Posted: October 06th 2020
by Jake Fiennes, Head of Conservation
When you have dedicated your career to one ambition it is a real honour and a privilege to be recognised by your peers.
Last week I was awarded the prestigious accolade of the Sir Timothy Colman Award for Services to Agriculture and the Environment in Norfolk. The Award was presented to me virtually by the Countess of Wessex who was the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Associations President for 2019/ 2020. It was without a doubt the smartest zoom meeting I had ever attended - everyone was in jackets and ties. I had to rush to get suitably attired!
I have had a career that has spanned over 30 years in land management, initially working in woodlands, followed by gamekeeping and then into broader land management. So, I really must take this opportunity to thank all of those who have given me the enthusiasm and the opportunity to make a difference.
I am a particularly lucky individual in that my work is my passion and my life.
I arrived in Norfolk 25 years ago having been taken on as a gamekeeper by Sir Nicholas Bacon owner of the Raveningham Estate in South Norfolk. The shoot at Raveningham was all wild so there was no releasing of game. For there to be shootable surplus of game the environment has to be fully functional. The provision of cover, food and suitable habitat must be available all year round. It is not just the game that benefits from this: songbirds, butterflies, bumblebees, grasshoppers, hares, deer and many more flourish in an environment that works with nature. As the environment flourished, the abundance of species was evident. I invited others to come and see what was happening: ‘we were producing food and at the same time the Estate was alive’! Ecologists, scientists, civil servants, land-based organisations and influential individuals came to see what was going on. I think they liked what they saw!
In 2016 I was asked to speak at the Norfolk Farming Conference alongside Minette Batters, who is now president of the NFU, to tell farmers the importance of a farmed environment. How we can make changes to the way we manage our land for the benefit of ourselves, but also the wider landscape. Shortly after this I was asked to represent the Eastern region for the NFU Environment Forum, join the CLA Norfolk Committee and sit on the National Parks Review with Julian Glover which was published in September 2019.
I travelled around the country visiting farms, estates, and had meetings in London with civil servants. Spreading the word of the importance of looking after the land. It was on one of these trips I received a call from Lord Leicester asking if I would like to meet up and have a conversation about an opportunity. A meeting soon followed with Lord Leicester and Peter Mitchell, offering me the position I currently hold at Holkham.
Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Leicester and Peter Mitchell are the three people who have enabled me to do what I do and for that, I am most grateful, thank you.