26 January 2023

All who knew Jonathan at The Country Trust, feel incredibly shocked and saddened to hear of Jonathan's unexpected passing and we send our heartfelt condolences to his lovely wife Caroline and family.

Remembering Jonathan Compton
By Sally Hetherington Aherne

As a previous Essex Farm and Food Discovery Coordinator and Major Donor fundraiser, I was first introduced to Jonathan several years ago at Caroline and Jonathan’s Essex home, Birch Holt.

Driving up the long track to Birch Holt to introduce myself and discuss the potential of a visit, past wheat fields on either side, I instinctively felt it would be an interesting one for pupils, having spied several peacocks, ducks and a sprinkling of chickens and, as I rounded the corner, an unexpected bonus of a large compound of rheas, directly outside the house.

What was extra special though was Jonathan and Caroline, they were warm and welcoming right from the start and extended their welcome to all the pupils, school staff and parents that subsequently came out to visit Birch Holt.

Jonathan was a boy at heart and knew exactly what would excite and enthral children, his irreverent sense of humour, which I quickly grew to appreciate and his super quick wit had me on my toes, particularly on early visits and the pupils adored it.

Once he pretended he was running away from a rhea, having ‘stolen’ its egg, the pupils were in stitches of laughter and from then on he had them hooked, they were amazed when later he cracked open the enormous egg alongside a hens egg to reveal the biggest yolk they’d ever seen.

Both Caroline and Jonathan understood what a special day coming to a farm was for the pupils that attended and they meticulously planned every aspect, always putting the child at the centre of the experience, with picnics, amazing treasure hunts with ‘happened upon’ curios such as feathers, old wasp nests, empty birds eggs, nests, owl pellets and misshaped galls placed upon the route, although I had to steer Jonathan away from including a mummified rat!

The story of grains was always brought to life with Jonathan’s delivery and children were able to grind their own wheat and later treated to a freshly baked hunk of bread from a newly cooked loaf or a cake, that Caroline had baked for them to taste.

Jonathan noticed all children and made sure the quieter pupils, as well as the pupils seeking more direct attention, were never overlooked on visits.

What was wonderful was the joy that it obviously brought both Jonathan and Caroline, to share their farm with pupils. Their incredible generosity didn’t stop there and after several farm visits from different schools in the area, they funded a food discovery project at Unity primary academy, a local school in Colchester, for several years.

There was a very special connection with Unity and this was wholly evident when Jonathan came along as a special guest at the harvest feast at the end of the year, as children instantly recognised Jonathan and came up to him to tell him exactly what they had remembered about their day at the farm and how they had been growing veg at the school and had cooked the meal laid out for their guests.

Jonathan also accepted our invitation to become a Country Trust Vice President, immediately springing into action and spreading news of The Country Trust throughout his extensive network and raising much-needed support for our work.

I was very fond of Jonathan, he was a very special person and an amazing farmer host and he will be very sadly missed by me and all at The Country Trust who knew him.

Jonathan showing the children a Rhea egg!