How Bishop sowed seeds of unrest

PUBLISHED: 13:29 22 September 2006 | UPDATED: 22:15 28 May 2010

I ve upset the farmers again. All I did was to suggest a fortnight ago that they might hold a feast in each village to celebrate the end of harvest. Little did I know as I wrote that column that our blessed bishop would be making clear just how much they

I've upset the farmers again. All I did was to suggest a fortnight ago that they might hold a feast in each village to celebrate the end of harvest.

Little did I know as I wrote that column that our blessed bishop would be making clear just how much they'd got to celebrate this autumn.

On the same morning my piece appeared, Bishop Anthony Russell of this patch announced in the Church Times that our farmers are doing very nicely.

"Here in the east of England, harvest has been early, easy and dry. The winter barley has done well; the wheat is better than expected."

According to our bishop, the farming industry is experiencing a serious upturn. "Rises in commodity prices, tractor sales and registrations at agricultural colleges all point to this."

So at every harvest festival service, it should be a matter of 'Come ye thankful farmers, come'.

What's more, the bishop suggests our local farmers have even more to smile about. The sugar factory at Wissington (just beyond Downham Market) is soon to make a high energy road transport fuel called bio-butanol. It's a kind of bio-diesel which can be made from sugar beet or wheat.

Bishop Russell apparently believes many of our cars and lorries will soon be running on Fen fuel and our farmers prospering as they turn into serious fuel suppliers.

"For a generation, farmers have found themselves at the margins of British life, but there is no doubt the harvest this year marks a considerable change," he says.

He should know what he is talking about. He's a member of the Rural Development Commission and has been president of the Royal Agricultural Society.

Mind you, he doesn't always get it right. It seems he recently got a letter from a guy called Ananda who lives in India but owns a house in Cambridgeshire. The letter included an application for a licence to take Anglican church services in this area. The bishop sent him the licence together with a personal letter and, presumably, his blessing.

Ananda was once a clergyman but is now a Hindu priest. The bishop's spokesman was honest: "We cannot know what is going on."

So it's just possible our bishop may not be infallible - and not quite right about our jolly farmers.

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