HRH The Prince of Wales has guest edited the November 14 edition of Country Life. In his leader article, he talks about the threats to the British countryside, and what we can all do to help.

HRH The Prince of Wales, photographed by John Paul for the Country Life Picture Library

HRH The Prince of Wales, photographed at Highgrove by John Paul for the Country Life Picture Library

‘I was astonished when the Editor of this august publication asked me, yet again, to take over the editorship of this edition. I thought he had had enough the last time,’ jokes HRH The Prince of Wales in his leader article for Country Life’s November 14, 2018 issue, which he has guest edited.

‘However, he told me that the intention was to mark my 70th birthday, which, of course, is extremely kind of him,’ The Prince continues, ‘but is nevertheless associated with the alarming realisation that I have reached the biblical threshold of three score years and ten, with all the scars that go with it.’

The Prince of Wales goes on to talk about his life, the changes that the world has seen in his time on Earth, and urges us to do everything we can to sustain our landscape and those who work so hard to maintain and enhance it.

“We have to find ways to pull the threads together; making the connections, understanding the complications and barriers, and ensuring the right rewards and incentives are in place”

While technology has often enhanced our lives it has also taken things away, many of which The Prince elaborates on.

‘The drive for “efficiency” led to many changes in our countryside,’ he writes.

‘The impacts on the health of soil and wildlife were accompanied by changes to the fabric and culture of the countryside. Farms were amalgamated, hedges torn out, ponds and wetlands drained, rivers dredged and canalised and, in upland areas, incentives were provided for blanket plantation forestry, even in areas of great scenic beauty.

‘In time, social changes followed. Village shops, pubs and schools found it increasingly hard to remain viable, particularly following the closure of more than 4,000 miles of mainly rural railway lines. Two of these I remember so well as a child in Norfolk and Aberdeenshire. Unfortunately, country bus routes that might have replaced them generally failed to prosper.

‘As a teenager, and someone who noticed what was going on around me, as well as being fortunate to be able to explore the fields of Sandringham, the uplands around Balmoral and the ancient woodland of Windsor Great Park, I remember witnessing all this environmental destruction and minding deeply about its ultimate impact. Could the ends possibly justify the means and what would we be left with?’

The Prince’s article ultimately carries a message of hope, however.

‘The countryside and its people are hugely resilient – as everyone who works close to Nature needs to be,’ he writes.

‘But it – and they – cannot be taken for granted. We have to find ways to pull the threads together; making the connections, understanding the complications and barriers, and ensuring the right rewards and incentives are in place…

‘I am not suggesting it will be easy, but we may be the last generation fortunate enough to experience the wonderful people, skills and activities of our countryside, some of which I have tried to highlight in this special edition of Country Life. ‘

‘Each article tells its own story and I do hope you will enjoy them all. I hope you might also reflect, as I do, on just how much the countryside and its people contribute to our national life, and what we can each do to help sustain them.’

You can read the full leader article written by HRH The Prince of Wales in the November 14, 2018 issue of Country Life, on sale now.