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HRH visits the Sheepdrove Organic Farm in West Berkshire

28th June 2004

The Prince of Wales opened a new building at one of the country's largest and most innovative organic farms.

The Prince, who is Patron of The Soil Association, was opening a new conference centre built from natural materials at Sheepdrove Farm in West Berkshire.

The award-winning farm, owned by organic pioneers Peter and Juliet Kindersley, covers around 2,250 acres and rears cattle, sheep and poultry as well as running a successful compost recycling business.

The new eco-friendly conference building, called the Kindersley Centre, is built from natural materials and aims to reflect the ethos of the farm.

The oak building has toilet partitions made from recycled toothpaste tubes and sinks made from recycled CD cases.

The Prince has long been committed to organic farming and employs many sustainable land practices at his Duchy Home Farm.

The Prince gave an address as he opened the building and spoke of his personal commitment to organic farming.

His Royal Highness said: “Twenty years ago when I first started to use organic systems at Highgrove it was met with complete ridicule, it's interesting now that it isn't ridiculed to the same degree.

“I think people are beginning to realise that some of the chickens are coming home to roost and settle heavily in the genetically modified trees.”

Peter Kindersley praised The Prince for his commitment, saying that he had “done more than almost anyone to encourage the whole business of natural farming and natural systems.”

During the visit, The Prince toured the farm's successful composting operation which processes organic waste both from local stables and households, collected by the council.

The Prince described the operation as something he was “enormously impressed by”.

He also toured the farm's reed bed system which drains all of the used water from the land and cleanses it using a network of reed beds, ponds and miniature swirling pools - all driven by the force of gravity.

The system, which is similar to one which The Prince has had installed at Highgrove, produces water clean enough to meet European bathing standards.

The Kindersleys started the farm nine years ago. Working from a basic desire to be self-sufficient, they gradually added more and more land to the project.

The Prince told them: “I remember when I first started, and for quite a long time afterwards I was told it's very difficult to achieve anything organic in our part of the world, it's so chalky or so sandy'.

“You have shown that the system can work anywhere.”

And The Prince, known for his outspoken interest in architecture, hailed the conference centre as a “triumph” which he said worked in harmony with the landscape.

The building, designed by architect David Mellor, uses a range of natural materials, even using the chalk from the local fields in its walls.

The farm also has an innovative brooder shed for chickens. After hatching, the chickens spend the first part of their lives in the specialised sheds. Realistic outdoor noises are pumped through a CD system and the creatures are even given their first taste of real sunlight with their own private conservatory.

The Prince also visited the farm's sheep pens where he was shown a variety of Cheviot and Shetland breeds.

Head shepherd Chris Aldridge said: “The sheep are stocked a lot lighter by the acre, there's a lot less stress on the animals from birth.”