The Prince of Wales’ Committee
Twenty years ago, just before the end of 1968, an event occurred which was to prove immensely important for thc burgeoning environmental movement in Wales.
It was the first move that Wales made to act upon the European initiative to encourage conservation and environmental improvement, called European Conservation Year 1970.
Four committees were set up in the UK, for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The chairman of the Welsh Committee was Prince Charles. I was fortunate to be one of the foundation members.
That ECY 70 Committee inspired or drove or cajoled so many of the ordinary people of Wales to tackle their own environmental problems instead of sitting back and bleating for the Government or the council or somebody else to do it for them, that when CHY 70 was over, Prince Charles said it had made such an impact, that it just could not he disbanded and must continue.
He reformed it as The Prince of Wales' Committee in 1971, and it has been hard at work ever since, developing its own brand of self-help and community enterprise. Today, the Committee is associated with projects of environ mental improvement all over Wales which if carried out commercially, would cost over LiOm. Tens of thousands of people, young and old, are working today on hundreds of projects, and the cost-effectiveness of the Committee’s projects is so high that the Welsh Development Agency, Wales Tourist Board and the Welsh Office entrust us with over £300,000 to distribute in grants for the support of groups and projects of value to the community. The Committee aims as a multiplier effect of at least eight to one; projects of a finished value eight or more times the level of public money given in grants.
Ciwyd, or rather, Flintshire, had a special place in this saga of civic enterprise. The fIrst and for man years the biggest cooperative project undertaken by the ECY 70 Committee was the clearing and restoration of the entire mountain top of Moel Fammau, where the old Jubilee Tower (See photographs below) had collapsed into two acres of tumbled, shattered masonry more than a century ago.
Brigadier Hugh Mainwaring, the then Lord Lieutenant of Flintshirc and myself assembled more than 1000 collaborators and 102 organisations, to tackle the mess on the mountain top.
Throughout the early spring and summer of 1969 — Investiture Year, SO it was a doubly significant event — volunteers and a small band of professional engineers paid for by cash collected from well-wishers all over the county, worked on transporting hundreds of tons of building materials to the top of the collapsed tower, replacing the soil and heather upon it.
Hundreds of sacks of ancient litter were collected by school pupils for transportation away to the dump. The stump of the tower was rebuilt in the form of an observation platform, and apprentices of de Havilland
— now British Aerospace. Broughton — planned and engraved plane tables indicating the main points visible on the horizon at the four points of the comapss.
‘When it was finished, Prince Charles came to see the result, and one of the first Prince of Wales’ Plaques awarded by His Royal Highness and the committee was given by Prince Charles. It is now inset into the stone work of the tower, but alas sadly defaced by stone throwing vandals.
This project set the pace for similar projects all over Wales, but Flintshire and later Clwvd, maintained their lead and originality of civic enterprise. It was a Committee group that kicked off with the Greenfield Valley project in Holvwell, where again Prince Charles come to inspect the two acres of civic park created from the derelict station. Another group restored the old school at Northop, with young people playing a particularly prominant part. A group in Ruthin converted the old coal yard into a delightful urban parkiand alongside the river. A particularly active group in the village of Halkyn reclaimed the first phase of the lead mine poisoned landscape on the mountain top — which Prince Charles visited and to which he awarded another plaque. A quarrying company, who had helped the village scheme was so fired with the spirit of the occasion that it reclaimed the whole of its entrance valley — and won an Award.
In Wrexham, several awards have been given for outstanding schemes of environmental
improvement by volunteers and thc local auotv. The Corn mittee does reward councils and other pubic bodies for such projects if they are what the Committee calls ‘beyond the call of duty’. It is no good entering a project for the annual judging if it is no more that the council would have done anvwa . It has to he something special.
Last year the Forestry Commission got an Award for a lovely little picnic spot in Clocaenog Forest. A few years ago steelworkers apprentices got one for rebuilding gold mining machinery form the Ganllwyd Valley, and other steelworkers were honoured with an Award for their tern nesting rafts on the Dee estuary.
Hundreds of Awards have been given, all by His Royal Highness personally, since 1971, and tens of thousands of people have shared in the work and the pleasure and personal fulfillment of improving their own environment. Prince Charles himself likes nothing better than to go out ‘on location’ and see volunteers at work on some outstanding projects. He makes a point of coming to Wales usually several times a year to visit projects. On one occasion he helped with a project himslef— by airlifting in his helicopter, an ancient cannon from Llanddwyn Island to the mainland for restoration and eventuall return to the island.
A couple of years ago at a Committee occasion in Swansea, he said that when eventually he hands over the chairmanship of the Committee, he hopes it will be to his son, so it is clear that the Prince of Wales’ Committee has a long future ahead of it.
And that is all to the good of Wales, for its score or so of members, themselves working with groups of volunteers all over Wales, and guiding the efforts of the Committee’s small staff of young Project Officers, are helping to build a new Wales. North Wales hansome Project Officer, Miss Rhiannon Bentall, based in the Shire Hall at Mold. Mid Wales has another, in Newtown, and South Waics has several spread across the more populous Glamorgan and Gwent.
Headquarters of the Committee are in Empire House, Cardiff, under the control of Mr. David Cox, and a small staff. It has to he small, for the administration of the Committee and the salaries and expenses of the Project Officers, come out of charitable contributions from people who see the Committee as the expression of a spirit of enterprise and civic responsibility that has gone on ever since 1968, building a lovlier Wales to live in and a better Wales to find work in.
By Charles Quant
North Wales Group