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The Prince of Wales visits west Glamorgan and Carmarthen

14th December 2012

The Prince of Wales at the Tata Steel Works in Port Talbot, South Wales, where he met members of staff and toured the facility

The Prince of Wales at the Tata Steel Works in Port Talbot, South Wales, where he met members of staff and toured the facility

A new superhero capable of protecting British soldiers against Taliban bombs and bullets was a star attraction during a rain-soaked royal tour of Wales today.

The Prince of Wales was introduced to Super Bainite, a new super-strength steel which could become a life-saver.

With a name reminiscent of a comic book superhero, the hush-hush miracle product has been developed by Tata Steel and the Ministry of Defence at its sprawling Port Talbot site.

His Royal Highness kicked-off a whistle-stop day-long tour to South Wales with a visit to the steelworks.

Climbing down low-tech wooden steps wheeled to the site for the purpose, His Royal Highness was shown into a specially erected marquee and was shown a video about the lightweight super-strength steel which could transform safety for British soldiers.

"It will give our troops a level of protection they have not had before and which nobody in the world offers. It is unique to the UK," a Tata spokesman said.

He said the steel, which has a lattice form, could be used to armour-plate troop carriers and tanks.

"We thought that it would interest The Prince of Wales because, of course, he has two sons in the military, one a soldier."

As The Prince was taken around the marquee, children from Eastern Primary School performed a series of festive songs.

Up to 100 Tata workers braved the pouring rain today to give The Prince an enthusiastic greeting.

The main reason for today's visit was to commemorate the rebuilding of blast furnace number four - a major £185 million project.

A tragic explosion in which three steelmen lost their lives destroyed the previous furnace.

Rebuilding it in the teeth of a deep recession is seen by workers as a vital investment in the future.

David Pugh, an agency welder working at the site, said he appreciated the efforts the company was making through investment.

"Everyone is very excited by the visit. The company has made a big effort to welcome him.

"We want to show the interest we have for our future. The company has had to make some hard decisions but it is investing a lot."

Despite the massive decline in employee numbers the site produces more steel today than it has ever done.

The new furnace, which is scheduled to come into operation during the first quarter of 2013, ensures steel-making for the next generation.

The Prince referred to his previous tours of the site in past years as he unveiled a plaque marking his visit.

"It is always an enormous pleasure for me to come back here and visit this incredible place," he told a group of senior Tata Steel workers.

"I know just what an extraordinary effort was required to put this project together," The Prince, congratulating them on their success, said.

"Having heard a little about it, I understand that it will become one of the most sophisticated blast furnaces in Europe."

The Prince continued his brief tour of South Wales by heading to Swansea's historic market.

A massive crowd several hundred strong thronged into the city centre market with shouts of "Hello, Charlie boy."

The Prince was in his element as he toured a variety of stands at the market and laughed and joked with traders.

He inquired about fish as he stopped at The Market Plaice and was congratulated on the news that he is to become a grandfather by a group of pensioners as he left.

The tour continued with a visit to a seafood stand where The Prince left with fresh cockles and a tub of laverbread, a Welsh seaweed delicacy.

He was shown around the highly popular complex by market manager Sarah Lawson. The Prince was presented with a hamper before he left.

Outside hundreds of flag waving royal fans, both young and old, queued in the rain to see him off.

 

The whistlestop tour moved across the city to the Uplands area with a visit to 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, the birthplace of Dylan Thomas.

Bought by the Thomas family from new in 1914, the semi-detached house played an integral part in shaping the ideas and imagination of Thomas.

Today, brought back to its original state, it is a tourist attraction gearing up to celebrate the centenary of Thomas's birth in 2014.

During the visit it was announced The Prince of Wales will be Royal Patron of DT100, the planned centenary celebrations.

The Prince of Wales tours the birthplace of Dylan Thomas

The Prince of Wales tours the birthplace of Dylan Thomas

Inside the house The Prince was treated to tea and Welsh cakes where he was joined by the poet's granddaughter Hannah Ellis.

Also present were Geoff and Anne Haden, the husband and wife team who have been instrumental in turning the house back to its original condition.

The Prince was shown the front bedroom where Thomas was born a few months after his family had bought the home.

He admired the authentic Edwardian-era beds as he was taken round by Mrs Haden and asked how she had found them.

"Actually, you have cost me money," she told a surprised Prince.

He was told the house renovation took place several years ago at a time when the Prince of Wales was renovating his Welsh farmhouse, Llwynywermod.

The £1.8 million estate close to Llandovery, west Wales, is The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall's Welsh home.  

At the time of buying it His Royal Highness made a point of using local craftspeople for work and buying authentic period furniture wherever possible.

"You were doing Llwynywermod at the same time we were doing this," Mrs Haden said.

"Ah, competition. I am so sorry," The Prince replied.

"I don't hold it against you!," she said.

His Royal Highness continued the tour of the house and left for the next leg of the tour after signing the visitor book.