Saturday, 1 December 2012


It's easy to become reflective at 11000 meters I find. However I think at this time I may be excused by readers, as my Nuffield travel is largely coming to an end. There will be a little more, so watch this space, however the chance to travel the world for nearly ten weeks on my own will not come again, ever.

It easily to judge myself harshly as I think back on the journey, to opportunities not fully exploited, or a contact missed. However, it is far more beneficial to concentrate on the amazing people I met on the way, the unforgettable experiences, both good and not so good, and the knowledge gained.

I was not initially going to spend long in the UK, however Fiona was kind enough to suggest I spend another couple of weeks there. I went along with this idea, after all, as I always say, Fi is never wrong! And on this, she was right on, as I have gained a huge amount. It is always good when your expectations are exceeded, and I don't think they were unrealistically low at the outset.

After spending time with Kate Morgan, current UK scholar studying animal welfare in the pig industry, including having to help vaccinate around 650 piglets after much red wine the evening before, I went north to Scotland. I had heard there was some excellent agriculture in Scotland, however I was not expecting to find the scale of soft fruit and horticulture. I visited scholars involved in all sorts of enterprises, grains, brassicas, soft fruits, potatoes, tourism, intensive livestock, and extensive grazing systems. There is no shortage of innovation here.

I also had a really good meeting at the Hutton Institute, the main R&D institution largely government funded, investing in all forms of agriculture. They have been involved in a project to map the barley genome, and are credited with the breakthrough. The benefits to flow from this in the future will be huge, from yield improvement, disease resistance, quality, to the way specific enzymes react in cell walls during the malting process.

A big thanks to 2012 scholar, Caroline Millar, who looked after me well, organised meetings for me and had me to stay for three nights in the 5 star luxury Hideaway Experience accommodation. It was absolutely fantastic, and set the bar high for the remainder of my journey!!

From there, via Ayrshire and Heather Wildman (2012 scholar) for a look at Scottish hill farming, to Cambridgeshire. By now my time was starting to come to an end, and it looked like I was not going to get to the UK conference which seemed like a great shame as I could gain a lot of contacts and catch up with scholars I had previously met at the contemporary scholars conference in February.

I was easily talked into staying on for another week, and with Fiona's unending support, rolled the Qantas ticket again!

I ended up staying with James Peck, 2011 scholar, for an extended period, meeting many interesting and highly relevant businesses. I found this time to be both stimulating and highly motivating. James has a great outlook on life, and has achieved a huge amount in a short time. I found his enthusiasm infective.

My time was now short again, a quick trip to Taunton, some more innovative businesses, both large and small, including a visit to the Bristol Ports and ABS, an animal feed import and blending facility located at the port.

After catching up with my relations in Sanderstead, it was time to do the dash across outer London to Heathrow, and return the Audi I had been driving for three weeks, and in the process had become quite attached to. A plug for Europcar for giving me a free upgrade, mind you, I had hired a car for the previous 8 weeks or so in various parts of the world!

As I have mentioned before, locating the rental car return, when running with not much time to spare, can be the crux of one's journey, and the added pressure of having to make sure the fuel tank is full has the potential to cause high stress levels. Luckily I was on my own and could describe the state of the traffic, other drivers, red traffic lights and the GPS telling me to "cross the roundabout, 5th exit", followed by the inevitable "recalculating" after losing count, in a language I deemed appropriate at the time, without offending others!!

Finally, a really big thanks to everyone who helped to make my journey of ten weeks so memorable and rewarding. Without the support, assistance and generosity I was afforded along the way it would have been impossible.

What a life.... Thank you

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