25 February 2024 The Princess Royal made Wednesday 14th February 2024 an extra special day for Dorset volunteers when she visited the National Coastwatch station on the clifftop at Bournemouth’s Hengistbury Head.

HRH The Princess Royal is Royal Patron of the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI), a charity staffed and managed entirely by volunteers. This year it celebrates its 30th anniversary of helping to save lives around the coast.

The Princess Royal was received at the station by His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset Mr Angus Campbell, CVO, who presented NCI Deputy Chair, Dr Chris Aps who in turn introduced NCI Hengistbury Head Station Manager, Peter Holway.

Peter Holway escorted Her Royal Highness into the station’s watch room for a briefing about the work of the highly trained volunteer watchkeepers. On duty were watchkeepers Victoria Jago and Vincent Tabor.

All 2,700 National Coastwatch volunteer watchkeepers help to keep people safe and save lives at sea by maintaining a daily visual and radio watch of the coast, looking out for potential danger. They report coastal and local land-based safety-related incidents to HM Coastguard so that expert help can be sent, including Coastguard Rescue Teams and helicopters, the RNLI, independent lifeboats and all emergency services.

Her Royal Highness was also briefed on the daily operation of the station from which volunteers keep watch during daylight hours from 8am until sunset. It is one of the busiest stations in the charity’s network of 60 coastal stations in terms of incident recording, with over 60 incidents a year logged in the last two years.

Hengistbury Head is one of six stations on the Dorset coast; Swanage, Portland, St. Albans Head and two in Lyme Bay. NCI Needles is also a local station sharing a lookout over Christchurch Bay.  NCI Stations have HM Coastguard Declared Facility Status which means they are formally recognised as part of the UK’s maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) team.

After visiting the station, The Princess Royal attended a reception at the nearby St Nicholas Church Hall.  The reception was attended by over 50 NCI watchkeepers and Station Managers from other NCI Stations in the region as well as NCI Trustees Dr Chris Ap, Regional Trustee and Eric Taylor, Head of Operations.  Other guests from the local community included Phil Brolan from Southbourne Coastguard Rescue Team and Tim Hewitt, Station Manager Mudeford RNLI.

Stephen Hand, NCI Chair, formally welcomed Her Royal Highness to NCI Hengistbury Head and thanked her for her visit. He then invited her to present 5-year service awards to six watchkeepers and to unveil a commemorative plaque, which will be placed in the Hengistbury Head station.

Mr Hand said: “HRH The Princess Royal takes an active interest in our work and we're privileged that she is our patron.  Whenever she visits one of our stations, it’s always a huge boost for everyone involved and really helps to shine a spotlight on the work of our dedicated volunteers. Already this year, Her Royal Highness has visited our stations in Cromer, Norfolk and Worms Head in Wales and it’s a wonderful start to the year in which we will celebrate our 30th anniversary of helping to keep people safe on the coast and save lives at sea.”

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