A Cumbrian businesswoman who makes eco garden compost from Herdwick wool and bracken has been granted the Freedom of the City of London.
Professor Jane Barker, who runs Dalefoot Composts with her husband Simon Bland at Heltondale near Penrith, was awarded the honour in a special ceremony at London’s Guildhall. Jane was also officially ‘clothed’ as a member of the Worshipful Company of Woolmen, one of the oldest Livery Companies in the City tracing its roots to 1180.
The double honours are in recognition of her work to promote the sustainable benefits of wool. Dalefoot Composts, a significant local employer, makes a range of premium peat-free garden composts using ingredients harvested from the local fells – lower grade hill sheep wool that farmers find difficult to sell and invasive bracken. The composts are used by champion growers and stocked in garden centres across the UK.
“As a young girl growing up in the Eden Valley, this is something that I would never have dreamt happening! I joined four other Woolmen at the Guildhall in London to receive our parchment certificates, swear an oath and sign the Freeman’s Declaration Book - Lord Nelson had been there before me. The Livery Companies raise £70 million a year for charity, an incredible amount. I feel privileged to play a part in this tradition and delighted that Simon and our daughter Arabella were there too to watch,” Jane said.
And although officially Jane can now drive her sheep across London Bridge without taxation, she will be keeping her flock of Whitefaced Woodlands safely at home. Champions of peat-free and climate change gardening, Jane also runs with her husband the parent company Barker & Bland Ltd which restores large areas of damaged peatbogs from the Cairngorms to Dartmoor for organisations like Natural England and Cumbria Wildlife Trust. Jane is a Professor of Practice at the University of Cumbria – Centre for National Parks & Protected Areas, Department of Science, Natural Resources & Outdoor Studies.