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The Prince of Wales visits Gloucestershire as Patron of The Prince's Countryside Fund

25th November 2013

The Prince of Wales meets students of the Royal Agricultural University's RAG committee during a visit to the University's Rural Innovation Centre at Manor Farm in Gloucestershire

The Prince of Wales meets students of the Royal Agricultural University's RAG committee during a visit to the University's Rural Innovation Centre at Manor Farm in Gloucestershire

Royal visits are normally marked by a plaque unveiling but The Prince of Wales went one step further and helped lay a commemorative stone in Gloucestershire.

His Royal Highness donned a pair of heavy duty gloves to help fix the stonework in place in a dry stone wall during a tour of the Royal Agricultural University's new rural innovation centre near Cirencester.

The Heir to The Throne is a keen dry stone wall maker and joked with some of the students he met about the tricky job of finding stones to fit.

During his visit The Prince met students, staff and industry specialists at the centre based at the university, which has His Royal Highness as its President.

The centre provides students with the opportunity to experience the practical side of farming and agriculture and The Prince's Countryside Fund has provided £50,000 to support a three-year project helping 90 local young people, not in education, employment or training, learn a range of skills from dry stone walling to blacksmithing.

The Prince of Wales during a visit to the Royal Agricultural University's Rural Innovation Centre at Manor Farm in Gloucestershire

The Prince of Wales during a visit to the Royal Agricultural University's Rural Innovation Centre at Manor Farm in Gloucestershire

Student Harry May, who helped His Royal Highness fix the stone plaque, said afterwards: "I am really pleased to be learning a variety of useful skills, once I have completed the training programme I hope that I will get a job in my local area.

"It's great that places like this exist as I didn't have the qualifications to go to university but this way I can still gain valuable experience relevant to the local job market."

Before visiting the university the prince toured a project helped by his Prince's Countryside Fund, which aims to protect rural life, in the Wiltshire village of Sherston.

His Royal Highness toured Sherston Old School, a grade II listed building that has been given a new life housing the village shop and a host of local businesses.

The building had stood empty since February 2005, when it was made redundant by the opening of a new village school, but a village community group was set up to safeguard it and increase local employment.

Funds were raised to secure the premises and the post office and general store set up. A £50,000 grant from The Prince's Countryside Fund enabled the team to finish renovations and reintroduce six business units.

The Prince met Mike Johnson, a director of Sherston Old School Community Interest Company, who said: "The success of the Old School to date has been entirely due to the initiative, vision and perseverance of the community over an extended timescale.

"We are so grateful for The Prince's Countryside Fund for giving us the final amount needed to create the business units. As a result the handsome building continues to be  at the heart of the local community and we're successfully reintroducing businesses into the village centre.

Community regeneration is key to preserving and protecting rural life."

His Royal Highness ended his day by visiting Cheltenham to see the Regent Arcade, which has been given an external makeover to create a new Regency inspired facade and two large retail units.

The Prince met planners, sustainability champions and independent retailers during his walk through the arcade which has been named the Green Apple Awards Retail Shopping Centres Energy Efficiency 2013 UK gold champion.

Victoria Elms, manager of The Prince's Countryside Fund, said: "Today's royal visits highlight the wide range of projects the Fund supports from community based shops to funding valuable training in rural skills. These projects are doing vital work to protect, improve and sustain rural life."