Prince Charles visits Haddo estate to learn about Storm Arwen recovery
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The impact Storm Arwen had on Aberdeenshire and the subsequent recovery operation was witnessed first-hand by His Royal Highness the Duke of Rothesay who visited the area on Friday.
Prince Charles was welcomed to the Haddo estate near Ellon where he met a variety of representatives who have been involved.
The storm struck in late November and over the 12 hours it hit the area, it is estimated that Haddo Country Park and Estate lost more than 100,000 trees.
Across Aberdeenshire, hundreds of roads were blocked by falling trees and more than 60,000 properties lost power, and despite valiant efforts by SSEN, some remained off for over a week.
A recovery fund has been set up to support the restoration of the park, with people being asked to sponsor the growth of a sapling and contributing to the huge work programme needed to get the park to re-open safely.
The Haddo team has already raised £8500 towards the target of £50,000 and, following his visit, The Duke of Rothesay has advised that he will be making a private contribution towards the fund.
Prince Charles spent time meeting with Haddo estate teams and landscape services from Aberdeenshire Council who have begun the hard work planning the restoration of the country park.
He also met members of local resilience groups who stepped up to support communities and heard about how they worked alongside other agencies to look after those people most adversely affected by the loss of power, to provide hot food and drinks, places to get warm, keep in touch with the latest information and charge electrical items.
Haddo House is the family seat of the Gordons, who later became the Earls of Aberdeen and Marquesses of Aberdeen, and they have lived on the site for more than 500 years. The house has been owned by the National Trust for Scotland since 1979, with the country park owned and maintained by Aberdeenshire Council, working closely with the Friends of Haddo who volunteer to preserve and promote the estate.
Following the visit Aberdeenshire Council chief executive Jim Savege said: "It was lovely for His Royal Highness to be able to come along and meet with so many of the communities who were involved in the response to the storm.
"They put so much time and effort into looking after each other, their friends, their family, their neighbours, and to have him put time into hearing with a huge sincerity of interest in terms of how they got on and what it was like for them was superb.
"He wanted to see the impact on the ground and clearly Haddo has been hugely impacted in terms of the amount of tree damage that was caused. That has been replicated across so many other parts of Aberdeenshire as well.
"He was very interested to see what was happening, to see for his own eyes the extent of the damage and had a strong interest from an environmental point of view in terms of how it is going to work out in the clearance of the timber and then also the restocking and replanting.
"Some of the immediate clear up has been done but we will now be focusing on those questions like could we do some more to make ourselves yet more resilient again on the back of what was a great response by communities. That's going to be the work in the months ahead."
Councillor Isobel Davidson, Formartine area committee chairwoman, met the Duke on the visit.
She said: “Storm Arwen was devastating to many communities across Aberdeenshire and the impact of it will be felt for many years to come.
“Public services stepped up – Aberdeenshire Council worked closely with Police, Fire, Coastguard, Ambulance, SSEN and the Ministry of Defence to co-ordinate efforts and ensure people had somewhere warm and safe to go. Over 8000 welfare checks were carried out and 3000 hot meals provided in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
“It is also important to acknowledge and pay tribute to the many people in our communities who stepped in to help. Under extremely challenging conditions, our communities did what they do best – they helped their neighbours, set up centres, distributed hot food and opened up their homes and businesses to people in need. We are so grateful to them for their help and resilience.
“I am pleased that HRH The Duke of Rothesay has taken the time to visit Haddo, to see for himself the devastation caused to the park, the loss of thousands of trees and the impact on our wildlife. I also know that the communities will appreciate recognition of their efforts as part of the response and recovery to the storm.”
Tessa Carr is part of the Ellon Resilience Group – one of many community organisations which provided support in the days following the storm.
She said: “The Ellon Resilience Group was set up following terrible flooding in 2016, to work locally to open up places of safety at times of great need.
"When we saw the devastation that had been caused by the storm, we quickly mobilised the support of the group, opening Victoria Hall in the town, to provide help to those without power, and later relocating to the Academy which offered better facilities when it became obvious that the loss of power would extend for some time.
“The challenges communities were facing were enormous. We were worried about the most vulnerable in our community, elderly people who were reluctant to leave their homes, or people with medical conditions unable to get help due to all the roads closed from fallen trees. Communication networks were also badly affected, so the ability to co-ordinate activity was extremely difficult.
“It was a great community effort and made so much easier because there was an established group of willing volunteers, who worked together to help those most in need.”
Prince Charles also met Philip Long OBE, chief executive of the National Trust for Scotland.
He said: “The Prince is our charity’s Patron and was anxious to learn more about the effects of Storm Arwen on the National Trust for Scotland’s properties across the country.
"I talked about the level of devastation we had experienced, which by our estimates will require months of work to remove damaged and fallen trees and to repair buildings.
"In the north-east alone, we think we will have to replant around one million trees to ensure the longer-term recovery of the woodlands in our care.
“His Royal Highness certainly recognised how difficult and distressing the aftermath of the storm has been for our staff and volunteers and offered exceptionally kind words about the magnificent efforts they have been making to ensure the affected properties are made safe again for visitors.”