Royal visit raises morale of village devastated by floods

THE Prince of Wales yesterday proved a tonic for flood-hit communities during a fact-finding tour of Devon.

Charles was joined by the Duchess of Cornwall during his visit to Braunton, one of the 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 owing to the severity of the damage.

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Hundreds of people yesterday 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 £1.2m 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.

The royal tour started with a visit to Braunton News, where flood waters up to 3ft resulted in serious damage to the stock.

The shelves have since been restacked with newspapers and magazines, including publications on carp fishing and tattoos, which particularly seemed to catch the prince’s interest yesterday.

Owner Nick Phillips said: “Both the prince and the duchess asked about how we were affected, what had been done to help, and what lessons had been learned.

“To have people as important as them come down to Braunton has been a real boost to all of us.”

The couple regularly stopped along the route to speak with well-wishers, including excited schoolchildren.