Lincolnshire Rural Support Network

Investing In Volunteers

Helpline 0800 138 1710

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Who's Who


Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, Mr Toby Dennis

The High Sheriff of Lincolnshire - Mr William Day

Chairman of the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society, Ms Jane Hiles

Rt Revd Christopher Lowson

Bishop of Lincoln

Rev Bruce Thompson

Methodist Chairman, Lincoln & Grimsby District

Lord John Taylor of Holbeach CBE / ARAgs

Mr Francis Dymoke, Queen's Champion


Meryl Ward, MBE, FRAgs - Chairman

My day job is running the family farm in North Lincolnshire with husband, Steve.

From graduating from London University, my specific responsibility has been the livestock enterprise of 2,000 breeding sows and we also have an arable enterprise, farm contracting business and farm shop.  Our three children are now independent, having all left university.  I have been involved in various national organisations, particularly the British Pig Executive and the Farm Animal Welfare Council, and recently stepped from the position of Chair of AHDB Pork. Pigs have had their own particular problems over the years and I was a founder member of the British Pig Industry Support Group which campaigned to help the industry and pig farmers through difficult times, so it was a natural progression to work for LRSN.  I was very proud to be asked to take on the Chairmanship of an organisation doing such worthwhile work with such a great team of staff and supporters.

Matt Phillips - Vice Chairman

Matt was born and grew up in North Lincolnshire, attending school at Brigg, then in Leicestershire. He spent time with his farm manager grandfather near Lincoln, then later worked on farms in the school holidays. Matt attended Shuttleworth Agricultural College before joining Sharpes International Seeds in Sleaford in the early 90s as a trainee combinable crops trader, gaining experience in the UK wholesale seed trade.

In 2003 he and his wife set up Phillips Seeds at Ingham, near Lincoln, and with the help of friends and local farmers, developed a retail seed business. Through a merger in 2010 between Phillips Seeds and Gibson & Faulding mobile seed business, GFP Agriculture Ltd was created and today processes and sells seed throughout the county and beyond.

Matt is married to Katherine, a land agent and they have two teenage children. They enjoy time with their family, socialising with friends, shooting, tennis, walking and generally being outside in the countryside. Watching sport and cricket in particular, including visiting Trent Bridge, are favourite passtimes.

Matt adds: “The Lincolnshire network and agricultural community have been very good to me through my working life and given me a lot of opportunities. I would like to give back some time and hopefully some of my skills into this community. I feel that LRSN would be a great way to do this and it has become very close to me due to a recent bereavement and the work they have done and are undertaking is invaluable in this day and age and I can’t wait to try and help in whatever ways I can.”

Charles Holt- Treasurer

I am delighted to have joined the Board of Trustees, having spent the last three decades as an agricultural consultant, based near Lincoln. My consultancy specialisms include dealing with difficult financial and legal cases, and agricultural planning matters.

In the past I have dealt with a lot of milk quota trades, and was instrumental in setting up Lincs and Notts Dairy Farmers, at the time the MMB was being legislated away.

I have had some experience as a director of another local charity, having been on the board for approximately 28 years, so long that I cannot remember exactly how many… and I have told LRSN that I have  no intention of being on the LRSN board for anything like that length of time, which I hope they were listening to?!

I am married to Sarah and have four grown-up children.


Rev Canon Alan Robson MSc FRAgS FRAS – Agricultural Chaplain

Alan is a Methodist Minister (Lincoln Circuit) and Ecumenical Canon of Honour Lincoln Cathedral.

Married to “D”, Denise, they have a wonderful daughter Faye, who lives in London with her husband John and new grandson Ivor.

Alan has served as Agricultural Chaplain for 20 years with ties to other Boards and projects, not least, the gardening for health project in Lincoln City called Green Synergy (Charity), which is developing a ‘city farm’ next to the Lincoln Hospital on Abbey Ward. He has also initiated various projects through the Lincoln Agricultural Society Educational Committee and in 2018 was involved in the first “Town Meets Country” event  at the ‘Arboretum’ Monks Road Lincoln, which helped promote cohesion and understanding through food and farming. Green Synergy was one of the lead partners in this.

Alan is also an executive governor at Robert Pattinson Academy, maintaining his desire for young folk to strive and thrive. 

He enjoys films and books, loves his border terrier Jenny and rescue cat Itsy Bitsy, above all delicious food in the many outstanding Lincolnshire eateries!

Della Armstrong

I am married to David and we farm 950 acres in partnership – he deals with the ‘outside’ jobs and I deal with the majority of ‘inside’ jobs!  We have 3 children, Kate 25, who also works in the industry; Oliver 22 who is a dancer; and Ross, 12, who is the farm foreman!  I run a Farm Secretarial Agency employing 1 person and we cover a 50 mile radius of home. 

I have been a School Governor for the local Primary School, on the PFA committee and I am currently the treasurer for the village football teams.

I felt very honoured to be asked to be part of LRSN back in June 2013, firstly as a member of the PIPS Committee (Publicity; Ideas; Promotion) and then 4 months later as a Trustee to the Board (this is the fastest promotion I have ever had!.) 

There really is a fantastic group of people involved with both running & supporting LRSN, who all care passionately about agriculture and the people who live and work within this community.  I have made many friends through becoming involved and am proud that we all, together, make a huge difference to many peoples’ lives.

Richard Alderson

Richard Alderson is married with two daughters and five grandchildren, and lives in Nettleton where he is churchwarden, as well as working within the Methodist Church. He has been involved in agriculture in Lincolnshire since the late1970s originally farming in the Isle of Axholme while carrying on with “the day job” in the textiles industry which involved regular travel abroad to Europe and the Middle East. In 1989, Richard took a post as an NFU Group Secretary in Epworth, and in 1990 added the North Lindsey post in Brigg. This was the beginning of a love/love relationship with Lincolnshire farming, which continues today. Richard retired from the NFU in 2007, and after a month’s holiday, took up a consultancy with Brown and Co in Brigg, a post he enjoys today. He has been involved with Bishop Burton College since 1989, and was a governor of the college from 2002 to 2014.

Lisa Boileau

I was born and bred in Yorkshire, moving to Lincolnshire in 1992 to train as a solicitor with Wilkin Chapman LLP.  I have remained in the county ever since, living and working happily.  I am married to Paul, a University lecturer, and for the past 16 years we have lived in the village of Sudbrooke near Lincoln.

In our spare time we are both quite 'out doorsy' people. Paul is a mountain marathon runner and orienteer and together we both share a love of hill walking and bird watching. We both have a keen interest in farming and rural issues, me from the perspective of both my job and love of the countryside, him from his interest in pigs and love of our native woodlands. (He has already managed to merge these two interests on a 'managing pigs in woodland' course. It is therefore only a matter of time before our family expands to include some pigs I suspect!).

I qualified as a solicitor in 1994 specialising in family law. In 2000 I became a Partner at Wilkin Chapman and am now Head of the Family Law Department. With a passion for family law and helping families, I trained to become one of the UK’s first Family Law Arbitrators and I am also a qualified Mediator. Our firm has strong links with the farming community whom we are proud to represent. Over the years I have had the privilege of assisting many farming families in connection with divorce and other family law issues. Over that time my knowledge of farming and rural issues has grown, as has my admiration and respect for the work our farmers and rural communities undertake.

I first became involved with LRSN approximately 8-10 years ago, assisting Alison Twiddy and Rev Alan Robson with some of their case work. Over the years my relationship with the Charity has grown and I have developed a strong affinity with the ethos and values the Charity has and the fantastic work it undertakes. I therefore didn't have to think twice when I was invited to join the Board. I very much look forward to getting to know more of the team and to contributing as much as I can to such a worthwhile and well managed cause.

Jane Chard

I was born and educated in Lincoln and have lived all my life within a twenty mile radius of the city and therefore have an empathy with our the county's cultural and agricultural heritage. After leaving school I joined Natwest Bank where I worked for 22 years, resigning in 1995 as the Small Business Manager at Lincoln, Smiths Bank. I was then appointed Director of Resources for the Diocese of Lincoln working with parishes throughout the Diocese to improve their income streams and maximise regular giving. I remain a Trustee for the Diocesan Staff Pension Fund and until 2012 I was a member of the Board of Trustees of Community Lincs where I served for seven years - six of which as Chairman of the Governance Committee. I have two married children and three small grand-daughters who take up much of my time, but still manage to find some time for post graduate study in Art History with the Open University, which is both challenging and fun. I was surprised and delighted to be invited to join the Board of LRSN and hope my knowledge of working within the charitable sector and financial experience can be of use in creating the basis of a sound and regular income that will secure LRSN's work for many years to come.

Tony Molyneux Bsc Msc M Phil

The son of an Agricultural Merchant in Lancashire I studied Animal Production before joining the National Agricultural Advisory Service (Became ADAS) and worked initially in North and South Wales. In 1973 I moved to Reading University to undertake research into the application of Computers in Agricultural Management following which I specialised as a Farm Management Advisor in East Anglia. After 11 years with ADAS I joined Midland Bank later to become HSBC and spent 25 years in Agricultural Banking and for the last 10 years before retirement led a Team of Agriculturalists and Bankers latterly covering the whole of the Midlands and East Anglia. Throughout my whole career with the bank I was closely involved with many farming and horticultural businesses in Lincolnshire. I have been very pleased to have been for the last 10 years closely involved in the development of LRSN from its modest beginnings to the provision of today’s valuable support to farmers and the rural community.

Revd Canon Andy Hawes SSC

Andrew (Andy) is a Grimberian by birth and early schooling. His father and mother were publicans in Grasby, Caistor and Chapel St Leonards giving him a  genuine Lincolnshire upbringing. He was a boarder at De Aston School Market Rasen where he met his wife Sian!  After reading History at Sheffield University he trained as an Anglican Priest at Westcott House and Emmanuel Colege Cambridge.

He returned to Lincolnshire to be ordained in 1980 and served as curate at Grimsby Parish Church, Vicar of Lutton and Gedney Drove End from 1984 until 1989, and as Vicar of Edenham, Witham on the Hill and Swinstead from 89 until 2018. He also established and was Warden of Edenham Regional House - a small retreat house and conference centre.

Andy has a lifelong interest in agriculture and rural community life and a broad pastoral experience in the farming community. The opportunity to put to use his life experience to support the work of LRSN is one he relishes, and he looks forward to the opportunity to serve wherever he can.

Sian and Andy have five grown-up children, fourteen grandchildren (and counting)! He is a keen gardener, a novice beekeeper, a Grimsby Town Supporter, a published poet and librettist and flies the Lincolnshire Flag at his gate in Little Bytham.


Visits Team (Caseworkers)

We currently have 10 volunteer caseworkers.

Marketing and Fundraising Team

We currently have 11 volunteer members of the Marketing and Fundraising Team.


We currently have 5 volunteer Helpliners.


Alison Twiddy - Project Manager

After a long career of more than 30 years in public service I gained much experience, managing local and central service teams with all the associated HR and budgets, as well as project management and managing major government policy changes. However I found myself working long hours away from home and spending a lot of time in railway stations, airports and motorway service stations and city hotels and decided to find work closer to my Lincolnshire home and family, but never for one minute imagined that I would find myself becoming the Project Manager for LRSN about 8 years ago.

I consider this the most rewarding work I have ever done. The ability to really help local people and businesses with the crises that can befall any one of us is both challenging and humbling. The LRSN team are a great bunch of people, with a real passion for all the services which we offer, including our one to one support, our drop-in  and health screening service at horticultural and livestock markets and our helpline. I am proud of the work we do and to be associated with such a worth- while and professional organisation.

Lea Schofield - Caseworker South of the County

After becoming head nurse in a neurological veterinary practice I spent the next 20 years working in local government. Those years gave me invaluable experience in dealing with adversity and problem solving despite what often seemed to an unsolvable problem, lateral thinking was a much used technique!

I worked long hours and found that as a single parent I was meeting myself coming back. During my time in local government I referred a number of farmers and their families to LRSN and was aware of the amazing and often unsung work that they do. Three years ago I made a lifechoice to do something I enjoy and applied to work for LRSN.

Some may say that I came over from ‘the dark side’…. And what a brilliant move that was; I love my job and am thrilled to be part of LRSN; the wonderful team that make such a difference to the farming families of Lincolnshire.

Gilly Steel - Health and Wellbeing Lead

My name is Gilly Steel, I have been a qualified mental health nurse for 18 years, and five years ago I qualified as an Approved Mental Health Professional. I joined LRSN on 30 September 2019.

Over the past 18 years I have worked in the NHS in a variety of roles, from drug and alcohol work, community mental health and most recently I was the crisis lead in Grimsby. The main part of my career has been spent in Lincolnshire, covering rural areas, so I am familiar with the challenges rural families face.

I moved to Lincolnshire when I was 14 and went to school in Market Rasen. Wragby Young Farmers helped me find many friends at an awkward age in a new area. I briefly moved away from Lincolnshire to do my nursing training but decided city life wasn’t for me and shortly after qualifying returned to the “shire”, moving to Louth, where I helped set up Louth YFC. I remain on the advisory for the club now, despite now having moved up the road to Grimsby.

I married my wonderful husband Simon last year and am lucky to be step mum to his three daughters, Georgia 18, and twins Emily and Sophie, aged 15.

As my fortieth birthday looms, I decided that it was time for a change, and I jumped at the chance to join LRSN. It’s a really exciting time to be joining and am looking forward to helping to expand the services offered and support many more people in the county. I am looking forward to linking with the variety of organisations and individuals already involved with LRSN and bringing with me a vast network of organisations and resources to aid in the development of our service. 

Heather Dawes & Sandi Duffy - Health Screening Nurses


I have been in the nursing profession for over 30 years now, training in Sheffield and Nottingham and then working in Mansfield and Derbyshire once qualified.  I have worked in the hospital setting but most of my career has been as a district nurse caring for people in their own homes.

My husband and I moved to Lincolnshire in 2008 after we fell for its charms following several fishing holidays.  I joined LRSN in January 2009 and helped Alison to set up the health screening side of LRSN at Louth market.  Since then the service has steadily expanded and we now run clinics in 3 separate markets for the farming community in Louth , Newark and Spalding.

I still work in the NHS at times but not so many hours now as LRSN keeps me busy enough!  Recently my husband and I have discovered a shared love of Britain’s canals and rivers and now we have our own narrow boat and enjoy as much time as possible pottering about on the water.


I qualified as a State Registered Nurse in 1969 and following initial experience in general hospitals started work in the community in 1984, gaining my District Nursing qualification at Hull University in 1986. During my District Nursing experience of some 24 years in Louth and surrounding areas, I have gained insight into some of the health and social challenges facing rural communities, and have had the privilege of building relationships with a range of people in their times of both sadness and celebration. I count myself fortunate to work with LRSN, a compassionate, effective organisation offering an accessible, non judgemental service.

Sophie Dunn - Administration, PR and Events Manager

Following idyllic family holidays in the Yorkshire Dales as a child I have grown up with a love and appreciation for rural life together with the real challenges working in the agricultural sector can bring. My agricultural career started at Nottingham University where I studied Agricultural Science and following my marriage to a Lincolnshire farmer I have been involved with agriculture ever since.

Over the years I also developed an interest in event design and management which has equipped me well to tackle the work here at LRSN where I am responsible for keeping the charity “connected and informed” as well as supporting the work of the Project Manager and running our fundraising and PR events and activities. I feel privileged to work with LRSN, a charity dedicated to helping those in the rural community finding it tough to go on for whatever reason and I am pleased that I can contribute to helping Lincolnshire’s farmers and rural businesses by being a part of such a dedicated and committed team.

Alison Pratt - PR and Admin Manager

I am Alison Pratt, LRSN's second PR and Administration Manager. I joined LRSN in September 2018 and work alongside Sophie Dunn to ensure that LRSN runs smoothly. My tasks include coordinating the helpline personnel, keeping records of our calls and keeping the website, Facebook pages and Twitter stream up to date. I also help Sophie to arrange events and run projects that promote and raise awareness of our work.

I come from a farming family in County Durham, my brother now runs the farm, which today is an all arable enterprise. When I was young, Mum and Dad kept cattle, sheep, pigs and hens, as well as growing arable crops and potatoes. My earliest memories are of collecting eggs and "helping" my parents with the animals, especially the piglets and lambs. I attended school in Darlington, so would rush home every night to see what had been happening during my absence and school holidays and weekends were spent in the fresh air, often with school friends, enjoying the freedom of living on a farm.

University followed: I studied Soil and Land Resource Science at Newcastle, then, when I couldn't decide what to do next, I gained some very valuable secretarial skills at Upperthorpe Secretarial College in Darlington, learning to touch type and write in shorthand, a skill that has sadly disappeared. I can still type pretty fast, though!

I joined my previous employer, the National Farmers' Union in March 1987, some 31 years later, and six jobs held in locations around the country, I "retired" and have been lucky in being able to come and work for LRSN. My last job at the NFU was working as the regional communications adviser in the East Midlands, based at Uppingham. My role included editing the regional pages of British Farmer and Grower, writing news releases, training up and coming farming spokespeople through the NFU's Farming Ambassador programme and undertaking all sorts of promotions to showcase the wonderful work farmers and growers do to produce our food and look after our beautiful countryside.

I have been aware of LRSN and its work for many years, helping where I could through my role at NFU to promote the organisation and its work. I am so pleased to work with this wonderful team of staff and volunteers and, I hope, ensure that they can help more of Lincolnshire's rural families through difficult times.

"Here at LRSN we have a shared love and belief in Lincolnshire’s agricultural industry and we hope that this, together with our professional approach and dedication to our work at LRSN and everyone we work with, encourages people in need to come forward and ask for help because we want to help"

Sophie Dunn - Administration, PR and Events Manager

Talk to us on our helpline:

0800 138 1710