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Get to know... Richard Cooke

Welcome to the second instalment of our Get to Know blogs! We are eternally grateful to have such a wonderful team at The Heather Trust, who all contribute their experience and expertise to further our goals.

Richard Cooke is one of our newest Trustees, although his professional history in the rural sector means that he has a wealth of experience to help tackle the issues on The Heather Trust agenda.

Richard Cooke on a hillside above a loch
Richard above Loch Lee in Angus, on a walk with his daughter (not pictured)

What attracted you into your Trustee role for The Heather Trust?

Having retired after 45 years as a land manager - many of those dealing with the management of heather moorland both in my day job as an estate manager and through committee work - I was keen to keep an interest in upland Scotland. I have known of The Heather Trust for many years and admired its niche role as an unaffiliated advocate for moorland and the rich biodiversity associated with it as well as its economic and social value. I therefore needed very little persuasion to join the Board and have been pleased to be working alongside kindred spirits.

What’s your favourite thing about the role?

Having worked almost exclusively within Scotland throughout my professional life, the reach of the Trust across the UK broadens my horizons and adds to my rather parochial knowledge of moorland and of the dedicated people associated with its management, from Sutherland to Exmoor.

What do you hope to achieve for the Trust this year?

I feel that we are at an important crossroads; we have had changes in Board membership, are led by a new Chair and have a new Director, not to mention the many external pressures brought about by the ever-rising imperatives of climate change and biodiversity loss. I look forward to helping develop a new direction and feel that, in its capacity as 'honest broker', The Heather Trust can make an important contribution to building a consensus around the future of our moors and open landscapes.

What Heather Trust event or project are you most looking forward to in 2024?

Perhaps too early to say, although a strong contender would be our Heather Futures project. (You'll be able to read more about this very soon.)

How would your friends describe you?

Wow! Hate to think! Perhaps enthusiastic, active and committed in my areas of interest, in this context managing our uplands.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself...

Well, I value my background in Northern Ireland despite having spent nearly two-thirds of my life to date in Scotland. My interests include sailing, gardening, walking, deer stalking, occasional shooting and fishing. I read a lot and widely. My wife Sue and I have three daughters and eight grandchildren.

Describe your ideal Sunday?

Sunday lunch is a waste of a day, so gardening, a good walk with my two dogs and papers in the evening.

If you appeared on Mastermind, what would your specialist subject be?

Probably the management of red deer in Scotland.

If you’re not at work or home, you will most likely be found…

Enjoying the outdoors in pursuit of one or other of my hobbies.

And lastly, why should readers of this post support The Heather Trust?

It may be trite to refer to our uplands as the lungs of Great Britain, but they are in many respects, not least their scale, unique in the world. Too much moorland has been lost or converted to other use in the past as a result of short-term circumstances or policies. The Heather Trust will continue to be an important gathering point for those with an enthusiasm for and knowledge about the uplands and can hopefully help to ensure that, as a small nation under many pressures, we can take a precautionary approach to land use decisions with far reaching and potentially unintended consequences. Today's 'wisdom' may be tomorrow's 'folly'.

Dogs on moorland in Scotland
Richard's two dogs; a black cocker, Fen, with her orange daughter Canna on beautiful Perthshire moorland.

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