A miscellaneous potted history of Monks Wood, the research station.

The woodland adjacent to the site was declared a National Nature Reserve in 1953, science staff were permanently based at Monks Wood from 1961 and the research station was officially opened in 1963. For the first decade the station and wood were both part of The Nature Conservancy. Subsequently, the station became part of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, then the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The woodland reserve became part of the Nature Conservancy Council, then English Nature and then Natural England. All science ended at the station in January 2009.

Added August 28th 2009. Henry Arnold has a comment about the Harold Wilson article seen below.

Regarding Harold Wilson's visit to Monks Wood, and the farmer's demonstration, the slightly different story I was told by Mr Ewart Chattell, who was the tenant of Safefield Farm was this.

On the morning of the visit, coachloads of farmers arrived at Safefield Farm without notice to Mr Chattell. (Presumably they gave no notice for some sort of security reasons.) This had been organised by the NFU. They were expecting the Wilson cavacade to turn off at the farm and for Wilson to address the assembled farmers. When the cars swept past, they marched along the road from the farm to the station and broke down the gates to get to him.

This sounds slightly more plausible than the farmers being gathered at the Monks Wood gates - there seem to have been so many they would have blocked the road and the gateway! I am afraid we can't ask Mr Chattell for more details, as he died some years ago, but I expect other farmers in the area remember.

Regards Henry

Added April 25th 2009

                 Prince Charles visits Monks Wood, 26 November 1970 

                                              
by Joan Welch

I remember it well

I did the Met station readings at 0900 GMT each day and Prince Charles was due to arrive by helicopter from nearby RAF Wyton at 0900 hours just by the Met enclosure. There was great discussion on what I should do. Should I read them early, late or on time and chance being blown over by the down draught? It was all academic since fog closed in and HRH was driven up by car instead and so I missed the chance of being the first member of staff he saw.

KM (Kenneth Mellanby, the director) was adamant that staff should treat it as a normal day and wear ordinary working clothes. He turned up in his usual tweed jacket and flannels with woolie cardie and, of course, a tie - but that was normal then. The Prince also wore his usual working clothes – a tailored grey suit.

                             

                               Terry Wells   Prince Charles        Mike Morris     Eric Duffey

Various scientists were earmarked to give a presentation of their work in little groups and answer any royal questions; the intention was to give him a very good overview of the full range of work and staff. KM made sure that his young royal visitor got some light relief by selecting the most attractive young female staff, mini-skirted in those days, as his designated lunch companions.

Somehow it was nowhere near as exciting as the visit from Prime Minister Harold Wilson with Anthony Crosland and Sir Solly Zuckerman in January that same year (see below) which was potentially much more important since they were our paymasters and needed to be impressed with what we were doing. They also attracted more attention and several hundred farmers turned up to lobby the PM while he was on their doorstep, breaking the gate to Monks Wood in their headlong rush up the drive to talk to him. They repaired it the next day with profuse apologies. It turned out his driver had not been told to stop at the gate for the PM to talk to them and the farmers thought he was breaking another promise.
 

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Added April 25th 2009

     

     

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Added February 4th 2009   submitted by Tim Sparks.

A visit to Monks Wood by the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson in 1970

The Times Saturday January 10 1970 FARMERS MOB WILSON WITH COMPLAINTS Nearly 1,500 farmers demanding bigger financial support for agriculture broke down gates and surged through a police cordon near Huntingdon yesterday as the Prime Minister was visiting a nature conservancy. After accepting a petition, Mr Wilson told protesters through a loud hailer that decision on farm support should be taken after the price review in March. In Whitehall members of the Agricultural Wages Board dodged a farm worker’s pay demonstration. Within 10 minutes angry farmers had broken down the gates and surged through a 30-strong police cordon to the main doors of the conservancy. They began to chant: “We want Wilson” as police sealed off the doors and an inspector appealed for more peaceful action.

Peaceful protest plan goes awry

Solly Zuckerman, Tony Crosland, (a young and inquisitive) Arnie Cooke and Harold Wilson listen to Don Jeffries discussing the effects of pesticides on peregrines.

From our Correspondent Huntingdon, Jan 9 Farmers demanding a “fair living” planned a peaceful demonstration at the gates when Mr Wilson arrived today for a brief visit to the Monks Wood experimental station near Huntingdon. But instead of pausing at the gates, as expected, to accept a petition, the Prime Minister was driven straight through to the conservancy building block. Mr Wilson met a deputation of five local National Farmers’ Union branch chairmen in the station conference room. One of them, Major Harry Warde, the chairman of Ramsey branch, persuaded the Prime Minister to speak to the farmers outside. When Mr Wilson emerged he told the farmers with the aid of a loud hailer that there was little he could say “because we are on the eve of a price review”. “I fully understand the gravity of the figures placed before me but the price review in March is the time for agreement on what the figures mean and for taking decisions. We recognize the problem of the high cost of agricultural credit and this matter must be taken into consideration.”

A not so pleasant gathering outside the main entrance to Monks Wood

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