Fleeces and cheeses for Charles

Shannon Hampton and Malcolm QuekettThe West Australian

There was an agricultural feel to the start of last Saturday's short tour of Albany by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

The first stop for the royal couple was a private visit to Oranje Tractor, where they were met by owners Murray Gomm and Pamela Lincoln and their dog Merlot, who wore a bow tie for the occasion.

The prince and duchess were shown through an organic orchard and vegetable garden and sampled local wine and cheeses before a shy four-year-old Rosa Toussaint greeted the duchess with a posy of flowers.

The royals were then met by Albany Agricultural Society president Rob Wright, and immediate past president Erika Henderson, for a relaxed visit to the Albany Show.

The royal couple received an enthusiastic welcome, with frequent, spontaneous birthday greetings as the prince made his way around the grounds, and both he and the duchess stopped frequently to chat to the crowd and shake hands.

The crowds gathered four or five deep at points, and among the first to meet the prince was Alyssa Bain, 12, who was holding the first of two rescued baby kangaroos.

She said the prince had asked her what the animal ate, and she had told him "just milk, for now."

The duchess also stopped to look at a kangaroo, as the couple went on to watch an exhibition of log chopping, leaving afterwards to a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.

The couple then went different ways, with the duchess visiting a craft display and watching showjumping, while the prince watched a shearing competition.

Shearing councillor Kerryann Oakley explained to him how the competition worked, and said afterwards the prince had remarked that he had done some shearing while in Australia as a teenager, but that if he did it now, it would "kill his back".

Mrs Oakley said Prince Charles had said he could not have wished for a better place to spend his birthday, and that it was "a bit cooler than Perth".

Prince Charles also toured a craft pavilion and looked at some alpacas, remarking that perhaps he should get some to keep foxes away from his flock of sheep.

At the end of the visit, Mr Wright presented the prince with a championship ribbon, a book about the show's history, some animal ear tags and a shearing singlet.

Mr Wright said the visit had been a great success.

"It was a lovely atmosphere, and relaxed for them, and I think hundreds of people got to shake their hands or be involved," he said.

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