Steve Darling: Royal visit "a great way of celebrating all the good work that is done in Torbay."


It’s not very often that Torbay gets to host a future King and I was honoured to be part of the welcome party for His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall last week.

Regardless of your views on the role of the Royal family, these visits are a great way of celebrating all the good work that is done in Torbay.

Their Royal Highnesses started their visit by meeting my wife, Mandy, Torbay Council’s Director of Place, Kevin Mowat and myself on Torre Abbey Meadows. HRH Camilla was exceptionally attentive to our guide dogs Pepsi and Jennie, and they both lapped up the royal petting!

Our visitors then met with staff and volunteers from The Maritime and Coastguard Agency as part of the organisation’s 200th anniversary celebration. This is such a worthy cause which saves so many lives. As a keen kayaker I am one of the many residents in Torbay drawn to the water. But the sea can be very dangerous – even for the most experienced seafarers – and our Coastguards provide an invaluable service to all those who need it.

There’s a lot going on under the water as well. It’s not something many of us talk about, but seagrass is one of the world’s oldest plants and provides a vital habitat for iconic marine species, stabilises the coastal seabed and locks up carbon. Prince Charles and Camilla heard about the Ocean Conservation Trust’s Save Our Seagrass Project, which the Torbay Harbour Authority supports. The project involves placing markers around the bay to protect and educate all water users about the location of vital seagrass beds and support their growth.

In my conversation with this group, it was interesting to learn of the nine seagrass beds around the bay and have it reinforced that the biggest carbon sink in the world are our oceans. Seagrass is one of the most effective plant-based solutions for capturing carbon. I’ll be looking to have a further conversation with this group to lobby government about establishing mechanisms to allow seagrass to play its part in carbon capture.

Rowcroft Hospice was also on Torre Abbey Meadows to talk about the specialist care they have been giving in South Devon communities for the past 40 years. Most of us will have heard about their work or experienced first-hand the difference it makes to people with life-limiting illnesses and their families. I am no exception – an outreach team from the Hospice gave valuable support to a family member in their home in recent months.

The second part of the visit saw Their Royal Highnesses visit Cockington Court. The park itself is managed and cared for by Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, whose mission it is to manage and conserve our natural heritage. Cockington itself is also home to an innovative hub, operated by the Council owned TDA, where local independent craft businesses demonstrate their skills and sell their products. It’s so important that we provide a platform for local culture and arts as it all adds to the Bay’s unique offer, whilst supporting our economy.

Her Royal Highness also met the local artist Elisabeth Hadley who earlier this year won a public vote to design and create a new sculpture as a tribute to Agatha Christie. This sculpture will be on display at Torquay harbourside as part of our Strand public realm improvement works.

Both Torre Abbey and Cockington are historic attractions that have a wealth of things to offer visitors and residents, so it is fitting that they provided the backdrop for so many of the Bay’s amazing projects, organisations, communities and individuals.

The Royal visit certainly created a buzz in the Bay and there are plenty of videos and images doing the rounds. If you’d like to see a few more highlights then visit Torbay Council’s YouTube channel. You can find the link at www.torbay.gov.uk/news/pr8714/


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