"A Visit by our Patron"
By Esther Smith
A Visit by our Patron Tuesday March 27th was a real “blue sky” day! Clear skies and beautiful spring sunshine greeted Caring For Life’s Patron Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex as the helicopter circled over Crag House Farm and came to land in the field adjacent to CFL’s Centre and football area. The helicopter had arrived early but was spotted by a gathering of CFL beneficiaries and staff, who all cheered, applauded and waved as The Countess walked down the lane to the Granary, to be greeted by Peter, Esther and visiting dignitaries. CFL was also thrilled to welcome back to the Farm the Lord Lieutenant.
It was a beautiful start to a really wonderful visit and was the first time The Countess had enjoyed good weather at Crag House Farm, where she has previously encountered gales, rain and cold temperatures!
Launching straight into a Civic and Corporate Reception in The Granary, CFL’s Patron chatted with around 35 guests, speaking with each person and enquiring as to their link with Caring For Life.The guests then enjoyeda finger buffet before being taken around the whole farm on golf buggies,visiting the conservation area, where the wild flower bank had just burst into bloom with its spring display of cowslips, the People and Animals Meeting building where sheep were lambing, the Being There housing support team, the horticulture project, care of small mammals, free range egg room, butchery department, woodwork, equestrian, mechanics, art, music, drama, adult literacy and computing and media!
It was quite a tour and the various groups went spinning off in different directions on the golf buggies before leaving with a pack containing briefing notes, a ‘focus for the day’ sheet and a copy of CFL’s new introductory leaflet, as well as taking with them some special memories of an exciting and beautiful sunny day!
Meanwhile, The Countess had stopped by to talk with highly specialist craftsmen working on the oak timbers for the 17th C barn currently under restoration. The importance of using methods and skills to match those of the original carpenters was explained and the huge oak beams admired, all part of the crucial project to expand CFL’s highly successful social enterprise.
The Countess was keen to view the equestrian project and to hear about plans for building a covered arena, enabling riding and driving activities, including Riding for the Disabled, on a year–round basis, whatever the weather! The Countess chatted with project staff and admired the horses, plus the new stable area. Our Patron then talked a volunteer providing crucial support on the woodwork project, the Being There team and the mechanics project leader.
Arriving next in the Centre to have lunch with some of the CFL beneficiaries, The Countess was greeted by loud applause and enjoyed a brief lunch, managing to also walk round the tables and talk with everyone present. This made the day utterly unforgettable for all those present, and provided truly happy memories for some people who have very little in their past that they would wish to remember.
The Countess then moved on to attend a second reception in The Granary, meeting up with visitors from grant-making bodies and other invited guests, who then also enjoyed a finger buffet and a full tour of the Farm. The Countess was also able to view large pictures of the new Café and Farm Shop facilities, which were displayed on easels in the Courtyard out in the warm sunshine, along with a picture of the equestrian building, and to discuss these with the architect and CEO.
As The Countess prepared to leave, visitors, CFL beneficiaries and staff had gathered in the yard to wave goodbye and many then rushed to watch the helicopter leave, being rewarded by the sight of CFL’s Patron waving goodbye as she flew off to her next event.
It was a beautiful and memorable day which was blessed with the best of weather, the kindness of our Patron, truly happy memories for those in our care and warm comments from so many guests, for all of which we do thank our Heavenly Father.