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Prince Charles is asking tourists visiting the West Country to help those who live and work in rural areas by making a small donation when booking holidays or paying for a meal. He said the “powerful bond between tourism and our rural communities” could help sustain those making a living from the landscape.

The pilot scheme – backed by major tourism businesses across the UK – will encourage tourists across the country to contribute towards projects supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund. Visitors who make a booking, or pay for a meal or purchase, will be asked if they would like to make a small donation at the point of sale.

Businesses already committed to the scheme include Cottages4you, the British Beer and Pub Association, individual breweries, The Caravan Club and Farm Stay UK.

“We cannot – we simply must not – turn our back on the ability of the uplands to produce food,” the Prince Charles said at the official launch this week.

“But as everyone gathered here understands, this landscape has another vital role, because tourists love it too.

“There is a powerful bond between tourism and our role with communities and that’s one reason I started The Countryside Fund in 2010.

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

“But the delicately woven tapestry that is our countryside is facing unprecedented challenges. Start pulling out the threads and the rest unravels very rapidly indeed, and is very difficult to put back again. No farmers, no beautiful landscapes with stone walls, no thriving rural communities, no villages – or village pubs, no sustainable agriculture, no distinctive local foods.

“And this is what my Countryside Fund is addressing by giving grants to a range of organisations and initiatives across the country to help create and sustain a thriving rural community.”

Donations will be used to support projects ranging from apprenticeships for budding hill farmers to community transport schemes in isolated rural areas. It will also support training for young people to gain employment in the rural economy and projects supporting community assets such as pubs, post offices and village shops.

Prince Charles, speaking at a reception held at the George Hotel in Penrith, Cumbria, confirmed the pilot will begin over this year’s main summer season.

In under four years, the fund has handed out £3.8 million to more than 90 rural projects touching the lives of 64,000 people. Its emergency fund helped people in Somerset hit by flooding this winter.

The pilot scheme has been warmly welcomed by both the farming and tourism sectors in the West Country.

Ian Johnson, spokesman for the National Farmer’s Union in the South West, said: “Farming is the vital backbone of the wider rural community, with 13,000 commercial farm holdings in Devon and Somerset.

“Farmers care for the countryside and the livestock they keep help shape and maintain the beautiful landscape which attracts so many tourists. Many farmers are also directly involved with tourism diversifications. Farming and tourism are inextricably linked and are jointly crucial to the wider rural economy and the jobs of thousands of people, so what he is suggesting makes a great deal of sense.”

Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, added: “It’s a good idea. I think it is right that when people come down to enjoy an area they are given the opportunity to give something back. We welcome it alongside other gifting schemes.”


Christopher Macgowan