The Prince of Wales visits the historic George Hotel in Penrith

PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 June 2014

HRH The Prince of Wales launches Pilot Tourism Initiative to support the UK Countryside

HRH The Prince of Wales launches Pilot Tourism Initiative to support the UK Countryside

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Prince Charles came to the region to unveil a new fund for rural communities. Roger Borrell was there for the launch

HRH The Prince of Wales attended an auction of prime Herdwick ewes and lamb at Junction 36, Rural Auction CentreHRH The Prince of Wales attended an auction of prime Herdwick ewes and lamb at Junction 36, Rural Auction Centre

He may have been only the second Prince Charles to visit the historic George Hotel in Penrith but it’s quite likely his welcome was the warmer. The first was Bonnie Prince Charlie who lodged in the famous sandstone hostelry in 1745 on his way south in pursuit of the crown.

The Prince of Wales arrived with more peaceful intentions but plenty of passion – launching a national pilot scheme to encourage tourists to support the work of The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

The fund is supported by many top businesses - regional and national – and it helps those who live and work in hard-pressed rural areas. This pilot scheme will encourage tourists across the country to contribute towards projects supported by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

These projects deliver help to across the British countryside and they include apprenticeships for budding hill farmers, training for young people to gain employment in the rural economy, community transport schemes in isolated rural areas and projects supporting community assets such as pubs, post offices and village shops.

The Prince thanked tourism businesses and officials attending the launch for their enthusiastic support of the pilot which will start in time for the main 2014 season. Visitors who make a booking or pay for a meal will be asked by participating businesses if they would like to make a small donation at the point of sale. The Prince and his team hope small amounts add up to significant sums, which will then be used to support more projects.

‘I have always wanted to engage with the tourism and hospitality sector to see whether it might be possible to encourage visitors to support and help maintain the countryside they value so much,’ he told guests. ‘That is why I am absolutely delighted to have the backing of the remarkable group of companies and organisations involved in this pilot project.’

The Prince spoke of the powerful bond between tourism and our rural communities, citing it as one of the reasons for starting the fund, which has the support of Lancashire Life and businesses such as Booths.

‘For me, it matters as much that those who live in urban areas have a countryside to visit and cherish as it does that farmers can continue to live and work on their land producing food for the nation,’ he said.

‘But the delicately woven tapestry that is our countryside is facing unprecedented challenges. Start pulling the threads and the rest unravels very rapidly indeed. No farmers, beautiful landscapes with stone walls; no thriving rural communities, no villages — or village pubs; no sustainable agriculture, no distinctive locals foods.’

Tourism businesses already committed to the scheme include the Graves family who own Lake District Hotels such as The George, major breweries, almost 50,000 pubs, cottage rental groups and The Caravan Club.

Herd the news?

During his visit to the north west, the Prince of Wales attended the first auction of Lakeland Herdwicks since they received Protected Designation of Origin status.

The auction, at Crooklands, near Kendal, followed a long fought-for status, which means that the lambs must be born, raised, wintered and slaughtered within a strict geographic boundary.

This achievement has been supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, with the purpose of addressing low farming incomes and finding new, profitable routes to market for local hill farmers.

Leading hill farmer Will Rawling said; “Farmers need to take responsibility to market their produce more effectively and work together to collectively command a better price. There is a host of chefs, independent retailers and consumers interested in tasting our great produce, and they demand food with provenance. There is no meat that has a better provenance than the Lakeland Herdwick, and we intend to make the most of that.’

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