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The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall open a regeneration project in Cornwall

2nd July 2012

The Duchess of Cornwall meets Daisy the dog as she visited the Veterinary surgery on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly

The Duchess of Cornwall meets Daisy the dog as she visited the Veterinary surgery on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall sheltered under umbrellas as they officially opened a £35 million community-led regeneration project in one of the most impoverished parts of Cornwall.

As The Duchess toured the Heartlands visitor centre - walking on sodden grass - she joked she would like summer to finally catch up with them.

The visit to Heartlands, at the Robinson's Shaft of the former South Crofty mine in Pool, is one of a series of engagements the couple will undertake over the next three days.

The tour is Their Royal Highnesses' seventh joint annual summer visit to Cornwall and marks part of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee year and His Royal Highness's 60th anniversary as The Duke of Cornwall.

The Duchess was in the West Country just a few weeks ago when she had similarly bad luck with the weather.

The Duchess was visiting the Royal Cornwall Show - which experienced such strong winds one of the tents were blown down.

Speaking today she said: "Every time I come to Cornwall it's terrible weather.

"I came here for the Royal Cornwall show and it was bad then. We want Summer."

Despite the poor weather the Royal couple enjoyed a two-hour tour of the new visitor attraction which is set on 19 acres of industrial wasteland and with 400 years of mining history.

The attraction has the biggest adventure playground in Cornwall, craft studios, botanical gardens representing countries Cornishmen mined in and World Heritage Site state-of-the art exhibitions.

The Royal couple also took time to browse a local food market which is held at Heartlands on a regular basis.

The Prince stopped for a taste of pie and a pint of Betty Stogs ale - produced by Skinners Brewery in Truro - and expressed his love of locally produced food-stuff.

Steve Skinner, chief executive and head taster at Skinner, said: "He loved it. He said it was very nice and agreed it was very hoppy.

"It has Cornish hop in it and he was impressed it is made with barley in Cornwall."

While The Prince chatted with Mr Skinner he was shown a beer mat produced to mark the company's launch of a specially brewed ale for the Diamond Jubilee.

The beer mat shows The Queen surfing on a surfboard in her crown and pink robe - over a wetsuit - and with a corgi by her side.

"He said it was very amusing," Mr Skinner said.

"He said she looked very pleased with herself, but the corgi looked a bit uninterested."

The Duchess bought a couple of treats from the market, including five shortbread teddy bears for her grandchildren and a cushion.

Set within the Camborne, Pool and Redruth area of West Cornwall, Heartlands is in one of the most densely populated areas of the county, which was left impoverished by the closure of the tin mines in the late 20th Century.

It is hoped the "cultural playground" will bring prosperity back to an area where child poverty levels have reached over double the national average.

Children from local schools dressed in clear ponchos as they waited in the wind and rain to catch a glimpse of the Royal couple who were unaffected by the stubbornly unpleasant conditions.

Pool Academy student Tamsin Hood, 15, said: "It's been really exciting, but it's a bit cold and wet.

"Heartlands is good and it's really nice to have something like this near us."

Claire Meakin, 29, vice principle of Pool Academy, welcomed The Prince and Duchess to "sunny Cornwall".

"We just forgot about the sun though I'm afraid, but we tried," she said after speaking to Their Royal Highnesses.

"They both apologised for the weather, but it's the same across the country," Ms Meakin said.

"We're hoping to have summer next week maybe, if somebody could arrange that for us."

Robert Nunn, 19, was involved in designing the adventure playground and said: "The weather hasn't ruined anything. It's just really encouraging that our effort and hard work has been rewarded with a royal visit."

Heartlands, which forms part of Cornwall's World Heritage Site, opened to the public on 20th April, but the royals officially opened the project by planting a ceremonial tree each in one of the gardens and unveiling a granite stone.

In 2007 the project received £22.3 million from the Big Lottery Fund - the biggest grant the Big Lottery Fund has given to a single project in England.

Additional funding was provided by Cornwall Council, Home and Communities Agency (HCA) and the European Union to reach £35 million.

Councillor Mark Kaczmarek, 51, worked in the mine for 17 years alongside his father and brother.

He showed The Prince a photo of himself working down the mine, which is now on display.

"He commented on how hard it must have been working underground," Mr Kaczmarek said.

"When the mines closed it had an impact on Cornwall and its identity - Cornwall had never been without tin mining, so it was very, very symbolic.

"But now to have the visitor centre here means there is something here for everybody."

Last week Cornwall Council gave the go-ahead for the next stage of the visitor attraction.

Work will begin in the autumn on 138 new homes - a quarter of which will be classed as "affordable" - as well as new shops and office space.

Vicky Martin, chief executive of the Heartlands Trust, said: "It's been an absolute honour to have The Prince and The Duchess here at Heartlands and to bring them to our community.

"The Prince was very supportive of the original application for this part of Cornwall to become a World Heritage Site and Heartland's has been designed as a gateway to the Cornish mining world heritage, so our job is to tell the story of the Cornish miners who took their expertise and their culture and settled all over the world and we're also a regeneration project."

The trust will run the project as a social enterprise for the benefit of Cornwall and, in particular, the Camborne, Pool and Redruth regeneration area.

Later in the day, The Prince and The Duchess attended a garden party to celebrate Cornwall and to mark His Royal Highness’s 60th anniversary as The Duke of Cornwall in Trewithen, Truro.

The Lord-Lieutenant of Cornwall, Colonel Edward Bolitho OBE, gave a speech in which he praised The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall for their charity work. 

He said:  "Cornwall is fiercely proud of its status as a Duchy, and fiercely proud of our Duke and Duchess of Cornwall."