THE Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, took a tour of a farm near Darlington on Tuesday morning as part of their visit to the region this week.

And Covid-19, carbon emissions and petting lambs were all on the agenda for the royal couple during their visit to Manor Farm in Little Stainton, aided by the NFU.

Farm owner, Clare Wise, who is the fifth generation of her family at Little Stainton, said welcoming the royals had been “a very special moment” in the farm’s history as William and Kate heard about the work being done to boost both animal welfare and environmental sustainability on the farm.

Clare said that she and her husband Stewart were passionate about animal welfare and ensuring natural habitats are protected on their land and they hoped that the Cambridges’ visit would highlight all the good environmental work being done by the farming community.

Stewart said: “They were very knowledgeable on farming and very interested in sustainable farming, the future of our businesses and how we need to adapt.

“They have got lots of ideas and they are very understanding and I think moving forward it is important for the royals to adapt with the farmers.”

During the visit, William and Kate were taken on a tour of the calving sheds and each took a turn behind the wheel of a hi-tech tractor guided by GPS, with William discussing the GPS systems he was familiar with during his time as a rescue helicopter pilot.

The royal couple then sat down with a group of farmers from across the North to discuss the challenges the industry is facing and how they have fared during the Covid pandemic.

William was full of praise for those who have had to juggle home-schooling with farming, saying it was “very impressive”.

He also sympathised with farmers losing the social aspect of the industry in not being able to attend markets and country fairs during the national lockdowns.

He said: “That is one of the ongoing things, being at home all day, it starts to wear on people and the pandemic has taken away those (outdoor) coping mechanisms.”

Adam Bedford, regional director of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said the group discussed with William and Kate what Covid had meant for farmers on the ground and also how it affected the food supply chain.

He said: “If we think back to the beginning of Covid, obviously it is a health pandemic, but right at the beginning a year ago we were really focused on food as well, thinking about concerns about the food chain.

"So we reflected on that, but then really brought it back to the present, about what has the last year been like on a farm and what do the years ahead look like.”

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And ahead of the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow later this year, the discussion moved onto what farms like Manor Farm are doing to reduce their carbon footprint.

Clare, whose family history at Little Stainton stretches back 145-years, said her ancestors “probably wouldn’t believe” that Manor Farm would ever see a future King of England walk through its gates.

She said: “They were very warm, very friendly and they were very, very knowledgeable.

“That made the discussion flow really comfortably because they had a good background knowledge so we were able to bounce ideas off each other.”

Away from the heavy topics, the Duke and Duchess spent time with Clare and Stewart’s three children, Clover, nine, Penelope seven, and Wren, four – even taking a turn at leading their pet lambs Dumbledore and Heather.

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The children said they were excited but also nervous about meeting Kate and William, having only found out at breakfast that royalty was coming to their farm.

Clare said: “They didn’t believe us at first, they thought we were playing a joke on them! Certainly for the children, the Duchess, who they just think is beautiful and wonderful, it is a real life princess come to visit – it doesn’t get much better for little girls does it?”

She added: “I think being the younger royals it has been lovely for our children because they are role models for them and it has been a really special moment.

“And for them to actually be so knowledgeable about farming and for us to be able to have what’s felt like a really beneficial discussion on both sides – I hope they’ve gone away perhaps having learnt something and we have come away having learnt some new things too, so that’s great.”

The farm visit marked the Cambridges’ first official in-person engagement away from London since their royal train tour in December last year, and comes two days before the couple celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary on Thursday.