Royal visitor meets five apprentices at open day

ROYAL VISIT: the Prince of Wales, centre, watches the auction of Lakeland Herdwick lambs flanked by, from left, Matthew Probert, John Drinkall, John Geldard, and Margaret Dodgson

ROYAL VISIT: the Prince of Wales, centre, watches the auction of Lakeland Herdwick lambs flanked by, from left, Matthew Probert, John Drinkall, John Geldard, and Margaret Dodgson

First published in Farming Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by

PRINCE Charles received a warm welcome on a one-day visit to Cumbria.

More than 200 people attended his first engagement at the modern 13.5-acre J36 Rural Auction Centre at Crooklands, where he met five North-West Auction (NWA) apprentices.

They were: drover Harriet Cook, 17, of Witherslack; drover Katie Onions, 18, from near Burton in Kendal; Bradley Thompson, 18, of Selside; fieldsman William Alexander, 23, from near Lancaster; and Ian Atkinson, 23, trainee auctioneer and assistant land agent, from near Lancaster, who recently returned from a study trip to New Zealand and Australia.

All spent a few minutes chatting to Prince Charles before he visited a hairdressing salon at the centre, which is run by local farmer’s daughter Caroline Dixon.

The fully-let site is also home to more than 20 tenant businesses serving the rural and wider community.

Demonstrating how the Prince’s Countryside Fund is helping hill farmers find new and more profitable routes to market, Prince Charles witnessed the launch of a Herdwick brand and a process to guarantee the authenticity of Lakeland Herdwick lamb.

Both should help farmers market Herdwick meat more widely and command a better price for their produce.

In NWA’s sale ring the Prince of Wales followed a special auction of Lakeland Herdwick prime lambs – the first consignment of PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) lambs to be auctioned and sent to the only designated abattoir that can guarantee and sell Lakeland Herdwick lamb.

Airey’s is a 191-year-old family business near Grangeover- Sands and specialises in offering meat from rare and traditional breeds.

The prince was able to meet Herdwick breeders and buyers and talk to Will Rawling, hill farmer and chairman of the Farmer Network and Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association.

Dawn Howard, director of the Prince’s Countryside Fund, said: “Life in hill farming can be tough. It requires stamina, dedication, long hours and a love of what you are doing.

“Herdwick farming is integral to the Cumbrian landscape and we’re pleased to be able to help build awareness of this product and support those at the core of Herdwick farming.

“With thousands of farmers leaving the industry each year, initiatives such as Taste Cumbria’s Herdwick project are essential.”

During his visit the prince met L & K Group directors and staff and unveiled a plaque to commemorate the occasion.

John Drinkall, L&K group chairman, who manages a hill farm with his sons on the Duke of Westminster’s Abbeystead Estate, near Lancaster, said the visit had been a great success.

He said: “The Prince seemed to enjoy meeting a good cross section of the agricultural community, including the many varied tenants who provide a range of services.

“He has seen first-hand a rural auction centre fit for the 21st century, which provides farmers with the best possible environment to market their produce.

“This is the product of one of the largest investments in business premises the area has seen for a number of years and shows our commitment to this important industry.”

The Prince of Wales’ schedule for the rest of the day included engagements in the east of the county at Penrith, and in Wigton and Workington, in north Cumbria.

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