Our Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales
It was The Prince of Wales’s long-held concerns for the future of Britain’s rural areas that led to the idea of raising funds to help them become more sustainable. He challenged the business leaders that comprise his Prince’s Rural Action Programme at BITC to see what they could do about it. The Prince of Wales has long been a supporter of British farming and rural communities and for 30 years as President of Business in the Community, he has promoted responsible business and the power of business to be a positive force for change.
"The countryside means different things to each of us. For some, it is a place of beauty and tranquillity - somewhere to escape the stresses and strains of urban life, to be closer to Nature and to enjoy our wonderful landscapes and the wildlife they support. For many, it is also a place to live and work. And, of course, for all of us it is a source of our food and water, not to mention the vital role it plays in capturing carbon in the fight against climate change. But whatever our relationship with rural Britain, we can surely all agree that it is one of the greatest treasures of our nation.
My Countryside Fund is a response to the threats facing our countryside, as we know and love it. Farming and rural communities are under immense pressure, to an extent perhaps unprecedented in my lifetime. In a fast moving, global economy, no sector can be immune to rapid changes, whether good or bad, but it is all too easy to overlook, or perhaps merely to forget, just how much we depend on our family farmers, and the extent to which their fortunes and those of rural communities are directly linked.
So many of us enjoy walking and visiting the moors, fells and dales of our country. We love them for their breathtaking beauty and for the very special communities that make up the unique rural tapestry. But both are entirely dependent on agriculture and on the farmers who, for generations, have cared for the land. They are also dependent on their families who are so often the backbone of the villages and market towns, whether as school governors, Church wardens or members of the W.I and Rotary.
I have heard some people question whether it really matters if farming continues in these areas; that perhaps we should just let them revert to how they were before farming began over 3,000 years ago. To me, that would be a folly for which future generations would never forgive us. Apart from anything else, with the threat from climate change and the risk of over-reliance on international transportation, we should be keeping as much land in food production as possible - so long as it is done in an environmentally sustainable way. And, through my Countryside Fund, I want to help keep our countryside a living, breathing, working place so that it is there for everyone to appreciate.
I know from my travels around the country that there is a multitude of remarkable organisations and individuals working tirelessly to keep farmers farming and our rural communities alive. I have visited many of them and seen their work at first hand. Whether they are supporting farmers in need, helping maintain rural skills, carrying out vital conservation and restoration work, keeping the pubs and shops open that are so important in binding a community together, or helping to reconnect people to the land and where their food comes from, they are all helping to sustain its future.
I believe those of us who love the countryside can make a real difference by supporting and extending these initiatives. That is why my Countryside Fund’s grants programme is supporting grassroots projects that are helping to create a vibrant, sustainable future for rural Britain."
HRH The Prince of Wales, 2016