The Princess Royal flew in to visit volunteer coastwatchers from the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) stations in Swanage and St Albans Head near Worth Matravers.
The visit by Her Royal Highness, who is patron of the NCI, marked the 25th anniversary of the organisation and the formal reopening of the watchtower at NCI St Albans, following its refurbishment.
Princess Royal unveiling a plaque commemorating the 25th anniversary of the NCI at St Albans Head
First went to meet the volunteers at St Albans
Flying in by helicopter on Monday 21st June 2021, the Princess Royal, ignoring the wind and rain, first went to meet the coastwatch volunteers at St Albans and unveiled a commemorative plaque.
The original coastguard station at St Albans Head was built in 1895. When HM Coastguard ceased to operate visual lookouts in 1994, the building was returned to the landowner, the Encombe Estate.
Since 1995, the estate has leased the lookout to the NCI. In 2012 the station was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and it underwent a substantial refurbishment in 2020.
The NCI lookout at St Albans Head near Worth Matravers
Taken by car to the Swanage NCI station
Back in the helicopter, the Princess Royal was whisked to Swanage, landing in King George’s Playing Fields. From there she was taken by car to the Swanage NCI station at Peveril Point.
Here she met the station manager, Ian Weston, Swanage watchkeepers, the past chairman of the NCI Lesley Suddes and Swanage Town Council operations manager Gail Percival.
It is one of the oldest of the NCI stations around the coast of England and Wales, opening on 15th April 1995. The current lookout was built by the members in 2001 under the guidance of Ian Surface, the station’s first manager, a local builder.
NCI Swanage is also, like St Albans, a recipient of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
At the Swanage NCI station, the Princess Royal met the station manager, Ian Weston, Swanage watchkeepers, the past chairman of the NCI Lesley Suddes and Swanage Town Council operations manager Gail Percival
A reception in the Fine Foundation Gallery at Durlston Castle
Then it was back in the car and up to Durlston Country Park for a reception in the Fine Foundation Gallery at Durlston Castle. Her Royal Highness met local NCI watchkeepers and presented long service awards to 10 of them.
St Albans NCI long service awards were given to Ian White and Les Wilkins for 15 years service and to Dave Hipkiss for 10 years service.
Swanage NCI long service awards for 10 years of volunteering were presented to deputy station manager Stuart MacMillan Pratt, David Cornes, Bob Cripps, Peter Booth, Alan Jones, Steve Woods and John Mead.
Swanage Town Mayor councillor Avril Harris, Durlston Country Park project leader ranger Ali Tuckey, NCI press officer Tim Colquhoun and NCI deputy chairman Ian Whalley, are introduced to the Princess Royal by the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Angus Crawford at Durlston Castle
“I think you do a fantastic job”
In a speech at the reception, the Princess Royal paid tribute to the work and dedication of the coastwatch volunteers:
“This last year may have underlined the importance that NCI volunteers have in our coastal watch system. And that you felt that it was still worth coming because you were still so busy in this area.
“I appreciate that it’s probably a lot busier when the weather isn’t quite like this and maybe you heave a sigh of relief when it’s like this – not quite so busy! But it’s very much appreciated that you are there.
“It’s a continued presence that makes the difference…I think you do a fantastic job…I hope you have an enjoyable and peaceful summer.”
Listen to the report
Listen to the report by Ian Harkness for Purbeck Coast 101.2 FM from the reception including the Princess Royal’s speech
After the visit, the Princess Royal was whisked off in a helicopter