'We've Come To Cheer You Up'

The Prince of Wales has proved a tonic for flood-hit communities during a fact-finding tour of Devon. 

Charles was joined by the Duchess of Cornwall during his visit to Braunton, one of the villages worst affected by last year's storms. 

Floodwater surged to 5ft (1.5m) in part of the village in the run-up to Christmas, forcing businesses to work tirelessly in an effort to keep trading. 

Some, such as the London Inn pub, remain closed due to the severity of the damage. 

Hundreds of people braved the chilly north Devon wind that whipped through the village to welcome the royal couple, who had specifically asked to visit Braunton to see the recovery effort. 

Most of the 300 pupils at nearby Caen Primary School lined the streets, while one group of well-wishers surprised the next in line to the throne with a "Welcome Prince Charming'' banner - something he joked must have been intended for someone else.

As Union flags and bunting held over from last year's Jubilee celebrations fluttered in the breeze, a handful of sandbags at the roadside acted as a reminder of the reason for Charles and Camilla's visit. 

Many villagers were effectively cut off in the days leading up to Christmas after the River Caen twice burst its banks. 

Ivan Rees, manager of the At One cafe, said the royal visit inspired businesses in Braunton to "bounce back'' from adversity. 

He said: "The visit today means a lot because it shows we are being listened to. Prince Charles has shown a real interest and desire, I think, to find out what can be done to help people and prepare for future floods.'' 

The royal tour started with a visit to Braunton News, where flood waters up to 3ft resulted in serious damage to the stock. 

Owner Nick Phillips said: "Both the prince and the duchess asked about how we were affected, what had been done to help, and what lessons had been learned. 

"To have people as important as them come down to Braunton has been a real boost to all of us.'' 

The couple later went on to a special reception at the village hall with flood victims and emergency services, with a photo slideshow cataloguing the effects of last year's damage on a large screen.