Prince Charles will highlight the importance of the village pub when he visits Cumbria today (31.03.08).

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The 59-year-old prince – the patron of the Pub is the Hub initiative – has invited Britain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn, to accompany him on a visit to Ravenstonedale’s The Black Swan Hotel, in the idyllic English countryside.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “Hilary Benn was invited by the prince to accompany him on a number of engagements looking at the importance of rural communities and how they can be sustained for the future.”

Charles will demonstrate how struggling establishments can transform their fortunes by using The Black Swan as an example.

The pub, which was struggling two years ago, is now thriving under its new owners Alan and Louise Dinnes after getting a UKP6,000 grant from Charles’ Business In the Community programme.

The money helped the couple convert a downstairs bedroom into a general store, which is now a showcase for local food, crafts and gifts.

Charles’ Pub is the Hub campaign was launched six years ago, and around 350 English pubs have benefited from grants and expert advice. An industry survey recently found traditional pubs are closing at a staggering rate of four per day.

During his trip to Cumbria, Charles will also visit Booth’s supermarket in Kendal, open a bakery and launch an initiative to cut down on the use of plastic bags.

He is also due to attend a meeting in Langdale to discuss affordable housing, before engaging in a debate on a variety of rural issues in Rosthwaite.