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Enclosure For Empire: Witchcraft, Freemasonry and Oliver Cromwell

The ‘Bankrupt Brewer of Huntingdon’, and Solomon’s Temple: an untold story of the English Civil War, by Tony Gosling

STROUD 22Jun22 – Certain facts about the origins of the 1642-49 English Civil war have been established by historians and University departments over the centuries. Central are the grievances over Charles’s arbitrary rule and ‘three monopolies’ of church, printing and trade, that so stifled enterprise and free thought.

But what if there were a ‘third factor’, carefully concealed by wealthy merchants who were on the cusp of exploiting the New World? ‘Dark forces’ with a hidden agenda sniffed at by establishment historians then and now, because to raise it might threaten their reputations, their careers? Just such a possibility has in fact been creeping out, ‘given legs’ since WWII, in the works of Christopher Hill, Henry Brailsford, Pauline Gregg, John Robinson, Stephen Knight and Martin Short.

These writers represent two new perspectives on the seventeenth century battle between the feudal and merchant classes in England that was to have enormous repercussions across the world, not least of which was laying the foundatons for the acquisition of the biggest empire the world has ever seen.

Hill and Brailsford writing and researching in the 1956s and 1970s represent the post-war socialist culture finding its feet and reinterpreting social history, much research from original writings being made public for the first time. Their books tease out the social struggles and aspirations of the vast majority of England’s illiterate poor who had no voice yet were seeing their rights to land and livelihood and freedom of worship being corralled as they were made destitute by eviction and rabid anti-Catholicism.

In the 1970s and 80s insiders were saying Freemasonry was becoming less Christian, more sinister. Darker leaders were allegedly creeping in and whistleblowers began to speak out. These disclosures fell on fertile soil because publishing and broadcasting was in the middle of taboo-breaking couple of decades. Stephen Knight and Martin Short were writing in the 1980s about Freemasonry, complex deceptions and links into all aspects of power, at the highest offices of state and the criminal justice system were exposed.

Before tackling Freemasonry head on, Knight’s 1976 book ‘Jack the Ripper the Final Solution’ suggested prostitutes deaths had been ordered by the royal family after they received blackmail threats. The eldest son of king Edward VII, heir to the throne Prince Albert Victor, had been experimenting with prostitutes as a teenager, given one a child and married her under a pseudonym.

Due to the Masonic nature of the cover-up, Knight became a focus for 1970/80s Masons, disgruntled over more recent injustices within the craft. In 1984 the product of that research ‘The Brotherhood’ was published but Stephen Knight died shortly afterwards in 1985 aged 34. Journalist Martin Short was handed several boxes of unread correspondence Knight had received from readers and published his own, bigger, sequel ‘Inside The Brotherhood, Further Secrets of the Freemasons’ in 1989.

Freemasonry being a re-branding of the banned medieval Knights Templar cult is probably best detailed in John Robinson’s book ‘Born In Blood’ (1989). During the same period of relative press freedom Christian converts from secret black and white witch covens reported identical wording in the oaths of Masonic initiation rituals: promises of secrecy on pain of death, even methods of execution of ‘offenders’.

The Vatican’s inability, or unwillingness, to try accusations of witchcraft had been one of the many reformation grievances. As Henry VIII finally wrenched English Christendom away from Rome in December 1633, over the marriage to Anne Boleyn, the English church began a popularisation and freeing-up of Christian doctrine and practice which included dealing much more directly with accusations of witchcraft.

This took place over the century or so between the reformation and English civil war as a spiritual battle raged to deal with evidence of divination and sorcery which the Vatican had swept under the carpet. This extension of the crown’s judicial powers also provided ‘cover’ for Thomas Cromwell’s hostile takeover of the monasteries, and execution of several abbots, to which the king owed vast sums of money.

A look beyond the turbulent John Dee’s empire plan, Witch trials and Enclosure does seem to confirm this interpretation of secret societies in a kind of spiritual battle behind the scenes for legislative influence which will benefit them, running up to the power to hire and fire the monarch.

Between the outing of the Templars, and Elizabeth I, came the too-little studied nor understood Wars of the Roses. Understood as a battle for succession between the houses of York and Lancaster it can also be seen as the ultimately fruitless attempt to crush the Lancastrian power of the secretive Garter Knights. It was only with the coming of the 1485 Battle of Bosworth that this argument was finally settled in the garter knights favour. Sporadic bands of possibly state-sponsored brigands that had been roaming a lawless country for over a century were apprehended, and the English countryside was allowed to return to a reasonably peaceful existence.

Similarly after the 1688 ‘Glorious Revolution’ there was a considerable reservoir of learned noble distrust of the new protestant kings, considered illegitimate usurpers by the ‘Jacobites’. The name referred to King James and the Bible-believing Stuart line which had been overthrown by these ‘dark forces’. This even extended in 1745 to a great march to attack London by the Highlanders and their allies which, probably wisely, was abandoned in Derby and returned home.

It should not come as a great surprise that Freemasonry might be lurking behind machinations of the English Civil War since the idea was prominent in some seventeenth and eighteenth century accounts and illustrations. But this aspect has become less prominent today because mainstream historians tell us Freemasonry only emerged in England in 1717.

‘Emerged’ is the word, because ‘philanthropist’ Elias Ashmole proudly records his own 1646 initiation into freemasonry at Warrington in his memoirs. So we know ‘the craft’ was active underground from at least the civil war period in England. Was the 1717 deception an attempt to conceal some role Freemasonry’s hidden networks of power had in the overthrow of Charles I, and the later usurping of James Stuart’s throne in 1688 by ‘puritan’ William of Orange?


  • 1118 – The Vatican founds the Knights Templar after the First Crusade
  • 1154 – The Great Schism as rival pontiffs from the Roman and Orthodox churches split
  • 1204 – Sacking of Orthodox Constantinople led by Knights Templar of the Vatican’s Fourth Crusade
  • Friday 13th October 1307 – French King Philip the Fair orders arrest of the Templars for denying Christ, homosexuality, worshipping idols plus other blasphemies and heresies.
  • 1312 – Templar Order is extinguished by the Vatican and banning decrees issued by European kings. Property is transferred to the Knights Hospitaller, today known as the Knights of Malta. Templars now have to go underground, under false names staying in secret network of ‘safe houses’ known as ‘lodges’.
  • 1348 – Order of the Garter is created by Edward III at Woodstock, Oxfordshire with 26 knights. Legend is the motto ‘Shame on anyone who thinks this is evil’, originated when the Countess of Salisbury, dancing with the king, dropped her garter and he gallantly picked it up. However in her 1921 anthropological study of witchcraft Margaret Murray says the garter is a hidden emblem of a witchcraft high priestess, indicating control of a coven of 13, and that the king may have been demonstrating his support for her.
  • 1381 – Peasant’s Revolt believed to have been orchestrated by the underground Templars to threaten the boy-King Richard II and regain or destroy property lost seventy years previously when they were extinguished.
  • 1411 – Foundation of London’s Guildhall, bringing medieval guilds together, leading to increased insularity and profiteering through shared monopolistic practices. Guilds had been getting more formalised and secretive over the previous 200 years or so with oaths of initiation to protect the secrets of their craft. Livery Companies began to dominate the political and economic life of the City of London through monopolistic practices and controlling apprenticeships. In the 21st Century there remain 84 City companies, the ‘Great Twelve’ Mercers, Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant-Taylors, Haberdashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners, Clothworkers and 72 minor companies.
  • 1446 – Rosslyn Chapel is built in Midlothian, Southeast of ex-Templar Port Edinburgh by Sir William St Clair. Architecture hints at Templar influences and pillars depict plants only known in the Americas, which weren’t supposed to have been discovered until fifty years afterwards.
  • 1455-1487 – Wars of the Roses dynastic battles over thirty years tied up with England losing control of French territories with sides symbolised by the white Lancastrian and red Yorkshire five-pointed roses, sometimes depicted as white within red as the Tudor Rose. Because the five-petalled rose is a form of hexagram some have suggested that it represents the merging of Lancastrian and Yorkist covens. Wars culminate both dynastically, in the 1486 marriage of Henry VII to Elisabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV, and militarily in the 1487 Battle of Bosworth where Henry Tudor’s Yorkist rival Richard III is killed.
  • 1489 – Depopulation Act ‘Against Pulling Down Of Towns’ under Henry VII
  • 1492-97 – So-called discovery of South America and Caribbean by Christopher Columbus who sailed from Palos de la Frontera in Spain and North America by John Cabot sailing out of Bristol. There is much evidence that the ancient Phoenicians traded across the Atlantic, that some Europeans were aware of the ‘New World’ and that these voyages may have simply made public what elites already knew, to prepare Europeans for coming centuries of colonisation.
  • 1515 – Royal Proclamation ‘Against Engrossing Of Farms’ under Henry VIII
  • 1516 – Depopulation Act
  • 1516, 1518 and 1519 – Royal Anti-Enclosure Commissions
  • 1534 – Sheep Farming Restraining Act
  • 1536 – Two Depopulation Acts
  • 1536 – 1541 – The English Reformation is beginning in earnest with a frontal attack on the commercial operations of the church. Dissolution of the Monasteries by Oliver Cromwell’s great-great grandfather and Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell – 900 religious business institutions are ‘nationalised’ and sold off. 12,000 in religious orders are sacked as the debt the crown owes to the great monastic institutions, tens of billions of pounds in 2020 money, is cancelled. With Luther and Calvin’s wider ‘Reformation’ comes a tacit encouragement of Freemason lodges, as secret ‘speakeasies’ until emerging officially into public view 180 years or so later.
  • 1542 – Henry VIII passes England’s first capital Witchcraft Act removing jurisdiction from the Vatican’s church courts to the crown courts and assizes.
  • 1549, Jul-Aug – Kett’s Rebellion in Norfolk over enclosure. East Anglia ruled for seven weeks from under an oak tree by Robert Kett and 16,000 peasants. Enclosers locked up in Norwich jail for ‘stealing the land’. King Edward VI’s army is twice turned back by the rebels, is then reinforced and defeats them.
  • 1552 and 1555 Depopulation Acts
  • 1563 – Depopulation Act repeals all four 1526, 1552 and 1555 Acts as ineffective. Acknowledged or not, this was probably because the administration of all previous acts and commissions since 1489 were in the hands of the landed classes who were profiting personally from enclosure.
  • 1563 – Post-Reformation ‘Witchcraft Act’, passed in Scotland, makes witchcraft, or consulting with witches, a capital crime.
  • 1563 – Elizabeth I’s Witchcraft Act reduces penalties for witchcraft except it remains a capital offence for those proven also to have caused harm.
  • 1577 – John Dee privately publishes his clandestine vision for the ascendancy of a projected British Empire, advised by Christopher Hatton and Robert Dudley, for Elizabeth I in ‘General and Rare Memorials Pertayning to the Perfect Arte of Navigation’. Though part of Dee’s plan, Elizabeth claims privateers Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh and John Hawkins are not working for the crown. [FFI see articles by Alex Grover, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich]
  • 1580 – Sir Francis Drake circumnavigates the world.
  • 1581-1795 – Calvinist ‘Dutch Republic’, where Catholics are persecuted. It is to play a major role in providing finance and military expertise to Cromwell during the English civil war. Following the 1660 restoration of Charles II the Dutch republic resumes harrying England’s Catholic kings with the 1665 Monmouth rebellion and much better funded 1688 ‘Glorious revolution’ which finally deposes the Stuart line and imposes a violently anti-Catholic regime.
  • 1590-92 –  North Berwick witch trials in which Agnes Sampson, Geillis Duncan and schoolmaster Dr John Fian were accused of being members of a coven at St Andrews’ Auld Kirk. Around 100 people were accused including Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell and other gentry. It’s unclear how many the juries found guilty or were executed.
  • 1593 – Two final Depopulation Acts passed
  • 1597 – James VI of Scotland publishes his ‘Daemonologie’ purporting to detail practices and enable identification of witches.
  • 1600 – Incorporation of the East India Company which began controlling trade for empire in Bengal, India and the far east.
  • 1603, 24 March – James I ascends to the throne of England  having been James VI of Scotland for 36 years, uniting the two monarchies.
  • 1604 – James I passes a stricter Witchcraft Act reversing Elizabeth I’s leniency. It is enforced by self-styled ‘Witchfinder General’ Matthew Hopkins.
  • 1604-1607 active enclosure revolts in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Huntingdonshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Warwickshire, culminating in 1607 in armed revolt under a leader with the pseudonym ‘Captain Pouch’. Forty or fifty rebels out of a rag-tag-army of about a thousand peasants are shot dead at Newton by a ‘body of mounted gentlemen with their servants’, while several others are hanged and quartered.
  • 1605, 05 November – Gunpowder plot orchestrated by Lord Salisbury to test James I and justify persecution of Catholics
  • 1607 – the term ‘Leveller’ is heard for the first time as organised anti-enclosure gangs emerge and ‘riots’ spread around the counties of Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire.
  • 1607 – 1636 the governments of James I and Charles I set themselves against John Dee’s covert empire-building by pursuing an active anti-enclosure policy.
  • 1611 – Publication of King James’ Authorised Version of The Bible, commissioned in 1604 and still recognised as one of the most accurate..
  • 1612, 18-19 August – Pendle witch trials culminating in nine hangings for Maleficium (causing injury by divination) of some self-confessed coven-members on 20th August.
  • 1620 – Voyage of The Mayflower from Plymouth to Cape Cod setting up the first official North American colony.
  • 1625, 27 March – Charles I ascends the British throne on death of James I
  • 1626 June – Parliament impeaches Charles I’s friend and adviser George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham so Charles quickly dissolves Parliament.
  • 1629-1640 – ‘Eleven years Tyranny’ as Charles I attempts to rule without Parliament
  • 1629-1640 – The Providence Island Company, with John Pym MP as treasurer,  becomes the organisational base for mercantile Puritan opposition to the king and his attempts to rule without parliament. Supposedly set up to open trade with Spanish in Latin America the company becomes a centre for domestic legal, political and military opposition to Charles I. Located 150 miles east of Nicaragua’s Mosquito Coast Providence island is ostensibly a model Puritan colony but is used by English Privateers as a base from which to attack Spanish shipping. The Phoenicians (2500-500BC)  had also used offshore islands to manage trade and as a base to operate against territories they wished to control.
  • 1630 – Justices of five midland counties are ordered to remove all enclosures made in the previous two years
  • 1632, 1635 and 1636 – Three Royal Anti-Enclosure Commissions levy huge compositions, or fines, on those who have enclosed land in  contravention of Depopulation Acts. Charles I levies total of £50,000 ‘compositions’, or fines, as a penalty for depopulation and evictions from 1633 to 1638, some of which are retrospective. Equivalent in 2020 of around £2.2 billion.
  • 1635 – Supposedly converted to Christianity Portuguese-Jewish merchant Antonio Fernandez Carvajal moves to London’s Leadenhall Street as the first endenizened, or naturalised, English Jew for nearly 200 years. His ships trade to the East and West Indies, Brazil, and Levant in gunpowder, wine, hides, pictures, cochineal and corn. Plus he has lucrative government contracts to supply the army with corn and an additional £100,000 annual turnover of silver. Carvajal also brings with him a vast intelligence network of paid informers, of use to any army.
  • 1635 – Charles imposes Ship Money tax to finance the Royal Navy on inland towns and cities which had previously levied only on ports.
  • 13 April – 5 May 1640 – ‘Short Parliament’ summoned by Charles I which insisted on grievances against the king being addressed before voting him any money. Charles then promptly dissolved it.
  • November 1640 – December 1648 – ‘Long Parliament’ elected. Earl of Strafford (d. May 1641), Cottington, Sir John Finch (escaped to Holland) and Archbishop Laud (d. 1645), who have been running the country for the king, are impeached and either executed or escaped into exile until the restoration.
  • November 1641 – Parliament states its demands that the king strictly purge the church of England of all ‘Roman Catholic tenancies’ in the ‘Grand Remonstrance’ drafted by Puritan John Pym.
  • On 4th January 1642 king Charles attempts to arrest the ‘five members’ John Pym, John Hampden, Arthur Hesilrige, Denzil Holles and William Strode for treason. Charles had first gone to the House of Lords demanding they arrest the MPs for him. After a short debate the Lords refused and so Charles and his accompanying guard of soldiers had to go into the Commons themselves to make the arrests. Charles utters the opening line of the English Civil War, “All the birds are flown” and humiliated, leaves London. We now know the five members were already safely hidden in the City of London, which had probably been tipped off by a spy at court.
  • 10 June 1642 – Charles I is forced to leave London for Oxford, establishing his rule in other parts of the country with a virtual line of his support running roughly from Southampton up to Hull. Roughly 1/3 of MPs and the majority of Lords support the king.
  • 22nd August 1642 – Charles raises his standard at Nottingham hoping loyal aristocracy will support him against Parliament. Later in the month Parliament orders al theatres closed.
  • 23rd October 1642 – Battle of Edge Hill between Banbury and Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire proves indecisive with around 15,000 troops on each side.
  • 20 September 1643 – First Battle of Newbury in Berkshire again proves indecisive as the King tries and fails to stop Essex returning to London from Gloucester.
  • 2nd July 1644 – Battle of Marston Moor is a decisive Parliamentary victory near York. Prince Rupert, for the King, took on Cromwell and Fairfax with Edward Manchester in command of the parliamentary army. Confusion reigned on both sides that day but Manchester grabbed the initiative, routing the royalist army inflicting crippling losses, with 4,000 of Charles’ fighting men killed and 1,500 captured. Manchester’s decisive performance as a general that day led to conflict with Cromwell later that year over the conduct of the war. Manchester was dismissed, eventually opposing the trial of Charles I from sidelines.
  • February 1645: Sums of money which prove to be decisive are spent over the winter refashioning the parliamentary army for what proved to be the decisive 1645 fighting season. Parliament’s New Model Army of 20,000 soldiers is better equipped, disciplined and trained.
  • 14 June 1645 – Battle of Naseby, South of Market Harborough, is the final decisive defeat of the English Civil War. Charles I joined Prince Rupert to command 7,500 cavaliers, who faced around 14,000 New Model Army Roundheads led by Cromwell and Fairfax. 5,000 royalist soldiers are captured leaving Charles’ forces in the midlands decimated and the cities of Leicester, Chester and Winchester all saw the writing on the wall, surrendering to parliament.
  • 10th July 1645 Langport in Somerset saw the Royalists’ final strategic military defeat. Soldiers of Charles’ supporters in the South West were defeated by Fairfax and his well-organised, City of London resourced, army. Bristol merchants had been independent royalists, and remained so until the following September when, under siege, they surrendered England’s second city to the roundheads. So furious was Cromwell with Bristol for holding an independent line against his merchant forces, he had his engineers level the city’s historic castle with explosives after the war.
  • July 1645: Leveller pamphleteer Lt. Col. John Lilburne is arrested
  • Elizabeth Lilburne women’s petition to parliament
  • 1646 – in his memoirs Elias Ashmole records his initiation into freemasonry at Warrington sixty years before Freemasonry is supposed to exist in England
  • 12 November 1646 – Charles I loses the battle of Newark and is taken into custody by the Scottish army
  • January 1647 – Scots deliver Charles over to parliament for the sum of £100,000
  • June 1647 – trouble at’ mill – Cromwell settles with army agitators
  • June and July 1647 – letters pass between Oliver Cromwell and Amsterdam’s Mulheim Synagogue financier Ebenezer Pratt about Jews being readmitted to England in exchange for his financial support and advice.
  • 11 November 1647 – Charles is deliberately allowed to escape from Hampton Court for pro-Cromwell dramatic effect and makes his way to the Isle Of Wight, from where he plans to escape to France. IoW governor Colonel Robert Hammond is not so sympathetic as Charles had hoped and he is re-imprisoned in Carisbrooke castle.
  • August 1648 King Charles I is taken prisoner.
  • September 1648 – In his pamphlet ‘Les Francs-Maçons Écrasés’ (1774) French Catholic priest Abbé Larudan alleges Cromwell, realising his own life will be forfeit if negotiations for peace with Charles proceed, forms a witchcraft cell to push through the execution Charles, under Masonic guise. The inauguration takes place at a location in King’s Street, St. James, London over two evening meetings four days apart. Named as present are Oliver Cromwell, his son-in-law Henry Ireton, Algernon Sidney, a Mr. Newell, Martin Wildeman, James Harrington (colonel of the London trained bands), George Monck Parliamentary commander-in-chief Thomas Fairfax along with many others. The ‘holy spirit’ is said to have visited Cromwell during the intervening days to affirm god’s support for him and his group. The ostensible aim is the rebuilding of ‘proper Christian order’ and once they have been inducted at their second meeting a painting of Solomon’s ruined Temple is presented to initiates in a neighbouring room, illustrating the ‘task in hand’. A master, two wardens, a secretary and speaker are all appointed as this newly formed cult’s officers which consists of all factions in Parliament, church and army. It proceeds to spy on MPs to assess their views on negotiation with or trial of Charles I in preparation for Pride’s purge three months later. So, did Cromwell ‘do a deal with the devil’? Exactly a decade later Cromwell is dead. Rumours survive about Cromwell ‘selling his soul to the devil’ at the 1651 battle of Worcester.
  • 20 November 1648 – Cromwell’s son-in-law Henry Ireton’s Remonstrance is presented to Parliament calling for the trial of Charles I for treason.
  • 2 December 1648 Charles I is held in Hurst Castle
  • On 1st December, the House of Commons resists Ireton’s calls to proceed to try the king, voting by 129 to 83, a majority of 46 votes, to accept the King’s terms for his restoration to power.
  • The following day the New Model Army occupies London and arrests 41 MPs who had most actively supported the king, hoping that this will send a clear message to the others, if just a few of those remaining who support the king change their mind no further action by the army will be necessary.
  • 6 December 1648 – The Rump Parliament is created with Pride’s Purge. Acting on orders from Cromwell’s son-in-law General Henry Ireton, and apparently unknown to army chief General Fairfax, Colonel Thomas Pride surrounds parliament with troops and ‘purges’ Parliament of a further 140 or so MPs who had voted for the negotiated settlement with Charles. This leaves only 71 out of the originally elected 489 MPs still sitting, the so-called ‘Rump Parliament’. Around two hundred of the Long Parliament’s original MPs are now in prison and around the same number in fear of the army, afraid to speak out. Ninety MPs, the majority of those who voted the previous day to negotiate with the king, are purged from parliament along with 45 who resisted arrest detained for several days. Those considered most dangerous to Cromwell’s cause. Sir William Waller, Sir John Clotworthy and Lionel Copley are imprisoned in the tower without charge for many years. Denzil Holles, Colonel Massey and Major-General Browne escape to the continent.
  • 4th January 1649 a motion is but before parliament proposing the king be tried for treason. Only 46 of the Rump’s 71 MPs turn up to vote and 26 vote in favour, a majority of six is enough. The following day the Lords vote overwhelmingly against the same motion, but the vote is set aside by the then government, Cromwell’s Council of State. General Henry Ireton’s demand that Charles be put on trial is now voted through. In public Oliver Cromwell said he had his doubts about the purges and at the end of December he tells the House of Commons “the providence of God hath cast this upon us”. Once the decision had been made Cromwell “threw himself into it with the vigour he always showed when his mind was made up, when God had spoken”.
  • 20 January 1649 – a court is convened in Westminster Hall and Charles I is charged with “waging war on Parliament.” It was claimed that he was responsible for “all the murders, burnings, damages and mischiefs to the nation” in the English Civil War. The jury included remaining members of Parliament, army officers and large landowners. Some of the 135 jurors did not turn up for the trial. For example. General Thomas Fairfax, the leader of the Parliamentary Army, did not appear. When his name was called, his masked wife, Lady Anne Fairfax, shouted out, “He has more wit than to be here,” and was whisked out of the public gallery before she could be arrested. After the court had been sworn in Charles demanded to know by what authority he had been brought to trial. President of the court John Bradshaw replied ‘In the name of Parliament assembled and all the good people of England’. Lady Fairfax who had quietly returned sprang up again ‘It is a lie! Not a half – nay, not a quarter of the people of England’ and she was once more spirited away.
  • 30 January 1649 – Outside the old Palace of Whitehall Charles I is executed. Immediately afterwards, to the consternation of the regicides, his memoir ‘Eikon Basiliske’ (Portrait of the King, his sacred majesty’s solitude and sufferings) is published. Sold amongst the silent crowds, and after more than twenty editions, it went on to become one of England’s all time bestsellers. England is now a military dictatorship run by Cromwell and his Council Of State’ appointees.
  • 1649-1660 – Elected by The Rump Parliament after the House of Lords has been abolished the Council of State assumes virtually sole executive powers during the interregnum.
  • Wednesday 28th March 1649 – Early morning arrest of Leveller pamphleteers John Lilburn, William Walwyn, Overton and Thomas Prince – Cromwell launches ‘project fear’ on the Council Of State ‘…if you do not break them they will break you, yea, and bring all the guilt of the blood and treasure shed and spent in this kingdom upon your heads and shoulders…’ – proposes all four prisoners are committed to the tower and wins by one vote.
  • 1 and 18 April – two separate 10,000 signature Petitions for Levellers’ release
  • 23 April 1649 – Women’s 10,000 signature petition to Parliament served, demanding release of the four Leveller captives and an end to arbitrary rule which is bringing famine to the land
  • 1 May 1649- The Agreement of the People published – Leveller manifesto
  • May 1649 – Wages unpaid and refusing to fight in Ireland, hundreds of parliamentary Leveller soldiers sack their officers at Burford, Oxfordshire. Cromwell arrests them in a midnight raid and next day three soldiers are executed for mutiny. Commemorated in Burford at the annual ‘Levellers Day’ with music, speeches, and a march from the parish church where soldiers and their horses were imprisoned.
  • 1650-1720 – the ‘golden age’ of piracy. The British secret state’s sponsorship of pirates is denied, just as Elizabeth denied she’d supported privateers Drake, Raleigh etc. The Royal Navy ‘state within a state’ works hard to fulfil John Dee’s vision for Britain’s dominance of the high seas as the empire is established
  • 3 September 1651- Battle of Worcester – final battle of the English Civil war with Charles II leading a Scottish army. Parliamentarian soldiers outnumber Royalists roughly 2:1 – Royalist casualties of c. 3,000 are roughly five times that of the Parliamentary army and 10,000 royalist soldiers are captured – a resounding defeat for Charles II
  • 3 September – Wednesday 15 October 1651 – Charles II goes ‘on the run’ for 43 days after losing the battle of Worcester and travelling as a fugitive, disguised as an ostler. After Captain Limbry’s abortive attempt to smuggle him to France from Charmouth in Dorset Charles eventually makes it across the channel from Shoreham, Sussex in Captain Tattersall’s coal freighter ‘The Surprise’.
  • 4th July to 12 December 1653 – ‘Barebones Parliament’ of 140 Cromwell appointees replaces the Rump Parliament who are ejected by Cromwell’s soldiers.
  • 16th December 1653 – 25 May 1659 –  ‘The Protectorate’. After Barebones is dissolved the ‘Instrument of Government’ creates the office of Lord Protector for Cromwell who chairs the Council Of State now as sole military rulers.
  • March 1655 – Uprising in Wiltshire against Cromwell’s military rule led by Colonel John Penruddock who led his followers into Salisbury and declared Charles II king. The rebellion was crushed, its leaders executed and English military rule suppressing all gatherings and pastimes was formalised into 11 districts each run by a major-general for the next two years.
  • December 14, 1655 – After much lobbying by founder of Holland’s first Hebrew printing press Menasseh Ben Israel, Jews are allowed back into England for the first time since they were expelled in 1290.
  • 25 may 1657 – Humble Petition and Advice offers Cromwell the title of King which he rejects.
  • 3 September 1658 – Cromwell dies aged 59.
  • 14 April – 29 December 1660 – Convention Parliament elected.
  • 1660 – Restoration of Charles II to the English throne after his exile in France and the death of Oliver Cromwell – known as a time of great literary and cultural freedom: comedies by Dryden, Wycherley, Ertheridge, Sedley, Buckhurst etc, after previous grim decade of puritan rule.
  • June-July 1685 – Exiled after the 1683 Rye House Plot, James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, launched the Protestant Monmouth Rebellion on 11th June 1685 landing with at Lyme Regis in a failed attempt to depose James II. On 6th July Battle of Sedgemoor near Bridgwater, Somerset, finishes off this rather insufficient attempt by Protestants to cut off the Catholic Stuart line.
  • 5th November 1688 – William of Orange lands at Torbay with 14,000 soldiers and 5,000 horses. Coup d’état or ‘Glorious Revolution’ follows as James II is forced into exile in Ireland while Protestant, William III, ‘King Billy’ takes the English throne. This also begins the Catholic ‘Jacobite’ movement committed to restoring the Stuart line. Jacobite areas tend to be Scotland, Northern England and the South-West, the old royalist regions of the English Civil War.
  • 1707 – Great Britain comes into being after the passage of the Treaty of Union with Scotland.
  • 27 August 1715 –  Jacobite rising by the ‘Old Pretender’ James Edward Stuart, son of deposed King James II, to regain the crown of England, Scotland and Ireland. On 14th November his army surrendered at Preston and the rebellion was over.
  • 1737 – Andrew Ramsay reveals the 33 degrees of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, so named because no decree had ever been issued by Scottish Monarchs banning the Knights Templar.
  • 1745 – Bonnie Prince Charlie leads abortive Jacobite rebel march on London
  • 1951 – The Fraudulent Mediums Act makes witchcraft legal in Britain for the first time since 1542.


In his 1826 novel ‘Woodstock’ Sir Walter Scott recounts, ‘the bankrupt brewer of Huntingdon’, and other contemporary cavalier quips about Oliver Cromwell’s obscure pre-war life. The aggressive, failed manager mysteriously given a new role as an MP.

It should be clear by now that Charles was not simply dealing with an organised faction of merchants who wished to see the nation run more efficiently. No, behind these various plots was a conscious choice to sidestep Christianity, the moral code that had been keeping them in their place. As the joyless, pecuniary policies of the pseudo-Christian Puritans also implies. In taking on parliament and the City of London was Charles confronting John Dee’s well-organised criminal conspiracy? Dark forces at play with nothing less than the world as their prize?

Is it this stepping into the spiritual that makes so many historians baulk at addressing the wickedness of overthrowing the monarchy in the seventeenth century, to replace it with a system of glorious rule by Cromwell’s council of state? Where a secret cabal gets to hire and fire those on the panel and there is limited free speech. In 1649 Burford even parliamentary soldiers thought Cromwell might be worse than the king.

However wicked a king might be, and Henry VIII was one of the most despotic rulers since Herod, every once in a while the feudal system throws up a good sort. It did with Charles and there was nothing the oligarchy, organised crime, could do to unseat him except character assassination followed by kangaroo court and execution.

Reading list – in order of personal preference

Old Rowley, The Private Life Of Charles II by Dennis Wheatley (1933) – affectionate roller coaster ride through young Charles survival and resurgence after the war including easy to follow up detail on the cultural thrill of the restoration

The Levellers And The English Revolution by Henry H. Brailsford (1961) – takes us through the formation and attempted destruction of Cromwell’s key Leveller opponents, along with their offshoots. Though Brailsford is an internationalist he shows deep understanding for the spiritual and moral factions on both sides of the war

Edmund Ludlow And The English Civil War edited by Jane Shuter (1994) – fascinating account of a Parliamentary commander who finds himself slowly losing faith in the cause for which he has been fighting

Born In Blood, The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry by John J. Robinson (1989) – Extraordinary historical exploration of the previously hidden origins of eighteenth century Freemasonry in ancient and medieval secret societies.

The World Turned Upside Down by Christopher Hill (1972) – Detailed analysis of seventeenth century counter-culture centred around the protestant reformation and agricultural reforms being imposed on England and the cataclysmic Civil War which followed.

The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray (1921) – A study of the underground persistence of secret Canaanite and Phoenician religious cults under the surface of gentile modern European society.

Who we are

The Land Is Ours was set up in 1995 by writer George Monbiot with the aim to echo in the UK land rights campaigns across the developing world, notably Brazil’s landless movement (MST). Also to take up the cause through non-violent direct action of forgotten Diggers, Chartists and Land Leaguers on our own islands. You can find us online at and join the Diggers list, set up in Easter 1999 when we occupied St George’s Hill,  Surrey for two weeks on the Diggers’ 350th anniversary, by sending a blank email to

Land is a free gift to mankind so should never be considered private property like other things. ‘True Leveller’ Gerrard Winstanley said ‘The Earth is a Common Treasury for All, Without Respect of Persons’. Winstanley died a Quaker and the Bible puts it thus: The land is not to be sold permanently, for the Earth is mine, sayeth The Lord God, and you are but my tenants. Leviticus 25:25.


linked article

Dissolution of the Monasteries, Civil War, Thomas Cromwell, Oliver Cromwell and the founding of freemasonry and Zionism?

Organised Crime vs Indigenous Rights: What Drove Dom Phillips And Bruno Pereira To Risk Their Lives In The Amazon?

What drove Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira to risk their lives in the Amazon?

Rodrigo Pedroso – 17 June 2022

Dom Phillips and Bruno Araujo Pereira, veterans of the Amazon, would have known the risks they faced when they set off for Atalaia do Norte in the Brazilian rainforests remote Javari Valley a trip that ended in tragedy, after Brazilian authorities said Friday they had identified the remains of Phillips.

On Wednesday, a suspect had confessed to killing the men, with police following their directions to human remains in the jungle. Investigations are continuing on the remains of the other body.

The pair, who were first reported missing on June 5, had received death threats prior to their departure, according to the Coordination of the Indigenous Organization, known as UNIVAJA. Each was well versed in the areas often-violent incursions by illegal miners, hunters, loggers and drug-traffickers but they were equally dedicated to exposing how such activity plagues Brazil’s protected wild areas, endangers its indigenous peoples, and accelerates deforestation.

Pereira, a 41-year-old father of three, spent much of his life in service of the country’s indigenous peoples since joining the Brazilian governments indigenous agency (FUNAI) in 2010. He told CNN that the agency’s Isolated and Newly Contacted Indigenous Coordination Office had made a major expedition to contact isolated indigenous people under his leadership in 2018, and that he had participated in multiple operations to expel illegal miners from protected lands.

Pereiras passion was evident in an interview with CNN last year. I cant stay away for too long from the parentes, he said, referring to the regions indigenous people with the affectionate term relatives.

Phillips, 57, a widely respected British journalist who had lived in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, brought environmental issues and the Amazon to the pages of the Financial Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times and, principally, The Guardian. Pereira was on leave from FUNAI amid a broader shake-up of the agency when he joined Phillips to assist in research for a new book.

The planned book would be titled How to save the Amazon.

In a video filmed in May in an Ashaninka village in northwestern Acre state, and released by the Ashaninka association, Phillips can be heard explaining his endeavour: I came here () to learn with you, about your culture, how you see the forest, how you live here and how you deal with threats from invaders and gold diggers and everything else.

A dangerous undertaking

Home to thousands of indigenous people and more than a dozen uncontacted groups, Brazil’s vast Javari Valley is a patchwork of rivers and dense forest that makes access very difficult. Criminal activity there often passes under the radar, or is confronted only by indigenous patrols sometimes ending in bloody conflict.

In September 2019, indigenous affairs worker Maxciel Pereira dos Santos was murdered in the same area, according to Brazil’s Public Prosecutors Office. In a statement, a FUNAI union group cited evidence that dos Santos murder was retaliation for his efforts to combat illegal commercial extraction in the Javari Valley, Reuters reported at the time.

Across Brazil, standing up to illegal activity in the Amazon can be deadly, as CNN has previously reported. Between 2009 and 2019, more than 300 people were killed in Brazil amid land and resource conflicts in the Amazon, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), citing figures from the Catholic non-profit Pastoral Land Commission.

Critics have accused President Jair Bolsonaros administration of emboldening the criminal networks involved in illegal resource extraction. Since coming to power in 2019, Bolsonaro has weakened federal environmental agencies, demonized organizations working to preserve the rainforest, and rallied for economic growth on indigenous lands arguing that it is for indigenous groups own welfare with calls to develop, colonize, and integrate the Amazon.

Pereira last year lamented the diminished state of Brazil’s environmental and indigenous protection agencies under Bolsonaro’s presidency. But he also saw a bright side, telling CNN that he thought the shift would push the Javari Valleys indigenous peoples to overcome historical divisions and form alliances to protect their shared interests.

However, in another interview with CNN, later in the year, he was more circumspect about the dangers. Having just returned from a trip in the rainforest, his feet and legs covered with mosquito bites, Pereira described a backlash from criminal groups to indigenous territorial patrols.

[The patrols] took them by surprise, I think. They thought that since the government withdraw from operations, they would get a free pass on the region, Pereira said.

But neither Pereira nor Phillips were going to give a free pass to exploitation of the Amazon.

Dom knew the risks of going to the Javari Valley, but he thought that the story was important enough to take those risks, Jonathan Watts, global environmental editor for the Guardian told CNN.

We knew it was a dangerous place, but Dom believes it is possible to safeguard the nature and the livelihood of the indigenous people, said his sister, Sian Phillips, in a video last week urging the Bolsonaro government to intensify its search for the pair.

On Wednesday, Jaime Matses, another local indigenous leader in the Javari Valley, told CNN he had recently met with Pereira to discuss a new potential project monitoring illegal activity in his community’s territory.

He seemed happy, Matses recalled. He wasn’t afraid to do the right thing. We saw him as a warrior like us.

And if their disappearance was intended to instil fear among those who would follow in their footsteps, it has backfired, Kora Kamanari, another local leader, told CNN on Wednesday.

We are more united than before and will keep on fighting until the last indigenous is killed.

Julia Koch contributed reporting.


Pay No Rent! How to permanently fix the UK’s cost of living crisis – Labour’s ‘Land From The Many’ Report

What’s really behind ‘the cost of living crisis’?

BRISTOL 18May22 by Tony Gosling – The cost of living crisis meme is being circulated by the London media since late summer 2021 to describe the disposable income squeeze. Basic costs like food and energy are projected to increase from anything between 25% and 150%, while wages are effectively frozen. On top of that, overall inflation is now 11%, so real wages are falling fast. A rude awakening for tens of thousands every week working all hours God sends but unable to pay the bills.

‘Work’, in the Tory parlance, no longer, ‘Makes You Free’, and is no longer be tauted as a route out of poverty. As Mr Micawber says in Dickens’ David Copperfield, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen and six: result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six: result misery.”

But the increase in fuel and gas prices cannot be put down to ‘Russian sanctions’ or even the fact that Asia is buying more tanker-borne US Liquid Natural Gas (LNG). If market forces were behind these price hikes we would have not seen the skyrocketing of annual Shell and BP dividends, with combined annual profit now at around £50 billion. Not turnover, PROFIT! Its just good old commodity price fixing. Please, no windfall tax. These utilities need to be regulated back into public ownership. So the poor too can share in their success. Now.

GDP, the debt trappists’ god

Over millennia, the banksters and the racketeer rentiers they sponsor have sought to capture every institution that opposes them by trapping the target in debt servitude. Thomas Cook Travel, Four Seasons Healthcare, BHS, Laker Airways, even the mighty Carillion, all died this way  Most of the developing world, with the notable exception of Gaddafi’s Libya, has been laid waste by unpayable debt. Now it’s our turn. And with the national debt now well over £2 trillion the British state is succumbing fast. A crash is inevitable. We need to ready Plan B’: To, over a year or so, make life’s essentials free.

The obvious principle is to gradually share Britain out so we all have a roughly equal share of the country. But no, even if those who own a tiny plot and haven’t had to sell it to pay for elderly care, still have a home, many, even on ‘the left’, think its cool to take that 16’x80’ plot off the elderly when they die.

Many blame Theresa May’s attempt to float a ‘Dementia Tax’[1] in the 2017 general election for her losing the Tory majority. But Labour went much further in proposals to make more of us landless. Corbyn’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell, with adviser Richard Murphy and others proposed the Lifetime Gifts Tax (LGT) in the pre 2019 general election ‘Land For The Many’ report. George Monbiot, Prof Richard Murphy (Tax Research UK), Robin Grey (Three Acres and a Cow), Tom Kenny, Laurie Macfarlane (New Economics Foundation), Anna Powell-Smith (Centre for Policy Studies), Guy Shrubsole (Who Owns England), Beth Stratford (New Economics Foundation) and others endorsed this wheeze, despite it raising the number of Brits slated to lose homes on the death of a parent (unless they had substantial savings to pay the tax) from 650k, up to 10 million![2]

LGT would prevent anyone with a home valued over £450k handing it on to their children but the AVERAGE house price in London is £750k, meaning LVT could precipitate vast ‘social cleansing’ of around 80% of homeowners from the capital. And as the housing bubble inflates ever further even those with tiny homes would be unable to gift them, either in life or death. The buck stops with this great land grab from the people with editor-in-chief George Monbiot ‘Land For The Many’ should have been titled ‘Land From The Many’!

Contributor to the Land For The Many report, Professor Richard Murphy, was contacted for his response to press reports[2] saying the Lifetime Gifts Tax could bring twenty times more homeowners into inheritance tax bands which mean they could lose their homes. His response was ‘If that’s what you think, I have nothing to say to you’, and put the phone down.

In ‘Who Owns Britain’ (Ireland, The World) author and former Sunday Times Rich List land specialist Kevin Cahill explains the British people did a pretty good job post-WWII clawing back land and homes from the historic land rentiers. Individuals now have more land than at any time since the enclosures. Does the ‘to each according to his need’ crew really want to stop us passing family homes on? Driving the poorest half of homeowners back into the landlords’ clutches? Do they really believe HSBC or the Rees-Mogg state should own everything?

The True Levellers Standard Advanced by Gerrard WinstanleyGerrard Winstanley and his 1649 Diggers or ‘True Levellers’ raised key questions over private land ‘ownership’, but the rentiers who convince themselves they own this world are waging a secret war through left NGOs on our right to pass on to our kids the basic means to live. LVT campaigners even think homes, market gardens and smallholdings should be taxed. Forced into the money system to boost GDP. No. Genuine Socialists know you tax luxuries and bloated estates, never necessities like a modest self-sufficient parcel, under a few acres of land.

Like Prince Charles and Klaus Schwab the ‘Deep State’ in the City of London want the ‘New Normal’ to see us and our children all living in fear of eviction by them, because that makes us their slaves. Sensing blood Lloyds bank has declared its aim to become the UK’s biggest homeowner by 2030.[3]

The 1947 Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells it out; ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood, in circumstances beyond his control.’ That means an ABSOLUTE RIGHT, even if we can’t pay the rent.

No. we need to extend family land ownership, or an inalienable right to council housing, and gradually get every household their own home with security of tenure for them and their children. Not tax home owners out of existence. That’s why our ancestors invented the ‘copyhold’ tenancy and why the Victorians extinguished it. It made it impossible for a house to be loan collateral and forfeited, guaranteed it would be passed on.

So. lets reduce every family’s living overheads to zero. The real debt is the land the state, feudal barons and banksters stole from us and now they owe us. Tory or Labour, the rentiers love it when we’re landless because we have to pay them every day just for the right to be. That, also, is why neo-Nazi Priti Patel is criminalising gypsies and travellers. There but for the grace of God, go all of us.

If it goes on at this rate Prince Charles and Klaus Schwab will indeed get their way and we will own nothing at all, and they’ll probably put low-grade MDMA in the water, to keep us happy!

House costs: build versus buy shocker!

Ignore the ‘value’ of the land for a minute. Ground clearance, services, foundations, materials and labour to build a three bedroom house, with a life of around 200 years, comes out around £100,000. That’s under £10 a week. The mystery 95% is pure profiteering. The real ‘cost of living crisis’ post globalisation, is the capitalists don’t innovate any more, just clamour to get their precious returns, off our basic essentials.

A lesson from Michael Davitt’s Irish Land League

The most successful challenge to the British crown’s empire-winning landlessness strategy, to keep the poor on their knees, was in 1880s Ireland. Holding the balance of power, the Irish MPs of the 1880s teamed up with Michael Davitt and the Irish Land League to prize out of the government a series of acts of parliament converting the famine-era rack rents into title deeds for the old tenants. Government loans meant they could buy the land and build a decent farmhouse to replace their hovel, on almost every one of the Catholics’ modest holdings in the south.

Overnight, the desperate conditions of tenant farmers who’d been at the mercy of the absentee landlords’ factor, was transformed. And the loan repayments were a fraction of what the old rents had been. We need to take a leaf from the Land League’s book, to rid the land of these parasitic landlords once and for all, and convert those rents to housing cooperatives, tenant run housing associations or purchase agreements.

Who we are

The Land Is Ours was set up in 1995 by writer George Monbiot with the aim to echo in the UK land rights campaigns across the developing world, notably Brazil’s landless movement (MST). Also to take up the cause through non-violent direct action of forgotten Diggers, Chartists and Land Leaguers on our own islands. You can find us online at and join the Diggers list, set up in Easter 1999 when we occupied St George’s Hill,  Surrey for two weeks on the Diggers’ 350th anniversary, by sending a blank email to

Land is a free gift to mankind so should never be considered private property like other things. ‘True Leveller’ Gerrard Winstanley said ‘The Earth is a Common Treasury for All, Without Respect of Persons’. Winstanley died a Quaker and the Bible puts it thus: The land is not to be sold permanently, for the Earth is mine, sayeth The Lord God, and you are but my tenants. Leviticus 25:25.


[1] Daily Express: Theresa May social care policy: What is the ‘dementia tax’ and what has changed? By Alice Foster Mon 22May17
[2] Metro: Labour tax plan ‘could stop parents passing on homes to kids’, by Kate Buck, Mon 01Jul19
[3] Scottish Daily Record: Lloyds Bank sets out new plans to buy 50,000 homes to become UK’s biggest landlord by 2030, by Linda Howard, Wed 01Sep21

Wiltshire Council leader’s anger at MoD as 1,350 military homes lie empty for years

Wiltshire Council leader’s anger at MoD as 1,350 military homes lie empty for years

The leader of Wiltshire Council has described 1,350 empty military homes in the county as a “scandal” as more than 2,000 families wait for social housing.

The empty homes, many of which have multiple bedrooms and large gardens, are dotted around civilian communities.

The Ministry of Defence rents them from private company Amey, but council tax records show they have been empty for several years.

“I honestly think it’s a scandal,” leader of Wiltshire Council Richard Clewer told ITV News West Country.

“Taxpayers are spending money to keep properties empty, and I’m having to see green fields built on when we could be housing people in these empty homes.”

There is huge pressure on Wiltshire’s social housing stock.

Houses in Chippenham, Trowbridge and Salisbury attract more than 100 bids each and there are currently 2,400 families are waiting for one of the council’s 5,000 properties.

Scottish and Welsh Farmland Being Corporatised in Fake Environmental ‘Carbon Offset’ Scam

WALES: Greater transparency and information is needed about the purchase of viable farm land in Wales by corporations using carbon offset schemes, the Welsh affairs committee has warned today.

Welsh farmers priced out as firms buy up land to ‘greenwash’, warn MPs

While MPs recognise the importance of woodland to tackle the climate emergency, concerns were raised that companies could be attempting to “game the system” by investing in farming land to offset emissions which is then lost to Welsh agriculture. Farmers could find themselves “priced out” of good quality farming land as many can simply not compete with the prices paid by wealthy companies for the land.

The committee invites the Welsh government to consider whether it has appropriate safeguards in place to ensure companies investing in carbon woodland offsets have credible emission reductions schemes, calls on the Welsh and UK governments to improve the transparency and regulation of carbon offset schemes which in effect create a change of land use, and suggests that greater transparency may be achieved by the creation of a register of carbon offset schemes so that the extent of this problem can be monitored.

The potential lack of farm land is just one of the issues facing family farms in Wales. Welsh farmers feel the “economics are stacked against the family farm” referring to the single farm payment, working hours and rent. The committee was concerned to hear that around a fifth of Welsh farms had a farm business income of less than zero with an average income of £26,000 per farm.

The language and cultural traditions maintained by family farms are also at risk. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors in Wales represents 43 per cent of Welsh speaking workers, and with farming in Wales dominated by over 60s, when they retire there are concerns that the language could be further eroded. Many younger generations are leaving due to the lack of work, and the committee therefore recommends that new entrants are supported into farming, while the UK and Welsh governments should work together to create a scheme to support farmers plan for their retirement.

The committee collected evidence on free trade agreements (FTAs) and heard concerns that Welsh producers could be undermined if the UK market is flooded with cheaper imports. The committee stressed that it is important that safeguards continue to be included in FTAs with countries with a large agri-food export sector. The committee recommends that the UK government publish cumulative impact modelling to show the impact of FTAs and again recommends that a Welsh specific impact assessment is carried out to mitigate any adverse impacts an FTA could have on the Welsh farming sector.

Committee chair Stephen Crabb MP, said following today’s report: “Farming is an incredibly important and vital sector for communities across Wales. An enormous 90 per cent of Welsh land is used for farming, and comparably with England, the farming sector employs more people and contributes more to the Welsh economy.

“Yet, Welsh farming is facing a challenging time in a number of different areas. We heard that a significant amount of farming land is being lost to carbon offset projects which is being sold at such a high price to wealthy companies that farmers, many of whom are already struggling financially, cannot compete with. While offsets could be a useful tool in meeting net zero, there must be adequate safeguards in place to avoid greenwashing by companies relying on offsets to avoid difficult decisions to tackle emissions at source.

“Further, with older generations dominating the farming community, we must make sure they have a suitable route into retirement so farming, and the rich legacy of traditions that come with it, continue in younger generations.”

SCOTLAND: Absentee owners buying up Scottish estates in secret sales – Nearly half of sales of Highland estates went to absentee owners last year – in some cases for environmental offsetting

Severin Carrell Scotland editor @SeverinCarrell Tue 12 Apr 2022

A majority of Highland estates that changed hands last year were sold in secret, and nearly half went to absentee owners rushing to buy rural land for environmental reasons, a report has revealed.

The Scottish Land Commission, an official body set up to reform land ownership, has warned these trends are threatening attempts to diversify land ownership, improve the rural economy and increase transparency and accountability.

An investigation it commissioned implies the Scottish land market is at risk of overheating, with the demand from corporations, charities and the privately wealthy for prime Highland estates greatly outstripping supply.

A study by Scotland’s Rural College and two major estate agencies – Savills and Strutt & Parker – has for the first time analysed land sales in Scotland over the past two years involving Highland sporting estates, commercial forests and farms.

It found that prices for sporting estates jumped by 88% in 2021 compared with 2020, even though the number of properties sold was similar to the five-year average. Two sold for more than £20m. And despite the global pandemic, the amount spent last year rose by 119% compared with 2020.

Nearly two-thirds of last year’s sales were carried out privately, without the land going on the open market, with a third of the total going to overseas buyers. Those “off market” sales meant land was changing hands secretly without allowing local people to put in bids, the commission warned.

Hamish Trench, the commission’s chief executive, said these trends could make it “significantly harder” for local communities, cooperatives and social enterprises to buy land, stifling efforts to promote rural economic diversity.

That greatly increased the case for new public interest tests to be introduced on large land sales, and for rules to prevent private land sales excluding local communities, he added.

Corporate tree-planting drive in Scotland ‘risks widening rural inequality’

“The way the land market functions is important to Scotland’s ambitions such as net zero, nature restoration, repopulation and community empowerment,” Trench said. “Being able to participate in the market shapes not just who owns Scotland’s land, but who is able to make decisions and who benefits from land and its economic, social and environmental value.”

Businesses and investors are now paying premium prices for rural estates, commercial forests and farms to offset carbon emissions and sell green investments as they attempt to meet the challenges set by governments and scientists to address climate heating.

At the same time, the very wealthy are still buying Highland estates for lifestyle reasons but are now investing much more in woodland, rewilding and peatland restoration rather than focusing on deer stalking, salmon and grouse as before.

A recent study by Community Land Scotland, which campaigns for land reform, found that many forestry projects are subsidised by government grants to promote reforestation and regeneration, while also allowing owners to sell carbon credits based on the CO2 the forests absorb.

That has meant farm prices in Scotland jumped by 31% last year, compared with 6% at UK level, the land commission report said. The value of poor-quality grazing land and hill farms ideal for forestry rose by 60% last year.

The commission’s findings will intensify pressure on the Scottish government to introduce a public interest test and potentially limit the amount of land one individual or entity can own.

As part of the Scottish National party’s cooperation deal with the Scottish Greens it plans to introduce a new land reform bill in late 2023, but it remains unclear what ministers intend to do.

 Lost Forest: why is BrewDog’s green scheme causing controversy?

The government has also promised to double the £10m-a-year Scottish Land Fund, which distributes grants for community buyouts, to £20m by 2026. That fund was already heavily oversubscribed before last year’s sudden surge in land prices, and had to turn applicants away.

In 2019, the commission found that about 1,125 owners, including public bodies and charities, owned 70% of Scotland’s rural land, totalling 4.1m hectares (10m acres). That includes 87 owners who hold 1.7m hectares, including some that own vast landholdings of over 80,000 hectares spreading over multiple properties.

The Scottish government said it recognised the case for land reform. The commission’s report supported “the approach we are taking to ensure that the investment in our natural capital is conducted in a responsible manner, in keeping with our land reform objectives and the need to ensure a just transition to net zero.”

Calum MacLeod, the policy director of Community Land Scotland, said the government’s timetable lacked urgency. It could take several years for legislation to come into force.

“Scotland urgently needs land reform legislation regulating ‘off-market’ estate sales, applying public interest tests on significant land transfers and current landholdings, and making it easier to use existing community rights to buy land to be enacted well before the end of 2023,” he said.

An Englishman’s Home? It Now Takes 24 Years To Save For A Deposit, Compared To Three Years In The 1980s

Now takes 24 years to save for a house deposit, compared to three years in the 1980s

Britain’s reputation as a nation of home-owners is under threat. While it’s true that just under two-thirds (65 per cent) of us own our own place, the home-ownership rate has fallen from 73 per cent since 2007. This downward trend has occurred despite the proportion owning their home outright continuing to rise gently in recent years (thanks to a combination of demographics and the paying off of mortgages among many in the baby boomer generation).

The overall decline has instead been driven by a very sharp reduction in new entrants to home ownership, with the proportion of households buying a home with a mortgage falling by a fifth since 2007 (from 47 per cent to 38 per cent).

With house prices outpacing earnings growth for most of the last 20 years, affordability has long been a problem for younger families. And, while the financial crisis sparked a modest and temporary correction in prices in some parts of the country, it had an even deeper and longer-lasting effect on pay. Add in the overdue tightening of mortgage criteria that has taken place in recent years – driven initially by the credit crunch and more recently by regulation – and buying a home appears an ever more distant dream for millions.

As the chart below shows, low to middle income households saving 5 per cent of their disposable income a year were able to accumulate the deposit required for an average first time buyer home over the course of around three years in the 1990s. Today that figure is 24 years.

Given this backdrop, it’s perhaps unsurprising that significant numbers of Britons are resigned to the prospect of never owning, as highlighted in new data from the Bank of England. It shows that just under-half (46 per cent) of the one-third of families who don’t already own their own home believe they’ll never do so (only 32 per cent think they will definitely buy, with 22 per cent saying they don’t know).

As the next chart shows, the proportion is inevitably higher among lower income households – with 57 per cent of non-owners in the poorest 20 per cent of the population saying they won’t ever buy. But the figure still stands at one-third (33 per cent) in the fourth quintile and one-quarter (25 per cent) among the richest 20 per cent.

As the final chart shows, members of the ‘never-buy’ population are much more likely to point to negative ‘can’t buy’ reasons (relating to costs, access and financial concerns) than to active ‘won’t buy’ lifestyle choices.

Close to half (46 per cent) describe being unable to afford up-front purchase costs such as deposits, stamp duty and estate agent fees as one of the three most important factors behind their response; with a third (33 per cent) pointing similarly to the unaffordability of mortgage costs. A similar number (32 per cent) don’t think they could access a mortgage due to their credit history or employment status.

In contrast, just 15 per cent say they won’t buy because they don’t want to be in debt and 13 per cent don’t want the commitment. A sizeable minority (17 per cent) say they like their current home and therefore don’t want to move, but this figure drops to 11 per cent when focusing on the under-45s. And just one-in-ten (11 per cent) say they prefer the flexibility of renting, highlighting that this is rarely a first-choice destination.

Given these responses, it is easy to understand why politicians remain pre-occupied with offering voters hope when it comes to getting on the housing ladder. In recent years the Chancellor has introduced a myriad of new schemes, including four Help to Buy programmes (shared equity, mortgage guarantee, ISA and London) and Right to Buy extensions. Yet in truth, such demand-side approaches can only ever help on the margins, bringing forward the moment at which some buy their first home, but not being sufficient to get low and middle income families in higher-cost parts of the country over the line.

Indeed, to the extent that these schemes have stoked demand and so propped up house prices in recent years, they have served to make home-ownership even less attainable for many, while increasing the gains flowing to older home-owners who have been the main beneficiaries of the sustained housing boom – an important part of the growing generational divide identified by David Willetts and others.

Increasing housing supply offers much more potential for dealing with the aspiration gap on housing. And the government took some welcome steps in this direction with its doubling of the housing budget at the Autumn Statement. Yet boosting supply is inevitably more difficult than supporting demand, with practical (housebuilders’ capacity) and political (voters’ resistance) barriers meaning that meeting the ambition of one million new homes by the end of the parliament is far from guaranteed.

Of course it would be wrong to put all our eggs in the traditional ownership basket. Government strategy must also be focused on improving the social and private rental offer to families – in terms of prices, appropriateness and standards – and build on efforts that allow people to part-own their homes or save for a deposit while they rent.

Housing has long been a national obsession, yet efforts to deal with the fundamental mismatch between supply and demand rarely move beyond political posturing. With the situation only likely to get worse, offering realistic housing hope for the half of non-owner households who don’t see themselves ever buying means taking a much more forensic approach to this most British of problems.

Zero Carbon Watch: Labour and Plaid Cymru destroying natural woods in Wales, selling off grazing to corporate interests to ‘offset their carbon footprint’

Net Zero policies destroying communities: ‘Save our valley’: Villagers in Cwrt-y-Cadno fighting proposals to plant trees on agricultural land

Thursday 10 February 2022 Hannah Thomas, Rural Affairs Correspondent, ITV Wales

This time last year, tenant farmers Ian O’Connor and his wife Rhiannon were hoping to buy their first farm together in Cwrt-y-Cadno. Born and brought up in the heart of the Cothi Valley, they have a strong attachment to the area. The farm next door, Frongoch, was up for sale. They had two small boys and were looking to raise their young family there.

But they were outbid. Not by other farmers, but by an investor company called Foresight Ltd, which is based in the centre of London. They purchased the land with the intention of planting trees there and “offsetting” carbon emissions.

When the local community at Cwrt-y-Cadno discovered these proposals, there was widespread opposition. For generations it has been sheep farming country. And local farmers were dismayed that prime agricultural land was being taken to plant non-native conifer trees.

For their part, Foresight Ltd say they began to engage with people living near Cwrt-y-Cadno from the beginning. They told me: “A fundamental part of Foresight’s approach to forestry is to listen to and work closely with the local community. We’ve been doing this at Frongoch for the past few months, adjusting our plans to try to accommodate key concerns – for example, we have confirmed that we will not be planting any trees in the valley basin.”

As last year wore on, I was told by farmers across Wales about more land that was being bought up by big companies, such as major UK airlines, to plant thousands of trees and offset their carbon emissions.

But the turning point in Cwrt-y-Cadno came three weeks ago, when a petition was launched by the local community to “save the valley”. As I write, it has nearly sixty thousand signatures and lobbies Foresight Ltd to change their plans.

A petition was launched by the local community to “save the valley”.

I met those villagers who started that petition at the historic Cwrt
Methodist Chapel in the middle of the tiny rural hamlet. They were stood outside a building visited by former US President Jimmy Carter, and were looking down a valley labelled an “ancient area of exceptional beauty”. They spoke of how they did not want to see their community “irreversibly destroyed”. They acknowledge that there is a need to plant more trees, and that Wales must play its part in the global ffort to tackle climate change. But they also spoke of how they did not want to see young people displaced off the land, and forced to leave the area in order to find futures they can afford.

I then joined Ian O’Connor and his wife Rhiannon, who now have a third child – a baby boy born last month. In the middle of lambing, they told me about their disappointment that they could not buy Frongoch Farm.

Their biggest fear is that they will never be able to purchase a farm in Carmarthenshire and rear their three little boys close to home. But they say that Foresight Ltd have worked with them during the process and have no criticism of the company itself.

Their concerns rest with Welsh Government policy. The Welsh Government has a target of seeing 86 million trees planted across Wales over the next nine years. Public money is available through its Glastir scheme to anyone wishing to plant trees on their land. Ian and Rhiannon believe that the Welsh Government is making it “enticing” for firms to hunt for farms in Wales.

The Welsh Government has a target of seeing 86 million trees planted across Wales over the next nine years.

Yesterday, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change [and concealed self-immolation] Lee Waters, told ITV Cymru Wales that “the threat of climate change hasn’t gone away. Just because we are three months on from COP people seem to think that we are out of the woods and we are not.

In order to reach those targets of getting to net zero we have to do things differently, and one of the things that we have to do – according to the independent UK Climate Change Commission – is to change about 10% of the land we use in Wales away from sheep farming and towards planting mixed woodlands.”

When tackled about whether Welsh Government policy and funding makes it attractive for investors to buy up land here, Mr Waters said: “there’s also a role for other companies to come in and put that money to use in Wales. Because we will benefit from the carbon sequestration, we will benefit from the biodiversity, we will benefit from the timber that is created to create Welsh jobs and Welsh homes.”

But the National Farmers Union in Wales (NFU Cymru) does not believe we have got that balance between forestry and farming right yet. The director of NFU Cymru, John Mercer, lives in Cwrt-y-Cadno and his family roots run deep there. I asked him whether we needed to give more farmland up in Wales to tree planting.

He says that farmers are trying to do more, but want to integrate trees on parts of the farm where they cannot produce food. His argument is that the UK is just 60% self-sufficient in food, and his worry is that if this drops further, we will have to import more food from countries with lower climate change targets than British farmers. The NFU has an ambition to be carbon net zero by 2040.

The row over 265 acres in Cwrt-y-Cadno is set to rumble on.

This is far from just about farming, however. Environmental organisations have also lent their voices to the idea that the plan for Cwrt-y-Cadno is a controversial one. Clive Roberts from the West Wales Rivers Trust is an advocate for biodiversity in the Cothi Valley. He says that the River Cothi near Cwrt-y-Cadno is one of the few places left in Wales where salmon and sewin successfully spawn. He says that scientific evidence shows that planting too many conifer trees in a certain area can acidify waterways and kill off species of fish.

The row over 265 acres in Cwrt-y-Cadno will undoubtedly rumble on though. Foresight Ltd say that their “draft scheme for Frongoch has been sensitively designed to incorporate a diverse mix of tree species, to include open spaces for natural habitat, and to deliver both environmental benefits and a significant improvement in biodiversity levels. We recognise that this is a special valley and are working hard to ensure that our plans for it will ensure it remains so.”

Local people are working hard to protect that too. Because they say once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

‘A Populist Obsession With Carbon’: Red Meat-Free School Menus Fail Our Children And The Environment

Why red meat-free school menus fail children and environment

Debbie James

Local authorities stand accused of using climate change debate as an excuse to reduce or remove the red meat offering on school menus.

As a livestock farmer and food business director, Mike Gooding understands more than most about the nutritional and sustainability credentials of food.

The youngest of Mr Goodings four children is at primary school and he reckons councils are letting down pupils like her, and the wider society.

He believes they are failing to address the sustainability challenges with menus that contain precious little dairy and even less meat, are nutritionally poor and not sustainable.

Livestock farmer and food business director, Mike Gooding

Public sector catering and procurement more generally was thrown into sharp focus recently when Oxfordshire County Council set out plans to ban meat and dairy products from being served at its official events.

A motion put forward by a Green Party councillor stated that global meat and dairy production was a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.

The motion is due to be voted on in March.

Mr Gooding is concerned that what he describes as a ‘popularist obsession with carbon’ is now seeping into school meal menus.

Nobody is arguing about the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the carbon argument is used as a convenience for moving away from the primary objective of providing good, nutritious and sustainable food, he says.

If people want to eat particular diets that is their choice, but public sector catering, when good wholesome food is a requirement, is not the place to assert that opinion.


Sustainability is not simply about carbon, it must be a balance between economic sustainability, environmental sustainability and ethical sustainability, Mr Gooding argues.

All three elements must be positive to be truly sustainable.

Yet some schools have removed meat from the lunch menu entirely.

At Dale Community Primary School in Derby, a school that is responsible for its own catering procedures and meal provision, the school governors have specified no-meat meals will be served in school and have made meat substitutes available as well.

Quorn hotdogs and burgers sit alongside pizza, pasties and vegan sausage rolls.

Extensively-reared, grass-fed beef and lamb offers much better nutrition and sustainability than many other foods, Mr Gooding insists.

These include the unsustainable and more expensive plant-based options, of which there are many, and where sustainability claims over water and land use do not stack up.

High amounts of processing are involved, often with artificial ingredients added to provide some nutritional value.

The ethics of choice, good public sector catering and nutrition cannot be ignored in pandering to a popularist obsession with carbon, particularly when the science is clear but, at best, the rhetoric ill-informed, says Mr Gooding.

Cost cutting

Mr Gooding says underlying the choices is lack of investment. Currently, our children are denied good, balanced nutrition in many schools through lack of investment in school catering, ridiculous budgets, lack of nutritional awareness, and policy that fails to understand sustainability.

Up until the 1980s, school meals were almost universally prepared on site, but the intervening decades have seen huge pressure on school budgets; this, in some cases, has resulted in kitchens being stripped out and replaced by classrooms.

Mr Gooding believes removing meat from some menus altogether is a cost-cutting exercise by some authorities, under the guise of environmental concerns.

A kitchen that doesnt use any meat has fewer compliance requirements, such as assigned chopping boards for meat, separation of products in storage and preparation, and reduced staff training.

If I wanted to look for ways to reduce costs in a kitchen an easy option would be to go vegetarian, he says.

But if the point of public sector catering is to provide good, wholesome nutrition then that point is being lost, he adds.

There is lots of science about the value of micronutrients not only in our children’s diets, but for all of us so it should be applied to all public sector catering, including where good nutrition is critical, such as patients in recovery in hospital.


Jonathan Foot, AHDBs head of environment, says carbon alone should not be used as a simple indicator for some foods being better for the environment.

The UK is one of the most sustainable places in the world to produce red meat and dairy, he insists, adding:

Alternatives can often have wide-ranging negative effects on the environment, such as deforestation, threatening biodiversity, high water demands, or international shipping.

AHDB supports the Food a Fact of Life and Countryside Classroom education schemes, which help children to understand where food comes from and how it is produced.

Local producers

In some regions, concerns are being raised by a failure by councils to source locally.

For example, last autumn, the Farmers Union of Wales challenged Anglesey County Council about procurement policies for school meals at primary schools on the island.

Union officials say the menu offered to children does not incorporate enough local and Welsh produce.

But some councils are bucking the trend. In Lancashire, the county council has gone as far as developing a bespoke cheese with a low salt content with a local supplier, and it has also worked with a local high-end yoghurt supplier on a range of low-sugar products.

Children at schools in Aberdeenshire are offered fresh meat that is Red Tractor or Quality Meat Scotland assured, free-range eggs and locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible.

Love British Food an umbrella body for hundreds of organisations that have an interest in food and the countryside believes a long-term view must now be taken of school catering, as an investment for the future.

This, it recommends, should be done through good, nutritional food and an education on how to eat. Public sector catering should also be used as an opportunity to enrich the local area, it adds.

Local purchasing

While some councils are seizing the environmental argument to remove meat and dairy from menus, organisations representing farmers say the case for local food purchasing is a stronger one if sustainability is the issue under scrutiny.

Rhys Llywelyn, market development manager at Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), says the Welsh levy payer body regularly engages with authorities responsible for public procurement, making the case on local purchasing for settings such as schools and healthcare.

Its a challenging sector, he says, with an ongoing squeeze on public finances making cost undoubtedly the main driver of decisions.

Mr Llywelyn says anti-meat groups are active in the education sector, trying to influence purchasing decisions and also how the curriculum is delivered.

Over the past year, HCC has prioritised producing a range of brand-new classroom resources so that pupils get balanced messages on food, farming, health and the environment.

Welsh red meat has a positive story to tell in terms of sustainability, being often far lower in terms of emissions than imported alternatives; its important for the future that we find ways of taking these considerations into account in public procurement.

Food buying standards

MPs have also been critical of the government food buying standards. In April 2021, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said the government was missing the opportunity to support small businesses, improve animal welfare and promote sustainability within public sector rules for buying food.

In its report Public Sector Procurement of Food, the committee called on the government to address outdated standards on nutrition and animal welfare, and close loopholes in the existing rules.

Noting the startling lack of monitoring of existing food procurement standards, including by government departments and NHS hospitals, the report demanded action to push bodies to ensure compliance.

Political drivers for change

Public sector procurement and its failure to be more focused on British produce has been debated for years and very little has changed.

But following Brexit and the COP26 Climate Change Conference in 2021, there has been a redoubling of efforts by champions of local sourcing.

Campaign group Sustain is calling for changes to the governments buying standards for food and catering services, and It says more money should be spent on high-quality domestic produce.

Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy also recommends that these standards be redesigned to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on food that is both healthy and sustainable.

New government policies on food are expected to be published in the coming weeks. considerations into account in public procurement.



TLIO camp finds opposition mysteriously vanishing to The National Trust’s privatisation of North Norfolk commons

(see below for press articles about the camp and Natural England’s attempts to exclude the public from these commons and vast areas of coastal saltmarsh)

By Tony Gosling: 10Feb22 BRISTOL: TLIO camp finds opposition mysteriously vanishing to The National Trust’s privatisation of North Norfolk commons

Over August bank holiday 2021 The Land Is Ours campaign ventured East to camp out on disputed common land along the North Norfolk coast. It was the campaign’s first tentative steps back into the world of direct action since supporting Tony Wrench’s Pembrokeshire roundhouse planning bid in Easter 2004.

The vast salt marsh commons in question are supposed to be owned by Brancaster parish council yet the camp site is clearly managed by the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club (RWNGC) who are there in force collecting car park fees. Curious then that it should be another interested ‘charity’ entirely, the National Trust, whose North Norfolk and Broads manager Victoria Egan phoned TLIO’s Tony Gosling up a few days beforehand, politely requesting he cancel the excursion.
The vast commons around Brancaster and Scolt Island were awarded to the coastal parishes in the 1700s but this ‘waste’  has now become some of the most potentially valuable retirement and investment land in East Anglia. A report in the Eastern Daily Press while the camp was taking place put the average Brancaster house price as £800k.
Fourth and fifth homes, according the commoners who steward these 3,500 or so mostly salt-marsh acres, the Scolt Head and District Common Rightholders Association. SHDCRA, pronounced Shackra’s, Their 400 or so commoners don’t just use the land, they are an invaluable reservoir of local history and culture and have watched for four decades since the Thatcher era, with ever more sceptical eyes, as the filthy lucre has rolled up along the unspoilt North Norfolk coast.

But actual common rights exercised, as elsewhere, have been diminishing. Over the decades since the second world war livestock grazing,  reed cutting, even shooting has dwindled and, armed with some of the best-paid lawyers in East Anglia three main institutions have been acquiring slices, and chunks of these unique commons.

Private feudal big guns are to be found at the Holkham Hall estate managers office a few miles East between Blakeny Point and Fakenham backed by the 25,000-acre the Earl of Leicester’s Estate. But despite the Earl’s increasing commercialisation of the area it is so-called charitable organisations, the parish councils and the National Trust that have become the haunts for these Johnny-come lately land-grabbers.

August bank holiday 2021 Land rights Protest Camp at Brancaster Beach Car Park
Land rights Protest Camp at Brancaster Beach Car Park, over the Bank Holiday Weekend. Tony Gosling (right) with other protest group at the Car Park with Brancaster Golf Club in the Background, they are joined by Stephen Bocking (2nd left) Brancaster Parish Council member and Scolt Head and District Common Rightholder
So was the three nights out by the beach to be an ‘occupation’ of Golf Club land? Of National Trust land? Or simply a camp-out on the parish commons? Some say the parish own the land, others the golf club and we even heard it was National Trust land leased to the golf club in a secret deal.
As so many times in the past the only way to uncover evidence would be to spend a few weeks there and discover the supposed owner through court papers. Countless requests from SHADCRA to the private and charitable claimants have failed to produce the required evidence and, lately, the private parties are even refusing to reply to commoners’ letters and phone calls.
The most surprising discovery though relates to the National Trust who arrived in the early 20th Century when they were donated a slice of land near Scolt Island. Despite being a ‘charity’ the NT appear to be increasingly mesmerised by the dizzying financial value of properties with which ‘for the education and betterment of the public’ they are entrusted. The NT’s North Norfolk boss Victoria Egan  is working with and for private locals, lodging claims at the land registry for apparently ‘vacant’ common land around their existing holdings.

Natural England have been working closely with the National Trust too on coastal path proposals, unveiled in 2018, but under cover of ‘rewilding’ they aim to exclude walkers from thousands of aces of salt-marsh along the footpath. Local dog-walker Philip Platten, told The Times’ environment correspondent Jonathan Leake, ‘I will be visiting the marshes whenever I want, and I challenge anyone to stop me taking my grandchildren too.’ [see Rebecca Murphy’s May 2018 EDP article below]

NT claims have only been rebuffed by diligent SHDCRA members of the parish councils lodging counter-claims at the land registry along with copies of their eighteenth century enclosure awards. So, unfettered by the mere law of the land these parish councils are gradually being taken over by well-heeled incomers more inclined to turn a blind eye to the NT claims and view them as an ‘opportunity for development’.

But, bulldozer-in-hand, Brancaster’s in-yer-face land-grabbers, sub-letting from the grey-zone ‘twixt parish council and National Trust, have to be the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club who, since the 1990s, have taken the opportunity to carve out their own parking facilities into a large public car park which used to be free but as they have extended it they have also brought in a £4-£8 charge for anyone wanting a few hours or a day on one of the loveliest sandy beaches in the country.

With ten or so TLIO common rights supporters spending the long weekend under canvas on Brancaster Beach car park a whole series of passing locals settled into comfy chairs to tell tales of well-connected outsiders turning up as parish councillors, and suddenly chairing parishes too. Tales of ‘control freaks’ at the RWN golf club causing a exodus of members  to the ‘less anal’ nearby Hunstanton club, and wondering if the tens of thousands in car park profits wouldn’t give a desperately needed facelift for the beach road and parish rather than vanishing into golf club coffers.

Legally the golf club, and possibly the Trust too, should be paying annual compensation for the common land they’ve built on which should be putting the commoners well into the black.
So cash-strapped SHDCRA soldier on, asking for meetings with Trusts, Clubs and Estates who can’t see the point of dealing with anything without legal and financial weight behind it. The doors have been slammed in their face and even individuals who turn up at SHDCRA managing to turn members against the executive of their own association.
According to one frequent visitor to the Norfolk coast, Mike, the parking fines stuffed under windscreen wipers by the golf course aren’t worth the paper they are photocopied on. The wording, he notes, is that used by the National Trust elsewhere along the coast. For all the years he’s been parking there for free, threatened fines have never been enforced.
The National Trust were approached for comment but didn’t get back to us before publication.
Could it be, despite Brancaster Beach car park attendants’ uniforms, like the notorious Bristol Zoo parking attendant ‘Mr S W Barrett of 35 Westbury Lane’ who blagged fees for twenty years from an unofficial space on the downs, that the last decade of receipts are nothing more than a brazen fraud. That the land is ours, it isn’t theirs at all?

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Beach protest over Brancaster land grab claims

By Judy BatesPublished: 01 September 2021

Land rights campaigners held a protest at Brancaster beach car park over the weekend to back local commons rights holders embroiled in a long-running disagreement.

Ten protesters from the Land is Ours campaign camped out on an area of land which is part of a dispute between the rights holders and the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club and the National Trust.

Tony Gosling, who came up from Bristol to lead the protest, said they saw it as something of a feud and an example of private landowners extending their boundaries and grabbing land and rights holders losing out.

Brancaster Marsh Common covers several thousand acres and parts of it have been registered by the golf club and the Trust.The common rights holders and parish council dispute the land ownership claims and are also disgruntled that they are not receiving enough compensation for being unable to exercise historic rights which date back to the Enclosures Act of 1765 and would have made the parish the owner of the land.

Although they don’t own any of the land, the 300-plus members of the Scolt Head and District Common Rightsholders Association (SHDCRA) are entitled to historic rights over the land for activities including shooting, fishing and grazing.

Land rights Protest Camp at Brancaster Beach Car Park, over the
Land rights Protest Camp at Brancaster Beach Car Park, over the Bank Holiday Weekend

They claim that if they are not able to carry out these activities they are entitled to compensation and feel they are also entitled to a portion of any income from the land.

The beach car park is one area under dispute. It is run by the golf club which, according to the rights holders, also claims to own it.

Rights holder and parish councillor, Stephen Bocking, said that although the club had registered the land it occupies it has never produced the deeds to prove ownership and all SHDCRA receives in compensation is £100 for some fencing on the land.

“We just want to get people round a table to talk about it but all we get from the golf club are solicitor’s letters,” he said. One letter arrived in response to the protest action.

Chris Cotton, another rights holder and parish councillor, said that they welcomed the support from the Land is Ours campaigners although they had no idea they were coming to Brancaster until a few days beforehand.

Mr Gosling said they were not there to be disruptive – just to try to bring people together in what had developed into something of a feud.

He said: “It amounts to a difference of opinion between the traditional rights holders and new money which holds the legal clout,” he said.

Mr Gosling said they had an opportunity to chat to those involved over the weekend and hoped their intervention might bring the parties together face to face.

The issue will be on the agenda at a parish council meeting next Tuesday.

The Land Is Ours was founded in the 1990s by George Monbiot, now a leading figure with Extinction Rebellion.

The golf club has also been contacted for comment.

Norfolk salt marshes could be declared off-limits

Rebecca Murphy Published: May 14, 2018

Salt marshes in north Norfolk could be declared off limits to the public under proposals being drawn up by Natural England.The public body wants to exclude the general public from accessing areas of marsh at Burnham Overy Staithe and Wells.

It says the measures, which are included in its proposed route of the England Coast Path between Hunstanton and Weybourne, would ‘have the effect of enhancing existing conservation objectives’.

Local water sports activities are held on the marsh areas of Burnham Overy Staithe

In a report outlining the measures, officials say that the establishment of the England Coast Path could attract more walkers to the area, increasing pressure on birds such as terns, redshank and ringed plover.

Two locations have also been identified as supposedly ‘unsuitable for public access’.

Natural England said it made the decisions following advice from selected ‘local stakeholders and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’.

However, proposals have angered and frustrated many in the coastal communities who have said there has been a lack of prior notice to the proposals.

Burnham Market resident David Baldry has said the proposals are ‘poorly thought out’.

He said: ‘The salt marsh at Burnham Overy Staithe provides for a host of recreational pursuits.

‘In the warm summer months at low tide, many local children go swimming along the creeks after school, mud sliding on the banks, collect samphire, families and visitors to the area explore the creeks and salt marshes – this access to a wonderful wild and natural environment is what draws tourists to Norfolk and contributes so significantly to our rural economy.’

The sand and marshes at Burnham Overy Staithe. Natural England have proposed to exclude the general public from accessing the marshes due to it being “unsuitable for public access

Michael Smith, who lives in Burnham Thorpe, is a common rights holder and would not be affected by the proposals.

He said he accepts the conservation needs at Wells but says there is no risk to public safety on the marshes around Burnham.

The 47-year-old, who is also chairman of the Scolt Head and District Common Rights Holders Association, said he does not feel Natural England is providing answers to questions to his questions.

‘When you ask around there seems to be no local stakeholders who say they have been asked,’ he said. ‘I have asked but they clearly are not preparing to give names.’

Natural England’s response

Natural England have said the proposals will not affect any existing access to the marshes for common rights holders or other walkers who use the area through informal agreements with landowners.

Sarah Dawkins, area manager for Norfolk and Suffolk, said: ‘When developing our coastal access proposals we have to make sure they don’t impact negatively on the environment, or create unforeseeable safety issues for walkers.

‘Following advice from local stakeholders and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, we’ve proposed some restrictions excluding the new coastal access rights from just two areas of saltmarsh at Wells and Burnham Overy Staithe.’

People are encouraged to view the proposals and to comment up until Wednesday, May 16, 2018.

Locals put boot in as Natural England’s Coast Path threatens access to Norfolk salt marshes

Plans to protect wildlife alongside a Norfolk stretch of the trail around England are angering residents and artists

Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor – Sunday April 22 2018

Philip Platten, centre, and wife Christine with other dog walkers on the coastal path. He says he wants to be able to take his grandchildren on the marshes too
England’s ambitious 2,800-mile Coast Path project has become stuck in the mud of Norfolk’s north coast over plans to ban access to the surrounding salt marshes used by ramblers, dog walkers and fishermen for generations.
Natural England (NE), the government’s conservation and ‘rewilding’ quango, says it wants to protect seabirds and wildlife from the surge in ramblers when the coastal path formally opens – by banning access to land around it.
However, the plans, which are part of a public consultation, have infuriated residents, prompting protests along the coast, from the seaside town of Wells-next-the-Sea to Holt.
‘I will be visiting the marshes whenever I want and I challenge anyone to stop me,’ said Godfrey Sayers a renowned local artist……

Channel 4’s ‘Sixty Days with the Gypsies’ Documentary Takes On Priti Patel’s Police State Bill

60 Days with the Gypsies
Explorer Ed Stafford spends two months with Gypsy and Traveller communities across the country, as he delves beneath the stereotypes and reveals the challenges of living in modern-day Britain
Next on TV: Mon 7 Feb, 9pm

The 3 x 60′ series, a Boundless production (part of Fremantle in the UK), will see Ed immerse himself into Romani Gypsy and Irish Travelling culture for 60 days, to provide an honest, unflinching insight from the inside. Shot in the same style as 60 Days on the Street, the series will combine self-shooting techniques alongside a small crew who will capture Ed’s journey.
At a time when the Government is considering new police powers which will make the traditional Travelling way of life more difficult, Ed will delve beneath the stereotypes, building relationships with individuals in an endeavour to question everything we think we know about the Gypsy and Traveller lifestyle.
60 Days with the Gypsies will also look at why the conflict between settled communities and Gypsies is so prevalent. As part of the production team, Boundless has brought on Jake Bowers, a Romany journalist and filmmaker, as a consultant to help navigate these stories in an authentic and sensitive way.
Ed Stafford said: ‘Like homelessness, Gypsy and Travelling communities are often shrouded in negativity despite very little understanding and I want to learn more.  I have no qualms about immersing myself in every ritual, tradition and aspect of the culture in order to get to know the individuals and unpick the existing stereotypes.