Crowds across the North-East took to the streets to welcome Sophie, Countess of Wessex on her tour of the region. Hannah Bryan, Dani Webb and Chris Webber report
SHE arrived in the North-East by helicopter this morning (Tuesday, Nov 13) before being whisked away by Land Rover for her first royal meeting of the day – a visit to The Clervaux Trust at Clow Beck Farm, near Croft, North Yorkshire.
The Trust, which works with deprived young people in the region by teaching them how to work the land, was recently awarded a £45,500 grant from The Prince’s Countryside Fund.
The Countess was greeted by local dignitaries, as well as the charity’s trustee, Bill Chaytor, and North Yorkshire Police temporary chief constable, Tim Madgwick, before being shown around the farm.
Led by Mr Chaytor, she was told how the grant has benefited the Trust before meeting land manager Tyll van de Voort, and bio-dynamic apprentices Nanda van Vliet, Dominic Marsh and Roberto Romano, who gave her some homemade strawberry jam and organic carrots to take home.
Mr Chaytor said: “She is a wonderful lady and was very interested in our work. We are very grateful for the grant and for her visit.”
After her visit to Croft, she flew by helicopter to Escomb, near Bishop Auckland where she was greeted by dozens of people both young and old waving Union Flags.
However it was a Border Collie called Meg who won her heart.
After meeting local dignitaries and watching a performance from Escomb Primary School’s choir, she was treated to a Britain’s Got Talent style performance from Julia Folland and Kirsty Findeisen with their respective Border Collies Meg and Maisie.
“Your dogs were the stars of the show,” she said, speaking to Miss Folland and Miss Findeisen. “It was fantastic and so entertaining. Well done.”
And after asking to meet the pooches on her way out, Meg gave the dog lover an unexpected kiss on the nose.
After saying her goodbyes, the Countess was whisked up to Billingham officially open the town’s forum, which has recently had an £18.5m refurbishment.
There she was greeted by the mayor of Stockton, Councillor Lynne Apedaile, who gave her a full tour of the complex and introduced her to staff and sports leisure groups who use the facility.
Councillor Ken Dixon, Stockton Council’s cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture, said: “This is a very proud day for Stockton and we are delighted to welcome The Countess of Wessex to Billingham Forum.”
The Countess also visited Hartlepool to officially open the college and meet students, staff and governors.