The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge each got behind the wheel of a tractor as they toured a farm just days before their 10th wedding anniversary.
Kate, 39, and William, 38, also took two lambs for a run and hailed farmers using new techniques in a bid to achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions.
The royal couple had a tour of Manor Farm near Darlington, in Co. Durham, run by the same family for the last 145 years and heard how they are now using 21st century technology for sustainable farming.
William was first to jump behind the controls of a tractor which uses GPS to make its routes across the fields more efficient. He said: “I’ll give it a go, why not.”
The duke, an experienced air ambulance and RAF search and rescue pilot, likened the controls to a helicopter, as he took the tractor for a spin.
But Kate, in a white sweater and brown boots, watched on enviously and was eager to take her turn when her husband returned.
As masked William stepped out of the tractor, Kate said: “Ready to swap?”
The tractor initially veered momentarily to the left before getting back on track with the duchess beaming behind the wheel.
Farmer Stewart Chapman, 51, who sat in the tractor on both journeys with the royals, said afterwards: “They were both very good. William mentioned how the GPS technology was used in helicopters so understood how it worked.
“They both wanted a go and didn’t need any persuasion. Once they got used it, it was fine. There was no drama. Both very keen and very knowledgeable.”
The automated tractor had a route across the field pre-plotted using GPS and ia designed to use less fuel and be more accurate - cutting carbon emissions and waste.
The technology reduces the amounts of passes over the field and means it can be driven at night.
But the duo had to take control of the steering wheel and negotiate the 180 degree turn to drive 100m back the way they came.
The couple also joined the farmers’ daughters Clover, 9, Penelope, 7, Wren, 4, and their lambs named Dumbledore and Heather.
Kate went first leading Heather across the field with Clover
.She said: “You are better at this than we are.”
William laughed as he ran his larger lamb with Penelope, saying “Dumbledore is well fed”.
Clover said after meeting the couple: “It was very exciting, but it was also quite nerve-wracking.
“She (Kate) asked me about when my friends came over were they surprised at how well I train the lambs.”
Husband and wife Clare Wise and Stewart Chapman, whose family have run the farm for five generations, showed off their hi-tech calving cameras which send a text to the couple when one of their cows is about to give birth.
William joked: “Everyone has a social media problem and here you are, with cameras and text messages about the cows.”
The couple were also shown how the farm measures its grass to ensure it has the correct mass and length for nesting birds and feed for the grazing sheep to avoid.
Farmer Clare Wise, 40, said afterwards: “The feed is homegrown and have a nutritionist that designs a ration specific to the livestock.
“They get exactly the nutrition they need. They asked how do we know what good feed looks like and duke was very knowledgeable on feeding livestock and said how this year has been a nice sample and handles particularly well.”
William and Kate sat on hay bails and chatted with seven farmers from across North Yorkshire and County Durham about the challenges caused by Covid-19.
William said: “Home schooling must be difficult. Home schooling and farming is another level.”
He added: “The pandemic takes away your coping mechanisms we all have ways getting through the days when you strip that away and at home all the time it starts to wear on people.”
Afterwards, Clare added: “It’s been lovely as they are role models for our three children. A really special moment and very knowledgeable about farming and had a beneficial discussion on both sides.
“I think they went away learning new things and we learnt new things too.
“We didn’t tell our daughters till breakfast time. They didn’t believe it thought it was a joke.
“But certainly the duchess who they think is wonderful and it’s a real life princess coming to visit so doesn’t get much better for little girls.”
She said: “Farming by its nature quite an isolated profession and we have kept going as best we can looking forward to going out and engaging with our peers again. The farm is using modern technology in a bid to be net zero and cut carbon emissions.”
Clare added: “The animals lie on the straw we grow, eat the grain we produce and manure goes back on the land. We are very passionate about being net zero. It is all based on science, everything is scientific. Targeted towards maximising health and welfare of animals on the farm.”
Adam Bedford, NFU Regional Director, said: “They were both knowledgeable about sustainable farming and had a lot of good ideas on how farmers can adapt.”
Kate and William will mark their 10th wedding anniversary on Thursday.