Sun shining, flags waving and crowds cheering – Sophie, Countess of Wessex, received a warm Amble welcome during her Royal visit to the Friendliest Port earlier today.
Young and old alike turned out in force to catch a glimpse and meet the Countess, who took the time to chat and mingle with patriotic locals.
Her Royal Highness spent around two hours in the town, visiting four key venues during the trip and unveiling two plaques along the way.
The Countess’s first port of call was at the Coquet Shorebase Trust at 10am, where she met volunteers, trustees and some users of the watersports facilities.
Vic Brown, centre manager, showed the Countess around its new purpose-built facility at The Braid and described it as an honour to meet the Royal visitor.
The Countess observed various watersports’ equipment and met schoolchildren from the town’s James Calvert Spence College who attend the centre.
Pupil and windsurfer Kya McLoughlin, 12, said: “It was great to meet her.”
The Countess’s next stop was at the Pride of Northumbria shop, on Queen Street, where she handed out certificates to successful trainees from the Culinary Institute of Northumbria.
She met Amble Development Trust director Julia Aston and chef Martin Charlton during her stop and she sampled some lemon drizzle cake which was made on site.
She was also introduced to Amble Business Club chairman Ann Burke, who told the Countess about Amble’s triumph in the Great British High Street Awards.
Ann said: “She was thrilled to bits that we won, for the profile of the town. She was lovely and we gave her a card to take back for the Queen to celebrate her birthday from the people of Amble.”
The Countess emerged from the Pride of Northumbria shop to a crowd of people on Queen Street, who were cheering and waving flags. There were even dogs draped in Union Flags and a cut-out puffin statue holding a flag to mark the occasion.
She took her time to chat to well-wishers as she made her way into the Town Square, where she was greeted by numerous townsfolk, including youngsters from Brambles Childcare Centre.
The children had made special banners to welcome the Countess and Nicky Gemmell, the centre’s early years practitioner in pre-school, said the youngsters were excited and delighted to meet the Countess, who is married to the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward.
Her next stop was at Amble Harbour Village, where she chatted to the independent traders from the various retail pods and visited a number of the businesses.
She was given a number of samples, including a bar of handmade chocolate, called Turn To The Dark Side, from Mocha Mondo Coffee, and some cinder toffee – or edible coal as it is known – from Kenspeckle Confectionary.
Dawn Watts, from Kenspeckle, said: “Prince Edward was recently in Lynemouth and we gave him some of our edible coal to take home. The Countess said that she remembered eating it and she took some home to share with the family.”
Another trader, Laura Stubbs, showed the Countess around her pod, Coquet Cosmetics. The 23-year-old described the Countess’s visit as a boost for Amble.
The Countess then met the town’s dedicated crew and fund-raisers from Amble RNLI, including coxswain John Connell and Amble Lifeboat Fundraisers vice-chairman Eleanor Cassidy, and learnt more about its Shannon Lifeboat Appeal. She also shared a football-related joke with some of the Newcastle United-supporting crew.
She visited the Seafood Centre, where she chatted with staff and unveiled a plaque to mark her visit.
In a touching moment, one-year-old Phoebe Aston, from Warkworth, presented the Countess with a bouquet of flowers, while fellow tot Jamie Wood, from Amble, did the same to the Duchess of Northumberland, who was part of the Royal entourage.
The Countess was also presented with a special mosaic, made by Julie Smith.
Her final stop was at the revamped Paddlers Park play and leisure facility, where she was welcomed by pupils from Amble Links First School, Amble First School (Edwin Street) and youngsters from Brambles Childcare Centre.
The Countess walked around the new-look recreational space and met and spoke with parents and children.
Members of Amble Town Council and volunteers from Amble Community Team were also present at Paddlers Park and Amble Mayor Craig Weir and Coun Helen Lewis presented the Countess and the Duchess with copies of a new book – Arty Visits Amble The Friendliest Port – which is being promoted by the town’s Puffin Festival and raising money to support the birds on nearby Coquet Island.
The Countess unveiled a plaque at Paddlers Park to commemorate the visit.
Coun Weir said: “The Countess kept on saying how wonderful Paddlers Park was and she said that it was a great community effort.”
Summing up her visit and describing what it meant to Amble, Coun Weir added: “It has been a great honour for Amble and the community was over the moon and overwhelmed to have her visit.
“She was brilliant with the children she met and there was a really good turnout for her.”
The Countess departed Amble by helicopter shortly after midday and headed to Blyth and then to Hexham.
It was the second time in a number of years that Amble has received a Royal visit, after Prince Charles came to the town in 2012.