A Royal welcome for Countess’s Sunderland visit

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A ROYAL welcome greeted Sophie Wessex – the spouse of the Queen’s youngest son – as she visited Sunderland and Durham yesterday.

HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex, spent the afternoon touring the facilities of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service’s new headquarters at Belmont.

HRH The Countess of Wessex pictured during her visit to the Stadium of Light as guest of honour at a special event to raise awareness of the proposed 'Beacon of Light' facility in Sunderland.

HRH The Countess of Wessex pictured during her visit to the Stadium of Light as guest of honour at a special event to raise awareness of the proposed 'Beacon of Light' facility in Sunderland.

There, she was shown the new control room, where she watched an exercise by the Young Firefighters’ Association, and then went up on an aerial ladder platform.

Sophie met with staff with two legs as well as four, as Scrappy the fire dog showed off his moves before getting a little cuddle from the royal visitor.

Ten-year-old Megan Peacock presented the Countess with a bunch of flowers on behalf of Belmont School. “She was really pretty and really kind and sweet,” Megan said.

The Countess then visited the Stadium of Light for an event to raise awareness of the Beacon of Light project, which addresses health, work and well-being, and watched as youngsters and their parents took part in a number of activities.

Matt Hill, director of family and adults at the Foundation of Light, of which the Countess is a patron, said: “We’ve got the Countess here to raise awareness of the Beacon of Light. We’ve got our four zones set out, health, work, education, sport and play.” Sophie then attended a dinner which included trustees Sir Tim Rice, TV’s George Clarke, Kate Adie and Olympian Steve Cram.

“It’s a terrific cause, doing more, I hope, for the less fortunate of the area,” Sir Tim told the Echo. “The Beacon project is a very ambitious one. The foundation is already doing a lot of things thanks to Sir Bob Murray’s vision. It’s very important. I think, that the Sunderland trustees have a softy southerner on their board.”

George Clarke said: “Tonight is a really big event to raise awareness of the next stage of the foundation’s legacy, which is the Beacon of Light.”