Three months after meeting the victims of the devastating floods that hit Cumbria in December, the Prince of Wales returned to the county to pay a visit to a Cumbrian college and take a look at the new temporary bridge over the River Eamont.
His first stop was at the Ullswater Community College in Penrith, which boasts an applied learning centre that conducts specialist vocational courses, including hair and beauty, motor vehicle engineering and construction, for its pupils. The centre has developed a close relationship with The Prince’s Teaching Institute, and Prince Charles was given a guided tour by headteacher Nigel Pattinson.
Since 2010, students between the ages of 14 and 18 have been able to avail of the college’s facilities to hone their skills. Local firms and organisations have also contributed, providing stone for a dry stone walling course, vintage tractors for an agricultural engineering course and building materials for a construction course.
The Prince stopped to talk to staff and students, and was particularly with the restoration work that a group of teenagers are carrying out on a 1975 Land Rover which was bought two years ago for £650. Members of the college’s award winning cheerleading squad, the UCC Wolves, treated His Royal Highness to an energetic, following which young actors from the drama group performed a scene from their recent production of Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat.
Before leaving, The Prince unveiled a plaque to commemorate his visit, and gave a short speech in which he praised the children and their talents, saying: “It’s been a great privilege just to have this brief glimpse of the school. I am so impressed to see all your vocational training opportunities and the huge difference I am sure that must make in the long run in providing people with that all-important alternative to the academic side.
“And, if I may say so, I was hugely impressed by the performances I have just seen,” he added. “I quickly note the cheerleaders. How you managed to get it past health and safety…? And the quality of the singing and the orchestra was terrific. I am thrilled to see just how much talent and real potential there is in Penrith and round about.”
His second visit of the day took Prince Charles to the opening of a new temporary bridge installed across the River Eamont at Pooley Bridge. The original stone bridge – believed to be centuries old – collapsed as a result of the storms, cutting the village in half and preventing a majority of the residents from accessing the main road, and impacting tourism in the Lake District.
However, the bridge reopened on Sunday, and the Prince of Wales was its first royal visitor. The Prince was greeted by members of the Penrith Town Band, pupils from Yanwath School, local business owners and civic dignitaries. The band struck up a cheery tune to entertain the gathered crowds and the children lined the streets, enthusiastically waving flags as the Prince walked past.
Prince Charles also had a chance to show off his driving skills during his visit, getting behind the wheel of a Land Rover and driving off-road, through a stream while visiting the Rooking House activity centre at Troutbeck. On the way, he stopped to talk to the villagers, particularly the young farmers who have benefited from his Countryside Fund. The Prince concluded his visit by watching a demonstration of horse logging, in which animals were used to moved felled timber.
“He came up in December and said he would come back,” said Cumbria County Council leader Stewart Young about the royal visit. “It’s tremendous. We have faced massive damage to our infrastructure. The most symbolic infrastructure are the bridges themselves. The bridge was entirely washed away, the community was severed and hugely disadvantaged businesses. Hopefully this will give businesses a boost.”