14 January 2022

Duke of Rothesay visits Haddo to view storm damage

His Royal Highness the Duke of Rothesay today visited the Haddo estate in Aberdeenshire, to see for himself the scale of damage from Storm Arwen.

Over the 12-hour period of Storm Arwen in late November, it is estimated that Haddo Country Park and Estate lost over 100,000 trees.  Across Aberdeenshire, hundreds of roads were blocked by falling trees and over 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 re-open safely. The Haddo team has already raised £8,500 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.

Today, HRH Charles Duke of Rothesay 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.

Cllr Isobel Davidson, Formartine Area Committee Chair, Aberdeenshire Council, met the Duke on the visit. She paid tribute to the huge efforts of the public services who worked tirelessly to restore power and keep people safe in the immediate aftermath of the storm:
She said: “Storm Arwen was devastating to many communities across Aberdeenshire and the impact of it will be felt for many years to come. The day after the storm over 60,000 households were without power, and for thousands this loss continued for many days, in very cold wintery conditions.
“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 8,000 welfare checks were carried out and 3,000 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.”

Suzanna Atkinson is the Visitor Services Officer at Haddo Country Park. She said: “It was an honour to meet with His Royal Highness today to explain how important Haddo is to the local community.  Haddo has long since been a place the community can call their own, having been open to the public for 200 years.  Nevermore than the last two years has this been so important.  COVID restrictions saw Haddo's popularity sore, it was a safe haven to our most vulnerable and those who sought the comfort that can only be found in the outdoors.  We are keenly aware of the healing and restorative powers of beautiful countryside and will do everything in our power to bring Haddo back to her former glory. 

"The Friends of Haddo Country Park volunteer team have worked so hard to make the first steps towards reopening.  The community, along with local businesses, are stepping up in their droves to join our team or offer assistance.   For His Royal Highness to recognise our plight is quite overwhelming.  The Prince's knowledge of native woodland is extensive, we place huge value on his input and expertise.

"We will soon begin asking the local community to grow a Haddo legacy tree.  We want Haddo's future to be as positively impactful as possible by asking everyone to nurture a small piece of Haddo's future prior to its replanting - Haddo has always been the people's park, so what better way to mark that than for the people to help her recover."

Tessa Carr is from the Ellon Resilience Group – one of many community groups who supported the community 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.”

HRH also met Philip Long OBE, Chief Executive of the National Trust for Scotland. He said: “We were delighted to have had the opportunity to meet His Royal Highness at Haddo House and Country Park.

“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.”

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 over 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.

The local resilience partnership was established to oversee the response and work with communities to ensure people had the necessary support. Welfare checks were undertaken to the most vulnerable residents, a helpline was established and centres were opened across the area to provide warmth, food and power to recharge electrical items for those without power.