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Saving our forests is seeing the wood for the trees

Maureen Comber - Biographical details

Maureen Comber - Biographical detailsI was born in Southampton shortly before WW2. I had a sister called Valerie who was six years older than me. The family moved to the countryside of Ashmore in Dorset during the war because my Grandmother declared she would never forgive my parents if anything happened to 'those children'. It was here that I was imprinted with an enduring affinity with horses, when early most mornings I was taken to fetch old Punch, the 18hh Shire carthorse to start his days work on the farm. I was thrown up on his back by the farmer to walk through the fields back to the farmyard. No health and safety in those days thank heaven.

Shortly before the end of the war we came back to the rubble of Southampton and my schooldays were spent at St Anne's Convent Grammar School. My family's background is one of volunteering. My Mother used to help the Society's for the Blind and Deaf and was recognised for her work with the Red Cross. She was also one of the founders of Southampton's Floral Art Society. My father likewise was a member of Priory Masonic Lodge until his early death in 1953. Shortly after this my sister won a scholarship to Harvard University's Radcliffe College. After gaining my GCE's I went to Sparsholt Farm Institute as it was in those days, where I attained my British Dairy Farmers Association Certificate.

I married in 1959 and the next decade travelled with my two small boys all over the world, living as an ex pat with my transport economist husband who worked for a variety of world governments and the World Bank. In 1971 after we were evacuated from the troubles of East Pakistan when it became Bangladesh, we moved to The Old Cottage, Frith End, Kingsley. It was here in 1975 that I started the Kites Hill Stud, breeding palominos and riding horses. I became a panel judge for the Hunters Improvement Society from which I retired in 2003. I am still a panel judge for the Cleveland Bay Horse Society. I also competed in Dressage and judged in an unaffiliated capacity. I am a founder member of Windsor Park Equestrian Club. This year I was recognised for my 35 years voluntary work specialising in Access and Rights of way for The British Horse Society.

For fifteen years, mostly during the 1980's, I was a member of Kingsley Parish Council which I chaired for the last eight of those years. My task, to restore the crumbling historic church of St Nicolas. In 1988 I married David Charles Comber of Grooms Farm, Frith End. His father Ted Comber was a Kingsley Parish Councillor for many years and one of the founders of the Binsted and District Growmore Club. I became a member also and eventually Hon. Secretary, a post I held for 13 years. I am now the Chairman having served as the Chairman of the Central Council of Hampshire Growmore Clubs for the two years previous to that.

Inspired by William Hague and angry about what was happening to Britain under the Labour Government I became a member of the Conservative Party and eventually got involved with the Selborne Branch, serving on the Committee and taking over as Secretary while Paul Corser had a brief respite. This entailed helping with fund raising events distributing 'In Touch' and with the County and General elections. In 2007 I was elected as your District Councillor. Under the direction of Ferris Cowper as Leader, I embarked on a series of County wide training programmes arranged by SOLACE (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives). At the end of the course a bottle of champagne was presented to the Councillor who gave the best key pieces of advice gathered from the sessions. These were collected and put in a pamphlet published as 'Hi Achievers Top Tips'. I was delighted when I won the bottle of champagne. It was presented to me in the CEO's office at EHDC by Peter Lerhner. One day when I have more space I will tell you what they were.

It has been my pleasure to represent EHDC on the Board of the North Hampshire Hospital NHS Trust as a Stakeholder Governor. We are truly fortunate to have such a high quality hospital for our area. When I started this job nearly four years ago the lanes around the villages had been ravaged by traffic, hopefully they are looking a little healthier now. We have a number of byways in the area which are still out of repair and badly damaged by 4WD and motorbikes. I will continue to press for their restoration with traffic regulation orders to protect them in the future. One of these however can be ticked off the list, and that is Cradle Lane in Kingsley. We have of course to thank our County Councillor for this and I apologise to him for my continual reminders.

Selborne has managed to get itself a 20mph speed limit which is a very good example of people power. All my parishes have improvements on footpaths and bridleways which I hope will continue to be the case. All have improvements to their village halls which EHDC have helped with financially. All in all I hope that EHDC has 'improved peoples lives' in some small way or another. However there is still much to do and there has never been a more exciting time in government to do it. The localism bill promises much more engagement with communities putting them more in charge than ever before of their own destinies. It is freeing up councillors by loosening 'predetermination rules', and replacing top down targets with local plans. I am so pleased to see that Worldham have completed theirs and Kingsley and Selborne are well under way. David Cameron says "We will be the first government in a generation to leave office with much less power than we started with. We believe that when people are given the freedom to take responsibility, they start achieving things on their own and they're possessed with new dynamism." Nick Clegg says "The job of government is not to run people's lives. It is to help them run their own."

Over three and a half years I have officially travelled 28.317 miles and attended 360 meetings. That doesn't include parish council or political gatherings or any that aren't directly a responsibility of EHDC. Treble the mileage to get a rough idea of the number of hours taken up on your behalf. I could not do this without the invaluable help of my very supportive husband.

So what of my family? My elder son Peter now runs the only five star gold trophy Visit Britain B & B outside of London in this part of the world. It is known as Groomes. My younger son Patrick has his own veterinary practice in Tring, Hertfordshire. My nephew Jo, whose mother, my sister drowned in a sailing accident in the Solent when he was eleven years of age, is now a barrister. His wife is Parliamentary Counsel and her father was the last Conservative Leader of the House of Commons, now Lord Newton. Jo's brother Nicholas plies the south coast working for HM Customs and Excise with his drugs dog. I have seven grandchildren.

I pine for a more sensible approach to saving our forests

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