The Prince of Wales today proved a tonic for flood-hit communities during a fact-finding tour of Devon, writes Ryan Hooper.
Charles was joined by the Duchess of Cornwall during his visit to Braunton, one of the Westcountry villages worst affected by last year’s storms.
Floodwater surged to 5ft (1.5m) in part of the village in the run-up to Christmas, forcing businesses to work tirelessly in an effort to keep trading. Some, such as the London Inn pub, remain closed due to the severity of the damage.
Hundreds of people today braved the chilly north Devon wind that whipped through the village to welcome the royal couple, who had specifically asked to visit Braunton to see the recovery effort.
Most of the 300 pupils at nearby Caen Primary School lined the streets, while one group of well-wishers surprised the next in line to the throne with a “Welcome Prince Charming” banner – something he joked must have been intended for someone else.
As Union flags and bunting held over from last year’s Jubilee celebrations fluttered in the breeze, a handful of sandbags at the roadside acted as a reminder of the reason for Charles and Camilla’s visit. Many villagers were effectively cut off in the days leading up to Christmas after the River Caen twice burst its banks.
Rising waters also overwhelmed a new £1.2 million flood defence scheme, wiping out the Christmas plans for many residents.
Ivan Rees, manager of the At One cafe, said the royal visit inspired businesses in Braunton to “bounce back” from adversity.
Braunton was the first stop on a day-long visit which will also see the royal couple meet members of the emergency services who helped rescue Plymouth and Exeter.
In Plymouth, Charles is due to meet the company of the HMS Bulwark – the Royal Navy’s flagship – at sea, while Camilla will visit Hasler Company within HMS Drake, at Plymouth’s Devonport Naval Base. She will later attend a reception for operational Royal Navy chaplains in the wardroom on board the vessel.
The duo will both be present for the final engagement of the day, attending a service of thanksgiving and reception at Exeter Cathedral to celebrate the completion of the £8 million Third Millennium fundraising campaign, supporting music, fabric, the library and archives.
Charles and Camilla will complete their tour of Devon by viewing some of the cathedral’s new facilities during their hour-long stay. They are expected to be at the cathedral from just before 3pm.
For full coverage of the royal visit see Wednesday’s Western Morning News.