The Countess of Wessex hopped across the water this week for a day of engagements in the Isle of Wight. Sophie met charity workers and saw how firms on the island are aiming to protect the environment during a series of visits which culminated in a right royal tradition – the official launch of a ship.
Among the people that the countess met during her time on the island were award winning charity volunteers. On the royal agenda was a visit to Aspire Ryde, a community charity based in the biggest town on the Isle of Wight. Based in a renovated church, it offers groups, events and activities designed to support people across the local community. It relies heavily on volunteers and their contribution has made such a difference that in 2017 they were presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, an honour set up in 2002 to recognise the impact of voluntary work in local communities.
Sophie got the chance to meet many of those who have helped Aspire grow to the point that it can reach around 1000 people every week. The countess also spoke to those using the charity’s services to hear about the difference the organisation has made to them.
The Countess of Wessex also spent time at the Liz Earle factory where she was given a tour and heard about the company’s approach to sustainability. The skincare and beauty firm, set up by environmentalist Liz Earle, is based at the Greenhouse in Ryde where all food waste is composted and rain water is used to flush the toilets.
The only way to get to the Isle of Wight is by ferry and part of Sophie’s day there involved launching a new boat which will carry thousands of people every year between Fishbourne and Portsmouth. And its name had a very royal ring. The ship, part of the Wightlink fleet, is called ‘Victoria of Wight’, a reference to the queen who made a happy family home at Osborne House on the island and who retained a deep affection for the area throughout her life.
The new ferry, which entered service in August, is a hybrid energy ship and runs partly on electricity. The Countess of Wessex christened it in the traditional way, smashing a bottle of champagne into the side of the ferry in the hope of bringing it luck. Sophie also met some of the hundreds of people who had turned out for the celebrations for the new boat.
The visit to the Isle of Wight was part of a a week which had also seen the Countess of Wessex visit Reading to join in the celebrations at a party marking 15 years of the Me2Club. The organisation helps children with disabilities to make friends and take part in local mainstream activities. The countess’ other engagements in the past few days included celebrations for the centenary of the Daniel Department Store in Windsor. The next listed engagements for the Countess of Wessex are in London on Tuesday September 25th when she will open a rare diseases centre at St. Thomas’ Hospital and attend a reception at the British Museum for the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.