An inspirational farmer on the Duchy’s Whitewell Estate in Lancashire is taking the countryside into classrooms across the UK.
John Alpe was first introduced to the ‘educational access’ initiative under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 2000. He now gives around a dozen talks to schools, colleges and groups across the UK each year as well as hosting groups of overseas students at New Laund Farm, a 185-acre steading which sits in a commanding position overlooking the whole of the Whitewell estate, including the River Hodder and the historic Inn at Whitewell.
John believes that those who would not normally have access to farms and open countryside benefit hugely from a clearer understanding of what constitutes farming life. He actively encourages footpaths and open access across his holding and welcomes ramblers and walkers. He has even learned to say the words “Hello” and “Welcome to our farm” in several different languages to put overseas visitors at their ease. In 2012 he installed a wheelchair-friendly access route for ‘Trampers’ (a type of 4-wheeled drive electric buggy) so that disabled groups could visit and enjoy the spectacular scenery across Whitewell and the Trough of Bowland.
Commenting on the range of educational activities John has been involved in over the years, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “John’s experience of farming and his enthusiasm for this way of life is an absolute inspiration. We are indebted to John for investing so much time and effort promoting life on the land and for demonstrating so clearly the benefits that a career in farming can offer to many who may never have considered it as a possible option before.”
In addition to his ‘teaching’ role, John manages three farms on the Whitwell Estate and runs a herd of 80 dairy cows and a flock of around 1,000 sheep. A keen advocate of organic farming, which avoids the use of pesticides, artificial fertilisers and unnecessary antibiotics, he supplies milk to the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative.