When His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales first visited Transylvania nearly 20 years ago, he was captivated by the region’s “timelessness”, and said it reminded him of stories he read as a child. Bears roam the forested slopes of the Carpathians, mountain pastures tinkle with the sound of cowbells and farmers scythe their hay meadows by hand. But for Prince Charles it wasn’t just about storybook images – it was biodiversity at its very best. He saw a landscape teeming with wildflowers, cacophonous with insect-life and untouched by modern farming methods.
The Prince has been spending holidays in Transylvania ever since and, for this special edition of On Your Farm, he invites Charlotte Smith to join him. He talks passionately about biodiversity – a word mistaken for a new type of washing ingredient when he first started campaigning for its preservation in the 1990s. He is open about his fears for the environment and, with a little help from Robert Byron, describes the natural world he wants his grandchildren and all future generations to inherit.
We also look at environmental projects The Prince of Wales is supporting in Romania and back home in the UK.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales opens the door to his holiday home in Transylvania for a rare and exclusive interview. In the shade of the house he bought and renovated in the village of Zalanpatak, a relaxed Prince Charles speaks openly to Charlotte Smith about his efforts to support remote farming communities. This part of Romania, he says, is “where we see true sustainability and complete resilience.”
Farmers here still scythe hay meadows by hand, keep just one or two cows and load milk churns onto horse-drawn carts, rumbling along potholed tracks to village collection points. Charlotte questions the sustainability of such old-fashioned practices but Prince Charles is adamant these “ancient patterns of life” should be preserved.
To that end he has created a village cooperative, encouraging people to market their homegrown and handmade products. He sees the potential for eco-tourism and rents out two rustically-restored houses, offering visitors an authentic Transylvanian experience. And as if to prove his commitment to the culture and traditions of this region, the future king sits at a table in a meadow and judges a scything competition.
But is the Prince preserving a way of life, or a museum? Charlotte explores that question, and many others, on her journey through a landscape unchanged by the modern world.
And from subsistence farms in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains to a dairy farm on the Duchy Estate, we explore the challenges facing rural communities in the UK. The Prince of Wales believes there are similar threats to their survival but shares his thoughts on the solutions; on how to keep young people on the land and family farms thriving in the future.