Royal Recognition for Cumbria’s Iconic Herdwick Breed: Craft, Community and Culture Unite in Lakeland Celebration
HRH The Prince of Wales visited the Rheged Centre near Penrith, attending a reception of upland farmers, wool campaigners, chefs and children of farming families—all connected to the iconic Lakeland breed of sheep, The Herdwick.
The visit recognised the importance of upland farming to maintaining the landscape, community, craft and culture. It also highlighted the work of two charities of which HRH The Prince of Wales is patron; The Prince’s Countryside Fund and Campaign for Wool.
The visit was hosted by the Dunning family who are, uniquely, hill farmers as well as farming entrepreneurs. The Dunnings own and operate Tebay and Gloucester Services with their Farm Shops as well as Rheged, a family of businesses dedicated to local sourcing, community and celebrating the talent of their place.
Chief Executive of the Westmorland Family, Sarah Dunning said, “It’s a great pleasure to host a day devoted to food, farming and Cumbrian life. When discussing agriculture, we often miss the importance of the word ‘culture’. How food is reared and links the landscape and community is as important at the product itself, it is important to recognise agriculture in the fullest context, as it encapsulates craft, food and a way of life.”
HRH The Prince of Wales was welcomed by 50 children of local farming families and greeted on a carpet made from Herdwick wool, provided by John Barraclough from Wools of Cumbria. The centre was festooned with distinctive Herdwick bunting, knitted especially for the visit by Marion Woolcott, Chair of Woolclip.
Central to the visit was a viewing of Ian Lawson’s photography exhibition Herdwick: A Portrait of Lakeland. The striking exhibition neatly unites farmer to landscape, and portrays the lives of modern day shepherds who shape the landscape of the Lake District.
During the reception HRH was shown a Herdwick textile installation, meeting individuals from the Campaign for Wool that included carpet, fabric, fashion, art and insulation manufacturers, showing the diversity and innovation of Herdwick wool in today’s textile industry.
The Campaign for Wool, initiated by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2010 to raise awareness of the natural, sustainable story of wool has gained international profile in its five years with over 400 leading brands supporting it across the world.
The Campaign for Wool’s Chairman Nicholas Coleridge said “It is fantastic that HRH The Prince of Wales had an opportunity to speak to young upland farmers. Ever since he inspired and convened the Campaign for Wool six years ago, he has been passionate about boosting the wool industry and championing the future of young farmers. His Campaign has already made a big difference to the perception of wool around the world, so it is fitting that HRH should meet some of the beneficiaries of his initiative”.
HRH The Prince of Wales then met the farmers, chefs and butchers behind The Prince’s Countryside Fund funded “Herdwick Project,” set up by Cumbria Tourism to raise the profile of Herdwick meat and give the farmers a better return on their produce.
Hill Farmer and Vice Chairman of the Herdwick Breeders Association, Anthony Hartley said; “There is no meat that has a better provenance than Lakeland Herdwick. Farmers need to take responsibility to market their produce more effectively and work together to collectively command a better price for the breed.”
“Herdwick farming is key to preserving the landscape and character of the Lake District, from preserving the distinctive dry stone walls to managed grazing. It’s heart-breaking that many upland famers earn as little as £6,000 or less, which is less than half the minimum wage. Awareness of the importance of upland farming is key to our survival.”
The engagement finished with HRH The Prince of Wales meeting 20 young upland farmers who offer the promise of a sustainable and vibrant future in the fells.
It is estimated that 60,000 new entrants are needed in the farming industry in the next decade to ensure its sustainability. The average age of a hill farmer in Cumbria is 58 and opportunities for the young to learn the techniques required are diminishing.
Helen Aldis, Manager of The Prince’s Countryside Fund explains, “Training young people to continue in rural careers is vital to maintaining both landscape, livelihood and community
Since HRH The Prince of Wales launched his Fund five years ago we have invested in a 18 projects in Cumbria to train the farmers of the future and support upland farmers to improve the viability of their businesses.”