Maria Roskell Joins The Team

The Duchy has appointed a new senior PA/Rural Administrator to support the Rural Teams based at Lancaster Castle.

Prior to joining the Duchy Maria Roskell spent two and a half years in a similar position on another private landed estate in Lancashire. She is a highly experienced PA/Administrator with a good understanding of rural estate management and the importance of communication in ensuring positive tenant relations.

Born and brought up near the Duchy’s Myerscough Estate in the heart of the Lancashire Survey, Maria is married with two children. A keen traveller and sailor, she and her family live in Forton on the outskirts of Lancaster.

Commenting on her appointment, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “We are delighted to welcome Maria to the Duchy. We have developed an excellent team at Lancaster Castle and are keen to ensure that they get the first-class support that they need. Maria’s particular skillset and experience adds to the talent pool we now have in Lancaster, helping us to continue to grow and to improve.”

Maria herself is enjoying the new role: “The Duchy of Lancaster covers an incredibly broad range of lands and properties here in the North. The tenants are hugely loyal and many stay on the Surveys for several generations so it is very important that we provide them with a professional and responsive service. My role is to support the Rural Surveyors responsible for each of the estates so that they can do just that.”

The Duchy of Lancaster has decentralised many of its core functions since it opened its new office suite at the Castle at the end of 2016, moving rural estate management, building surveying and many of the accounting functions from London to Lancaster. The Northern office now looks after three of the Duchy’s five Rural Surveys, namely Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire.

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Conservation works continue at Lancaster Castle

The extensive conservation works currently underway at Lancaster Castle are to continue throughout the summer holidays with completion now expected by the end of August 2019.

This will mean a three-month extension to the restricted public access to the Castle and continued closure of the main John O’Gaunt gate on Castle Hill. Guided tours and activities centred on the Shire Hall and adjacent rooms will continue uninterrupted during that period.

Commenting on the revised schedule for completion Duchy Head of Project Management Graeme Chalk said: “All conservation work at the Castle has to be carried out carefully and sensitively so that this important heritage asset is protected for future generations. This is a complex project and our first priority has to be in keeping staff and visitors safe while construction is underway.”

The completed project will open up the former Kitchen Courtyard at Lancaster Castle providing additional public open space, a covered cloister-walk, new visitor café, gallery space, teaching suite and ticket office. The re-opening of the lower courtyard and public access via the historic John O’Gaunt Gate is now expected by the beginning of September 2019.

Various core functions of the Duchy have been relocated to Lancaster Castle over the last 12 months including rural estate management, tenant finance and communications. A new boardroom has also been created to support the growing activity based at the new Northern Office.

For up-to-date information on guided tours, events and opening times please refer to the Lancaster Castle website

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Bio-Diversity Audit Complete

Following the bio-diversity audit carried out in partnership with Natural England across the Rural Surveys between 2016 and 2018 all habitats have now been successfully identified, mapped and quantified. The resultant data allows for strategic oversight of each of the Rural Surveys as well as details of the characteristics of each estate including detailed evidence of the habitats currently in situ on each of our agricultural holdings.

A database of all habitats and features present on the holdings has been created including reporting on hedgerows, overgrown historic boundary cams, field corners, wild bird mixes, pollen and nectar mixes, scrub, species-rich grassland, field margins, watercourses, ponds, and woodland. Working with tenant farmers across the estates and continuing its tripartite partnership with Natural England and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust the Duchy is formulating site-specific plans to protect vulnerable habitats for wild pollinators and other priority species in both the immediate and longer term.

Commenting on the investigative phase of the project, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “This has been a significant piece of research and one that we could not have completed without the help and support of our partners and agricultural tenants. The key is for us to use this data to inform practical solutions which will help our farming tenants to protect and improve the biodiversity across our estates. By working together we are confident that we can ensure a sustainable ecological balance across the whole of our rural portfolio for the longer term.”

160 farming units and over 12,000 hectares of land have been visited, investigated and documented as part of the audit over the past 2 years and each individual holding has received its own list of site characteristics and ‘habitat analysis’ in the form of a detailed environmental datasheet. Next steps will include a series of tenant workshops to share best practice and a number of Countryside Stewardship applications from farming tenants across the Surveys.

The Duchy of Lancaster is an ancient inheritance of land and property assets held in trust for the Sovereign. Founded in the 13th century the Duchy’s rural holdings across England and Wales are administered by Survey namely Cheshire, Lancashire, Staffordshire, Southern and Yorkshire.

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Burholme Lamb Launched In Whitewell

One of our long-standing Duchy tenants is once again putting Lancashire on the culinary map of the UK after opening a dedicated butchery service which guarantees the quality of their produce at every stage of the process.

The Spence family has been breeding and rearing sheep and cattle at Burholme Farm on the Duchy’s Whitewell estate for over 50 years. The current tenant Rod Spence took over the farm in 1989, 27 years after his father first took on the tenancy from the Duchy. In 1999, Rod extended his lease to include a total of 293 hectares, allowing him to grow his business and accommodate his growing flock of Lonks, an ancient and hardy breed native to Lancashire. He is currently Chairman of The Lonk Sheep Breeders Association, a not for profit organisation that seeks to protect and promote the breed nationwide.

At the end of March this year Rod and his family opened a dedicated butchery at Burholme Farm so that they can guarantee the quality of their meat at every stage of the process.

After just nine weeks the butchery is proving exceptionally popular with ‘Burholme Lamb’ featuring as a delicacy on the menu at the famous Inn at Whitewell and no fewer than 3 Michelin-starred chefs numbered on its client list. The Spence reputation for excellence is spreading nationwide and meat fresh from Burholme Farm has recently been sent to London at the request of chef Nigel Haworth who won the Great British Menu with his Lancashire Hotpot in 2009.

Commenting on the new butchery, Rod said: “As with all new ventures, this was a bit of a risk and we are grateful to the Duchy for backing our idea and allowing us to convert the former dairy into a modern, well equipped butchery. We were confident that the quality of our meat products and the guaranteed integrity of the process would be valued by our customers and I am delighted to say that this has proved to be the case. Both our retail and our wholesale orders are growing steadily.”

Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow congratulated Rod and his family on the new enterprise: “The Duchy is always keen to support tenant farmers who want to invest in and grow their businesses. Burholme Farm is fast becoming a byword for the highest standards of quality and excellence in terms of both the product and the service they provide. We congratulate Rod and all the family on their hard work, energy and enthusiasm for this important diversification of their business and wish them every success in the months ahead.”

Burholme Farm is one of 11 equipped farms on the Duchy’s Whitewell Estate in Lancashire. Whitewell itself is situated in the Forest of Bowland, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and one of the country’s best-loved and most spectacular natural landscapes.

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Investing In Young People

The Duchy continues to encourage new entrants into farming and support traditional skills training with annual bursaries to a number of leading colleges and universities.

Each year, the Duchy awards bursaries to Harper Adams University in Shropshire, Moulton College in Northamptonshire, Lancaster University and Myerscough College in Lancashire. Recipients generally apply at the start of their second student year and those shortlisted are then interviewed by the relevant academic and/or pastoral staff before their names are passed to the Duchy and the awards presented.

This year’s recipients have included Deabhla Connell from Oxfordshire who is studying Agriculture and Farm Business and Grace Gardiner from Essex who is studying Rural Enterprise and Land Management. Both are students at Harper Adams. Scholars awarded bursaries at Moulton College this year are Clive Redley and Hannah Kendall, both of whom are studying stonemasonry.

All four students have been selected on the basis of their hard work and academic achievement during the first year of study.

Commenting on the breadth of skills demonstrated by this year’s bursary recipients, Duchy Head of Project Management Graeme Chalk said: “We are always keen to celebrate excellence and to see traditional skills and career paths being embraced by a new generation. All four of these ‘Duchy Scholars’ have put in impressive applications and deserve to be supported in their choice of career. We congratulate them all and will be watching their future development with interest.”

The students have said that their awards will be put to a variety of uses this year, from professional memberships and subscriptions to industry magazines to drone pilot training and the freedom to accept unpaid internships.

Founded in the 13th century, the Duchy of Lancaster is an ancient inheritance of land and property assets held in trust for the Sovereign. The Duchy invests around £30,000 each year in financial awards as well as providing study placements, work experience and post-graduate advice to students of agriculture, land and estate management, agri-business and traditional construction skills.

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