Volunteers in Wales had a very special day on Friday 9th February 2024 when HRH The Princess Royal, as Royal Patron of the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) visited its station at Rhossili, South Wales.

The station is one of nine in Wales and it overlooks Worms Head, a dragon-shaped tidal island off Rhossili beach on the Gower coast.

The Princess Royal was received at the station by His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of West Glamorgan, Mrs. Louise Fleet. NCI Chair Stephen Hand and Andrew Bowen, NCI Worms Head Station Manager were presented.
Andrew Bowen escorted Her Royal Highness into the station’s watch room for a briefing about the work of the highly trained volunteer watchkeepers and their part in helping to save lives around the coast. Duty watchkeepers Manisha Rickards, James Hickey and Keith Christopher were presented.

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 over the coast from 60 lookout stations, looking out for anyone in potential danger. They report any coastal safety-related incidents to HM Coastguard so that expert help can be sent, including the Coastguard Rescue Teams and helicopters, the RNLI, independent lifeboats and all emergency services.

Her Royal Highness was briefed on the coastal risks at Worms Head and the work of the volunteers whose spotlight on coastal safety has reduced emergency services call-outs by nearly 140% in one year. The dangers include the risk of being cut off by the tide, fierce waters, surrounding steep cliffs and the world’s second highest tidal rise and fall.

Worms Head rocks can only be accessed on foot at certain times and it’s a popular destination for walkers from all around the world. Access to the deserted island is only at low tide via a rocky causeway about half a mile long. Walkers have just two and a half hours either side of the low tide to cross safely and the safe crossing times are clearly signposted and publicised. The fast, incoming tides cover the causeway with around 30 feet of treacherous, choppy water.

After visiting the station, The Princess Royal attended a reception at the South Gower Sports Club. The reception was attended by around 40 NCI watchkeepers and Station Managers from other nearby NCI Stations, as well as NCI Trustees and guests from the local community.
The guest list included the Hon. Tonia Antoniazzi MP, representatives from Swansea City Council, Rhossili Community Council, National Trust and Gower Seal Group plus local RNLI and independent lifeboat stations. Local donors and supporters present were Rob Morgan, Poundffald Farm, Three Crosses, and Jessica Higgs, Great Pitton Farms.
Stephen Hand, NCI chair formally welcomed Her Royal Highness to NCI Worms Head and thanked her for her visit.  Her Royal Highness also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit which will be placed in the Worms Head station.

Mr Hand said: “We’re honoured to welcome HRH The Princess Royal to Worms Head on her second visit to one of our stations this year in which we’ll celebrate our 30th anniversary of helping to keep people safe on the coast and save lives at sea. We’re very proud to have her patronage and interest in our work. These wonderful visits always lift our spirits and create the perfect opportunity to celebrate lifesaving work and bring together our volunteers, friends and supporters from local communities.”

Related Lookout Station