My countryside: Tom Parker-Bowles

My countryside: Tom Parker-Bowles

'I had a very free-ranging childhood and was raised on a farm in Allington, a hamlet in Wiltshire. I simply took for granted the fact that our eggs came from our hens, and my dad grew vegetables for us in the garden. In the summer holidays, which felt like endless days of freedom, my sister Laura and I would climb trees and build dens. I was fond of catching sticklebacks in the river – you just had to put jam jars in the shallows and they’d swim right in.

'The south-west was the centre of my life as a boy and, now that I live in London, it’s a peaceful getaway. My parents still have homes there – my mother in Lacock, my father in Tetbury – so I often visit with my family. Giving my children, Lola, five, and Freddy, two, a regular taste of the country is important because I want them to have the same experience I had while growing up. When we’re driving down the M4 and reach junction 15, I always look to the left to a hill with a group of three trees growing on it. It signals that I’m nearly in the part of the country where I feel most comfortable.

'I’m not a fan of walking – unless it’s to a pub or restaurant! I just don’t see the point of going somewhere, only to turn around and come back again. I know millions would disagree, including my wife Sarah and my mother, so, while they’re out exploring the countryside on foot, I’m more likely to be off in the car trying to find good food to buy and write about. I’m spoilt for choice in the south-west as it’s full of great producers such as Walter Rose, a butcher in Devizes, who I always visit in the summer to buy meat for family barbecues.

'The secret to quality food is how it’s farmed – people should get to know local producers rather than relying on symbols on supermarket packaging. My stepfather [HRH the Prince of Wales] is probably the most famous organic farmer in Britain and I’m a great supporter of the system because it’s sustainable. But not everything farmed organically is necessarily good quality and a lot of the best meat in the country doesn’t have certification at all. Take Tim Wilson at The Ginger Pig in Yorkshire, or Donald and Sarah MacPherson at Well Hung and Tender in Scotland – they farm above and beyond organic standards and don’t use fertilizers or pesticides, just old-fashioned methods. They appreciate that how meat tastes depends on how well the livestock has been looked after, which is more important than jumping through hoops for a piece of paper that controls what farmers can and can’t feed their animals.

Being a lover of game, I think people should eat more of it. It’s plentiful, sustainable, not filled with chemicals, and is some of the most delicious meat you can have – my favourite is partridge. You also know the birds have lived in the wild. The shoots tend to start in September, when the weather is warmer, and I enjoy being outside in the fresh air with family and friends – even if I’m not a particularly great shot! My father is a keen hunter and goes out from August to February. You do hear about shoots of 2,000 pheasants, but they’re just greedy and unnecessary. As long as you eat what you kill and are responsible for your management of the countryside, there’s an enormous wild bounty at your fingertips, from grouse and pheasants to rabbits, hare and venison.

'I also fish, although I’m not very good at that, either. In the summer I catch crayfish in the pond and river that runs through my mother’s grounds. You need a licence to show you’re catching signals (the American invaders), rather than natives, because sadly, there are very few of our crayfish left in the south-west. If I lay enough traps baited with bits of dog food, I can catch hundreds of signals overnight. Then I put them in an oxygenated tank for a few days to clean them out and give them to chef friends or my dad. I like to cook them the Scandinavian way – boiled with lots of dill and beer.'

Tom’s book, ''Let’s Eat', is out now (Pavilion, £25). To order a copy for the special price of £18.99 with free p&p, visit our online bookshop.

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