Rural Conferences: The next decade. What next for rural communities?

Rural Conferences: The next decade. What next for rural communities?

Working in collaboration with local authorities and other partners, we will organise a rural conference in each district locality.

Looking to the future, the Rural Services Survey results will be revealed and the voice of rural communities heard. This will enable us to deepen our work with statutory agencies, the community & voluntary sector, town & parish councils and village hall committees to identify rural concerns and make plans for the solutions and funding support needed for the years ahead.

Plans are still being drawn up. More information will be available on this page later in the year.

Hayley Neal

Chief Executive

Hayley was appointed as Cambridgeshire ACRE’s Chief Executive from 2024. She oversees the work of the charity and puts in place our plans and strategies for the future. Day-to-day, Hayley develops our relationships with new partners, explores new opportunities and oversees all aspects of the charity’s work.

Before working at Cambridgeshire ACRE, Hayley worked for the Countryside Regeneration Trust and worked as a freelance fundraiser.

Jessica Sellick BA (Hons), MSc, PhD


Jessica joined the Board of Cambridgeshire ACRE in February 2022. In her professional life, Jessica works at Rose Regeneration where she undertakes projects on behalf of Government, Local Authorities, charities and community groups across the UK. She is also a senior research fellow at the National Centre for Rural Health and Care (NCRHC).

She is a Chartered Geographer accredited by the Royal Geographical Society; a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce); and a member of the Institute of Economic Development. In her spare time she sits on the board of a housing association that supports older and vulnerable people across Lincolnshire.

Jenna Brame

Senior Rural Housing Enabler

Jenna joined the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2020. Her role involves leading our rural housing partnership, developing affordable schemes on rural exception sites.

Jenna has a BSc in Geography from University of East Anglia and prior to join the organisation worked as a Graduate Housing Strategy and Enabling Officer at West Suffolk Council. Since joining Cambridgeshire ACRE she has become an accredited Community Led Housing Advisor.

Alison Brown

Head of Business Services

Alison has been Head of Business Services at Cambridgeshire ACRE since 2007. Day-to-day Alison is involved in everything from developing new opportunities for Cambridgeshire ACRE, shaping the direction of existing projects, overseeing the delivery of advice and information to our members and working with our Board.

Prior to joining Cambridgeshire ACRE, Alison worked in the private sector holding roles in executive support and facilities management. Alison has BSc (Hons) in Sociology from University of Southampton. 

Rachael Brown

Senior Community Development Officer

Rachael became part of the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2006, initially running a gardening project and then moving to her current role as our Senior Community Development Officer where she leads a number of our environmental projects.

Rachael has a BSc in Horticulture from Bath University and, upon leaving there, put her skills to work in the private sector before becoming a primary school teacher for several years.

Lisa Chambers

Community Development Officer

Lisa became part of the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2015 taking on the role of Community Development Officer. Part of her week is spent providing expert support and advice to the County’s community-run buildings with the remainder being spent working as a Village Agent in the South Cambridgeshire area.

Prior to joining Cambridgeshire ACRE, Lisa was the County Councillor and Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Suffolk County Council. 

Linda Watson

Finance Officer

Linda joined Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2005. Her role as Finance Officer sees her administer all the financial processes of Cambridgeshire ACRE, ensuring up-to-date and accurate financial information is available at all times.

Prior to joining the organisation, Linda spent over 20 years working within the charity and the commercial sector gaining wide-ranging financial administration experience.

Annie Blair

Chairperson and Trustee

Annie became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2017 and took on the Chairperson role shortly afterwards. She has been a volunteer for community and parish organisations in the village of Folksworth and the surrounding area for over 30 years.

Professionally, she had a career in the financial and insurance sectors before changing vocation and training in the educational sector as an arts educator / practitioner working for both Anglian Ruskin University and Peterborough Regional College.

David Gibbs


Dave became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2017. In his professional life, he was a community development worker specialising in finance and external funding. Since moving to the Fens, Dave has taken on a number of parish clerk roles, as well as being a trustee of Newton Village Hall.

Terry Jordan

Vice Chairperson and Trustee

Terry became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2011. Terry is currently the Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer for Wisbech Town Council in Fenland and has worked in local government in Cambridgeshire for more than 40 years. 

Terry is also a trustee of CP Learning Trust.

Julie Spence OBE CStJ QPM


Cambridgeshire ACRE’s current President is Julie Spence OBE QPM. In 2017, Julie was appointed by Her Late Majesty The Queen as the 37th Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, the Sovereign’s representative in the County.

Professionally, Julie trained as a teacher before joining the Police in 1978 and being appointed Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire in 2005. In the Queen’s 80th Birthday Honours, Julie was awarded an OBE for her management of complex and contentious organisational issues and leadership contribution. In 2008 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Anglia Ruskin University: then in the 2010 New Year’s Honours list she received the Queens Police Medal (QPM). In September 2010, after a 32 year career, she retired from policing.

Toby Frith

Digital Marketing Degree Apprentice

Toby joined the team in 2021. As our Digital Marketing Degree Apprentice, his role is to implement our digital marketing strategy  generating interest in our work and helping to build the organisation’s social presence.

From January 2022, Toby will be undertaking a Digital Marketing Degree at Anglia Ruskin University alongside working for Cambridgeshire ACRE.

Ray Vidler

Treasurer and Trustee

Ray joined the Board of Cambridgeshire ACRE in February 2022. He has been a member of Weston Colville Parish Council, which he currently chairs, since 2008. He is a fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and holds an MBA.

He has enjoyed living in rural Cambridgeshire for over 35 years and is keen to be able to support an organisation that aims to sustain, support, and develop rural communities.

Prior to retirement, Ray was a general manager responsible for aspects of the operation of a large food company based at Histon, having previously been the site’s chief engineer. During his working life he gained lots of experience of managing large multi-million-pound projects and developed a good understanding of finance and human resource management.

Gary Roffey

Rural Housing Enabler

Gary joined the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in March 2024. His role is focused on developing affordable housing on rural exception sites.

Gary has previously worked for a number of Local Authorities and Housing Associations managing social housing. He also worked for the Audit Commission’s Housing Inspectorate and the Housing Ombudsman Service.  

He has a BSC(Hons) in Social Science from the University of Bradford and a postgraduate Diploma in Housing from the London School of Economics.



Stephanie Baxter


Stephanie joined the Board of Cambridgeshire ACRE in February 2022.

Stephanie is a strategic thinker, utilising housing policy to deliver social justice and poverty alleviation. She is passionate about community led housing and how this can enable local communities to be part of their own solutions. Stephanie has worked in rural local authorities for the past 16 years, with knowledge of planning and housing policy. She is a Trustee with her local foodbank and an active member of her local church.

Sarah Severn CBE


Sarah became a trustee of Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2023. In her professional life, Sarah worked at DEFRA, supporting Rt Hon Lord Benyon, the Minister for Rural Affairs. She led on rural policy and the government’s commitment to thriving rural communities.

She has a BA (Hons) from the University of East Anglia in Economic and Social History and Sociology; an MBA (Cranfield) and the APM-accredited Project Leadership Programme (Infrastructure and Projects Authority). Sarah was awarded her CBE in 2013 for services to public protection. 

David Olney


David completed an MBA at City University Business School, following an engineering first degree at Loughborough University. He has considerable defence acquisition experience culminating in his role as Chief Operating Officer at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation where he was responsible for delivering proposals on the management of the estate as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010.

Subsequently, David had been Managing Director within the Babcock International Group responsible for 4 businesses ranging from media and education to infrastructure both in the UK and Brazil. David is a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology as well as a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

David is a Non-Executive Director of WaND Consulting and a Trustee of Thedwastre Education Trust.

Kelly Bloss

Village Agent

Prior to joining Cambridgeshire ACRE, Kelly worked as a self-employed photographer, capturing wedding days and working within the studio photography sector. She also worked as a bookkeeper/manager of a local accounting business.

Being a creative individual, Kelly studied Art & Design including Photography at a GNVQ level, securing her first job as a portrait photographer working in a studio at just 19 years old. 

Karen MacKelvie

Natural Heritage and Communities Officer

Karen studied Environmental Biology at St Andrews University and holds a diploma in Therapy at Warwick University. She lived and worked on Shetland soils for 25 years before moving to North London to work as a Nature Recovery Ranger. 

Her internationally-acclaimed ‘Nature Prescriptions’ project (RSPB Scotland) is an example of the innovative way she enjoys working. Karen looks forward to inviting people back into deeper connection with the wonderful wildlife of the Fens. 

Lucille Bingham

Village Agent

Lucille joined Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2024, as part of the team of Village Agents, covering the Fenland area. 

Prior to joining Cambridgeshire ACRE, Lucille managed her local village Post Office for over 17 years, a role she was passionate about. She has also been heavily involved with a village hall committee, organising many social events, as well as continued fundraising for charities. 

Rachel Mason

Community Wellbeing Manager

Rachel joined the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2024 and leads the development of our community wellbeing work. She manages the organisation’s team of Village Agents who support individuals with their health wellbeing needs.

Rachel has an extensive background in the charity sector, with over 20 years’ experience of developing advocacy and involvement services in Cambridgeshire and of managing people. More recently, she was national Practice Lead responsible for the continuous improvement and quality of advocacy practice for nearly 400 advocates. Rachel is a BA (Hons) Psychology graduate from University of Bedfordshire.

Tate Oulton

Natural Heritage and Communities Officer

A laboratory research scientist by training, Tate worked for over seven years in the field of infectious disease and immunology before setting his sights on a career in conservation. Eight months spent as a full-time volunteer officer with the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire provided an immersive and highly varied introduction to life as an ecological conservationist, where he developed skills in conducting biological surveys, research and monitoring of habitats, land management, and practical conservation methods among others.

Tate has a particular interest in regenerative agriculture, and the role farms have to play in response to the climate crisis and environmental degradation. He is highly involved with a local farm cluster aiming to promote and encourage more sustainable and wildlife friendly practices on agricultural land.

Angela Stibbs

Village Agent

Angela joined Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2024. Prior to joining the team, Angela worked as an Estate Agent for over 35 years. 

After leaving her role in property, she then worked as a gardener for five years, enjoying the slower, but still rewarding, pace of work.

Adele Furness

Village Agent

Adele joined the Cambridgeshire ACRE team in 2024.

Prior to joining, Adele was involved in many business sectors: medical sales, beauty, military and the postal service.

She is excited to connect with the local communities in Cambridgeshire through her role as a Village Agent and to work closely with our volunteer-led Community Hubs. 

Kirsten Bennett

Chief Executive

Kirsten joined Cambridgeshire ACRE in 2000 and then quickly assumed the role of Chief Executive from 2001. She oversees the work of the charity and puts in place our plans and strategies for the future. Day-to-day, Kirsten develops our relationships with new partners, explores new opportunities and oversees all aspects of the charity’s work.

Before working at Cambridgeshire ACRE, Kirsten attended Writtle Agricultural College gaining a BSc in Agriculture and then completed a Masters in Countryside Recreation Management at Sheffield Hallam University.