The Royal Countryside Fund provides funding boost amidst challenging times for UK’s rural communities

The Royal Countryside Fund (RCF) has announce an investment of £434,945 in rural community and farm support organisations across the UK.

Inspired by royal founder, His Majesty The King, The Royal Countryside Fund acts as a catalyst, enabling change and developing resilience through a unique network of grants, community-led projects and practical guidance. This funding will support those living and working in the countryside, who are facing increasing challenges such as the impact of extreme weather, isolation and the cost of living. 

Keith Halstead, Executive Director of The Royal Countryside Fund said: “We operate exclusively in rural areas and work hand-in-hand with individuals, small farms, community groups and partner organisations to change lives by investing in projects that bring people together to work collectively in enterprising and pragmatic ways to tackle the real needs and local issues which they have identified”.

“In making these grants, I wish to acknowledge my appreciation of the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and Waitrose & Partners, all of whom are long-term supporters of The Royal Countryside Fund.”

Too often, rural communities are without access to transport, jobs, and community spaces, increasing isolation and mental health issues. The RCF’s ‘Supporting Rural Communities’ grant programme is supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery and Waitrose & Partners. The People’s Postcode Lottery has awarded The Royal Countryside Fund an incredible £2.28m of grant funding over the past six years, making a significant impact on the lives of people living and working in rural Britain.

This winter, nine rural organisations across the UK have been awarded a share of £185,214. Those who have been awarded grants are:

  • Blackhall Mill Community Association, Tyne & Wear – awarded £23,000 to develop a scalable model of their community Electric Vehicle club.
  • Broadwoodkelly Village Hall, Devon – awarded £9,317 to purchase equipment to underpin the delivery of the hall’s programme of activities, helping to reduce social isolation.
  • Cockfield Village Group, Suffolk - awarded £4,650 to help the village group to take over their village store and post office, helping to prevent the closure of a vital village asset.
  • Knoydart Farm CIC, Highland - awarded £24,869 towards establishing a community farm, which will help to address the issues of food insecurity and cost faced by this isolated rural community, whilst providing paid and skilled employment for community members.
  • New Mills and District Volunteer Centre, Derbyshire – awarded £25,000 for their service which enables elderly & disabled people in remote villages poorly served by public transport to access medical appointments & shops.
  • North Arran Community Benefit Society Ltd, North Ayrshire – awarded £25,000 to support further regeneration of the community inn, enabling it to remain open throughout the year as a hub for the community.
  • Rural Health Partnership, County Down – awarded £24,900 to provide skills training and support to women in farming, helping to build peer support and resilience.
  • Shopper Aide Ltd, Argyll and Bute – awarded £23,478 for their project to support the local rural community with a range of services including shopping, transport, social groups, and befriending, helping to reduce social isolation.
  • The Courthouse Kesh Ltd, Fermanagh – awarded £25,000 to enable the community hub to continue to provide much needed services including a drop-in café and outreach in the isolated rural area of North Fermanagh.

Mark Allen, Centre Manager of New Mills and District Volunteer Centre, which has been awarded £25,000 towards their project commented: “This funding has enabled us to secure the future of our minibus shopping service and transport to medical appointments for people in rural communities who would otherwise struggle to access and get to services. The funding gives us the stability to allow us to grow the service into the real remote communities. It is probably best summed up by one of our clients who use the minibus shopping service, who said “It means everything to me. I wouldn’t go out anywhere without it. It’s also company, now I get to have a great chat. Previously I couldn’t get out at all, and without it I’d be stuck. It gives me a reason to get out of the house.”"

Three farming help charities; RSABI in Scotland, Rural Support in Northern Ireland and Tir Dewi in Wales, have each received £15,000 towards the running of their organisations. Gareth Davies, Chief Executive of Tir Dewi said: “This funding marks a new step in our relationship with the Royal Countryside Fund, as it was gained through demonstrating a very real need of ours. The Royal Countryside Fund understands and supports what we are doing and seeks to help us deliver it in the ways that are most important to us.  We are, as a result, better equipped to deliver our support to the farmers of Wales, and confident that we will continue to be here to deliver it.”

The Royal Countryside Fund also provides grants to farm support groups, trusted partners of the RCF, who are embedded in the rural communities which they serve, helping to create a real future for farming families and have been supported by Waitrose & Partners and the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust.

This year, £25,000 has been awarded to seven farm support groups, to cover core costs and ensure organisations are able to continue to deliver vital services to farmers outwith their specific project delivery. Those being awarded these grants are Exmoor Hill Farming Network, Herefordshire Rural Hub, The Farmer Network Ltd, The Farming Life Centre, Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services Ltd (UTASS), Farm Cornwall and Dartmoor Hill Farm Project.

An example of farm support groups putting their grant to work is Exmoor Hill Farming Network who are building on their success as an integral support to farmers. The RCF’s funding will cover core costs and ensure Exmoor Hill Farming Network is able to continue to deliver vital services – assisting at least 50 farm businesses, delivering four farmer led events which will respond to the needs of the local farming community, facilitating three peer support groups, two events addressing rural isolation and working with people over the age of 40 with training and development to secure employment.

Smaller grants of up to £5,000 were awarded to Derbyshire Rural Chaplaincy, Lincolnshire Rural Support Network, The Lightwave Community CIO, YANA, The Farmer Network in Lincolnshire and Borderlands Rural Chaplaincy.