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Two Cwmbran volunteers at King Charles’ Buckingham Palace garden parties in May

a collage of photos at buckingham palace
Leanne Morgan and Tracey Leake-Jones at King Charles' first garden parties in May

King Charles III held his first garden parties in May and volunteers from two Cwmbran projects received an invitation.

Leanne Morgan, from the Friends of Pontnewydd Park

She said: “I have always volunteered somewhere. Last year for the Queen’s Jubilee I had the idea of having a community event in the park. The park was looking neglected and there was a lot of anti-social behaviour.

“Well, I put it out there and a few people stepped up and before we knew it the park was full of families celebrating together. There was so much positivity about the event we decided to carry on and also make efforts to improve the park and raise its profile. That was how Friends of Pontnewydd Park was born. Since then we’ve held four successful community events, with the ethos that they are either free or low cost, so they can be as inclusive as possible.

a man and woman at buckingham palace
Leanne Morgan volunteers with the Friends of Pontnewydd Park

“We also make sure they are family-friendly, safe events. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes, but I’m so lucky to be part of a great committee who are as passionate about the park and doing some good as I am.

“The guys at Pontnewydd Bowls Club have also been a great support and partner, offering use of their pavilion to support events. It’s ace.

“What has become clear is that there is a real sense of community in Pontnewydd. People know the park, many played there as kids, so they know its potential. I see people who step up, grow their confidence, there are opportunities to learn new skills but most of all, it’s being part of something bigger and even the smallest activity gives you a great feeling.

“It’s so good for emotional well-being. I’ve met some people who have never volunteered before but there is such a buzz and vibe at events, they soon get the bug. I’ve seen community cohesion improve and anti-social behaviour has greatly reduced. More people are coming to the park, they are visible, there is a sense of community ownership developing.”

This is how she found out about the invitation to the party.

“I came home and my neighbour Nicki came over. She handed me a note which asked me to ring the Deputy Lord Lieutenant (of Gwent). He’d been trying to get hold of me, and had called at the house to catch me in.

“However, it wasn’t my door he was knocking! I rang him back and he chatted to me about the park and other times I volunteered. Then he said that he had nominated me to go to the first Royal Garden party of King Charles reign in recognition of my contribution to the community. I was gobsmacked and very humbled. I never imagined that would happen to me! I was excited, disbelieving and at the same time thinking these kind of things happen to someone else not me.

“The day was amazing. The weather was perfect. It was so exciting to walk through the palace gates, seeing the building close up, being surrounded by military personnel in their dress uniforms. It was awe-inspiring.

“The gardens are beautiful. So big.

“When the King and Queen came out and the military band played God Save The King, I had goosebumps. It was surreal. We got to talk to lots of people and what struck me was how many people go above and beyond for cause, charity or their community. There is almost an invisible but amazing force working out there, very selflessly. It was very humbling.

“We had a lovely afternoon and got to see London all dressed up for the Coronation, the atmosphere was electric even then. Overall it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For me volunteering isn’t about recognition, the rewards come from getting out there and being part of something bigger.”

Click here to join the Friends of Pontnewydd Park’s Facebook group

Tracey Leake-Jones- Bridge 46 to Five Locks Canal Group

A new estate was being built at Edlogan Wharf and the housing developers built a bridge over the canal to the new homes. The stretch was left unnavigable so the group was formed to keep the pressure on the developers to restore it so boats could continue down to Five Locks in Cwmbran.

This success was achieved but the group continues its work while house-building continues around the canal.

Leanne said: “In recognition of our work, Lynne Neagle, the MS for Torfaen, nominated one of our group to attend the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday 9 May. It was decided that I should accept the invitation on behalf of our committee. I was delighted and thrilled to accept the invitation and honoured to represent our group at such a prestigious event.

“I took along one of our group mascots and made sure I got the mascot in as many photos as possible. I made several videos to share on our Facebook page which has a membership of 4,700. I made sure I could share with our supporters some of the special moments of the day.

a teddy bear
The Bridge 46 to Five Locks Canal Group mascot enjoying the Buckingham Palace garden party

“At 4pm sharp, the Royal Family appear at the top of the steps that lead down onto the lawn. The band strikes up the National Anthem and everyone stands. When the band finishes, the Royal Family come down the steps and begin to mingle with the assembled crowds.

“At each Royal Garden Party, there are 8,000 invited guests so the opportunity to actually meet one of the Royal Family face to face is nearly impossible. We had a very good view of the Prince and Princess of Wales and Prince William waved directly at us as they walked by.

the Prince and Princess of Wales
Tracey’s photo of the Prince and Princess of Wales

“Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, walked right next to us on her way to greet disabled guests that were lined up waiting to meet her. The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, Edward and Sophie were charming and said hello as they passed us. Each of the Royal Family were charming and gracious, giving as much time as possible to all the people they met.

“The afternoon tea comprised of delicious sandwiches cut into fingers with the crusts removed, beautifully prepared shortbread biscuits and dainty little cakes decorated with iced crowns. There was a choice of tea, coffee or cold drinks and at 5pm, serving staff brought ice creams around. At 6pm, the band played the National Anthem again which signalled the end of the garden party and all the guests left via the front gates.

“One of the things that struck me was how friendly and genuinely helpful all the Palace staff are. Nothing is too much trouble and it seemed to be a genuine pleasure to answer any questions or give helpful directions.

“Our time spent at the Palace was a treasured, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will remain with me forever.”

Click here to join the Bridge 46 to Five Locks Facebook group.

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Two Cwmbran volunteers at King Charles’ Buckingham Palace garden parties in May