28 January 2024 On Thursday 25th January 2024, HRH The Princess Royal, as Royal Patron of the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI), visited its station on the clifftop at Cromer.
The station has commanding views over Cromer beach and the famous Devils Throat, a notorious area of the North Sea respected by mariners through the ages.
The Princess Royal was received at the station by His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, The Lady Dannatt, who presented Linda Lawrence, NCI Regional Trustee for the East Coast and East Anglia and former Station Manager at NCI Cromer and Richard Leeds, Station Manager at NCI Cromer.
Richard Leeds 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 at the coast. Duty watchkeepers Andrew Pearcey and Neil Smith were presented.
All 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 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 also briefed on the history of the station. NCI Cromer is on the former site of NCI Runton which had to be disposed of following storm damage. Thanks to generous donations, the current station has been in place since 2018 and is known as NCI Cromer, with distinctive blue livery. It looks over the busy seaway that holds many dangers for shipping such as sand banks, wind farms and gas platforms as well as being a popular visitor destination.
National Coastwatch is a wholly volunteer organisation, with over 2,700 highly trained watchkeepers working from 60 stations around England and Wales. NCI’s prime objective is the protection and preservation of life around our coasts. NCI Cromer, along with the majority of stations, has HM Coastguard Declared Facility Status which means they are formally recognised by HM Coastguard as part of the UK’s maritime search and rescue organisation.
After visiting the station, The Princess Royal attended a reception at the Cliftonville Hotel in Cromer. The reception was attended by around 30 NCI watchkeepers and Station Managers from other NCI Stations in East Anglia, NCI trustees and guests from the local community. Guests included Cromer Lifeboat, RNLI, His Majesty's Coastguard, local councillors, Sheringham Shoal Windfarm and Simon Clipsom from Morrisons Cromer Community Champion, who has helped with fundraising over the past five years.
Stephen Hand, NCI Chair, formally welcomed Her Royal Highness to NCI Cromer and thanked her for her visit. He then invited her to present three long service awards to Glenice Knight, John Wootten and Andrew Pearcey who have each volunteered for five years. Her Royal Highness also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit which will be placed in the Cromer station. Mr Hand said: “What 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 by maintaining a daily visual and radio watch. It’s a huge source of pride that HRH The Princess Royal is our patron and that she takes such an active interest in our work. Her visits are always a great boost for our volunteers and all our friends and supporters in the local communities.”