Episode #6 - Golfing as a pretext for nature's resurgence

with Richard Niell – 04.03.24


Today, we embark on a journey to discover the remarkable Golf Pastoral de la Charentonne nestled in Bernay, in the region of Normandy, France. Join me, as we uncover the unique blend of golfing and environmental conservation with our guest, Richard Neill.

The pastoral essence

The “Golf Pastoral”, a fusion of golfing sport and ecological stewardship. The term “pastoral” pays homage to the origins of golf, tracing back to Scottish shepherds who stumbled upon the game amidst their Highland landscapes. This project seeks to revive the intrinsic values of golf while embracing ecopastoral techniques, integrating livestock like cows and goats into the landscape.

Golf Pastoral_credit:Richard Niell
View of the Golf Pastoral. credits: Richard Niell

Richard shares his journey, initially driven by a desire to restore abandoned land teeming with biodiversity. With his wife, a landscape designer, they embarked on a quest to rehabilitate the site, employing golf as a tool for responsible land management. Their endeavor was not merely about creating a golf course but fostering a symbiotic relationship between sport and nature.

Navigating Complexity

Acquiring the land proved to be a multifaceted challenge, involving negotiations with multiple owners and municipal entities. Richard’s vision extended beyond golf; it aimed to safeguard a vital green space essential for environmental risk management and biodiversity conservation. Despite hurdles, strategic alliances and a steadfast commitment to their mission paved the way forward.

Maintaining the Golf Pastorale entails a delicate balance between ecological preservation and economic sustainability. Minimalist infrastructure and innovative management practices minimize environmental impact while maximizing resource efficiency. Richard underscores the pivotal role of community engagement and institutional support in securing the project’s long-term viability.

The golf as a catalyst for change

Golf Pastoral_credits: Richard Neill
View of the Golf Pastoral. credits: Richard Niell

Golf serves as a gateway to nature, challenging preconceived notions about marshlands and wastelands. Through interactive experiences, visitors immerse themselves in the verdant landscape, fostering a deeper appreciation for its ecological significance. Educational initiatives, ranging from golf lessons to wickerwork courses, cater to diverse audiences, fostering a culture of environmental stewardship.

Richard emphasizes the importance of preserving a mosaic of biotopes, each contributing to the rich tapestry of biodiversity. From riverbanks to alluvial woodlands, every habitat is meticulously curated to support a myriad of plant and animal species. Scientific assessments validate the project’s ecological integrity, highlighting its compatibility with conservation objectives.

Golf Pastoral_credit Richard Niell
View of the Golf Pastoral. credits: Richard Niell

Patience and persistence

Richard imparts invaluable lessons gleaned from his journey, emphasizing the virtues of patience and steadfastness. He underscores the importance of maintaining a clear vision amidst the myriad challenges and distractions. Collaboration and communication emerge as indispensable tools in navigating the complexities of ecological restoration and sustainable development.

As our conversation draws to a close, Richard extends a warm invitation to explore the Golf Pastorale—a testament to the transformative power of nature-inspired innovation. The project stands as a beacon of hope, inspiring communities worldwide to embrace a harmonious coexistence with the natural world. 

  • Host and Editor: Fanny Téoule 
  • Guest: Richard Neill, Owner of the Golf pastoral 
  • Music composer: Jenny Nedosekina 
  • Graphic designer: Julia Micklewright
  • Clarinets melody: The 3 clarinetistsJean-Michel Trotoux, Carolina Montero, Stephanie Calvi and the recording engineer – Jeff Aubruchet (made at a Nuits des Forets concert event held in June 2022)