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Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Jubilee tour diary: Powys picnic
The BBC's arts and media correspondent Nick Higham is following the Queen on her Jubilee tour of the UK.

This is the 12th in a series of dispatches from around the country.

Wednesday 12 June

The Powys Picnic must be the biggest thing to hit the tiny hamlet of Dolau in mid-Wales for half a century.

With just 200 on the electoral role it is in the heart of thinly-populated rural Wales: the huge county of Powys has a population of only 100,000, and this really is one of those places where sheep outnumber humans 10-to-one.

Other places Dolau's size would opt for a garden party or a knees-up in the village hall to mark the Jubilee.

Dolau has gone for broke and invited 3,000 children from all over Powys and the Queen herself.

Beautifully kept

What's more she has accepted.

Perhaps the royal connections of the local Lord Lieutenant, Shan Legge-Bourke, have something to do with it: her daughter Tiggy was once nanny to the Prince of Wales's sons, and Charles and Camilla are said to stay at the family house at Crickhowell when they want a little privacy.

So here we are in a field beside Dolau's tiny station, a beautifully-kept little wooden hut, awaiting the arrival of the royal train.

Yesterday it rained heavily.

Queen meets the children of the village of Dolau
Great excitement greeted the Queen at Dolau
The field is rapidly becoming a quagmire as 3,000 children tramp all over it.

We hope the Queen has brought her boots.

Besides the children there is plenty more to entertain Her Majesty.

There is a deputation from the Welsh Corgi Club: formidable ladies with handfuls of animals on leashes. One (an animal, not a lady) was bred by the Queen.

There is a row of stalls representing the Mid-Wales Axemen - workers in wood.

One, Dave King ("Captain Chainsaw") from Llandridnod Wells, has made a life-size corgi out of walnut wood to present to the Queen: Dave spent a career in the aerospace industry making airframes before quitting to become an organic farmer (at which he used to make 75 a week) and then a wood carver (at which he makes 75 in a morning).

Biscuit barrel

He sculpts gryphons, birds, elephants and is currently working on a 20ft high sculpture of a giant kite.

Further on Shirley Kingsley and Denise Jones of Welsh Royal Crystal are waiting to present a huge cut-glass biscuit barrel, one of a limited edition of 15, showcasing the work of their firm which was started in 1985 to bring employment and a tourist attraction to an economically-deprived area.

Last year was a bad one for them, as for everyone round here, thanks to foot-and-mouth.

Things are starting to improve, but not fast enough for farmer Tom Evans from Builth Wells, who is standing next to a clutch of tiny sheep pens.


He complains that sheep farmers are still swamped by red tape and that restrictions - like the rule which forbids movement of livestock from farms within 20 days of the arrival of new stock - is making life very difficult.

In a tent next to him the Powell Brothers from Builth Wells are preparing for their 'sheeptacular', in which they show off rams from 20 different local breeds with evocative names like Clun Forest, Black Welsh Mountains, Beulah Speckled-Face and Bluefaced Leicestershire, then demonstrate the art of sheep-shearing.

And, er, that seems to be it.

Across the field Suzanne Davis's Produce from Powys is preparing to give the Queen baskets of local foodstuffs - strawberries, goats cheese, fillet steak, smoked duck and smoked trout - in front of a huge jubilee cake baked by Carol Lawrence of Beulah, which will be cut up and sold for charity.

The Queen's reception in Welsh-speaking North Wales yesterday may have been muted.

Here, in predominantly English-speaking mid-Wales, not far from the English border, she seems far more popular.

Crowds surge

And indeed when she finally appears, amid this celebration of rural life, pandemonium ensues.

The crowds surge forward.

There are no crowd control barriers, next to no policemen and hundreds of excited children.

Our camera position and cables are almost trampled underfoot.

But as she walks by I see her smiling and nodding - and yes, she is wearing boots - although the Duke is wearing a pair of smart black brogues.

As he and the Queen get into the helicopter which will take them to Burry Port in South Wales at the end of the visit, I see him looking ruefully at the mud his shoes have accumulated.

The helicopter takes off and circles the field once so the Queen can see the "ER" formed by hundreds of the children.

Hospice appeal

As it goes I ask Rachel Lewis, a local resident and stalwart of Dolau Women's Institute, what the visit means.

She is trying to raise 10,000 for the Hope House hospice, which cares for terminally ill children from all over Powys, and when I first met her this morning she was waiting to welcome Caen Edwards, a seven-year-old from the hospice, who was hoping to give the Queen a bouquet.

Last year, she tells me, not only was the village devastated by foot-and-mouth but it had to come to terms with the deaths of two young farmers, a man and a woman, in separate accidents.

But today has swept away the bad memories.

The sun has come out.

And as the Queen walked by Rachel saw she was carrying young Caen's posy.

It has been a wonderful day - and one they will remember for a long time to come in Dolau.

The BBC's Jennie Bond
"Her visit was popular with local children"

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