Lancaster farmers meet Prince of Wales on visit to J36 Rural Auction Centre

Prince Charles meeting Lancaster farmers William Alexander, left, and Ian Atkinson.
Prince Charles meeting Lancaster farmers William Alexander, left, and Ian Atkinson.

Lancaster’s farming fraternity rubbed royal shoulders yesterday, Wednesday, as the Prince of Wales visited the district’s new J36 Rural Auction Centre.

His Royal Highness started a day-long series of engagements in Cumbria at the site at Crooklands, just off the M6 near Milnthorpe, to see how his countryside fund was helping the region’s agricultural community.

Prince Charles met young Lancaster farmers as more than 200 people welcomed him at the new state-of-the-art, L&K Group-owned business site.

William Alexander, 23, who owns his own small holding at Quernmore, and Ian Atkinson, also 23, who works on the family farm at Scorton, were two of five North West Auction apprentices to come face-to-face with the prince at the 13.5 acre centre where they train.

Mr Alexander is training on a livestock market operations and management course while working as a fieldsman and trainee auctioneer at the J36 Rural Auction Centre.

Mr Atkinson, meanwhile, returned from a study trip to New Zealand and Australia in time to help with lambing a flock of 650 Swaledale ewes and is an auctioneer and assistant land agent for North West Auctions.

Also greeting the royal guest were L&K Group chairman John Drinkall - who manages a hill farm with his sons on the Duke of Westminster’s Abbeystead Estate, and John Hughes, of Quernmore, an auctionee, manager and valuer for North West Auctions, which is based at centre.

Mr Drinkall, pictured shaking the prince’s hand above, said: “The visit has been a great success. 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.”

His Royal Highness saw how the Prince’s Countryside Fund is helping hill farmers find new and more profitable routes to market after witnessing the launch of a Herdwick brand and a process to guarantee the authenticity of Lakeland Herdwick lamb.

In the sale ring, the prince followed a special auction of the prime lambs - the first ever consignment of Protected Designation of Origin lambs to be auctioned and sent to the only designated abattoir that can guarantee and sell the breed.

Director of the Prince’s Countryside Fund, Dawn Howard, 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.”

Prince Charles also visited a hairdressing salon belonging to farmer’s daughter Caroline Dixon - the latest tenant at the centre - and chatted to her customers. The fully-let site is home to more than 20 tenant businesses serving the rural and wider community.

The prince later unveiled a plaque to commemorate his visit before leaving for engagements in Penrith, Wigton and Workington.