Royal return as Princess Anne visits Wearside riding centre - almost 40 years since opening it

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Princess Anne made a return visit to a Wearside riding centre today - almost 40 years after opening it.

The Princess Royal has been on Wearside today as part of the build-up to the Tall Ships Races' visit to Sunderland in two years' time.

Princess Anne visited the Washington riding centre she opened in 1977.

Princess Anne visited the Washington riding centre she opened in 1977.

One of the places she visited was Washington Riding Centre, based on Stephenson Road.

The centre provides about 130 children and adults with a range of disabilities and learning difficulties with riding lessons every week.

It was opened by Princess Anne in 1977, and today, she officially opened a new stable block at the centre, which has been nicknamed 'Pony Block'.

She also had a tour of the premises, watched three riding presentations and presented awards to some of the centre's volunteers.

Eileen Curley, an administrator at the riding centre, said: "We had been looking forward to having Princess Anne here for some time.

"It was a great privilege to welcome her here, having first opened the centre in 1977.

"It was lovely for us to have the chance to show her how things have progressed, and all of the changes which have been made since then."

Also in attendance was the Mayor and Mayoress of Sunderland, Coun Barry Curran and his wife Carol.

On the new build, Eileen added: "It was funded by Sport England, and is purpose-built with a classroom and demonstration area.

"We're delighted with it. It opens up so many more opportunities for our riders to get up close and personal with the horses.

"There is so much more space and far better facilities for them.

"It was fantastic to be able to showcase it today, and we'd like to thank all of the local businesses who supported us with volunteers and catering, as well as floral tributes."