HE is no stranger to the farming community so there was little surprise that Prince Charles beamed with delight as he toured a South Lakeland auction mart.

HRH The Prince Of Wales watched on as the first sale of authentic Lakeland Herdwick lambs took place at J36 Rural Auction Centre, Crooklands, earlier today.

During the one hour tour he praised the quality of the iconic Cumbrian breed of sheep and wandered through the site with senior bosses before speaking with North West Auction apprentices and J36 tenants.

He also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit to the 13.5 acre state-of-the-art site.

Speaking to a crowd of dignitaries, HRH said: “This remarkable establishment provides so many services on one site and seems to be an excellent development.

“It has given me an opportunity to see what happens here and I wish you all the success in the future.”

John Geldard, a director of the L & K Group which owns the J36 Rural Auction Centre, took the Prince on the tour.

“He knows how close to the breadline our hill farmers are and how their sheep, including the Herdwick, help produce a world-class landscape that attracts millions of visitors from around the world,” he said.

At the auction a new brand, designed by Spencer Hannah, owner of the Herdy Company, was launched.

It is hoped it will enable farmers to market Herdwick meat more widely and command a better price for their produce.

“I am very proud and grateful for his support,” said Mr Hannah. “Hopefully the new brand will encourage an uplift in price and put more money into the back pockets of Cumbrian farmers.”

Mary Houston, Taste Cumbria manager, said: “Herdwick farming is key to preserving the landscape and character of The Lakes, from preserving the distinctive dry stone walls to managed grazing.

“It’s heart-breaking that many upland famers earn as little as £6,000 or less, which is less than half the minimum wage.

“The new brand will help to retain spend in the community and allows for better accountability and policing of the supply chain.”

In the ring auctioneer Matthew Probert had the privilege of conducting the first sale of Herdwicks under Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).

PDO guarantees the meat of sheep from the Herdwick breed is born, reared and slaughtered in Cumbria.

“I offered him a chance to conduct a sale but he said he would prefer to watch me,” said Mr Probert. “He was very pleasant and you can see he has a real understanding of the rural economy and the jobs we do.”