“Your lives have been turned upside down” was the reaction of Prince Harry as he met villagers whose homes were devastated by the December floods.
During an hour-long tour of St Michael’s, the Prince saw first hand the impact the deluge had on the community which is still cleaning up after the River Wyre burst its banks just before Christmas.
Yesterday’s visit also saw him meet soldiers at Weeton Barracks who came to the rescue of many victims of the floods.
Prince Harry told residents who greeted him outside St Michael’s Village Hall: “I have just come from Weeton Barracks and heard how they had done everything they could.
“They were impressed by the community spirit and said everyone here was absolutely fantastic.
“What is really frustrating is the fact the water comes up and the next morning it has gone, but your lives have been turned upside down, and at the wrong time of year.
It has definitely lifted our spirits, it’s not everyday you welcome a prince into your houseAlan Bailey
“Not that there is a right time of year. Now it is a process of getting things back to normal.”
Storms saw 100mm of rain fall in 24 hours in Lancashire over Christmas Day and Boxing Day sparking road closures and powers cuts.
Floods had already hit the village earlier in the month forcing at least 20 homes to be evacuated.
The Prince saw first hand the impact on the Blackpool Road home of Alan and Carolyn Bailey.
They had to move all their furniture upstairs as the rising torrent of water invaded their home.
They have had to move out into rented accommodation along with Alan’s 94-year-old mum while the rooms dry out and are repaired.
Afterwards Alan said: “He was so compassionate about the situation we have found ourselves in, and he seemed very concerned.
“It has definitely lifted our spirits, it’s not everyday you welcome a prince into your house.”
Adrian Phillips, whose home was also flooded, told the Prince the village was pulling together.
He said: “He was very well informed and very interested in asking everyone what had happened.
“He knew about the community spirit and was very impressed with how the village was coping and that we are getting back on our feet.
“It is great he has taken the time to visit because you don’t see Royals around here too often.”
The Prince was shown the impact the floods had had on the village hall and the church and crossed the bridge over the River Wyre, accompanied by Wyre Council’s emergency planning officer John Blundell, who pointed out how high the water levels had risen.
Along the way he chatted with villagers including Irene Gudger whose house and barn had flooded with more than four feet of water.
Mrs Gudger said: “We have stayed in the house and we are managing. It is lovely that Prince Harry has taken the time to visit us.”
Amy Montgomery, 21, of Hall Lane, said: “Ours is the highest house in the village so we weren’t flooded but lots of our friends and neighbours were. It is really exciting to see the Prince in the village and I think it will boost everyone’s spirits.”
Prince Harry’s final stop was a quick bite to eat at the Grapes Pub in Garstang Road where residents sought refuge after the second deluge in December.
He had time for a quick chat with St Michael’s oldest resident 97-year-old Winifred Hodson who has lived in the village since she was 14.
She said: “I have seen a few floods over the years and it is very frightening.
“It was lovely to meet Prince Harry - he is smashing!”
“I take my hat off to you”.
That was the message from Prince Harry to soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, who spent their Christmas and New Year helping out in flood-hit regions.
The prince thanked soldiers and their families at Weeton Barracks for their efforts.
He spent the first 10 minutes of his visit speaking to pupils from Weeton Primary School, asking how their Christmases were affected by their parents working to ease flooding.
The Prince then met five groups of soldiers who worked in different areas across the North of England.
Speaking to those deployed to Carlisle, he said: “I love the stories I’ve heard about the community spirit and everyone getting involved.
“I take my hat off to you guys, dropping everything at a moment’s notice.”
Colour Sgt Andrew Pearce, who was part of the group, said: “It’s nice to get some recognition, and to get some recognition for the areas too.
“We recruit in the areas we were helping, so it was always going to have a personal effect and it was nice to get good feedback from the residents.”
Colour Sgt Barry Quinn added: “We went without sleep for about three days and were exhausted. We were sleeping in town halls and on the floor of fire stations.
“We were also on rations for the whole time, but local businesses and residents kept coming to us with food and really looked after us.”
Prince Harry also spoke to the families of soldiers sent to areas including Croston, Appleby, Ribchester, York and Leeds.
Jo Cormack, wife of Lt Col Cormack, was in the Mess with 10-year-old daughter Iona.
Mrs Cormack said: “It’s fantastic that Prince Harry has come, we’re really proud of the battalion.
“The Christmas period for us was up and down, turbulent, but not as turbulent as it was for the poor people who were flooded.
“I think we saw more of him on the television than we did at home.”
Sgt Neal Cranney said: “The forces have got a lot of respect for Harry. He’s very down to earth.”
Anthony Goth, headteacher at Weeton Primary School, only told pupils they would be going to watch Prince Harry’s arrival at 10.30am.
He said: “Eighty five per cent of our pupils are children of servicemen and women, so many children didn’t see as much of their mum or das as they’d have liked over Christmas.
“So this is a nice way to say thank you to them too.”