Did you watch BBC Countryfile last night? It was a special episode to celebrate the program’s 25th anniversary and was guest edited by Prince Charles. It’s available to those anywhere in the world via BBC I-player if you missed it.
The program has done a fantastic job in raising awareness of rural issues in both a sensitive and very real way.
Last night the Prince was keen to demonstrate the great skill of hedge laying and to show how challenging life can be for those who farm in the uplands of the UK.
Upland farmers often experience isolation (something which I have experienced myself as a young budding entrepreneur, and can destroy confidence) and wages are very low. The average upland hill farmer receives £16 000, some receive an income as low as £8 000.
So what, some might say. Well our farmers do a terrific job and British farming standards are amongst the highest in the world.
Farmers are dedicated people doing a job which many people would find very tough or be unwilling to do. Family farmers are out in all weathers, work long hours, which are physically as well as mentally demanding. Thank god there are people prepared to dedicate their lives to farming, breeding livestock and providing us with great quality food.
Our challenge now is ensuring that enough of the younger generation want to enter farming.
The program also whipped up a little nostalgia for me. I grew up on three different farms. As a young person I enjoyed some aspects of farm life, but wasn’t very impressed at the time with the fact that I couldn’t get anywhere under my own steam and I felt miles from anywhere. I was constantly finding mischief, (temptation was everywhere!) either for hanging out of trees by my ankles (deemed dangerous!) or for the fact that all my friends who visited often left covered in mud as I had persuaded them to explore with me. My poor mum was forever embarrassed to be handing back muddy children and their muddy clothes and shoes in a plastic bag to bemused smart looking parents in nice cars.
But reflecting as an adult it was a fantastic upbringing. I had freedom in abundance, acres of fields and woodlands to explore and roam, and fantastic life lessons in biology, maths, nature and life and death. I think it was the perfect pre-requisite to going into business for myself, although didn’t know that at the time.
Rural issues are still very real. And I hope that Foot Trails and I can help to do a small something to contribute towards the raising of awareness of issues.
So well done BBC Countryfile on 25th years, an excellent program, and here’s to the next 25.