Q&A: Paul Cherry, the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire

Paul Cherry, the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, tells Louise McEvoy about unsung heroes, his one real wish and what really makes Hertfordshire so attractive

When did you become High Sheriff of Hertfordshire and what does it involve?On March 12 this year the Queen met with the Privy Council to appoint the new High Sheriffs of every county in England and Wales. Known as the pricking ceremony, the Queen uses a bodkin to mark the names of each one. The ceremony dates back to an occasion when the Privy Council interrupted Queen Elizabeth I while she was busy with her embroidery. Then on April 15 I was sworn in at a declaration ceremony. Originally, a High Sheriff, which dates back to Saxon times and is the oldest office in England, was appointed to collect the king's taxes, maintain justice, and keep the peace within the county. High Sheriffs remain the Sovereign's representative for all matters relating to law and order, but the day-to-day job is working more with voluntary and charitable organisations.

How did you get the role?I was approached four years ago and asked whether I'd like to be nominated. The role is for one year only.

What will you focus on as High Sheriff of Hertfordshire?The High Sheriff is an integral part of the Crimebeat Awards which reward groups and individuals involved in crime reduction, so part of my focus will be crime reduction. The High Sheriff also gives out personal awards which honour unsung heroes, so I'm actively involved with many voluntary sectors. I see my role as an opportunity to champion and support the efforts of voluntary workers and charitable organisations in Hertfordshire.

Tell us a bit about yourself I'm 47, married to Caroline, and have two children. I was born and bred in Weston - a small village between Stevenage and Baldock. I farm there with my brother, John. My family has lived and farmed there for over 200 years and it's great carrying on the tradition.

As farmers, you and your brother try to safeguard the natural environment. What measures do you take to do this?We've kept areas fertiliser-free, set aside meadows for wild flowers, and plan to be totally carbon free by 2012. We use more environmentally-friendly methods of tillage, which avoid use of the plough and encourage earthworms. To enhance wildlife we've left wide margins around fields and planted nearly 10 miles of hedges, to provide nesting cover for birds and mammals.

What are your interests/hobbies?I took up skiing as an adult and I love it. I also love any holiday that involves wildlife, whether it be watching lemurs in Madagascar or listening to snipe drumming in the wilds of Scotland. I'm also just as content to walk through a bluebell wood in early May in Hertfordshire.

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If you could make one wish what would it be and why?That the voluntary sector was more recognised and didn't have to spend so much of its time chasing funding. If money was no object, real things could be achieved.

What three words would you use to describe Hertfordshire?Totally bloody marvellous! I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

What one town or village in Hertfordshire would you recommend a tourist to visit and why?There are so many attractions in Hertfordshire it's difficult to recommend just one place. Recently I went to the unveiling of plans for Butterfly World, which will open in 2011 in Chiswell Green. It will be the world's biggest walk-through butterfly experience with over 10,000 tropical butterflies in flight at any one time - sensational. Hertfordshire's not only attractive because of its villages, ancient woodlands, Roman history, museums, art galleries, historic houses and churches, but also because of the people who make it their home.