Monthly Archives: July 2017


Rory Classroom

Last Friday, Rory Stewart was given a tour of the Blencathra Field Studies Council by the centre’s leader Tim Foster, to hear about another record-breaking year for the centre.

The centre is part of the Field Studies Council (FSC) – an environmental education charity providing informative and enjoyable opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to discover, explore, and understand the environment.

More than 100,000 students go on FSC tours each year. And, an impressive 40% of all university Geography students and 60% of all hydrology students visit the Blencathra FSC.

Tim Foster the Head of the Blencathra Centre gave Rory a tour of the site and he was impressed with the MPs continued interest in the success of the centre.

During his visit, Rory met with a group of A-level geographers from Bishops Blue Coat School in Chester. The Minister for Africa talked the students through his own love of geography and he told them about the role physical and human geography have on his Penrith and The Border constituency. He was joined by celebrated climber Sir Chris Bonington who spoke to the students about the importance of the Lake District’s World Heritage status.

Speaking about the meeting Rory said: “I am grateful to Tim for the opportunity to speak with an intelligent group of young people. The Blencathra Centre is one of our most important local institutions and I am pleased to see its success growing year on year. For many young people, the Field Studies Council is their first experience of the Lake District and I am confident that the work of Tim and his team ensures they leave the centre eager to return to this most precious landscape.”




Rory Stewart MP has nominated Stephen Kierney, ​Head ​Chef ​at ​T​he Cross Keys, ​Penrith, ​for the widely coveted Parliamentary Pub Chef of the Year Award.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group launched the awards in partnership with Nestlé Professional, and asked for all MPs to nominate a pub chef in
their constituency renowned for their great food.

With a national shortage of pub chefs, the BBPA, in conjunction with the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) and the Perceptions Group launched the Pub Chef Passion initiative, including a short film aimed at promoting the pub chef as a career option. This award seeks to build on that work, and encourage young chefs towards a career in the pub trade. Pubs are also vital to the local economy in every part of the country, offering valuable and flexible employment, with around 900,000 UK jobs dependent on the trade.

Speaking about the award Rory said:​ ​

“Pubs, as an industry, are of huge importance to our constituency, its communities, and both the local, and national economy. Pubs serve almost a billion meals a year, with more and more pubs recognising that great food will attract more customers. This County has many, many outstanding chefs and I am delighted to nominate Stephen for this prestigious award.”

The nominations close in October and the winner will be invited to an award ceremony in the House of Commons early in 2018.


Greystoke (19) (1)

Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border “cut the ribbon” on the 21st July to mark the official opening of Greystoke Post Office, Church Road, Greystoke, Penrith CA11 0TW. The new Postmasters Andrew and Linda James also laid on some nibbles for the local community to celebrate the opening, with one local resident describing the refurbished store as a “fantastic improvement”.

Greystoke Post Office is a local-style branch with Post Office services provided from an open-plan counter in the store, where the Post Office terminal will sit alongside the retail till. Services are now provided throughout shop opening hours 7:30am – 5:30pm Monday to Saturday and 7:30am – 12.30pm Sunday.

New Postmasters Andrew and Linda James, said: “We are delighted to have taken on the Post Office and we hope local community are really pleased.”

“We would also like to thank Rory Stewart MP for taking the time out of his busy schedule to visit the branch and officially open it today.”

This modernisation is part of a major programme across the Post Office network designed to make it easier for customers to do business, through longer opening hours and modern open plan environments. And this modernisation is evident across the 74 Post Office Branches in Penrith and The Border where 116,006 Pension and Benefit Payments and 106,728 Cash withdrawals were made in the last 12 months.

Post Office Manager, Richard Hall said: “I’d like to wish everyone at Greystoke Office every success in their new venture. We understand how important having a Post Office is to residents in the area and we are confident that this new modern Post Office service will meet the needs of the local community and secure services for the future.”

Rory Stewart, said: “I am delighted to officially open the modernised Greystoke Post Office, Post Office is a vital service to the local community in and around Penrith and I am sure this new style office with extended opening times have been well received by my constituents, who benefit from having access to Post Office services seven days a week.



MP for Penrith and the Border and Vice-President of Penrith Show, Rory Stewart MP, attended the show with his family, and has praised all involved in the organisation of this year’s show for an excellent event. The 2017 show was widely praised by the thousands who turned out to enjoy another brilliantly organised show, continuing its tradition as a real showcase for all things related to the countryside.

Despite the early downpours thousands of visitors flocked through the turnstiles to support a show that has become one of the largest stock shows in the north of England.

The local MP held a stall at the show, and invited constituents to talk about local and national concerns, before touring the show throughout the afternoon to talk with exhibitors and stall holders.

Rory Stewart MP said: “Penrith Show and its fantastic organising committee have done an absolutely wonderful job this year, to produce another successful event in the show’s long and distinguished history. I am delighted that the sun finally appeared in the afternoon, ensuring everyone could enjoy the most wonderful array of local produce, trade stalls, amusements, and of course the incredible display of livestock, which remain at the heart of this hugely important Cumbrian tradition. It’s an enormous honour to be a Vice-President of this Penrith Show, and to be able to attend and show my support for this great Cumbrian tradition.”


L-R – David Black from Paragon Veterinary Group, Rory Stewart, and Rory’s youngest son – 3-month-old William.


20353836_10155517497598770_2027466817_oLast week, local MP Rory Stewart joined volunteer organisation Fix The Fells to hear about their work across Lake District, before joining the group to clear drains on Gowbarrow Fell.

Whilst out on the fell Rory learnt about Fix The Fells’ sustainable prevention and restoration techniques on Lakeland footpaths. Repairing and maintaining the ancient network of mountain paths is an all-weather task and Rory and the volunteer group braved the Cumbrian elements to maintain the recently opened ‘Ullswater Way’. A continuous series of footpaths that allow walkers to walk the whole way around Ullswater.

Fix The Fells work throughout the year to repair and maintain these paths using traditional Roman techniques such as sheep fleeces and stone-pitching, combining these with modern techniques that include using helicopters to transport stone. All their repairs are in keeping with local building techniques, and the group have repaired over 200 sections of paths in the last ten years.

The combination of millions of feet and the Lake District’s weather means that erosion is a constant problem for the group. However, in 2016 volunteers broke all records and gifted 1,936 days on the mountain paths. And 2017 looks set to be another record-breaking year.

The volunteers are known as lengthsmen – which is a term for anybody involved in maintaining paths, whatever their gender. Around 100 lengthsmen volunteer for Fix the Fells and they support the National Trust’s upland ranger teams who work across the Lake District, clearing drains all year round and rebuilding remote fell paths during the warmer months. In 2016 the lengthsmen went out almost 500 times and cleared thousands of drains.​

Fix the Fells volunteer​ Martin Oxtoby said:​​ “​We were delighted to explain and show Rory some of the work carried out by the Fix the Fells Volunteers on Gowbarrow in the Ullswater valley. The volunteers help repair and maintain eroding footpaths in the whole of the National Park all the year round and in all weathers. ​We talked about the development of the scheme since it began 10 years ago and how its growth and success has been due to the organisational skills and dedication of the volunteers themselves”.

“Rory was interested in understanding  what were the key factors driving the overall success of the Fix the Fells “volunteering model” and whether these could be applied in other volunteering situations such as local village communities or for flood resilience maintenance. With Rory living in this most beautiful area his support for the scheme is most important to us. As some 18 million visitors come to ‘The Lakes’ each year, the effect on  the Fells is clearly visible and remedies need to be addressed to protect this magnificent landscape for future generations.​ We hope that his understanding of the work that  Fix the Fells are involved in will assist us secure funding for the increasing costs of repairing the upland pathways”.​

​Speaking about the visit Rory said: “Fix The Fells are a fantastic organisation – braving the elements to maintain our local footpaths. I was thoroughly impressed by their organisational skills and their ability to send groups out 3 or 4 times a week all year round. This level of local participation could easily be replicated for other voluntary groups and I hope Fix The Fells can act as a catalyst for other organisations to preserve our precious local landscape.”

Fix The Fells are always on the lookout for volunteers and they provide a training programme so that people of all ages and abilities can do their bit to restore local footpaths. The training is comprehensive and includes learning the practical skills of path maintenance and repair, navigation skills, first aid and manual handling. And, there are also opportunities to learn additional skills such as hedge laying, dry-stone walling and juniper planting. If you would like anymore information please email [email protected]



Last week, Rory Stewart MP visited the stunning new base of the Mountain Heritage Trust, located at the foot of Blencathra, to check out the centre’s facilities.

The Mountain Heritage Trust (MHT) was founded in 2000 to record and preserve Britain’s rich heritage in the fields of climbing, mountaineering and mountain culture. Second to none in terms of breadth, Britain has a proud legacy in the Alps, the Himalaya and the other great mountain ranges as well as closer to home on British rock.

Pioneers in techniques from the earliest days, Britain’s climbers and mountaineers have also led the way in preservation and conservation of traditions, culture and mountain heritage. The Trust’s governing body– its Patrons include Joe Brown and Sir Chris Bonington – all firmly believe that mountain heritage matters now, and for the future.

Rory was influential in the MHT finding their new base, which sees them working collaboratively with the Field Studies Council at the Blencathra Centre on one of Britain’s iconic mountains and he was delighted to see the progress they have made since relocating to the site in early 2017.

Rory was given a tour of the archives by Trust Chairman Jeff Ford, Collections Manager​, Kelda Roe​, ​Head of Blencathra Field Studies Centre​, Tim Foster,​ Award winning film-maker​, ​Terry Abraham​, and renowned climber Sir Chris Bonington – whose own material is being archived by the Trust’s Collections.

Rory, himself a keen walker of the world’s mountain ranges, was fascinated by the volume of material that the Trust has acquired and archived, and declared it to be one of Cumbria’s treasure troves of knowledge. He said: “It has been a great education to see the wealth of material that is testament to Britain’s enduring love affair with mountains across the globe, not only here at home; and I can see that this is a collection of great value and resonance to climbers of all ages and backgrounds. That it is right here in the heart of Cumbria is extraordinary, and I would love to see it reach a wider audience.”

For more information about the Trust, please visit:


Rory has welcomed the announcement that there will be an additional £1.3 billion dedicated to schools funding over the next two years – helping to create more school places in Penrith and The Border, and more funds for headteachers to continue the important work they do in educating Penrith and The Border’s children.

Rory commented today after the announcement from Education Secretary Justine Greening that the boost to the core schools budget will deliver the biggest improvement to the school funding system for well over a decade.

Rory said: “I am extremely heartened by this news which I am sure that teachers and parents in Penrith and The Border will similarly welcome. This additional funding will mean an increase in the basic amount that every pupil will get, protected funding for those with high needs, and will ensure every local authority is in a position to give schools a cash increase through the new formula. Of course, I recognise that our schools have many complex and varying needs, particularly as we move to continue to raise standards and to give every single child the best possible education and opportunities in life. But this is a very important step forward and testament to the many who have raised this with me, and their campaigning about the issue over the past months. People feel differently about schools and education than they do other things – and rightly so. I am pleased that parents and teachers have been listened to in this way, and look forward to continue working with teachers and parents to ensure I support in any way I can. And I have once again spoken to the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, to reiterate my personal invitation to him to visit Cumbria and get a flavour of our schools’ concerns.”

Rory Stewart is 33rd Lakeland Book of the Year Winner for ‘The Marches’

Rory Stewart has been awarded the prestigious Hunter Davies Lakeland Book of the Year 2017 for his book ‘The Marches’, which also won the Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition.

The Lakeland Book of the Year Awards is now in its 33rd year, and winners were drawn from a long-list of more than sixty entries. Previous winners of the Lakeland Book of the Year Award include Alfred Wainwright, Cate Haste and James Rebanks.

‘The Marches’ was deemed by judges Hunter Davies, Fiona Armstrong, and Eric Robson to be one of the finest portraits of Cumbrian landscape and identity.

Rory Stewart said: “This is a huge honour. To win the Lakeland Book of The Year Award is incredibly humbling, particularly when I have such respect for both the judges, and for the local readership who have chosen this book. I felt great anxiety taking on the Lake District; every stream has been written about so carefully, described so beautifully, and perfectly clarified in three hundred years of the best of English writing, which I cannot hope to emulate. It was therefore a difficult book to write. But it was also the one of which I am most proud. The only test I set a book is whether people who live in that landscape will recognise the truth, or the half-truths – or at least my best attempt at a truthful description – of the landscape in which they live. And that is why I genuinely cannot think of a greater honour than to receive the Lakeland Book of the Year Award, for which I am deeply grateful.”

The Marches



Rory, in his capacity as Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, answered Foreign and Commonwealth Questions on 11 July 2017. Topics included the situation in Zimbabwe and the UN Budget. Watch it here:

Optimism in Politics – Herald Column Saturday 8th July 2017

The United Kingdom has never been so well-educated. The number of people going to university in Britain has exploded from three per cent in the 1950s to almost fifty per cent today. Our citizens have never been so well-informed about our politicians and their policies. And lobby groups have never been so relentlessly practical – focused on weekly campaigns to drive each individual MP, through three hundred emails, to commit to a particular investment, or oppose a particular law. Facebook and Twitter entwine and connect us as never before. So why do we not feel that we are living in a great democratic moment, and that policies are improving? Why instead do we feel that everything is going wrong?

One of the reasons that we feel so disappointed may lie in our desire to believe that almost any political problem can be solved. The last thing I want to do is to reopen British political arguments after an election. So let me try to make the point with something that we can at least all agree on – the importance of basic education worldwide. Education is vital for mind, soul, income, health, and well-being. This is particularly true in the developing world, where pre-school attendance is correlated with a fivefold increase in earning power; secondary school education with better family planning; and schools in general with better mental health. But hundreds of millions of children in the world never attend school. Here, therefore, is a tragedy. And one that we want to believe that we can fix through three things – money, a plan, and ‘political leadership.’ This is why Gordon Brown’s Commission has launched a campaign to raise three trillion dollars annually for global education, intending, amongst other things, to get every child in the developing world into school.

But do we really understand, when we campaign on this issue, how difficult this problem is? Do we acknowledge, that when the international community paid teachers’ salaries in Afghanistan, three thousand “teachers” in only a single province, had never been anywhere near a school. Or that in one African country at least, more than half the teachers were themselves illiterate. Do we remember when we boast that ‘the international community has increased by forty per cent the number of poor children in school in the last fifteen years’, that over sixty per cent of children in the developing world, currently leave school illiterate?

No. Instead, countless articles, and speeches talk about how we need to focus more on primary education; or pre-schools; or girls in the secondary sector; on including more disabled children; more refugees; more native language teaching; more investment for class-rooms; more money for vocational training; more for teacher-training; more for standards and testing; more resources for state education departments. Save the Children and the One Campaign are calling for the British Department for International Development to address these things through committing 10 per cent of its budget to Global Education. All of these ideas are good in themselves but they fall well short of the fundamental problem

It doesn’t matter what the curriculum says, or how fine the classroom is, or the textbook, or how large the enrolment is, or class size, or how many marginalised children are in the school if the teachers themselves can’t read or write. Or if the ‘teachers’ you are paying simply don’t exist. What do you do in the many areas where there is effectively no government? Or where different political pressures – teachers’ unions, political parties, religious organisations – are blocking all attempts at reform? Or when the education target for UK Aid, proposed by the NGOs, would only meet one five thousandth of the global need?

Here – as so often – we are deeply concerned by the problem, but very reluctant to acknowledge its real depth or complexity. ‘Global Education’ is not an exception. Like all our most fundamental challenges at home, it cannot simply be fixed by ‘strategies’; ‘leadership’; ‘targets’ or even billions of pounds of investment. Instead these problems are embedded in the deepest structures of our economy, our demography, our politics, and our society. This realisation sits very awkwardly with a culture that often likes to pretend that everything can be fixed through technology. And it sounds deeply pessimistic.

But it is in the end more truly optimistic than all the grand strategies and utopian dreams – because it is grounded in reality. We are fortunate – as a stable, highly educated and peaceful society – to be able, if we wish, to understand our true condition at home and abroad. By focusing more on the detail of real problems, and less on instant solutions, we could begin to restore some patience, trust, and common purpose in our politics. And perhaps, instead of hating ourselves for our inability to achieve the impossible, we could begin to focus instead on getting things done.