Royal visitor for coastal protectors

The team of volunteers at Cromer Coastwatch had a very special visitor to the clifftop station when The Princess Royal paid them a visit.

The princess, who is patron of the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI), visited the station, which looks over a particularly busy and potentially dangerous stretch of the coast.

She was received yesterday by Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk The Lady Dannatt, who presented Linda Lawrence, NCI Regional Trustee for the East Coast and East Anglia and a former Cromer station manager, and current manager Richard Leeds.

Richard Leeds and Linda Lawrence with Princess Anne

During her visit, the princess was shown around the watch room and told about the work of the highly trained volunteer watchkeepers and the part they play in helping to save lives along the coast.

Duty watchkeepers Andrew Pearcey and Neil Smith were also presented.

The volunteer watchkeepers based at Cromer keep a visual and radio vigil, looking out for anyone in potential danger. They report any safety-related incidents to HM Coastguard so that expert help can be sent.

Neil Smith and Andrew Pearcey continuing the tour

After visiting the station, the princess attended a reception at the Cliftonville Hotel in Cromer, which was attended by around 30 NCI watchkeepers and station managers from around East Anglia, NCI trustees and guests from the local community.

Guests included representatives from Cromer Lifeboat, the RNLI, HM Coastguard, local councillors, Sheringham Shoal Windfarm and Simon Clipsom, who, as Morrisons Cromer Community Champion, has helped with fundraising over the past five years.

Stephen Hand, NCI chairman, invited the princess to present long-service awards to Glenice Knight, John Wootten and Andrew Pearcey, who have each volunteered for five years. She also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit which will be placed in the Cromer station.

Stephen said: “What a wonderful start to the year in which we will celebrate our 30th anniversary. It’s a huge source of pride that HRH The Princess Royal is our patron and that she takes such an active interest in our work. Her visits are always a great boost for our volunteers and all our friends and supporters in the local communities.”

Stephen Hand and Princess Anne with the commemorative plaque

NCI Cromer is on the former site of NCI Runton, which was destroyed by storm damage. Thanks to donations, the current station has been in place since 2018.

Its role is keeping watch on a very busy seaway holding many dangers for shipping – including sandbanks, windfarms and gas platforms – as well as a popular destination for holidaymakers and watersports enthusiasts.

National Coastwatch is a wholly volunteer organisation, with more than 2,700 trained watchkeepers working from 60 stations around England and Wales. NCI Cromer, along with the majority of stations, has HM Coastguard Declared Facility Status, which it is formally recognised as part of the UK’s maritime search and rescue organisation.

PICTURES: ANDREAS YIASIMI

Senior Watchkeeper John Wootton receiving his long service award
Princess Anne meeting Richard Burrows and John Allen

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