for various royal families and leading racing and county figures, opened up her millinery studio.
I also met four of the last remaining members of the Cressett family, including members of the Thursby-Pelham Cressetts who were invited to return for the first time in 100 years to the family house which they owned from the 13th century to 1926.
The Cressett family were royalist MPs and High Sheriffs of Shropshire, so it was interesting to see the corridors walked by some of my predecessors in the role. During the evening, Deirdre Cressett presented William and Laura with a fabulous painting of one of the Cressetts to hang in the hall.
29th June 2021: I was delighted to attend the official opening, by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, of the new Veterinary Education Centre at Harper Adams University.
Her Royal Highness, who is Chancellor of the University at Edgmond, near Newport, enjoyed a tour of the £8.6 million new facility which serves staff and students of the Harper & Keele Veterinary School and Harper Adams University.
The state-of-the-art centre is extremely impressive, packed with facilities and equipment required to educate veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, veterinary physiotherapists and other students working towards veterinary professional careers.
Her Royal Highness was welcomed by the Lord-Lieutenant of Shropshire, Anna Turner, and Harper Adams University Vice Chancellor, Dr David Llewellyn, before being treated to a range of displays and demonstrations while she chatted to students, staff and guests.
The Princess Royal was able to see the building’s learning technology in action in a practical teaching room, where a dissection demonstration being conducted remotely at Vet School partner Keele University, was streamed to an audience including Vet School leaders and Harper Adams student representatives.
Further activities included a demonstration of diagnostic imaging techniques, a practical physiotherapy tutorial, a veterinary medicine clinical skills session and a display of clinical models.
In the Burgess Study Area, the Chancellor met the family of Anthony Burgess, the late Chairman of the Harper Adams Development Trust, whose legacy helped to support the development of the new building.
In the Kildare Lecture Theatre, Her Royal Highness met trustees of the Kildare Charitable Trust, which has supported the provision of one of the two large lecture theatres in the Veterinary Education Centre.
Members of the Tinneveld family were introduced to the Chancellor in the Tinneveld Lecture Theatre. The family helped fund the development of a second lecture theatre using a legacy from the estate of the late Mr Theo Tinneveld.
The University also welcomed Lord Kirkham, former Deputy President of the Animal Health Trust (AHT) and Dr Andrew Higgins, former Director of the AHT, who, alongside the Vet School’s Head of Operations, Dr Jane Richardson, showcased items from the Animal Health Trust library, which has been donated in its entirety to the school and is now housed in the Harper Adams Bamford Library.
Dr Llewellyn said: “This is a major new facility for the University and will not only support the education of those entering a variety of veterinary professions, but will also enable us, through the work of the Vet School, to ensure that future generations of veterinary surgeons are able to train alongside those seeking a career in the agri-food industry. We need excellent people in both fields, with a thorough understanding of the issues that impact on animal health and welfare that they will have to address when pursuing their future careers. The new Centre will provide a great starting point for that to happen.”
Dr Llewellyn added: “I should like to thank our Chancellor for spending time with us to celebrate the opening of this landmark building, and for all the support she provides to the University, our staff and our students.”
This is a superb new facility at one of the leading agricultural universities, an educational establishment we should all be extremely proud to have in the heart of Shropshire.
PICTURES COURTESY OF HARPER ADAMS UNIVERSITY.
30th June 2021 I gave a presentation about my role as High Sheriff to a meeting of Telford & Wrekin Interfaith Council this evening. I spoke for about five minutes on the role of the High Sheriff, its history and the fact that it embraces all faiths.
There was also a presentation from Louis Hawker of The Children’s Society.