15 Mar Queen Consort helps put Shropshire’s volunteers in the spotlight
Hundreds turned out for a sun-bathed royal visit with the Queen Consort offering her praise to some of the county’s most selfless volunteers.
On the role of Queen Consort, Camilla, who spoke of volunteers as “the backbone of society”, was greeted by crowds of people, young and old, as she arrived at Southwater in Telford on Tuesday.
Amid a flurry of Union flags, camera phones, cheering and children on shoulders, the royal guest was serenaded by the award-winning Abraham Darby School Band after starting her walkabout.
Fittingly after a week of snow and downpours, the sun burst through as the Queen Consort was joined by Shropshire’s Lord-Lieutenant Anna Turner – accepting a bunch of daffodils from one well-wisher.
Wearing a blue cashmere dress and coat by Anna Valentine, topped off with a ballerina brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels, the Queen Consort took time after greeting the crowds to talk to pupils who make up the Abraham Darby School band – obviously impressed by the upbeat performance from the group.
After greeting the public the Queen Consort moved into Southwater One – for the reason behind her visit – to meet a host of voluntary groups that provide support to people from all walks of life. They included Read Easy, Telford Interfaith Council, Telford Crisis Support, Telford After Care Team, STAY and Maninplace, Shropshire Youth Support Trust, PODS (Parents Opening Doors), the East Shropshire Talking Newspaper, In Kind Direct, and Erica Hanson, Cpl Royal Logistics, a veteran and founder of the Telford Veterans’ Trail.
Chris Jones, chair of Telford Crisis Support, told the Queen Consort what their work involves – and the number of people requiring its support.
The organisation provided nearly 1,300 school uniforms last year, saw 200 referrals to its baby bank support, along with nearly 200,000 food parcels.
Mrs Jones said: “It was a pleasure and an honour. She was very interested in what we told her, she asked some pertinent questions and told us ‘well done’.
“I told her who Telford Crisis Support were and I showed her the baby bank and said how many referrals we have provided in 2022, and also how we have provided approximately 180,000 meals in 2022.
“We also showed her a typical food parcel with dietary requirements and she was very interested.”
The Queen Consort was also introduced to staff at Maninplace, which provides support for the homeless in Telford & Wrekin – and could be heard remarking how their work was “so important”.
The charity’s chief executive, Alan Olver, said he had given her a brief outline of what they do, and added: “It is good to be able to raise the profile of what we do.”
He added: “I don’t think the understanding of what homelessness is about is clear in people’s minds. People have stereotypes, when they are human beings at the end of the day who have found themselves in the situation they are in.”
Robert Bland, chairman of Shropshire Youth Support Trust, welcomed the Queen Consort, saying: “So pleased to have you in Telford, ma’am.”
Camilla responded by saying: “It is lovely to be here.”
Mr Bland said he had told her “it is the nicest place in the world and she should come here more often”.
He added: “It has been a great treat to be here and an honour to have Shropshire Youth Support Trust presented to the Queen Consort.
“She immediately said ‘are you like the Prince’s Trust’ and I said ‘yes, in many respects – but not quite the same’.
“The idea is to get young people into employment and be independently minded so they can make decisions for themselves and really that is what Shropshire Youth Support Trust is all about.”
Robert Green, chairman of East Shropshire Talking Newspaper, shared the charity’s work in a discussion with the Queen Consort – introducing her to volunteers Chris Grain, Dave Gregory and Bette Higgs.
He said: “She was a very interesting person to speak to. She was asking questions about what we do. She had us all at ease which is a very good thing. She asked how long we have been going which was good to hear and she also said ‘I will have to tune in one day’, so we will have to send her one.”
The Queen Consort was also introduced to Telford & Wrekin Council’s business monitoring engagement officer, Sue Overton – set to retire next month after 45 and a half years.
Mrs Overton, who is 65, said that the Queen Consort had spoken of focusing on the future – and asked what she would be doing with her retirement.
She said: “She said ‘let’s not talk about retiring – what are you going to do?’ I said I have got a brand-new grandchild who is two weeks old and she said ‘they are a lot of work at that age’.
“She said ‘well done’ for lasting so long, and I said it was lovely to see her here.”
The visit concluded with the unveiling of a commemorative stone for Telford Veterans’ Trail – which will be set into the trail in the park, followed by a plaque to mark Her Majesty’s visit to the Southwater One building.
She was joined for the unveiling by Telford & Wrekin Council leader Shaun Davies, who said they had been thrilled to host the visit.
He said: “It was brilliant and it is fantastic to welcome the Queen Consort for her first visit to Shropshire – it was quite a coup and we were delighted to host her.
“The beaming smiles of the staff, our partners, our communities, was great to see, but I did have a tear in my eye seeing all the children welcoming the Queen Consort to Telford, waving their flags – which was in direct contrast to what my six-year-old said this morning – ‘why would the Queen Consort want to meet you?’.”
He added: “We have got a phenomenal set of voluntary organisations and also our third sector, and we work hand in glove with them – many who are represented here today and many who are not – the work they do is incredible.”
Credit – Shropshire Sar