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CoronavirusThe Wessexes

The Countess of Wessex goes to the pub with the Women’s Institute

Sophie, Countess of Wessex
i-Images/ Pool

The Countess of Wessex headed to a royal local to meet up with old friends to show her support for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Sophie spent an afternoon with fellow members of the Women’s Institute at a pub to hear about the impact of lockdown on the hospitality trade.

The Countess visited the Half Moon at Windlesham, Surrey, a popular spot with her husband who has dropped in for a drink from time to time. The pub, just a couple of miles from their home at Bagshot Park, dates back to the 17th century when it began life as a coaching inn. Like every other pub in the UK, it had to close its doors in mid March as restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic were put in place. It reopened on the weekend of July 4th as lockdown in England began to ease.

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Sophie, who drove herself to the pub, spent time talking to the team about the impact lockdown has had on business. The Half Moon has been owned by the Sturt family for decades and the Countess heard from them about the issues they faced during closure as well as the challenges they are now dealing with as they welcome back customers to a very different set up. Landlord Conrad Sturt also explained the social distancing measures put in place which has seen the traditional flagstone floor covered with tape markers and signs.

Sophie also heard from kitchen and bar staff about their new way of working which will see groups of no more than six seated for food and customers picking from online or one use only menus. Staff will also oversee the gathering and safe storage of contact details for all customers in support of the UK government’s track and trace programme.

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The Countess of Wessex heard about the work the pub carried out in the community during the strictest days of lockdown including a food delivery service and help for those self isolating.

The pub trip also gave the Countess a chance to catch up with friends from the Bagshot branch of the Women’s Institute where Sophie is a member. All public meetings have been banned under lockdown but the afternoon at the pub gave members an opportunity to talk about how the organisation will gather going forward.

The visit came on the same day that UK Chancellor the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced a support package for the hospitality industry including a temporary reduction in VAT rates and a scheme to encourage people to eat out during the week by offering up to £10 off food and non alcoholic drinks per person on visits between Mondays and Wednesdays during August 2020.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton, a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. June has been a reporter, producer and editor, picking up several awards over the years. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.