I've been in Nottinghamshire; well Rushcliffe to be exact. Invited up by the forward thinking CEO of the Council, Allen Graham. I came up overnight so I could also spend some time with my Niece Miranda who is studying English at Nottingham University (and indeed as the News Editor of University Radio Nottingham).
And where else to stay but Langar Hall, a rather fine country house which also served as the recent venue for Ed Miliband's wedding! It even has an attached Church where there is a fine memorial to Admiral Earl Howe, of the Glorious first of June sea battle in 1794, who is buried in the Howe vault in the church. So a walk in the country, snooze and a fine dinner was a splendid start to the week ahead.
And Rushcliffe is home to the finest Stilton makers in the country; just a few miles from Langar are Colston Bassett and Cropwell Bishop. A long debate about which is better but in the end I plumped for a quick visit to the Colston Bassett diary to pick up a few pieces (it's the smaller of the 2) before arriving at the Council offices!
I spent the day with Allen looking at some of the interesting work the Council are supporting in the local third sector. I met with the people behind “transforming Notts together" which is a project initiated in the diocese and supported by the Church Urban Fund (their CEO is Tim Bissett, who is an ACEVO member). It aims to galvanise volunteers to provide help and support to the many in our community struggling with debt and other life challenges. Jane Todd, who I knew when she was CEO of Nottingham City Council, is involved. It’s a much needed initiative and I think we will see a lot more of this direct social action from the Churches. It was cheering to see Justin Welby and other Anglican Bishops challenging the Government on what they are doing on welfare reform. But they are also backing this up with practical support like this initiative and Food Banks.
A full day of discussion but they were keen to show me a good time too and took me off to “Perkins" a rather fine restaurant which is in a former railway station building! We went there with the Leader of the Council, who also Chairs the national district councils group in the Local Government Association.
The Ashes Legacy project is a brilliant scheme thought up and run by Trent Bridge Notts County Cricket Club. The Ashes start off in Trent Bridge in July and the idea is for the first time to create a legacy for young people and communities as a result of it. They though they might get more support from the Olympic legacy movement but have been sorely disappointed. Tracey Francis leads the initiative for the cricket club and positively bubbles over with enthusiasm for what they can achieve.
Finally I met with Rob Crowder, the CEO of Rural Community Action, Nottingham. A most ACEVO like chap in his determination to provide a professional approach to our sector.
So now I make my way back over snow swept fields to London once again.