The Duchess of Cambridge had fun in the sun with children and young mums yesterday after opening a new play garden inspired by her campaign to get families outdoors.
Mum-of-three Kate, 37, went to the Royal Horticultural Society centre in Wisley, Surrey, to see the third version of the Back to Nature Garden she co-created at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show and then recreated at the Hampton Court festival.
The third version, which will become a permanent fixture at Wisley, includes features from the original garden, including a hollow log and boulders from a waterfall, as well as a wildflower meadow, hidden burrow and rolling hill from Hampton.
It also contains new elements including a ‘bouncing forest’, where children can jump on trampolines surrounded by trees, and two treehouses linked via a walkway with slides.
“What do you like best?” she asked children testing out the garden. “The trampolines!” they all replied in unison.
The future Queen, in an Emilia Wickstead dress and accompanied by RHS ambassador and TV chef Mary Berry, formally opened the garden by planting a weeping blue cedar tree in the space where families will play.
Gazing at its water feature, she said: “I like the idea of the water. On hot days you can take your shoes off and have a splash.”
She and Ms Berry joined children on a ride in a trailer pulled by a tractor through the grounds to the site of a Back to Nature Garden Festival taking place at Wisley until September 15.
They met families supported by charities that the Duchess has worked with over the past eight years at the celebration, which features a vintage carousel, coconut shy, gardening activities, maypole dancing and circus acts.
Kate danced and waved her arms up and down in unison with 15-month-old Matilda Griffiths and chatted to her mum, Sarah Griffiths, 25, from Southend, Essex, who has been helped by the charity Family Action.
“She was just saying that her little boy Louis loves to smell flowers and he enjoys being out in the garden,”
Ms Griffiths said.
“The experience was a bit overwhelming, it’s still a bit of a daze, but really exciting.”
“She asked me how Family Action have helped me. They’ve helped me lots getting me out socialising.”
Kate was equally impressed by the face paint decorating three-year-old Dylan Corbin from Woking, Surrey, but perhaps got an unexpected reply. “Are you a tiger?” she asked. “No, it’s face paint,” he said.
At the coconut shy the Duchess chatted to young mum Lisa Wortley, whose two and a half year-old twins Ollie and Sophie were doing their best to knock a coconut off its stand.
In a speech Kate explained why she has been trying to encourage families to get back to nature.
“I am not as green fingered as many of you here, but I was passionate about creating a garden that inspired children and adults alike to get back to nature and reap the positive mental and physical health benefits that it can bring,” she said.
“The gardens were, I suppose, a manifestation of some of the work I have been focusing on around how best we can support our children in the earliest years.
“The physical benefits of being outdoors and in nature are well documented. More recently, however, I have learnt that these often safe and supportive environments can also bring significant benefits to the cognitive, social and emotional development of our children too.
“The experiences we gain during our earliest years influence who we become as people. They influence how we interact in school, in work and in society and, ultimately how we bring up our own children.”
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