AGRICULTURAL students welcomed a royal visitor earlier this week as The Prince of Wales stopped off at the Rural Innovation Centre at Harnhill, just outside Cirencester.

Prince Charles took a tour around the converted farm building to meet students and staff from the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), industry specialists, and young people taking part in agricultural taster sessions funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund (PCF).

After apologising first for interrupting each lesson, the Prince chatted with students and staff as they worked. He seemed particularly interested in an animal husbandry lesson where students were examining silage samples, even asking what was in the sample mix.

The Prince was also greeted warmly by chief executive of the Soil Association Helen Browning, who kissed him on both cheeks before introducing him to farmers involved in the Duchy Originals Future Farming programme, funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.

RAU principal Chris Gaskell said the day had been a huge success.

“What we do here at the centre is very close to the Prince’s heart,” he said.

“This is his thing; agriculture, rural studies and young people. He really wants this to work.”

The PCF has donated £50,000 to a vocational project at the centre, giving local young people not in education, employment or training the chance to learn agricultural skills.

Harry May, one of the young people enjoying a taster day in preparation for the course, helped the Prince lay a commemorative stone on a half-built dry stone wall on site.

Harry said he was finding the programme really useful: “I didn’t have the qualifications to go to university but this way I can still gain valuable experience.”

Continuing his tour, the Prince was also able to meet members of the RAG (Raising and Giving) committee, part of the RAU’s students’ union, which has chosen the PCF as one of its charities for the year. Members are trying to raise £20,000 for the fund.

“We chose the Prince’s Countryside Fund because it's farming based so it helps us at the same time at the same time as we help it,” said committee member Ben de Havillard.

The Prince seemed particularly interested in finding out what activities the committee had planned for RAG week and asked how they could get the profile of the PCF more well-known.

“He was really happy that we are supporting the PCF and he talked to us about how we can make people more aware of how the charity can benefit individuals,” said Ben.

The Prince finally greeted members of the community and children who had come to see him lay the commemorative stone before heading to Cheltenham where he was due to visit Cheltenham's revamped Regent Arcade.