Supporting farmers was the dominant theme of The Prince of Wales’s visit to Derbyshire on Friday.
Prince Charles, a champion for the family farm heard first-hand accounts from Buxton area farmers about the trials and tribulations they face and how The Prince’s Countryside Fund, is rendering the help the farmers and their families need.
Charles founded The Prince’s Countryside Fund in 2010.
The first stop of the day had Charles pay a visit to the dairy of Blackwell Hall Farm, the base for the Farming Life Centre. The farm has been in the Gregory family since 1892. Following the death of Bill Gregory in April; ownership passed to his wife, Christine. The Prince met with Christine’s son-in-law Les and his son, Andrew. Andrew hopes to take over the farm himself one day. Charles and the family talked about how the support received from the Farming Life Centre was life changing.
The Farming Life Centre is a charitable organisation that affords a range of business and health-related services to the farming and rural community of the Derbyshire and Staffordshire Peak District. It began during the foot and mouth crisis and this year is marking its 10th anniversary. It has received two grants from The Prince’s Countryside Fund since April 2012, totalling £93,000.
Charles then met six members of the Buxton Young Farmers’ Club as they were taking part in a stock judging activity. The social club for young farmers is part of a network of more than 700 such clubs for 10 to 26-year old farmers across England and Wales.
The heir to the throne took some time to stop in the kitchen and meet with a few members of the Rural Social Group enjoying tea and cake. The Rural Social Group is the foundation of the centre’s programme, providing a weekly chance for retired and semi-retired farmers to get together to chat, share and enjoy fellowship and provide mutual support.
He then joined a short reception before heading off to attend the farming crisis summit convened by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.
Charles participated in the Farming Crisis Summit assembled by The Prince’s Countryside Fund to study the problem in a local and national context. Key figures and groups including charities, banks and landowners attended the summit to examine the immediate actions and commitments that are needed to avert a major crisis befalling our farming sector over the winter.
Through his Countryside Fund, Charles already supports some farming initiatives across the UK, including The Prince’s Dairy Initiative. Launched in 2012, The Prince’s Dairy Initiative is a programme inspired Prince Charles’s concern about the future sustainability of UK dairy farming. The project strives to increase the resilience of the UK dairy supply chain by assisting in securing a viable future for farmers.
The Prince likes to take a hands-on role in the management of the Duchy of Cornwall and after leaving Derbyshire, he made a private visit to tenants of one of the estate’s starter farms, which are smaller units designed to help families looking to start their first farming business.
Continuing his busy day, Charles was accompanied by The Duchess of Devonshire and visited the Laurent Perrier Garden at Chatsworth.
Earlier in 2015 Chatsworth worked with Champagne house Laurent-Perrier to create a show garden at RHS Chelsea, which was awarded ‘Best in Show’.
The garden captured the spirit of Chatsworth, drawing on influences from Sir Joseph Paxton’s 19th century ornamental Trout Stream. The garden mixed elements of Paxton’s Rockery, including a rock wall and rock stacks made from gritstone transported from Chatsworth.
Much of the Chelsea garden, including benches, decking and rock piles are now being moved to Chatsworth where they are being used in a new project to reinvigorate the Trout Stream area of the garden.
Chatsworth is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. As well as being a family home, Chatsworth is also a well-known tourist attraction that houses one of Europe’s most notable art collections, a 105-acre garden, a working farmyard and adventure playground. The estate also offers holiday cottages, hotels, shops and restaurants, including the award-winning Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop.
The 11th Duke of Devonshire set up The Chatsworth House Trust, an independent charity in 1981 to secure the long-term survival of Chatsworth for the benefit of the public. All visitor admission income goes directly to the Chatsworth House Trust, committed to the security, improvement and sharing of Chatsworth house, its collection and landscape, with and for visitors.
Following his time spent at Chatsworth, Charles last engagement of the day was a visit to Wirksworth Station to see the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway and travel the ‘milk and honey’ line in a 1959 diesel railcar restored by the railway’s young volunteers.
In 1989, the last freight train passed through Wirksworth Station. The Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, nicknamed the ‘milk and honey’ line due to its history of carrying farm produce, was left unused for a decade.
After the tireless efforts of over 200 volunteers, the railway is back to an entirely functioning line, connecting passengers to East Midlands services for the first time in six decades. The railway not only allows visitors to reach their destinations but it has infused over £1 million back into the local economy.
Although founded in 1992, The Ecclesborne Valley Railway did not begin its transformation until 2000 when a team of volunteers gained access to the railway and after over 300,000 hours of volunteer time and a £1.25million investment they turned the abandoned wasteland into a thriving community business.
Charles met local school children upon his arrival. He then went on to meet with the railways supporters before unveiling a plaque and boarding the 1959 railcar.
The 1959 railcars, for long distance passenger trains due to its large comfortable seating and spacious area for luggage, were withdrawn from mainline services in 1993. Of the 27 cars originally built only three have survived. This extraordinary railcar has been restored by a team of volunteers and successfully relaunched in 2013.
Onboard the train, The Prince met young volunteers involved in the restoration project.
Charles last visited Derbyshire in February 2012.