Charles opens climbing centre at former coal mine site
The Prince of Wales has officially opened a climbing centre at the site of a former coal mine.
The Rock UK Summit Centre, built on the site of the Old Drift Mine in Treharris in the South Wales valleys, is used by members of the armed forces and The Prince’s Trust.
On Friday the prince met representatives and young people from the Prince’s Trust, soldiers, and local children and viewed demonstrations on the centre’s 18 metre-high climbing walls.
Unveiling a plaque to commemorate the official opening of the centre, the prince said: “I just wanted to say how pleased I am to have this rather brief opportunity to join you and to see the results of this project here in a very special valley.
“I’ve been enormously impressed by all the work that has gone into this and that you managed to reuse the pithead buildings.
“As I’ve got to the age I am I’ve rather lost the head for heights and I’m very glad I didn’t attempt the impossible (climbing) on one of these walls.
“I’m so glad it’s turned out to be such a success and I can only offer my warmest congratulations to all those who have helped to make it possible.”
Referring to the Wales vs England Six Nations match on Saturday, the prince added: “I just wanted to say I hope, I hope, that Wales manages to win the match tomorrow.”
Young climber Macs Davies, 13, spoke with the prince inside the climbing centre and told him he had been using it for about seven months.
“It was nervous meeting him. We were hung on the wall waiting for him to come in which was nerve wracking.
“He said he didn’t have a good head for heights but he was interested in what we were doing.”
John Heasman, CEO of Rock UK, said: “We were honoured today to welcome The Prince of Wales to officially open our £4 million residential centre which will benefit young people from all over the UK.
“The local community is at the heart of our vision and our brand new activity centre not only provides world class facilities but also brings employment opportunities and income from both England and Wales.”
The Summit Centre, which offers catered en-suite accommodation, meeting rooms, play areas and an indoor climbing centre, has been built on the site of the former drift coal mine which shut in 1989.
Former miners John Jones and Graham Arthur also had a chance to speak to the prince, and said they thought the development was “seriously good”.
Mr Jones, who now runs a cafe, said: “Everybody thought it would be devastating, which it was at the time. We had three collieries within two miles here and within two-and-a-half years they had all gone which was quite a few thousand men.
“In the drift we had about 200 to 300 men.
“It’s marvellous. If you went back to 1989 all this valley was black. And then 30 years later it’s just gob-smacking what’s been done.”
Mr Arthur, now a landscape gardener, said: “You wouldn’t know it before. This place was just banging and crashing, non-stop 24/7.
“We’ve been walking around the building trying to work out where everything was before. But everything’s changed so much.”
The Prince also carried out engagements at Ysgol Cwm Brombil in Port Talbot, and Plas Bryn Rhosyn Care Home in Neath.