Saturday, 25 April 2009

Camborne defies the weather to celebrate Trevithick

Today was Trevithick day in Camborne and it was an early start to set up our stand on time. Exhibitors are expected to be in place by 8 am.

For many years the sun has shone on Trevithick Day but this year they predicted bad weather. Late last night the rough weather arrived early had caused a false burglar alarm at Trevaskis Farm. As I went out at 1 am to check all the doors on the restaurant, I hoped it might at least mean that the storm would clear by morning. But it was not to be. We had blustery weather with showers throughout the day and it was all we could do to keep our stand from taking off!

But the turnout was still impressive. The people of Camborne were not going to let a bit of rain get in the way of their day. The dance processions went ahead as planned. The streets were buzzing.

Among the other performances were the Carnkie Cloggers, whose dance routine was probably the best way to stay warm on such a day; the Holman Climax Choir were also singing perfectly in the Town Square, albeit under umbrellas. Meanwhile, towards the other end of Trelowarren Street we were entertained by the Golowan Band and an energetic performance by Drumba with their drum routine.

I had a few goes at a 'lucky key' game being run for local charity by the local Lion's Club and a Tombola being run for CD Kids, a Camborne based dance and theatre group. However, today was not my lucky day.

The star turn was provided by the replica 'Puffing Devil' steam carriage - famously invented by Richard Trevithick. It led the procession of steam engines down Basset Road and Church Street and then up Camborne Hill. Once they got going the Puffing Devil would move along at quite a pace and leave the rest standing. But this year there was a mishap on Camborne Hill. Another steam engine had stalled in the road ahead and, much to their frustration, the driving team were forced to grind to a halt...but it wasn't long before the pressure had built back up and they were able to zoom off again.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

A Sunday morning run

What better way to spend a bright Easter Sunday morning than on a long run. I am now about 7 weeks into my training and today ran for an hour and a half non-stop. Not bad. I reckon it was about twelve miles in total.

But I have a nagging ankle problem and I am going to need to be careful in the weeks ahead. Last year I had a problem with a mild achilles heel injury. I need to make sure it doesn't return so it will have to be a few days off now.

I have an old friend from my Cornwall AC days who has said he will sponsor me - but only if I break 3 hours 15 minutes. A second one said that if I break 3.30 then he will vote for me....but no promise of sponsorship. You can always rely on old team mates in the running club to turn the screw and make things harder!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Visit Cornwall

Today, we held a county wide summit on tourism at Kingsley Village. Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Tourism was in Cornwall. It was a good opportunity to get a group of leading Cornish businesses from the sector together to share their concerns and discuss policy ideas for the future.

There are many leading tourist attractions in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle. Hayle is second only to Newquay in terms of total visitor numbers in the summer. We also have the National Seal Sanctuary, Paradise Park, Poldark Mine and some famous old gardens including Trebah and Glendurgan.

There was a strong view at the summit that we needed to do more to promote Cornwall as a destination. At the moment, much of the funding is allocated along the lines arbitrary regional quangos rather than being allocated to genuine tourist destinations that people recognise. So money is spent promoting "the South West of England" rather than Cornwall. Meanwhile overseas, rather than having a single organisation promoting Britain, there are sometimes 10 regional offices competing with one another. It doesn't take much nous to work out the shortcomings of such an approach. Administrative 'regions' simply don't have an identity that can be marketed. We should reform the way tourism is promoted so that there is more emphasis on genuine destinations like Cornwall.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Ever thought of sport?

About twenty years ago there was a very successful campaign that encouraged people to take up sport to keep fit. I think its message is as important today as it was then.

Yesterday was sponsors' day at Camborne Rugby Club. They had a big match against Tiverton which they won 21-14 but it was a tense game. This weekend also saw Hayle RFC host a mini-Rugby tournament for the South West.

My family's business, Trevaskis Farm at Connor Downs, sponsor Camborne Rugby Club. My father played rugby for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle but regards Camborne as his home club. So I was delighted to have the chance join them on a day when they did so well.

In some ways they have lost out to other clubs as a result of the commercialisation of rugby but they are an absolute rock when it comes to their work in the community. They have teams for every year age group from the youngest mini rugby right up to colts and still play three senior teams. They have also been fantastic at playing younger players in their main team so that they get some experience.

I think that amateur sports clubs like this have a crucial role to play in our community. We need to have the club structures there to support and encourage children into the sport they love. As a boy, I was a runner and will always remember the time that volunteers gave up to coach me and drive the mini bus away to races at the weekend.

Groups like this are the bedrock of our society and we need to help them more.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

People power

Today I joined a march with several hundred other local people from the Camborne area to protest against plans to impose crackpot house building targets from central government on our community.

The event was organised by Jean Charman, the energetic town mayor for Camborne, and the non-party Trelawney Alliance group.

On Friday evening we had a bit of rain and I worried that this might carry over to the following day and affect the march. But all was fine. It was breezy but we had a strong turnout and made our point well. Three political parties supported the event: the Conservatives, Mebyon Kernow and the UK Independence Party. But more important than that were the hundreds of local people who wanted to make their views known.

There are currently around 18,000 homes in the Camborne, Pool and Redruth area. Some studies suggest that there is a need for around 2,000 new homes to be built to satisfy local need. But these crazy targets have nothing to do with local need and would force the building of some 11,000 new homes - a two thirds increase in housing stock which is simply unsustainable.

There are some important plans to regenerate Camborne Pool and Redruth. But when it comes to the number of new houses that should be built,I believe this should be determined by what is needed locally to go alongside that economic regeneration. It should not be based on some crackpot policy from central government.

The political parties supporting the protest had a chance to set out their views. I wanted to get across the importance of the cross party nature of campaigns like this and why the Trelawney Alliance was doing so well. But I also wanted people to realise that things can change if they are willing to take a stand. A future Conservative government would abolish these housing targets and give local councils the chance to revise their local area plan. There are elections coming up for Cornwall Council this June and it matters who is in charge. Everyone should challenge the candidates seeking their vote on their views.

Mebyon Kernow and UKIP also expressed their views. There were a couple of Lib Dem activists skulking in the background as observers who declined the opportunity to explain their position when offered the chance to speak. I hope they work out what they stand for before the elections this June.

Friday, 3 April 2009

The future of farming

This morning we had a breakfast meeting at Trevaskis Farm for a group of 20 farmers in the constituency. Richard Benyon, a member of our DEFRA team, is in Cornwall and it was a good opportunity for him to hear some of the challenges facing the farming industry down here so that he can go back with ideas for change. Our discussion covered everything from the Agicultural Wages Board to TB, supermarkets, labour availability and the bureaucracy of DEFRA.

It was good to see so many old friends again. Until nine years ago, I was a farmer in this part of Cornwall. Some of the challenges farmers face are the same now as they were then. But there have been major changes too.

Dairy farming here has contracted sharply over the last decade or so with a handful of large producers left where once there would have been dozens of family farms. The veg industry has been transformed too. Ten years ago a farmer with 100 acres of winter cauliflowers (or broccoli as we call them down here)would have been considered a large player. Now most of the industry is controlled by two big producers each growing 3000-4000 acres.

Camborne, Redruth and Hayle is the home of much of Cornwall's field scale horticultural industry: vegetables, daffodils and potatoes. The first two are very labour intensive and rely heavily on student Labour from Eastern Europe.

There is a real need to reform the benefits system in this country so that the long term unemployed who are currently trapped on benefits can be helped back into work. It has to start somewhere. Doing part time work or taking short term jobs is the first step back in to working life. And getting people off benefits and into work is crucial, not only for our economy, but for our society which benefits from an ethos of endeavor. Children do better when they have parents who are working role models. As we head into another recession with rising unemployment, helping people back into work will be more important than ever.