Wales

Prince Charles in two anniversary visits to west Wales

Prince Charles
Image caption Prince Charles in two anniversary visits to Wales

Prince Charles has visited Wales to take part in two separate 10th anniversary celebrations.

He toured the National Botanic Gardens of Wales in Carmarthenshire which he opened in 2000 and met craft students.

Later, he paid tribute to Welsh rugby great John Dawes at a dinner in Llandovery marking the 10th anniversary of the Welsh Charitables RFC.

The prince is patron of both the the gardens and the rugby club.

At the botanic gardens near Llanarthne, the Prince met craft students of the Prince's Foundation who are building a new performance stage there.

The stage, built from locally sourced Welsh stone, timber and slate, provides space for up to 16 musicians or performers. Due to be completed by next spring, will be used for events including dance, music and storytelling.

Before visiting the stand and meeting the craft apprentices involved, The Prince viewed the Bee Garden and entered an observation cabin from which the hives and bees can be seen.

After viewing the stage and meeting the apprentices, Prince Charles then visited the Gallery to view an exhibit on Pont Felin Gat, an area of ancient woodland on the north side of the Garden recently opened up to the public and showing remnants of the original Middleton Hall Regency Park.

The 500-acre gardens has suffered funding problems since it opened in 2000.

In 2004 it came within days of closing before a rescue package was agreed.

And in March, the assembly government announced that an independent review into the gardens' funding and management was to take place.

Image caption Prince Charles is patron of the National Botanic Gardens of Wales

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones asked for the report after agreeing to provide a £250,000 short-term funding package to help with cash flow difficulties.

Director Rosetta Plummer said the gardens had enjoyed a "positive summer" despite the "financially challenging environment".

She added: "Our visitor satisfaction ratings are overwhelming, many say the National Botanic Gardens of Wales knocks the Eden Project in Cornwall into a cocked hat.

"We are a garden for the 21st Century, a young garden at only 10 years old and doing well compared to other gardens which have been around for 250 years.

"Conservation, education and inspiration is our message and we are looking foward to the visit by the Prince of Wales as part of our tenth anniversary celebrations."

The prince, who has his Welsh house at nearby Myddfai in Carmarthenshire, was later due to be the star guest at a dinner for former Wales and British Lion centre John Dawes.

'Speechless'

The fundraising dinner at Llandovery RFC will benefit The Prince's Trust.

David Power, secretary of the Welsh Charitables RFC, spoke of his surprise when he learned the prince would attend.

"My jaw dropped and I was speechless when I opened the letter that confirmed Prince Charles was attending.

"This is our tenth anniversary dinner so having the prince attend is an amazing tribute to all of our hard work.

"This is a unique opportunity for rugby fans to have dinner in the same room as Prince Charles while having a fun night listening to rugby legends tell stories about John Dawes."

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