Prince William and Kate head back to Wales: RNLI, ice cream & steel industry visits

Their first act together as a newly-engaged couple was in Anglesey to launch a lifeboat, and the royal couple were back in the Principality today to visit the RNLI, this time in the seaside location of Mumbles.

Kate and William arrived this morning for their Welsh “away day” and their first stop was one of the busiest lifeboat stations in Wales, where The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were clearly delighted to be greeted by hundreds of well-wishers, stopping to shake hands and speak to as many of them as their tight schedule allowed.

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William and Kate, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arriving at Mumbles pier before visiting the Lifeboat station

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The Cambridges were there to visit the RNLI’s Mumbles lifeboat station, which overlooks Swansea Bay, to speak to crew and volunteers. They chatted about day-to-day life as part of a team that provides 24-hour rescue services at sea.

Prince William also spoke to the crew and volunteers about mental health “How often do you talk about mental health?” Prince William asked.

“It’s attritional, I think and it can be difficult [to see things] especially with kids. Everyone has a chink in their armour.”

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The Duke raised the issue after they were welcomed to the Lifeboat Station by Lord Lieutenant Byron Lewis, Commander Tim Conway, Operations Manager and Gerry Coad, Chairman of the Mumbles Lifeboat Management Group.

As they stood on board the all-weather Tamar class lifeboat, the future King was keen to hear about the range of incidents the crew are called out to and whether they had other jobs.

“Are you all full-time?” he asked. “It’s a great thing to do. It’s rewarding, it’s challenging, it ticks lots of boxes.”

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Laughing with one of the crew over how it impacts family life, he held an imaginary phone to his ear, pretending to take a call saying, "'I've got to go' I bet your other half isn’t pleased."

William, a former RAF search and Rescue and air ambulance pilot, was keen to hear how the crew works with the coastguard to find people. "It can be a lovely, beautiful day, but in the water it can be very different," he revealed. "When you are looking for a head above water and the heat goes, you are using your eyes."

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The Duke then presented a long-service award to crew member James Bolter, who has been a member of the volunteer crew for over 20 years.

After signing the visitors' book, they chatted to supporters of the charity about their fundraising activities. Barbara Richards from the Mumbles Ladies Lifeboat Guild told William: "A lot of people think we are funded by the government.”"

"Yes it was the same with the air ambulance as well," he replied, then joked: "Have you thought about doing a parachute jump?" To laughter, he added: "I will sponsor you a lot for that. As a pilot, I find it very hard jumping out of a very good aircraft."

"Barbara and I are going parachuting together!" he told his wife.

The royal couple also met Paul O’Dwyer who was on the first day of a two-week sailing holiday with his wife and two young children last July when he had to be towed back to Swansea by the lifeboat.

Spotting his Royal Engineers regimental tie, William joked: "That tie has got to say something. Stick to the land, Paul!"

Paul, 41, from Port Talbot, said: "These guys [the RNLI] are super busy. We take it for granted sometimes in this country. There is so much help there at the drop of a hat. It’s amazing."

Speaking afterwards, Paul who is a steel worker and also runs the Sa1ute military charity, said about William and Catherine: “It was fantastic to meet them. I’m so grateful for the time they gave to speak to all of us.”

The Duke and Duchess then watched as the lifeboat was launched on a training exercise before walking back down the windswept pier to speak to more of the well wishers who had gathered to see them.

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Mumbles RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, Tim Conway said: "It was an absolute privilege to welcome The Duke and Duchess to The Mumbles RNLI Lifeboat Station. We were able to show them the roles of all our volunteers who all make a valuable contribution to saving lives at sea. I’m sure a highlight of the visit for them was seeing our all-weather lifeboat launch down the slipway. It has been a fantastic morning and something which will stay with us all for a very long time."

Lifeboat operations in The Mumbles have been managed by the RNLI since 1863 and the service regularly helps the greatest number of people for a single station in Wales.

Once outside, Kate made a beeline for 90-year-old Harvey Bentley, from Swansea, who was in a wheelchair. Crouching down to chat to him, she said: "I hope you’re keeping warm enough. You've wrapped up well? It’s that chilly wind. Thank you for coming to say hello to us. Very nice to meet you. I'll get William to come and say hello."

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True to her word, the Duke then came over for a chat.

"They are the nicest people you could meet," said Harvey, a retired mechanic.

Six classes of children from Oystermouth Primary School had also come to the pier to welcome the royal visitors. Deputy head Simon Lloyd-Jones said: "It was one of those experiences they are never going to get again. William was asking if there were any other Aston Villa fans whilst Kate was asking how old they all were and said her daughter would love the daffodil bookmarks the children had made and given her."

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Both William and Kate seemed very taken by Darcie Edworthy, three, who was holding her cuddly toy dog, Sprinkles. Mum Amy said: "Kate said she liked Sprinkles. They wanted to know what his name was. William said 'your nose is very pink and cold like mine’."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also stopped to coo over eight-month-old Cari Purdie, whose mum Nicola gave William a homemade gift for Louis. "We gave William a knitted hat like Cari’s for Louis," she said. "Her Scottish grandmother knits them from Alpaca wool."

Before moving onto their next engagement at Tata Steel in Port Talbot, the couple stopped off at Mumbles iconic Joe’s ice cream parlour to meet with local parents and their children where they tucked into ice cream - despite the cold!

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William, who went for a vanilla cone with chocolate sprinkles, met owners Dominic and Adrian Hughes.

“I am a chocolate man," he said, as he walked in. “I bet it’s packed in here in the summer." He then added: "So what’s so special about Joe’s ice-cream? Magic ingredients.”

Kate, who had her vanilla scoop in a cup with a flake, added: “Are you always coming up with new flavours?"

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Whilst there, the Duchess also had an emotional reunion with her primacy school teachers. They passed a note to one of her team who told Catherine they were outside.

The Duchess of Cambridge hugged Denise Evans-Alford and Kevin Alford, teachers at St Andrew’s School, outside Joe’s Ice cream parlour. She confided to the pair, who she had not seen for 20 years: “I want to instil in my children what I learned at St Andrews”.

The Duchess attended St Andrew’s independent prep school in Pangbourne, Berkshire along with her sister, Pippa and brother James, until she was 13. Kevin taught her French and German, while Denise was Kate's netball coach. She said: “She hasn’t changed at all you can tell Pippa and James are wonderful too."

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“I’ve been waiting 20 years for this,” she said.

The couple travelled 30 minutes from their home hoping to meet Kate again.

It was on to Port Talbot for the Cambridges, at the local steelworks where they were kitted out with safety equipment — including helmets, googles and headphones; Tata Steel provides much-needed employment for around 4,000 people in the area.

Once there, they saw the furnaces of the Hot Strip Mill up close and met with workers and company directors to hear about some of the challenges faced by the workers there, and the training on hand for those starting out.

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Despite having a steel works for about 100 years, Port Talbot has seen its share of economic difficulties in recent decades as the industry has contracted. The decimation of the coal fields in the South Wales valleys close by have added to the deprivation in the region. And the trip was very much in-keeping with the couple’s ongoing mission to help with social cohesion in the wider U.K.

Three Welsh dragons were presented to the couple for their children, much to their amusement.

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The Royals then went on to see a project that helps tackle the issues faced by younger people in the area; the Bulldogs Development Centre, – a boxing and fitness charity which supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds where young people are helped with their physical, as well as mental, fitness.

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Prince William and Kate were introduced to the partnership between Bulldogs Boxing & Community Activities and Port Talbot Amateur Boxing, which helps to support young people in the community.

Most  have been affected by challenging childhood experiences and mental health issues and Bulldog helps to foster a “sense of belonging through fitness and boxing,” William and Kate’s office at Kensington Palace says.

At the club, the royal couple joined young people participating in different fitness and teamwork activities and chatted to some of the volunteers who help deliver the programmes.

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The work by Bulldogs has helped around 1,500 children with their physical and mental health by encouraging personal development and education, employment and training, as well as providing the clear benefits to fitness through sport.

Again, presents were handed over for the Cambridge children - this time in the form of boxing gloves!

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