It was a trip back to Wales for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge yesterday,as they visited North Wales where they lived for the first two years of their marriage. They packed three engagements including a salt-making trip and a visit to Newborough Beach.
The first stop of the day for William and Kate was at HM Coastguard Search and Rescue Caernarfon, to meet some of the Duke’s former colleagues from his days as a search and rescue pilot, based at RAF Valley on Anglesey.
Whilst the unit has moved from the island to a new base on the mainland, it is now run by Bristow Helicopters who took over the contract from the military, but with some of the same crew from William’s time as a helicopter pilot. They continue to be involved in flying rescue missions in all kinds of weather and terrain.
Upon reuniting with them, William told his old crew that he misses his previous job.
Coastguard helicopter winchman Paul Jones was with his family and said: “It’s lovely to see him, we worked very closely for three years and then he moved away.
“It was like he’s never been away.”
The royal couple also climbed aboard the Coastguard’s new £30 million Sikorsky S92 helicopter, which replaced Sea King helicopters used during Prince William’s time with the unit.
The Duke and Duchess sat in the cockpit as they were told about the aircraft’s capabilities and performance during the around 300 or so rescue missions undertaken each year from Caernarfon.
Rich Taylor, a winchman who served with William and met him again today, said: “It was great. It was a real honour and privilege. He’s a very nice guy, very engaging, very professional.
“He worked very hard obviously to keep a balance in the worlds he’s within. He was outstanding in his role as a pilot.”
William and Catherine also joined a discussion with Coastguard crew members and staff from Wales Air Ambulance, about the mental health challenges, a cause close to the couple, that result from working as emergency personnel.
Mr Taylor added: “He’s been involved first hand with some awful situations as anyone who works in this search and rescue or air ambulance will have been, so he knows first hand the effects it can have on people.
“When we worked with William it was a real honour and a privilege and that continues that he’s taken the time out to come and see us and have a look around and catch up again.
“I think like anybody involved in aviation, especially emergency services and support and helping others, it’s a passion, it’s a vocation, so I can understand he does miss it.”
The Duke of Cambridge has been open in the past about the effect the role had on his mental health and when out on engagements visiting emergency workers he often asks them about coping mechanisms they have in place such as when he went to Grenfell or more recently, when visiting those who helped in the New Zealand terrorist attacks.
William and Kate spent around 90 minutes at the base before leaving as they travelled to their next stop on the royal visit at Halen Mon Anglesey Sea Salt, a local business on Anglesey.
The parents of three headed to their former home, where they lived as newlyweds in a Welsh farmhouse until William left the RAF in 2013.
At the salt making company, the royal visitors received a masterclass in the process attempting to make the condiment in the traditional way. The company won The Queen’s Award for Sustainability in 2017.
The duke and duchess were given a talk about Halen Mon’s collaborations with other local food producers, and their involvement in community initiatives.
Their visit continued on with a stroll on Newborough Beach, where the couple explored the beach’s wildlife habitat with local children who were collecting litter from the beach. This was a clean up clean-up organised by the local county council and marine conservation group, Surfers against Sewage.
The 1st Menai Bridge Scouting Group explained to the couple the importance of the nesting bird colonies on neighbouring Llanddwyn Island.
It’s been a busy week for the Duke and Duchess who have yet to meet the latest addition to the Royal Family, Archie, but are expected to do so in the next few days.