THE Prince of Wales yesterday confessed that trimming hedges and digging up weeds on his estate "keeps me sane" during a visit to a Yorkshire farm which has diversified into making gardening tools.
Prince Charles strode around remote Hill Top Farm on Spaunton Moor on the North York Moors, north of Pickering, while meeting farmers and business leaders to discuss how to help prevent the unravelling of an industry which is regarded as the very fabric of the English countryside.
One hundred acre Hill Top Farm, run by Philip and Nelly Trevelyan since 1975, has been one success story. As well as rearing pedigree Swaledale Sheep the farm has its own mill which produces 100 tons of organic flour a year, plus its Lazy Dog Tools business.
One of its own patented inventions is the Lazy Dog itself – a device designed to take the backache out of weeding by allowing pests such as Ragwort to be removed at waist height, without bending down.
On seeing the product the Prince exclaimed: "By God, I could do with one of those." He then mimed stamping his foot onto a conventional garden fork saying: "I have to use one of these."
He was then told there was no need to stick his hand in his pocket because he was being presented with the 64 tool, though he would need to learn how to use it.
The Prince grimaced: "How many hours practice do you need?" Onlookers suggested he would not be using it too much himself. But the Royal visitor replied: "You would be surprised."
Later Mr Trevelyan said he thought it was wonderful that the Prince was such a hands-on gardener. "He told me he does an enormous amount of that kind of work. He says it keeps him sane." As well as weeding he had also mentioned trimming hedges.
Before signing the workshop visitors' book, the Prince also admired the Red Dogs range of garden trowels and was sad to be told the company could no longer source the blades from Stockton due to casting firms closing down due to cheaper imports. "That's tragic," he said.
At the start of what was the Prince's second official engagement of the year he inspected the Swaledales grazing on the moor where the Trevelyans have created a pioneering "fenceless and organic" area over 11 years.
The visit was arranged as part of a Seeing is Believing programme by BITC (Business in the Community) which invites senior figures to see how the private sector is helping tackle social problems through initiatives such as BITC's Rural Action Programme.
During a meeting with business leaders including Marks & Spencer Director of Foods Stephen Esom and Yorkshire Post Editor Peter Charlton, Michael Graham, Assistant Director of Policy Management for the North York Moors National Park, underlined the importance of farming to the nation.
He said: "It is the stability of the core concept of our countryside and we need a viable farming industry to keep that."
At nearby Grange Farm at Levisham the Prince ate mutton stew with supporters of the Mutton Renaissance Campaign – founded by the Prince in 2004 – as it was revealed mutton sales had recently gone up 20 per cent.