15 June 2001

Country pursuits on show

Newmarkets recent

Countryside Race Day

featured a show of country

pursuits in the paddock.

Displays of falconry, terrier

racing, sight hounds, scent

hounds and ferrets all took

place before the full card of

flat-racing. The event raised

money for the Royal

Agricultural Benevolent

Institution, the East Anglia Air

Ambulance Service and the

Countryside Alliance. Tim Relf

visited the event… and put

the Alliances chief executive

under starters orders.

PROVE you care about the countryside or well march on London again – thats Countryside Alliance boss Richard Burges message to Tony Blair.

The new Government has just weeks – not months – to tackle the rural crisis, says the Alliances chief executive. And if the signs arent positive, calls will again mount to take to the capitals streets.

"If they dont demonstrate a long-term commitment to the countryside, the pressure will be almost insuperable," he says. "Theyve got a month to demonstrate to rural Britain that they care, that they will enable rural Britain to sort out its own future and will not get in the way of people who want to live their lives in freedom. Theyve got a hell of a lot to prove in the first few weeks."

Mr Burges comments have raised speculation that the Countryside March could go ahead this autumn. "Its carefully boxed up – but it can be unboxed at a moments notice," he says.

"Any incoming Government has to worry an awful lot if they have several hundred thousand people take to the streets."

Within a few weeks, too, the Countryside Alliance reckons it will be able to judge the potential level of support for a march. "I will not organise it unless Im sure people will attend in the same number that would have done on March 17," says Mr Burge.

Although the election is over, the hard work of lobbying politicians on rural issues is only just beginning, he adds. "The rural vote is a minority. The power of minorities has to be exerted between elections rather than at elections.

"We have to require the Government to recognise that livelihood has to be the paramount goal of any change and that the engine of the countryside is the sustainable and productive use of the land."

On course?

Richard Burge (above) and the Thurlow Foxhounds.

A bird in the hand… the South East Falconry display team impressed visitors, as did dog breeders and terrier racers.