Princess Anne arrived at lunchtime today to meet staff and guests at the Derbyshire Children’s Holiday Centre (DCHC), which each year provides breaks for hundreds of less fortunate children across Derbyshire.
A crowd had gathered outside in time for her early arrival in Scarbrough Avenue and she spent more than one and a half hours - much longer than expected - speaking to the many individuals who make the children’s stay special.
One little girl who met the Princess said: “She spoke to me and was very nice. It’s been very exciting.”
Princess Anne was met outside the home by the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire Toby Dennis, who presented her to Sir Henry Avery Bt, the charity’s patron, Bill Tomlinson, DCHC chairman, and members of staff.
Chef Simon Berry had prepared a lunch for her of sandwiches, pork pie and a selection of desserts and Princess Anne was introduced to him when she continued her tour after a short break.
Mr Berry said: “She thanked me and asked about the food we give to the children. I told her that we use local produce.”
During the tour, Princess Anne visited the disco and games rooms and was shown the bedrooms, before unveiling a plaque to mark the 125th anniversary of the holiday centre.
Many guests had gathered in the room for the ceremony, including Harold Richardson, 94, who came to the centre for a holiday 84 years ago. He said: “It was an honour to meet the Princess. Coming here today has brought back a lot of good memories, but it was very strict here those days.”
Before leaving she also met some other VIP guests, including the Mayor of Skegness Carl Masey.
Mr Tomlinson said: “We were extremely proud to receive a visit by the Princess Royal, which is a testament to all the amazing work done by our staff and volunteers in the development of young lives, not just this year but through the 125 years that the centre has been operating.”
Centre manager Ali Byerley said: “We’ve been very excited and proud. Last year we were awarded the Queen’s award for voluntary service and the visit is a follow up to that.
“Princess Anne was very interested in the building and didn’t realise it was purpose-built as a children’s holiday centre when it moved from Roman Bank. She spoke to me about some other charities like this in London. She was very nice - very down to earth.”
During the unveiling of the plaque, Princess Anne congratulated the holiday centre on its achievement.
This was the first visit to the centre by a member of the royal family since the Duchess of Gloucester GCVO visited in 1993.
The DCHC was founded in 1891 and currently offers around 450 five-day breaks every year. It is hoping, during this very special anniversary year, to raise enough to provide long-term sustainability and to increase the annual number of holidays it can offer to over 700.
Among the crowd that gathered outside were holidaymakers Katrina Dix and her daughter Kelsey (14). Katrina said: “It’s been very exciting. We have been to London but have never seen a member of the Royal Family. We thought we’d come along and be nosey.”
* See Wednesday’s Skegness Standard for more pictures.