Prince Charles has warned that the majority of the UK population has "lost any real connection with the land" as he outlined his concerns about the future of the countryside.
The prince, writing in a foreword for Country Life magazine to mark his 66th birthday this week, argued that many people were now four or more generations removed from those who worked on the land and it showed in their attitudes. Words: PA
Many only had a "vague understanding" of farming and were increasingly suspicious of it, the prince said.
The heir to the throne maintained that people still treasured the countryside and urged them to value it or risk losing its landscapes, farmers, village pubs and local foods.
"One of the things that strikes me most forcibly is the extent to which the majority of the population has lost any real connection with the land.
"Unlike in most parts of the continent of Europe, many people in the UK are now four or more generations removed from anyone who actually worked on the land - and it frequently shows in their attitudes.
"They have only a vague understanding of what farming is or does; and - as outsiders looking in - they are increasingly suspicious of it. At the same time, they treasure the countryside."
He added: "The rich, natural tapestry that is the countryside we value so highly does not just happen by itself. But that delicately woven tapestry 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 hedgerows and stone walls; no thriving rural communities, no villages - or village pubs; no local markets, no distinctive local foods ... Somehow, we need to find a way to put a value on our countryside, with all its facets."
The Prince guest-edited the weekly magazine last year to mark his 65th birthday. He turns 66 on Friday.
Charles highlighted the importance of farmers, insisting: "I simply cannot see a viable future for the countryside that does not have the farmer - and the family farmer is a vital element in this - as food producer, at the front and centre of the picture.
"It would not only be a folly to lose agricultural land, it would be equally foolish to use it in ways that are not environmentally sustainable in the long term."
He stressed the benefits to the wider economy of the countryside's "ecosystem services" - with meadows and other grasslands storing millions of tonnes of carbon, providing homes for pollinating insects, supporting the agricultural economy and areas of beauty attracting visitors to boost local tourism.
Mark Hedges, editor of Country Life, said: "We are delighted that the Prince agreed to mark his 66th birthday by writing a powerful leader on the importance of preserving the countryside and its way of life.
"The Prince has a deep understanding and connection with every aspect of people working and living in rural Britain, from highlighting the hardship facing hill farmers who, last year, earned on average £8,000 to the 60,000 new entrants needed in the UK farming sector to secure its future, to the importance of preserving village schools, pubs and shops at the heart of country communities."
The Prince's Countryside Fund, which was established in 2010, has provided £4.4 million in grants to those who care for the countryside, helping more than 80,000 people and 140 communities.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "Prince Charles is right that we need to value our countryside and protect it for generations to come.
"The rural economy is worth £210 billion and that's why the Government is improving the environment and providing better broadband so we can add to the almost 10,000 new countryside jobs we've already created.
"Our £100 billion food and farming sector is a powerhouse of the economy, employing one in eight people."
England's best views
Prince Charles: "We are losing the British countryside"
As one of Northumberland's most iconic buildings, Bamburgh Castle sits proudly on a natural throne high above the coastline. If the tide is low you can admire the imposing castle from the beach below and even enjoy flying a kite. Trek up the hill to the dramatic site, which is one of the largest inhabited castles in the country and explore its rich history, discover the different areas like the Medieval Kitchen, the Keep and the King's Hall, and stop for tasty Northumberland treats in the Clock Tower Tea Rooms.
If you're looking for a fun seaside attraction for the whole family to enjoy, it's Blackpool Tower. Here you can ascend the 518-foot structure modelled on Paris's Eiffel Tower, step onto the SkyWalk across metres of glass at the top of the tower and hit the dancefloor at The Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Once you've experienced the panoramic views of Blackpool from a height, hit the miles of golden sand to see the iconic landmark in all its glory.
This beautiful residential road with 30 houses laid out in a crescent in the city of Bath was designed by architect John Wood the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774. The Royal Crescent is one of the country's finest examples of Georgian architecture and is Grade I listed with a hotel, museum, houses and offices located in the buildings. The Royal Victoria Park nearby is a location for the launch of hot air balloons - ideal if you're looking for a good photo opportunity or to see the road from the sky.
It's hard to beat the romantic grandeur of the World Heritage Site Hadrian's Wall. The famous stretch built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in AD122 took soldiers six years to complete and was 73 miles long on what is today the border of England and Scotland. Housesteads Fort, one of the best preserved Roman forts is a popular historical site along the Wall. Walk the magnificent 73-mile Hadrian's Wall Path and discover the brilliant views over the open countryside. Looking for somewhere to sleep?
London's giant Ferris wheel is the ultimate spot to see the capital at its best. Get a good view of Big Ben, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and beyond. On a clear day you can see around 25 miles from the top of the London Eye - that's as far as Windsor Castle! The wheel moves 26cm per second and each rotation takes around 30 minutes. It's one of the tallest structures in London at 135m and one of the city's most popular attractions. Hop on board one of the 32 capsules and see the views for yourself!
The chalk cliffs that make up The Seven Sisters by the English Channel are part of the South Downs in East Sussex. They're gradually being eroded by the sea and the peaks and dips are individually named Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Brow, Bailey's Hill and Went Hill. The natural beauty of The Seven Sisters has been recognised by filmmakers with the stunning cliffs featuring in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Atonement. Want somewhere to stay?
As one of the most famous megalithic monuments in the world, Stonehenge is an icon of prehistoric Britain dating back an astonishing 5,000 years. Stonehenge took a whopping 1,600 years to build - but the purpose of the attraction remains a mystery. You can get a good look from outside the main enclosure or pay to get really close to the stones. If you want a view that will make you feel fear, excitement and awe all in one go, Stonehenge is the place to visit!
With a variety of breathtaking landscapes, large old limestone field barns and plenty of white sheep, Swaledale, part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park shows rural England at its best. Wild flowers grow in the fields, sparkling moorland streams cascade down the valley sides and there are old-fashioned country pubs in the villages. Enjoy the best views by walking or cycling. Every year the two-week Swaledale Festival takes place with music and guided walks.
Life in Newcastle Gateshead revolves around the River Tyne and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge is an essential part of the city's culture linking Newcastle Quayside and Gateshead Quays. As the world's first tilting bridge, the pedestrian and cyclist crossing is one of England's most stunning structures turning on pivots on both sides of the river to form a gateway arch, which resembles the opening and closing of a giant eyelid.
Poets, painters and writers have all fallen in love with this truly beautiful lake in the Lake District, Cumbria. Wastwater is the deepest of all the lakes in the national park and in England. The three-mile long waters are surrounded by mountains and some of England's highest peaks including Scafell Pike, Great Gable and Lingmell. Its remoteness adds to its appeal with the only road in the area is off the main coastal A595.
Prince Charles: "We are losing the British countryside"
From the ruined castle to deer park and woodland, there is plenty to discover in this iconic part of the Welsh countryside. Visitors can enjoy walks, spot nature or simply take in the sights before warming up with fine local fare in the tea room.
Originally designed as a tourist destination, Stowe’s temples, lakes and monuments remain as fascinating as ever through the seasons. The newly restored coaching inn is the perfect place to enjoy a winter warmer, from hot drinks to soups and main courses.
Six miles from Exeter, this relaxed 18th-century estate makes an ideal place to stop off for a few hours. Rare trees, woodland walks and a the quirky “Bear’s Hut” are just some of the highlights to be found outside. Pop into the Killerton Kitchen restaurant for a hearty meal, or take tea in the Stable tea-room. Award-winning Killerton cider, chutney, flour or honey can be bought here too as a tasty reminder of your day.
This former Ducal park is open all year and home to nearly 4000 acres of parkland and gardens, peaceful woodlands and open spaces to explore on foot or by bike.
Mottisfont contains the National Trust’s newest winter garden, and specialises in exploring the potential of plants that are at their most beautiful and interesting when other plants are in hibernation. It combines a number of unusual plants, but also some familiar species for visitors to view in a new light.
Magnificent 12th-century ruins combine with beautiful landscaped Georgian water gardens at this lovely World Heritage Site, which also boasts its own medieval deer park. To make a weekend of it, stay in one of the 11 holiday cottages here, including apartments in the luxurious Fountains Hall and five cottages converted from a group of eighteenth century farm buildings, there’s something for everyone.
This seven-acre winter garden is home to more than 700 different plant species and a further 1,600 shrubs to admire, providing plenty of colourful distractions from the cold.
Take in the fresh winter air surrounded by a world-famous landscape garden, where a magnificent lake reflects classic temples, mystical grottos and swathes of surrounding trees. Make a weekend of it at 89 Church Lawn: set at the entrance to the magical landscape garden, this pretty stone cottage is an idyllic country hideaway. Enjoy bracing walks around the ornamental lake before the crowds. Sleeps seven.
Well worth a visit for its plethora of scenic delights, with statues and columns scattered across the atmospheric grounds. And the winter garden will be a delight for gardening fanatics, as it contains over 150 species of plants....
This beautiful 18th-century landscape park and nature reserve offers a taste of the country on the edge of the city. Discover fine Derwent Valley views, winding paths and refreshing open spaces to stretch tired legs while exploring elegant buildings and ruins. Escape along the avenue for miles of tranquil walks or enjoy family adventures at the woodland playscape and challenge trail.
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England's finest: the best places to visit
Prince Charles: "We are losing the British countryside"
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
Chatsworth House is an elegant stately home that's been transformed into a vibrant visitor attraction with exhibitions throughout the house, family-themed activities and an amazing 105-acre garden. There's a farmyard area for the kids, a woodland adventure playground and a huge maze. It's also a great place to visit any time of the year, where you can take part in Easter egg hunts in spring, Christmas shopping sprees in the Stables Shops in winter and walks around the garden in the summer. Visit chatsworth.org.
Shepherd Neame Visitor Centre, Kent
If you love beer and fancy a change from your local pub, visit the Shepherd Neame brewery in Faversham where you can enjoy tutored tastings, the Brewery Ghost Tour and find out about the brewery's history – it's been producing beer since 1698! It's housed in medieval buildings and there are special events throughout the year, including a barn dance, murder mystery evenings and a beer festival. Visit shepherdneame.co.uk.
Bedruthan Steps Hotel, Cornwall
This environmentally-friendly hotel on the Cornish seaside is family run and has all the luxury you'll find at a five-star hotel. The owners offer guests an indulgent stay with contemporary rooms, a sleek bar, restaurant and swimming pools - without it being a guilty pleasure. Its eco innovations include a green roof system, solar heating and a buy local policy. The hotel's great for all the family and there are even OFSTED-registered kids' clubs and activities to keep the little ones entertained. Visit bedruthan.com.
Number 43, Cumbria
This gorgeous boutique B&B is all about style and luxury with its chic rooms that have Bose music systems, mini bars and home-made biscuits. As a guest you'll receive everything a hotel offers, from luggage assistance to two-course suppers in the evening. Number 43 works with local artists, exhibiting their work throughout the hotel that guests can buy, and local food providers whose ingredients feature in the menus. Visit no43.org.uk.
The Langham, London
Since 1865 the iconic Langham in London has attracted guests to indulge in its grandeur, luxury and excellent service. The hotel's imposing architecture is spectacular and inside you can enjoy fine dining at celebrity chef Michel Roux Jr's restaurant, Roux at the Landau, sleep in opulent rooms and suites and relax with the world-class spa facilities. For a memorable trip to London this enchanting and elegant hotel is THE place to stay. Visit langhamhotels.co.uk.
Cumbrian Heavy Horses, Cumbria
It's the only equestrian centre dedicated to heavy horses and a unique treat if you think you've experienced everything. Based in the Lake District, Cumbrian Heavy Horses gives you the chance to ride Clydesdale and Shire horses, which have in the past been labeled as horses that are only fit for farm work. Whether you're a beginner or pro, riding the horses around the lakes, on the beach and through local farmland will give you a one-of-a-kind riding experience. Visit cumbrianheavyhorses.com.
The Dovecote Barns, Yorkshire
If you're holidaying at home this year and want to stay somewhere rural but stylish, The Dovecote Barns is the perfect place. The converted barns offer self-catering farm accommodation with luxury and include log-burning stoves, wooden country kitchens with top of the range appliances and contemporary en-suite facilities in all the bedrooms. If you don't fancy cooking, there's a 17th century inn along the riverbank and enjoying the natural surroundings is a must, with cycling, wildlife and walking just a few of the things that'll keep you entertained. Visit dovecotebarnsyork.co.uk.
Royal Ascot, Berkshire
The world-famous racing event is one of the highlights of summer in England and attracts everyone from royalty to racing enthusiasts. Royal Ascot is a real glamorous day out and the place to be seen – especially if you own a big hat! It's a place for families too, with themed days and affordable ticket prices. Big spenders can watch the horse racing from a private box and dine in the top-notch restaurants. Visit www.ascot.co.uk.
The Deep, East Yorkshire
You'll find the world's only submarium The Deep on the Humber Estuary in Hull. The imposing building is an attraction itself and was designed by Sir Terry Farrel to look like a shard of rock coming out of the sea. Inside you'll find tanks filled with 3,500 sea creatures including sharks and stingrays, and there are lots of hands-on experiences the kids will love. Braille introductions, audio guides, wheelchair access, as well as vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free menus are just some of the facilities that make The Deep accessible for all. Visit thedeep.co.uk.
The Porthminster Beach Café is perfectly located on the beach and has a daily-changing menu, which depends on what the fishing boats bring back. Australian head chef Michael Smith uses the freshest produce available and even grows vegetables and herbs opposite the restaurant. Ingredients from the nearby woodlands you may find on the menu include samphire, elderberries, sloes and sorrel. Visit www.porthminstercafe.co.uk.