Meet our Trustees

The board of trustees is responsible for overseeing the overall governance of ‘Markshall Estate’ charity, ensuring all activity is in keeping with charity’s objects in the interests of agriculture, arboriculture and forestry.

The board bring a breadth of experience and expertise, playing important roles in the development of Markshall.

Meriel Barclay

Chair of the Board of Trustees

Meriel has chaired the Board of Markshall Estate since August 2022 bringing with her experience in strategy, finance, HR and governance. As a qualified accountant she worked until she retired as Director of Corporate Services for the National Centre for Social Research. Previous positions had been in similar roles for London solicitors. She is on the Board of three further charities, one of which gives children in deprived communities opportunities to play in concerts with professional musicians. She plays the harp regularly in orchestral concerts and operas and lives three miles from Markshall.

Bob Cowlin


Bob joined as a trustee in 2017. He is a retired chartered surveyor, having worked mainly on the valuation of both rural and commercial property for Strutt and Parker in Chelmsford for over 40 years. He lives on a small farm in South Suffolk which he runs as a private nature reserve. Other interests include singing in various local choirs and helping another East Anglian educational charity with their property assets.

Professor Ian Hodge


Ian Hodge has been a trustee of Marks Hall Estate since 2020. He is Emeritus Professor of Rural Economy and Life Fellow of Hughes Hall in the University of Cambridge. He was head of Department of Land Economy, 2002-2011. He is currently a member of Defra’s Economic Advisory Panel and the National Trust Midlands and East of England Regional Advisory Group. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and a trustee of Nene Park in Peterborough. He has published primarily on the issues of rural governance, land planning and management and agricultural and environmental policy.

David Whipps

Director of Markshall Trading

David joined the Board in 2021. He is a consultant to a local firm of solicitors and has considerable experience in planning and property matters as well as general experience in other areas of the law.
He has lived and worked locally most of his life and knows Markshall and the general area very well. In addition to working with Markshall David also assists other charitable organisations on a voluntary basis. In his spare time, he is an active walker and cyclist.

Benjamin Woodgate


Benjamin joined Markshall in 2019 bringing over 20 years of marketing and communication experience to the Markshall. Benjamin has worked with companies like Whole Foods Market, Google, IKEA and as the Director at the Whole Kids Foundation. He specialises in integrated marketing strategies and has led teams across various markets – the UK, EMEA, and USA. Raised on a farm, he prioritises outdoors activities with his family – enjoying camping, mountain biking and paddle boarding.

Jan Smith


Photo of Jan Smith Trustee of Markshall, Essex.

Jan joined as a trustee in 2019. During her career, Jan specialised in strategy development, marketing and customer experience holding Director positions at The Scouts Association, Open University, RAC plc, Mazda Cars (UK) Ltd, TSB Bank plc, and as Marketing Director for the launch of First Direct winning several industry awards for Branding,Jan has previously been a Non Executive Director at Land Registry, Royal Mint, Colchester Hospital and Saffron Building Society. Currently, she is also a NED at Reliance Bank. She enjoys yoga, French conversation classes and walking with a local group.