The incredible generosity of a farmer from Cornwall has been integral to enabling the county’s Air Ambulance to continue its life-saving work.
A service we're all proud of
Cornwall is a county with an inherent sense of community which belies its geography. Its population of 560,000 is spread over 1,376m2 of rural, often isolated small towns and villages – yet it’s a place where everyone knows everyone. This creates a sense of ownership and collective pride when it comes to services such as the Cornwall Air Ambulance.
Many residents recall instances of the iconic helicopter coming to the aid of a family member, a friend, a colleague – or even themselves – and after living in Cornwall for 80 years, farmer Neil Bailey was one such person. He knew only too well the vital service Cornwall Air Ambulance provides, having seen family and friends air-lifted in the past.
So, when the time came for him to write his Will, he decided to remember the charity that had come to the aid of his family and friends by leaving behind an incredibly generous donation. “Neil left 111 acres of farmland to the Cornwall Air Ambulance in his Will,” says Debbie Henshaw, Senior Fundraising Manager for the charity. “It is humbling that his legacy is living on through the countless missions we’re able to undertake in his memory. It is a gift that keeps giving.” Carter Jonas marketed the land in 2020 and, fittingly, has now sold it to a local farming family who Neil knew well.
To highlight the importance of the funds raised by the sale of this land, we need only look at the number of incidents that Cornwall Air Ambulance has responded to in 2020 alone – a number which stands at more than 1,000. Despite Covid-19 restrictions hitting tourism hard, people still flocked to the south west during the summer months, which is when the helicopter sees demand for its support peak. The team is called upon an average of three times every day, often arriving faster than any response car could because of the area’s notoriously winding roads and rural terrain. It is a dedicated service that is on call 19 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, despite its huge contribution, the charity is reliant on donations, fundraising efforts and gifts left to the organisation in Wills.
Legacy donations – such as Neil’s – are a vital source of funding for the charity, making up 31% of the funds needed to keep providing the lifesaving service. Currently, one in three missions is funded by donations left to the Cornwall Air Ambulance in Wills. “We’re very grateful for any gift, no matter the size,” says Debbie. “Some leave £100, others leave thousands, and some gift us pieces of art, jewellery, shares, land or property. They all have one thing in common – they want to remember good causes that they were passionate about, and which had an impact on their friends and family. We are humbled to think that people think of us when they’re planning their legacy.”
How to leave a legacy
If you’re considering leaving land or property to a charity in your Will, consulting a land agent and a solicitor from the very beginning is key.
Neil's legacy has provided vital funding for Cornwall Air Ambulance
“We can help a landowner make the right decisions practically, in terms of what land and property they include, as we need to make sure it is something that will benefit the chosen charity,” says Chris Anderson, Associate Partner at Carter Jonas. “It’s a good idea to involve us from the start, as the landowner will need to know the value of their estate in its entirety so they can divide it up in a way that is both financially and practically sensible.” A land agent can also advise a charity how to proceed once they are informed of their gift. “If a charity decides to sell their asset, which may allow it to use the sale proceeds to continue to fulfil its stated aim, we will come up with an overall bespoke strategy on how to manage and maximise the property to best serve their aims, taking into account the many other factors that are always present in such situations.”
From evaluating a property for tax purposes to determining pre-existing formal and informal arrangements on site, a land agent will prepare the asset so it can be transferred onwards or sold in a sensible way. In this particular instance, Carter Jonas appraised Neil’s land and advised the Cornwall Air Ambulance on an overall strategy to maximise the benefit of the legacy to the charity, which included a sale of the majority of the land. Because the charity hoped to complete the sale in a short time frame, Chris and his team moved forwards with the preparatory work quickly so that everything was ready to proceed from a legal point of view. Chris also briefed the tenants farming the land and kept them up to date with what was happening throughout the process, as well as liaising with the buyers and solicitors throughout.
He says: “We were confident that it would be popular, based on our experience from previous sales which is why we recommended a short, fixed marketing time frame, and everything went to plan – we received a lot of enquiries from local farmers, investors and amenity buyers from all over the country. These were followed by the receipt of multiple offers in various guises which we then assessed. We advised the client on the offers received and the applicants’ situation and, within a few days of the sale closing we instructed solicitors who were ready and waiting to go and fulfilled the transaction smoothly and quickly.”
A legacy given at a crucial time
It’s fair to say then that Neil’s windfall arrived at a fortunate time for the charity – while it was battling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. “It has been very difficult – we had to close all our charity shops, commercial fundraising took a huge hit and lots of events were cancelled or postponed,” Debbie explains.
The land generously left to the charity by Neil Bailey
“We’ve remained fully operational throughout the pandemic – not everyone was able to do that, so we’re really proud of our team,” adds Chlöe Smith, Communications and Media Officer. “However, they had to change the way they operate, both clinically and from an aviation point of view, which made an already stressful job even more challenging. “We also launched new services in this time – for instance, we’re now able to carry blood on board and successfully carried out our first ever roadside blood transfusion at the end of 2020. So, not only have we adapted to changing circumstances, we’ve also advanced the service we offer, which is something we’re very proud of.”
With a cost of nearly £5 million a year to provide its lifesaving service, the charity, like many others, was worried about a shortfall in income due to the pandemic. “However, we actually finished the year in quite a good position, and a large part of that is thanks to Neil’s legacy, and some grant funding, which has had a significant impact,” says Debbie.
An incredible service provided by an incredible team
The charity is made up of approximately 30 full-time members of staff and more than 250 volunteers. A typical emergency response requires two critical care paramedics and one pilot, who are called out to a range of different incidents from medical emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes to trauma incidents such as road traffic collisions, falls and agricultural accidents.
“In the summer, Cornwall’s population swells significantly, and the road network is incredibly busy,” Chlöe says. “It can take two hours to drive from Lands’ End to the nearest hospital – and that might not even be a hospital capable of dealing with the injury. Having a helicopter means the crew can bypass the roads and take people to the nearest trauma centre to get the specialist treatment they need. The combination of the critical care our crew can bring to an incident and the time saved is invaluable.”
Most of Neil Bailey’s legacy gift of land was at Treburrick, on the county’s north coast, six miles from Padstow. Carter Jonas set a guide price of £850,000 for the three lots amounting to 100 acres of Grade 3 productive farmland. It attracted significant interest but Ben and Sam Old successfully bid for all three lots and the sale went through on Friday 5th March.
“We were delighted when it was confirmed to us that the proceeds were going to the Cornwall Air Ambulance,” Sam says. “It’s one of our chosen charities at the caravan park we run, and we’ve always supported them. One of our family members wouldn’t have survived after falling and hitting his head if it wasn’t for Cornwall Air Ambulance. Because of its rapid response, we were lucky enough to see him recover and live for another 11 years. Our son was also picked up at one point, so we’re very aware of how important the service is to Cornwall.”
Ben and Sam had also recently donated the proceeds from a location fee from the ITV series Doc Martin to Cornwall Air Ambulance, after the camera crew filmed on their land. Ben occasionally helped Neil out as a teenager, so purchasing his land and helping to fulfil his aim of raising a substantial sum for such a valued and essential charity means a great deal. “He was a friend of the family,” Ben says. “I would skive off school for a couple of weeks every year to help him harvest potatoes and did some silage contracting for him once I’d left.
“I remember when he bought this land himself in the early 80s and lots of local people went out with him to celebrate. He was a brilliant farmer - any farmer in the district would say that if you wanted to see anything modern you should pay him a visit and see what was in his shed.
“He was a lovely chap, and it was incredibly generous of him to leave behind such a legacy.”