Prince enjoys a Barnsley welcome

HRH Prince Charles visits Wentworth Castle Gardens in Barnsley
HRH Prince Charles visits Wentworth Castle Gardens in Barnsley
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A WOODLAND stroll, a meeting with a sporting legend and an afternoon with talented students made for a packed day for Prince Charles when he toured South Yorkshire.

Crowds of well-wishers lined the streets as the Prince of Wales made his first-ever visit to Barnsley, chatting with residents.

Hundreds of people clapped and cheered in the town centre as the prince stepped from his dark blue Jaguar and walked to Dickie Bird’s statue on Church Lane, where he met the veteran cricket umpire.

The retired 78-year-old, who officiated at more than 60 Test matches, said he was ‘very honoured’ to meet Prince Charles and show off the 6ft bronze likeness of himself, which the Royal visitor declared ‘marvellous’.

“It’s a great day for the town,” said Dickie. “I feel very humbled, proud and excited. We had a good laugh. I wished him all the best to the Royal family and his mother, because it’s a very special year for her, and he told me his father was feeling much better.

“He asked me whether the finger on the statue was the right way round!”

Dickie had been nervous beforehand, saying it was ‘worse than going out at a Test match’.

“It’s a special occasion for Barnsley. I’ve never left the town, I was born and bred in the town and Barnsley people are wonderful,” he added.

The prince, in a mustard-coloured overcoat, stopped to shake hands with people gathered around the statue, including 69-year-old self-confessed Royalist Joan Corbett, from Higham.

“I was very pleased to see him, he’s a very nice man,” said Joan, who waited for almost two hours to meet the heir to the throne.

The Prince walked to the Barnsley campus of Huddersfield University, calling in at a florist’s shop and a newsagent’s on the way, watched by primary school children.

After meeting senior staff, the prince was treated to a rendition of a specially-written song called Can’t Wait For The Future, composed by music student Ian Hopper.

Singer Amanda Steele, 28, from Worsbrough Dale, said: “I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Prince Charles’s visit is fantastic, it’s a great opportunity for Barnsley.”

Ian, 30, spoke to Charles after the song had finished.

“He said he’d tried to learn the trumpet at school but wasn’t very good!” said Ian.

The Prince, a keen horticulturist, took a close interest in the gardens and woodland at Wentworth Castle, where he unveiled a commemorative plaque.

He visited highlights of the 600-acre estate including the Union Jack and Victorian Flower Gardens and historic monuments such as the 18th century ‘mock castle’ folly.

Prince Charles remarked on the thick fog which had covered the countryside and spoke to some of the 30 volunteers who help out at the gardens every week. They were busy weeding flowerbeds .

“Thank God for you enthusiasts,” he told them.

Estate manager Michael Klemperer was ‘absolutely delighted’ to show the prince round and swap gardening tips.

“It’s good recognition of the quality of the gardens, and of course he has very fine gardens at Highgrove himself. ”