Dr Victoria EdwardsThe Ernest Cook Trust has appointed Dr Victoria Edwards OBE as its new Chief Executive.

Dr Edwards, a 52-year-old rural chartered surveyor and academic, is currently Associate Professor and Rural Programmes Director at the University of Reading’s Henley Business School.

The Ernest Cook Trust (ECT), is one of the UK’s leading educational charities, and is rooted in the conservation and management of the countryside. It owns and manages 22,000 acres of landed estates across five counties in England.

ECT actively encourages children and young people to learn from the land through free-of-charge education programmes on its estates, and by giving grants. Each year its Trustees distribute £1.8m to a range of education initiatives.

Victoria Edwards has been a Trustee of the Ernest Cook Trust since November 2007 and has resigned from the Board to take the job. She takes over on October 1st following current Chief Executive Nicholas Ford’s retirement.

“I am so thrilled and excited to be given this opportunity,” she said. “Becoming Chief Executive of ECT brings together all my professional interests.

“I’ve always worked in land management and rural estates, originally as a land agent and latterly as an academic researcher, and I’m passionate about education and teaching.

“So to be able to combine these interests in one role – in an organisation I already know and have such affection for – it’s my dream job.”

Paying tribute to Nicholas Ford, she said: “His are huge boots to fill, and I’m so fortunate that I’m taking over from someone who has been so meticulous and competent in growing the Trust to its current position of strength.”

As well as lecturing for more than 20 years, Dr Edwards has held a range of public appointments. She has been a Forestry Commissioner and Countryside Commissioner, a non-executive director of the Countryside Agency and the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, and a member of the Burns Committee for the Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs.

She is also a council member of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and was awarded the OBE in 2004 for services to the environment.

Current CEO Nicholas Ford bows out after over 14 years with the Trust. Under his leadership, ECT has seen its education programmes grow from a few school visits to its provision today – over 30,000 children a year now learn from the land on all its country estates.

He said: “I am delighted to be handing over the Chief Executive role to my very capable successor Victoria Edwards at such an exciting time of growth for the Trust.”

ECT’s Chairman of Trustees Andrew Christie-Miller said: “We are all looking forward to working with Victoria in the months and years ahead. Her unique experience of both land agency and the academic world will be invaluable. This is a very exciting time for ECT and all those involved with it.”