“IT still appears to be in one piece” were Prince Edward’s first words after jumping from the cab of a road sweeper on a visit to the Forest of Dean today.
The Earl of Wessex drove the £109,000 Jeff Stocks Sweepers truck emblazoned in Union Jack livery which greeted him on his arrival to Vantage Point Business Village in Mitcheldean.
Owner Jeff Stock presented a certificate for passing the first stage of driver training to the royal who replied: “I won’t ask how many stages there are.”
Mr Stock, 48, said: “That was absolutely fabulous and I think he really, really enjoyed his first experience in a road sweeper.
“I didn’t offer him a position, but I would certainly take him on as a demonstrator driver if his current career does not go the way he likes.
“I have never come close to royalty but to have Prince Edward drive one of my trucks which my guys have skilfully put together is a great opportunity.”
The prince and his wife Sophie the Countess of Wessex were met by business representatives and 200 pupils from Mitcheldean Endowed Primary School when they arrived at the business park by helicopter shortly after 11.15am.
Dozens of children dressed as princes and princesses and waved their Union Jack flags with joy and cheered as the royals stepped onto the Forest of Dean tarmac.
Staff, pupils and employees enjoyed informal chats with the royals about a number of subjects, including football, magic, business and cars.
Jessica Gates, nine, and Emily Wragg, seven, presented a basket of soap and a bouquet of flowers to the Countess, who appeared delighted with her new gifts.
Dorian Wragg, head of commercial at Vantage Point and Emily’s father, said: “This is a wonderful occasion to be part of and is something Emily will probably remember for the rest of her life.
“Sometimes we are seen as the less glamorous part of Gloucestershire but this event allows us to showcase what is here and there are some amazing businesses.”
The Countess was whisked off in more conventional transport to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Orchard Trust at Lydbrook for people with learning disabilities.
At the business village, Prince Edward sampled puddings at Simply Desserts and admired the handiwork of Gloucestershire College apprentices who have made a brick wall in a Union Flag design.
He went on to meet staff at The Warranty Group and the boss of engineering firm Versarien, as well as drone designer Craig Hellen. The prince’s final duty at the business village will be to officially open the Forest Enterprise Hub before he heads off to Clearwell Caves.
In the afternoon, the royal couple will be reunited at the Speech House, where hotel owners Peter and Gill Hands will introduce them to the guardians of the Dean’s traditions – verderers, freeminers, commoners and the Forestry Commission.
This will be followed by the planting of two trees, half a century after the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh performed a similar ceremony.
The couple’s last duty at the Speech House will be to celebrate the refurbishment of a landmark obelisk.
The last leg of the tour sees the royals in Newent, where the Earl will cut a ribbon marking the refurbishment of St Mary’s Church tower and the Earl and Countess will meet community groups.