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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 18:42 GMT
Pony surprise for visiting prince
Prince Charles with a fell pony
Prince Charles was shown 14-year-old fell pony Lownsthwaite Bramble
The Prince of Wales officially opened a newly-built community hall when he visited a tiny Cumbrian village.

He spent an hour chatting to various groups who use the hall in Melmerby and played table tennis with youngsters.

He also met the Melmerby and District Gardening Club and invited them to visit his garden at Highgrove.

Before leaving, the Prince was shown a fell pony from a nearby stable which has supplied ponies to the Royal Family.

Before unveiling a plaque and planting a cherry tree to commemorate his visit, the Prince said he was pleased to see the region beginning to thrive again after the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001.

'Dreadful disaster'

He said: "My last visit here was only a matter of weeks before the dreaded foot-and-mouth struck this part of the world and caused such terrible disaster and I don't think many places were hit more severely than this very special part of England.

"It has been marvellous to meet some of the farmers who have managed to recover from that dreadful disaster and have started again and bought stock."

Charles also praised the villagers who fought to build their hall despite numerous obstacles.

Before leaving, the Prince was shown 14-year-old fell pony Lownsthwaite Bramble, which comes from a nearby stable supplying ponies to the royals.

The Prince said: "It's wonderful to see where they are produced."

Thriving villages

He went on to visit Westmorland Service Station on the M6 at Tebay, which was built and is run by local people.

He opened the new farm shop and met a co-operative of Cumbrian farmers and backed their plans to open a meat-cutting plant to process their own livestock for sale.

Earlier he made his third visit to a tiny B&B in the Lake District.

The Prince spent two nights at the Yew Tree Farm bed and breakfast in Rosthwaite, near Keswick.

On Wednesday morning he paid a visit to the farm's Flock-In tea room then took a helicopter to Hesket Newmarket, to visit a co-operative pub.

As he arrived in Hesket Newmarket he told local people it was "important" to keep villages thriving.

He visited the village shop and post office where he sampled cakes and other local produce.

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