CHURCHILL Fellowships are awarded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, which was established when Sir Winston died in 1965. These fellowships are awarded to people who are recognised as being ‘uniquely qualified by their real-life experience’ to head overseas to learn about issues affecting the UK. Over 5,000 fellowships have been awarded to date.

This year's fellowships were unveiled today, with 150 recipients announced.

Carrying out a research project of their choosing, Fellows are instructed to ‘travel to learn, return to inspire’ and bring important insights home, sharing findings with policymakers, communities and others.

Upland farming expert Dr Lois Mansfield, the director of the Ambleside campus of the University of Cumbria, is one of the recipients, and will be using her fellowship to explore what lessons Britain can learn from Japan. In July, Dr Mansfield will be spending four weeks there, learning about the country's approach to rural development.

Originally from Kent, Dr Mansfield, who lives near Kirkby Stephen, said: “I’m very honoured to receive this Churchill Fellowship.

“I’m going to look at the cultural capital in rural development of upland farming systems in Japan. This isn’t an academic project; it is about making a difference to society and has real-life relevance.

“I will be investigating rural development in some of the remotest areas of Japan. The country is very similar to the UK; they are an industrial country, and situated with a coast close to where they are dominated by another economy, not unlike our forthcoming change in European status.”

Dr Mansfield plans to meet with agriculture and environment ministers, and academics. Accompanied by a translator, she then will visit remote farming communities for most of her trip. She hopes to discover more about the grassroots initiatives that are shaping Japan’s rural development and building its resilience.

Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, is to be Dr Mansfield’s second stop on her four-week trip before she visits farmers in the Yoshino-Kumano national park in the south west.

“It’s very similar to the Lake District,” said Dr Mansfield. “The national park I’ll be visiting has mountainous uplands, marginalised hill farmers and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site so I’ll be looking to draw parallels and see how they have approached issues in the Eastern culture.

“It is exciting to be able to go and learn more about schemes and methods they have introduced that may not have permeated into the western world.”