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Countryside campaigner and ‘force of nature’ Robin Page dies at 80





Countryside campaigner and “absolute rascal” Robin Page, the former presenter of the BBC’s One Man and His Dog, has died at the age of 80.

Born and bred in Barton, to the west of Cambridge, and known for his forthright views, he founded the Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT) in 1993 in response to growing concerns about the impact of intensive, industrialised farming on wildlife.

Robin Page, left, co-founder of The Countryside Restoration Trust, with Dame Judi Dench and her partner David Mills, planting a tree for a new orchard. Picture: Keith Heppell
Robin Page, left, co-founder of The Countryside Restoration Trust, with Dame Judi Dench and her partner David Mills, planting a tree for a new orchard. Picture: Keith Heppell

He then dedicated 27 years of his life to the charity, although he had a public falling out with it in 2021 and had not been involved since.

Prince Charles twice visited him at Lark Rise Farm in Barton to hear about the trust’s work, and hosted him at Clarence House. Mr Page and his wife Lulu are also known to have stayed with Charles in Scotland. He also communicated with the Duke of Edinburgh and described him as “wonderful company”, “witty” and “sensible”.

In 2019 Dame Judi Dench, as patron of the CRT, visited the farm to plant a tree for a new community orchard in 2019.

Mr Page established CRT with the late Gordon Beningfield, the acclaimed wildlife and countryside artist, with the initial aim of buying intensively farmed land with declining wildlife numbers to restore it to thriving countryside.

The trust - now based in Comberton and known as the Countryside Regeneration Trust - is now steward to 17 properties across the country.

Mr Page was one of the first councillors on South Cambridgeshire District Council, representing Barton from 1973 until 2006 as an independent. He then represented Haslingfield from 2012 to 2016 as an independent councillor and stood unsuccessfully in General Elections for the Conservatives (Bethnal Green and Bow, 1979), the Referendum Party (South Cambridgeshire, 1997) and for UKIP (Winchester by-election, 1997, and South Cambridgeshire, 2005). But he resigned from UKIP after not being selected as an East of England candidate in 2009 and took a swipe as he did so - arguing the party’s MEPs were on board the “gravy train” and its leader Nigel Farage was overly dominant.

He then joined the UK First Party, but it disbanded in 2010, and he stood unsuccessfully that year for a third time in South Cambridgeshire as an independent.

Mr Page described former Prime Minister Boris Johnson as an “absolute twerp” and “environmental illiterate”.

Dame Judi Dench with Robin Page, co-founder of The Countryside Restoration Trust in Barton. Picture: Keith Heppell
Dame Judi Dench with Robin Page, co-founder of The Countryside Restoration Trust in Barton. Picture: Keith Heppell

Many knew Mr Page from his role presenting the BBC’s One Man and His Dog show in the 1990s, or from his columns - always outspoken and often controversial - in national newspapers including the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.

Author of 33 books, he wrote the acclaimed Decline of the English Village in 1974, and a 45th anniversary edition was published in 2019. He also wrote for The Lady and Countryman magazines.

Mr Page once told the Cambridge Independent that he believed “the way forward was to get the wildlife back on farmland, which is what we have done at Lark Rise Farm between Barton and Grantchester”.

Fellow farmer James Rebanks tweeted: “When he was pointing in the right direction he was a force of nature - and a formidable warrior for it. He was an absolute rascal.

“A man of fierce (sometimes dodgy) beliefs but went at life like a terrier and I couldn’t help but like him.”

He added: “Had some great chats with him. You never knew what he’d come up with next - and had a strange knack of making impossible things seem possible.

“I’d spend half our phone calls laughing, or being persuaded to join some noble cause or other, and the other half trying to say polite nos for when he was chasing a mad idea

“He never took umbrage when I said no. And when I thought he was right, he do remarkable things.

“I didn’t share his political beliefs - we stayed away from discussing them. But he had a wicked sense of humour - it bubbled out of him.

“His work (with others) to protect old farms and restore them to be nature friendly was something I greatly admired and we need much more of it.”

He died on Saturday, May 27, after an 18-month battle with prostate cancer.



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