The farming Princess
PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 April 2014 | UPDATED: 12:00 22 April 2014
Adam Henson has a look at The Princess Royal's long associaton with the Three Counties Show, of which she is the new Patron, and her working knowledge of agriculture.
The annual county show season will soon be underway when the very best of British food and farming are on display and celebrated. For many people in the Cotswolds that means the annual visit to the Three Counties Showground which sits in beautiful surroundings below the Malvern Hills. On a clear, sunny day, it’s got to be the best view from any agricultural showground in the country.
There’s a really optimistic mood at the Three Counties at the moment. Plans for the big annual show in the summer are well underway and final preparations are being made for the Country-tastic event on April 17. It’s become a fixture in the spring calendar and it’s aimed at encouraging children to learn more about rural matters. Once again I’ll be helping out with the animal and livestock parades at this year’s Country-tastic. I love meeting some of the thousands of youngsters who go along to what’s became a sort of Junior Three Counties Show.
But what about the main three-day event in the middle of June? Well it’s only been a year since it was granted the prestigious honour of becoming the Royal Three Counties Show. Now comes the announcement that HRH Princess Anne has accepted an invitation to become the Patron of the show. The team at Malvern are thrilled and it’s great news for everyone involved, including local farmers like me, because it gives a boost to an already impressive event. So much in agriculture, food production and rural business is about confidence and credibility, so the patronage of Her Royal Highness will add weight to the show’s ambition to be the best event of its kind in the country.
The Princess has a long association with the Three Counties. Her first visit to the Malvern Showground was nearly 40 years ago and she’s been back for everything from the National Pony Society Summer Championships to the ever-popular Spring Gardening Show. She also served as the Three Counties Agricultural Society President back in 1981.
But what’s equally important is that Princess Anne has strong links to the region and a working knowledge of farming. She’s lived in Gloucestershire since the 1970s when she moved to the Gatcombe Park estate near Minchinhampton. Internationally it might be known for the famous Gatcombe Horse Trials but in the Cotswolds, the estate has also gained a reputation for successfully rearing rare and speciality breeds. Over recent years about 500 acres of grassland has been home to breeds such as Wiltshire Horn sheep, White Park and Highland cattle as well as Gloucestershire old spot pigs. In fact for the last four years pork, beef and lamb from Gatcombe has been on sale at a butcher’s shop just half a mile away from the estate.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: It was also on the menu at our Food & Drinks Awards last year, when The Princess Royal was the guest of honour.]
Like all livestock farmers, the Princess knows that creating a market for rare breed and speciality meat is important to keep the breeds going. But selling them in the centre of Minchinhampton was also a way to help regenerate business and increase interest in this old Cotswold market town.
It also happens that she’s the Patron of the Gloucestershire Old Spots Pig Breeders’ Club. The highlight of last year’s breed centenary must surely have been the Princess joining club members to present trophies and prizes at the AGM Grand Afternoon Tea.
I have to confess that the Her Royal Highness has a special place in the affections of the Henson family. Not only is she a fellow supporter of rare breeds but she also presented my dad, Joe, with his MBE in 2011. In the 40th anniversary year of the Cotswold Farm Park, he was honoured for services to conservation and I’m sure it wasn’t just coincidence that the investiture at Windsor Castle was conducted by Princess Anne.
So it looks like the Three Counties is all set for another year of royally successful shows.