News from Berkshire this month

PUBLISHED: 13:25 22 November 2013 | UPDATED: 13:34 22 November 2013

Tom Gent at his graduation ceremony

Tom Gent at his graduation ceremony

Breeze Photographic Ltd

A round-up of fascinating stories from across Berkshire.

He’s a Gent and a scholar

There was success for the farming Gent family of Beedon Common, Newbury, at Berkshire County Show with their wonderful show herd of Dexter cattle. But it’s not just the four-legged inhabitants of their farm who are worthy of applause.

Tom Gent, 23, has just graduated with a BSc Agriculture degree from Shropshire’s Harper Adams University after a four year course there. The former Pangbourne College pupil found it a great experience that he’d recommend to anyone hoping to get into farming or join existing family farms.

And indeed, he’s now back and making plans to grow the enterprise over the next few years, using the knowledge he gained, including preparing good business plans.

His father Roger and wife Jill work land which was ‘grandad’s farm’, with Tom’s uncle John. There’s a third uncle, Peter, who also has a share of the land, but now has a farm and vineyard in South Africa, so they rent that from him.

Tom’s not the only member of the Gent younger generations to have taken up farming as a way of life. Sister Charlotte married next door farmer George Brown, and although sister Bobby married out of the family way of life, both she and her husband are still very much involved.

In fact it’s Charlotte who began the Gent family fascination with Dexter cattle. Tom recalls: “Most girls want something a bit different for their 18th birthday, but Charlotte asked for some Dexters in calf, and it went from there.”

Also very fond of the Dexters is mum Jill, and there’s going to have to be some family chat here because Tom thinks the herd – it’s reached about 70 cattle now – needs to be reduced to around 25.

In the meantime there’s plenty to keep them all busy. The farm also has some 21,000 free range chickens (Tom thinks another 8,000 might be possible) and are harvesting maize after part of their wheat crop failed.

Farms run on tight budgets and can’t carry people, Tom explains. “I’m thinking of starting a beef unit here,” he says. “I’ve been looking at the costings with my dad, who used to have a suckling herd, but I never had much to do with it. Now I’m back at the farm I need to have something to warrant me being here and pay my way.”

Marist has the answers

You could feel the excitement when BBC Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions?’ hosted their weekly current affairs show from The Marist Schools in Sunninghill. What’s more, among the questions selected by producer Kirsten Lass to put to the panel were ones from students Lydia Holroyd and Elizabeth Burn.

Coming up with the answers under the scrutiny of chairman Jonathan Dimbleby were Beaconsfield MP and Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC, Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry MP, the Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell MP, and Martin Lewis, founder of the popular Money Saving Expert website.

All of the panellists found favour at one time or another with the 300-strong audience (there was even a bit of fairly polite heckling at times) but it has to be said, as is often the way with these things, that the no-nonsense views of the non-political Martin Lewis often chimed with those present.

Lynwood enters a new era

His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent has laid the foundation stone for Lynwood Village, the retirement development under construction in Rise Road, Sunninghill.

He was warmly welcomed by senior managers of BEN, the automotive industry charity, which is developing Lynwood Village, including Chief Executive, David Main; Director of Care Services Jenny Brown; and Finance Director, Beata Felmer. He also met with the trustees who serve on the Lynwood Development Committee.

Also present were leading Cllr Andrew Jenner and Mrs Julia Jenner, Mayor and Mayoress of the Royal Borough, and David Issott, managing director of Willmott Dixon Housing, the construction firm responsible.

Prince Michael viewed a scaled model of the development before laying the foundation stone with a silver trowel engraved with the date of the occasion. It will have 174 luxury retirement properties and a 93 bed residential care centre; a replacement for the current care home, built in the 1960s and home to BEN members.

The provision of an on-site care centre is an extra benefit of Lynwood Village, offering reassurance to potential property owners that nursing care is available should they need it in the future.

David Main, BEN’s Chief Executive, said: “A Royal visit was also a great way to say a big thank you to the many people who have worked extremely hard to bring us to this point. Lynwood Village is incredibly important to Berkshire. The development will provide a safe and caring environment for many people in later life; allowing people to spend their retirement near friends and families as well as attracting new residents to the area.”

During lunch Prince Michael cut a cake to mark the occasion and was presented with a copy of the book: ‘The Heart of an Industry – BEN’s One Hundred Year Story’ outlining the way in which the charity’s care and support has developed over the years to meet the changing needs in society.

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