Yesterday was the first day it stopped raining for weeks - I met up with the Environment Agency to discuss the work they are coordinating to improve our rivers, a requirement of Europe's Water Framework Directive. As a fisherwoman I have to declare an interest here! At Byron's Pool in Granchester we were greeted by the flashing blue of a kingfisher, before inspecting the new fish pass which allows up to 12 species of native fish to swim up and down stream by-passing the weir. The new pathways and foot bridges have made this stretch of the river into a much visited reserve too. Then in Cambridge City Centre I was shown how a small patch of new reedbed is not only improving water quality but also a natural catchment for rainfall run-off thus reducing flood risk. The Agency are working with water companies, landowners, farmers, businesses, local councils, communities on a multitude of projects all across East Anglia, but even then will find the directive's targets difficult to achieve. They want to check that all countries are working equally and whether there are other ideas from other countries which they could try out locally.
Then I went to visit the RSPB at their headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire. It is a huge organisation. We discussed many different bits of environmental legislation; the birds and habitats directive, CAP reform. I often get complaints from local councils and businesses about the rigidity and inflexibility of these directives, huge amounts of money being spent on protecting individual creatures on individual sites when perhaps that investment could have made a much greater impact on biodiversity is spent on for example alternative habitats. I hope that the RSPB might be able to find more flexible structures - especially as money for supporting biodiversity is likely to be under great pressure so I want to make sure any funds are well spent. We ended a series of meetings with a long walk around their nature reserve, seeing only a magpie and one woodpecker, perhaps it was just a bad day for them!
After that I rushed down to the village of Abridge in South Essex to speak at a Conservative Dinner. They have had really bad flooding down there this summer.
In between meetings as part of this weeks buy local challenge, I bought a yummy local pork pie for lunch from Burwash Manor Barns - and extremely creative and popular group of small traders based on a farm site just off the M11. I could have bought so many free range eggs this week from garden gate sales but not a lot else so far.
I've been putting the finishing touches on my latest In Touch and will be offering a prize draw for a bottle of prize winning Chilford Hundred sparkling wine (paid for by me not the tax payer). Chilford Hall was the victim of a terrible arson attack last month and it will be good to support them.
I'm off to a set of meetings in London now but will be with the NFU and Banham Zoo tomorrow... great week.