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Everything Is Better Outdoors

Every person should know the feeling of being utterly captivated and intrigued by nature

Dr Victoria Edwards

Dr Victoria Edwards OBE
Chief Executive

Seventy years ago, a remarkable story began when a shy, unassuming man bequeathed his estates to the charity that bears his name - The Ernest Cook Trust.

His generous bequest created an extraordinary legacy that has since benefitted many thousands of children and young people, their families and communities, particularly those who are disadvantaged.

As a UK educational charity, the Trust's important work helps nurture a lifelong journey of learning, appreciation and respect for the countryside through a range of Outdoor Learning experiences.

You can read the latest chapter of this story in our Annual Report:

Ernest Cook
Our Story

The Importance Of Being Ernest

The roots of The Ernest Cook Trust are deeply embedded in our founder’s love of the countryside.

When Ernest Cook had great wealth thrust upon him, he combined this good fortune with a passion for conserving the countryside, buying several country estates which were eventually bequeathed to The Ernest Cook Trust - the educational charity he established in 1952.

Today, the Trust is one of the UK’s foremost providers and funders of Outdoor Learning.

This important work takes place on and beyond our thriving estates, as we develop partnerships and collaborations with like-minded organisations also seeking to share their passion for Outdoor Learning, particularly with disadvantaged 
children, young people and their communities across the UK.

Just as Ernest Cook shared his own good fortune, so we share the wealth of our knowledge and experience as influencers in the debate around the environment, farming and sustainability.

We continue the important work that Ernest Cook began
Our Land

Supporting All We Do

across 9 estates
in 5 counties
best-practice, innovative
land management
10+ small enterprises,
100s of allotment tenants
unique outdoor
learning programmes

The Trust cares for 22,500 acres of land across nine estates. These authentic, living communities are home to our tenant farmers, residential tenants and small enterprises, while also serving as unique open-air classrooms for our Outdoor Learning programmes.

Together with our own estates in Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Oxfordshire and Dorset, we also work with partner estates in Cumbria, Lancashire and Derbyshire.

As a land-based educational Trust, we are uniquely placed to be a model for innovative, experimental methods of land management. By sharing our land, knowledge and experience, we inspire a greater love and understanding of the natural world, farming and sustainability.

Our Impact

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Our Coverage
Our Land
Outdoor Learning Sites
Apprenticeships & Scholarships Awarded
Outdoor Learning Officer Grants Awarded
Green Influencers Scheme
The Learning Estate
The OWL Collaboration Outdoor Learning Centres
Where appropriate, we give what3words locators for use with the what3words app.
Investigating The Riverbank
When you come out here and you see the stuff you can do, it’s actually pretty amazing!
Rolling Hills
Our people

Of Who
We Are

Our people work diligently to uphold the Trust’s aim of forging stronger connections with the land

All are experienced professionals in their specialisms, with their own particular love of the outdoors. Many have the privilege of doing this directly, as part of the Learning team.

Some oversee our fund-giving, establishing collaborations and projects in our Grants team. Others use their skills to manage and maintain our property and land, as part of the Estates team. While others support these teams from our Head Office in Gloucestershire.

Dr Victoria Edwards

Dr Victoria Edwards

Our Chief Executive is the force behind all the Trust’s work and influence. Dr Victoria Edwards has a background in both estate management and education. A qualified chartered surveyor, Victoria was a lecturer and researcher in the University sector for over 20 years. She was a Trustee of The Ernest Cook Trust from 2007 to 2016, resigning from the Board to apply for the role of Chief Executive.

Victoria has been involved in research, consultancy and 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 the author of two books, numerous academic papers and reports and was awarded the OBE in 2004 for services to the environment.

Our Trustees

We have an outstanding board of Trustees who embody a wealth of specialist knowledge, skills and experience. Their collective discernment, wisdom and foresight ensures the Trust stays true to itself and its responsibilities.

Andrew Christie-Miller
Andrew Christie-Miller
Andrew Christie-Miller

Trustee since 1994. Chairman since November 2013. Former owner of the Clarendon Park Estate in Wiltshire. Past Chairman of GWCT (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust) and Timber Growers UK. Trustee of Salisbury Cathedral Trust. Trustee of Clinton Devon and Roxburghe Estates.

Simon Eliot
Simon Eliot
Simon Eliot

Joined the Trustees in Autumn of 2013 and is currently the Trust’s Education Trustee. Taught History and English at Winchester College from 1976 to 2000, where he was also a Housemaster for 12 years, and was Headmaster of Sherborne School between 2000 and 2010. Currently a Governor of schools in the UK and Prague, and a Trustee of the British Racing School.

Dr Ian Gambles

Joined the Trustees in Summer 2022 after eight years at the Forestry Commission where he was CEO. He is now Chair of the James Hutton Institute and a member of the board of NatureScot. His career in both the public and private sectors includes the Planning Inspectorate and HM Treasury, as a management consultantant in KPMG and in his own business. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Jenefer Greenwood OBE
Jenefer Greenwood OBE
Jenefer Greenwood OBE

Joined the Trustees in April 2017. Formerly a Crown Estate Commissioner and Director of Sales & Lettings at Grosvenor Ltd, and held posts as Chairman of the National Skills Academy for Retail and President of the British Council of Shopping Centres. Awarded the OBE in 2014 for services to UK Real Estate and for voluntary service. Was previously a Governor at Westonbirt School and is a Non Executive Director of a number of businesses in the real estate sector.

Harry Henderson
Harry Henderson
Harry Henderson

Trustee since 2004. Lives and farms at West Woodhay in Berkshire. High Sheriff for the Royal County of Berkshire 2008. Was an Investment manager and MD of Cazenove until 2002, retiring as Chairman of Witan Investment Trust plc, as a Trustee of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and as a Director of the Cadogan Settled Estates Ltd in early 2020. Currently Chairman of the Farmington Trust and a Governing Fellow of Harris Manchester College Oxford.

Mary Riall
Mary Riall
Mary Riall

Became a Trustee in November 2015. Former teacher, founder and Chairman of the Ufton Court Educational Trust in Berkshire, which aims to inspire and challenge young people through learning outside the classroom. Previously on the Council of Bradfield College and governor at the John Madejski Academy and the Mortimer Schools Federation in Reading. High Sheriff for the Royal County of Berkshire 2020. Mary also follows in her father’s footsteps – Sir William Benyon was Chairman of ECT from 1992-2004.

Sir Bertie Ross
Sir Bertie Ross
Sir Bertie Ross

Became a Trustee in February 2014. He was formerly the Secretary and Keeper of the Records for the Duchy of Cornwall, until his retirement in June 2013. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a Trustee of several private estates in England and Scotland, Trustee and Director of The Pirbright Institute, and a former Court member of the Worshipful Company of Farmers.

Our Partnerships

The Trust also works with partner estates and host organisations. These carefully selected and nurtured partnerships have resulted in a range of projects and programmes, enabling us to impact more children, young people and their communities, particularly those who are disadvantaged.

Wild Nature
Taking our cue from nature, we plant seeds that grow into a more environmentally engaged society.
Our Credibility

Reports & Associations

The Ernest Cook Trust has a highly respected reputation as an educational charity, with almost seven decades of experience. The pursuit of learning is fundamental to all aspects of our work. Our associations and memberships of several national organisations allow for a mutual sharing of knowledge and experience as we strive for continuous improvement and best practice.

ACF Logo
Charity Commission Logo
Environmental Funders Logo
CLA Logo
National Trusts Logo
Countryside Classroom Logo
Leaf Education Logo
Learning Outside Logo
Forest School Logo
Outdoor Learning Logo
Logo - Confor
I will Logo
Game & Wildlife Conservation Logo
Salmon & Trout Conservation Logo
Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group

Annual Reports