WALKING is as close to free as it gets. You don't need fancy shoes, or clothes, or equipment.

The simple act of taking a walk connects us to landscapes, nature, communities and helps us to reflect and appreciate the importance of the countryside.

During National Countryside Week (14-20th July 2014) we’re asking you to Walk a Country Mile to support and raise funds for The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Taking a short walk is not only fun but will make us mindful of the importance of the countryside, and give us pause to consider how we support those who work to conserve it.

National Countryside Week is run by The Prince’s Countryside Fund to raise awareness of the importance of the countryside to the UK.

What makes the Fund unique is that it doesn’t support the environment, buildings or wildlife but the people who manage and maintain the countryside.

HRH The Prince of Wales recognised the crisis facing our rural communities and as a result set up The Prince’s Countryside Fund to provide support to the multitude of remarkable organisations and individuals working tirelessly to keep farmers farming and our rural communities alive.

“The British countryside is the unacknowledged backbone of our national identity. It is as precious as any of our great cathedrals and we erode it at our peril” – HRH Prince of Wales.

How to get involved: Walking is simple and easy – you could go for a walk in your local park or visit your nearest National Park. You could take a walk around your local village or head to the hills and explore some of our amazing natural scenery.

Ideally you will get a small group together and download one of our online maps so you can explore your local countryside.

A country mile can be any distance so if you only make it to the local village pub or undertake a 12 mile hike everyone can achieve something.

To register your support for the campaign and make a suggested £3 donation please visit www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk.

Once you have signed up you will you receive an email with maps, ideas, tips and suggestions, plus information on where your donation will go and who we are helping.

Take a #WALKIE: To maximise awareness on social media for the campaign, we’re asking people taking part in the campaign to take a “WALKIE”—our Countryside version of a “selfie” to raise the profile of the campaign. To donate £3 to support the fund text ‘PCF’ to 70300.

What’s happening in the Regions?

19th July (10.30am)

The Plunkett Foundation

The Plunkett Foundation is a nationwide charity which supports rural communities to take over or set up vital village services in community ownership, and enable existing ones to thrive.

Over 400 community owned shops have been opened for business since 1919, providing an essential lifeline for the communities they serve.

The Plunkett Foundation is hosting the Little Milton Community Shop Walk. Walkers are to meet at the Little Milton Community Shop at 10:30am before heading off across the fields to nearby Great Milton at 11am, approximately two miles away.

Walkers will stop in Great Milton for sandwiches and a short talk on the story the co-operative pub and their experience of setting up and running a community enterprise. Walkers will then set off on their return walk to Little Milton Community Shop where they will be welcomed by tea and cake and a chance to learn more about the community shop model and to meet the team involved in running and managing Little Milton Community Shop.

The address is: Little Milton Community Shop, Thame Road, Little Milton, Oxfordshire, OX44 7PZ (via The Bull Co-operative Pub at Great Milton).

This is an open event for those with an interest in community-ownership. Tickets will cost £5 for Adults, £3 for Plunkett members and children under 16 will go free.

Website: www.plunkett.co.uk

Contact: Harriet English 01993 814372

19th July

Hampshire Fare

Hampshire Fare is a county food group established to promote the benefits of buying local produce.

The group offers charcuterie training and encourages farmers to diversify into cured meats.

By uniting producers and covering the initial training and marketing costs, their goal is to develop a new marque and sell the product at local events and butchers, as well as restaurants to help ensure a sustainable future for Hampshire pig farmers.

Hampshire Fare is attending the Food festival at Sparsholt Agricultural College, Westley Lane, Sparsholt, Winchester SO21 2NF.

This will include demonstrations from top Hampshire chefs, skills workshops, a home-grown fruit and vegetable competition, a cake competition, live music etc.

Hampshire Charcuterie will also be there selling their products collectively to the public as well as promoting The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Website: www.hampshirefare.co.uk

Contact: Hampshire Fare on 01962 846 509

16th July (2-4pm)

Sussex Wildlife Trust

The aim of the Sussex Wildlife Trust is to conserve the Sussex landscape, wildlife and its habitats and to use its knowledge and expertise to help the people of Sussex to enjoy, understand and take action to this end.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust is hosting a guided walk on Woods Mill Nature reserve with the reserve’s manager Steve Tillman and the trainee whose position has been funded by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

The reserve is located at Woods Mill, Henfield, West Sussex BN5 9SD.

Website: www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk

Contact: If you would like more information about this walk please contact The Sussex Wildlife Trust on 01273 492630.

17th July (6.30pm)

FWAG (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group)

FWAG seeks to support, enthuse and inspire fellow farmers to value the environmental assets on their land and use them to secure a sustainable and profitable business for the future.

FWAG is hosting an evening walk on Edge Common with Paul Griffiths in support of The Prince’s Countryside Fund and Natural England.

The walk will start from the Edgemoor Inn (www.edgemoor-inn.com) GL6 6ND at 6:30pm for a walk across the common with views of Painswick and will return afterwards for a BBQ or meal of local produce.

Website: www.fwagsw.org.uk

Contact: If you would like to attend this walk please contact Jenny Phelps on jenny.phelps@gloucestershirefwag.org.uk or phone 01285 700832.

20th July

The Royal Agricultural University

The Royal Agricultural University is holding a 'Farm Walk' around the university’s farm at Manor Farm, Harnhill. Cirencester.

The walk will start at the Rural Innovation Centre.

There will be toilet facilities at the centre and simple refreshments on offer for donations to The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Guests are welcome to arrive at the Rural Innovation Centre between 9am and 4pm.

Website: www.rau.ac.uk

Contact: If you would like more information about this walk please contact James Foster or Nikki Darlington on 01285 851830.

20th July (11am)

Rocklands Community Shop

Rocklands is a vibrant yet isolated rural community in Norfolk.

They have set up a Community Interest Company to run the village shop and agreed a 10 year lease which started in January 2014.

Rocklands Community Shop is holding a three church walk and barbecue.

This is a walk around the three churches of the village, starting at 11am at the community shop, Rockland All Saints, Attleborough, Norfolk, NR17 1TP and finishing at the cricket ground for a barbecue.

Website: www.rocklandscommunityshop.co.uk

Contact: Victoria McArthur on 01953 483156

19th and 20th July

The Wilderness Foundation

The Wilderness Foundation is dedicated to preserving the world’s last remaining wild places by highlighting their positive impact on the health of the individual, society and the planet.

They are planning to hold a walk on their Chatham Green Project, CM3 3LQ, which is run in partnership with Strutt and Parker Farms Ltd.

Website: www.wildernessfoundation.org.uk

Contact: Wilderness Foundation on 0300 1233073

Where the Money Goes:

National Countryside Week aims to raise awareness of the importance of the countryside to the UK and recognise the people and organisations working tirelessly to maintain and promote rural Britain.

The Prince’s Countryside Fund is addressing a number of issues affecting the countryside by giving grants to organisations and initiatives across the UK to help create and sustain a thriving rural community, from apprentice hill farmer schemes in Cumbria, because many of these skills are in short supply, to supporting community shops, from encouraging pubs to be the hub of their communities to supporting school farms, from helping women set up in business in rural areas, to supporting Young Farmers’ Clubs with training schemes.

In just three and a half years the fund has given £3.8m to over ninety projects touching the lives of 64,000 people.