Rodney Stanford 1930-2019
Celebrating the life of the first Director of The Country Trust
Rodney Stanford was appointed as the first Director of The Country Trust by Lance Coates, our founder, and his initial focus was to spread the word about sustainable farming through conferences and lectures. However, together with his wife Jane, a teacher, Rodney also began to grow a programme of farm and countryside visits for inner city children, a programme which is still at the heart of everything we do.
He travelled the country, recruiting landowners and supporters, including the late Duke of Westminster and almost all the current Country Trust Vice Presidents, running visits to bring the working countryside alive and raising the funds needed to make it all possible. He forged connections with Police Forces who knew where to find the schools serving those children in most need, and who in some cases were persuaded to provide transport for farm visits.
As a teacher, Rodney’s wife Jane was very effective at getting schools to come out on visits, building a network in Tower Hamlets, for example, that still exists today and pioneering our residential programme.
Rodney and Jane built up a network of volunteer visit leaders, primarily former head teachers, organising farm visits for example in Northumberland, the North West, Devon and Bristol. This included the father-in-law of our current Assistant Director.
Rodney was very aware that everyone gave freely of their time, opening their farms and estates to welcome children, with owners of large estates as well as family farms often leading the visits themselves. He established the guidance still in place today that schools should write thank you letters to their farm hosts, letting them know how much the visit had meant to them. He also wrote detailed letters to each host making sure that they knew that every part of the visit had been valuable and appreciated, as well as securing their involvement for the following year of course!
This is an extract from a letter from Rodney to a Country Trust Trustee in 2000 which demonstrates just how important he felt it was to show Country Trust hosts how much they were valued.
Rodney led The Country Trust for 30 years, bringing the working countryside alive for hundreds of thousands of children who had few opportunities in their lives. His enthusiasm for The Country Trust never waivered and this drive and integrity had a powerful impact on all who knew him and worked with him.
In the words of those who worked alongside him:
“Rodney was universally kind, considerate and gentle, a manner that endeared him to everyone and was very effective when it came to encouraging people to support the Country Trust in all the different ways that are necessary! Rodney was so fantastically keen on the Trust; that awfully over-used word “passionate” is really apt in this instance.”
“He was the most charming man, who spread good will around like confetti. The first time I met him, on a local school visit, he gave me a lift in his little old car, from one barn to the next, and what I remember is that he had a hepatica plant, in bloom, jammed into the glove compartment, looking lovely!! A great man, and a great loss, but he didn't half set some wheels turning; he has left behind a great legacy.”
“I have very fond memories of Rodney, his incredible knowledge and network of land and landowners, and above all his penchant for very elaborate storytelling! He was much loved by all the hosts and really was a pioneer in countryside education.”
“The Country Trust is Rodney's legacy to those future generations who need so acutely to understand the natural world. Others do, and will continue to, develop it, but he laid the foundation stones with passion, incredibly hard work, and great humanity.”