Prince Charles in Northumberland

Prince Charles began his Royal visit in Northumberland today, and he has further engagements tomorrow.

Prince Charles is given a warm Northumbrian welcome in Hexham.
Prince Charles is given a warm Northumbrian welcome in Hexham.

The Prince of Wales is packing plenty in to his two-day visit, including stops at Alnwick and Kielder.

Today, the Northumberland National Park Authority (NNPA) welcomed His Royal Highness to commemorate the official opening of The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre on Hadrian’s Wall.

The Prince of Wales unveils a plaque at The Sill, helped by the Duchess of Northumberland and Tony Gates, chief executive of the Northumberland National Park Authority. Picture by Simon Williams, Crest Photography

The Prince was given a guided tour of the award-winning building, which includes an 86-bed Youth Hostel operated by YHA (England and Wales).

The Sill is the UK’s first dedicated National Landscape Discovery Centre and provides a gateway to inspire and enable people of all ages to understand and explore the iconic landscapes, history, culture and heritage of Northumberland.

To mark his visit, The Prince of Wales unveiled a commemorative stone on the centre’s Whin Sill grassland roof and took time to enjoy the iconic view of the Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Glen Sanderson, NNPA chairman, said: “We were honoured to welcome His Royal Highness to join us in celebrating The Sill and its purpose of connecting people with our wonderful countryside.

The Prince of Wales opens The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre. Picture by Simon Williams, Crest Photography

“The Sill provides an important opportunity for people to explore, understand and nurture our landscapes and the people, heritage and wildlife that shape them.

“We want the Northumberland National Park to be a sustainable cultural asset that benefits the region for many years to come.”

During the tour, Prince Charles met local school children from St Agnes School in Ryton and Henshaw Primary School in Bardon Mill, along with several Sill project partners and local stakeholders.

The Prince’s next stop was a visit to the farmers’ market in Hexham and then a tour of Hexham Abbey.

Prince Charles with Elys Poppy, aka the Sauce Queen, in Hexham.

Hundreds of people lined the Market Place as the Prince was welcomed to the town by the Mayor of Hexham.

The heir to the throne visited stalls selling locally produced and sourced items and chatted to traders about their goods. He sampled one or two items and took away a number of Northumberland goodie bags.

Elys Poppy, aka the Sauce Queen, had even made a special HRH delicacy which she named Royal Blue – a combination of Cropwell Bishop Stilton, white truffle and white wine.

At the abbey, the Prince heard about 84 medieval panel paintings which are of national significance and about a new charitable group which will support future care and maintenance of the stunning building.

The Prince of Wales was shown around Hexham Abbey by Rector of Hexham, Canon Dr Dagmar Winter.

Rector of Hexham Canon Dagmar Winter said: “It was a huge honour for the whole town to have the Prince of Wales visiting us, and a very special day for Hexham Abbey as we introduced him to the abbey and its remarkable treasures.

“His Royal Highness’s visit was a fitting launch for Hexham Abbey Heritage Development, focussing on a sustainable future for our heritage: renewing the roof of the abbey and conserving our extraordinary medieval painted panels.”

Following Hexham, he visited Kirkharle, the birthplace of Lancelot Capability Brown, where he attended a reception for beneficiaries and supporters of the Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services group, which is marking its 25th anniversary.

Prince Charles concluded his first day with a trip to Kielder Salmon Centre and Hatchery, at Kielder Water and Forest Park.

He was given a tour of the facility, including the new £100,000 visitor centre which is due to open to the public later this month.

The three-month refurbishment has created a more interactive experience for visitors and allows them to get up close with the salmon and other species the centre aims to protect, including the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel.

The Prince of Wales with Dr Tom Kelsey, from Hexham Abbey conservation team, in the abbeys chancel.

The new visitor centre includes a natural North East river environment aquarium showcasing salmon and other local river species; videos revealing the behind the scenes work at the centre to protect iconic species; a prehistoric salmon fossil dig; a quiz and brass rubbings to unveil interesting information about the salmon; new and improved outside spaces and pearl mussel breeding beds; and a circular salmon walk around the local area.

The Environment Agency’s Richard Bond, who has been manager of Kielder Salmon Centre since 1995, said: “We were absolutely delighted to be able to show the Prince of Wales around our conservation centre which aims to protect this incredible, iconic fish.

“We also explained the innovative work we are doing to hand-rear one of the UK’s most endangered species, the freshwater pearl mussel, which is absolutely vital to our river systems and in great decline.

“He was interested to hear about the improvements to the River Tyne, which has gone from a heavily-polluted industrial river to one of the best salmon rivers in the country thanks to improvements to water quality and conservation efforts from ourselves and our partners.

“The new visitor centre has a wealth of information about the aquatic life of Northumbria and is a great way for people to understand the fascinating world that lies below the surface of the river.”

Tomorrow, he will visit the Moorland Spirit Company Ltd’s Hepple Gin distillery, where the company is undertaking a juniper restoration and propagation project.

He will then head to The Alnwick Garden, where he will visit the Elderberries drop-in centre, which seeks to counteract loneliness in the community.

Following this, he will attend the Duchess of Northumberland’s annual garden party for volunteers and carers, which is a celebration of their dedication and commitment.

The Prince of Wales at Kirkharle.
The Prince of Wales at Kirkharle.
Jess Anson shows the Prince of Wales the baby pearl mussels being reared at Kielder Salmon Centre. Picture by Mike Smith Photography
Salmon centre manager Richard Bond shows the Prince of Wales the new visitor centre. Picture by Mike Smith Photography