Duke and Duchess of Cambridge enjoy first public engagements since lockdown

19 June 2020, 14:35

Kate visited Fakenham Garden Centre near her Norfolk home
Kate visited Fakenham Garden Centre near her Norfolk home. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

William and Kate have enjoyed their first socially distanced public engagements since lockdown began by visiting a bakery and a garden centre.

Prince William joked that his three children have been "attacking the kitchen" during lockdown as he visited a bakery which serves the Queen's Sandringham Estate.

The duke visited the small family business in King's Lynn on Friday, which is just a short drive from his Norfolk home, Anmer Hall.

He heard how Smiths the Bakers, which has been trading since 1971, was managing during the coronavirus pandemic after enduring 11 weeks of closure.

The bakery holds a Royal Warrant, which is a mark of recognition for those who supply goods or services to the households of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh or the Prince of Wales.

William bought some pain au chocolat from Smiths the Bakers
William bought some pain au chocolat from Smiths the Bakers. Picture: PA

Paul Brandon, who runs the business with his wife Teresa, told the duke that he had read that he had done some baking during lockdown.

"I've done a little bit of baking," William said.

"The children have been attacking the kitchen and it's just been an explosion of flour and chocolate everywhere.

"Catherine's been doing quite a bit of baking."

William said his children had been "attacking the kitchen" during lockdown
William said his children had been "attacking the kitchen" during lockdown. Picture: PA

It comes after Kate paid a visit to Fakenham Garden Centre on Thursday, which had to close for seven weeks, during which she revealed the majority of her trips outside her home have been to shop for food.

As a keen gardener, she wanted to learn how the Covid-19 outbreak had affected the family-run independent business.

She told owners Martin and Jennie Turner she loved visiting garden centres with her three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

"They love it," she said with a smile, adding: "It's such a great space for children and families to come to garden centres.

"I've been food shopping but I have to say I haven't been out a huge amount more but it's good and so important, now as things start to ease, people know they can go out and particularly to places like this."

Kate told the owners she loved visiting garden centres with her children
Kate told the owners she loved visiting garden centres with her children. Picture: PA

The Cambridges have spent much of the lockdown at Anmer Hall with their children, and while unable to attend their usual royal events have been holding virtual visits to care centres and hospitals via video calls.

Kate also said she and William had found the social effects of the pandemic unsettling: "When we do our food shopping we notice that everyone keeps their head down and it's hard for that social interaction."

She also revealed that George loved to play with Venus flytrap plants at garden centres, and while at home the three children have been growing tomato plants.

"They were very excited to grow them from seeds and now they're as tall as them," Kate said.

Both royals adhered to social distancing measures on their visits
Both royals adhered to social distancing measures on their visits. Picture: PA

During William's trip to the bakery, he was told that customers are finally beginning to return to the shop.

"The important thing is that shops like yours can get the footfall back in again and the High Street and town feel like it's getting a little bit more back to normal," the duke said.

"Because I think everyone's just been, you know, it's like they've just been in a daze.

"They don't quite know what to make of it all."

William then told Mr and Mrs Brandon: "I can't come in here and not buy anything, so have you got any pain au chocolat at all?

"Have you got any more by any chance? My children will not talk to me if I turn up without enough."

William heard how the bakery was beginning to welcome in more customers
William heard how the bakery was beginning to welcome in more customers. Picture: PA

He asked for five pain au chocolat but there were not enough in the shop, so he opted for four pain au chocolat and a plain croissant.

Taking out his card to pay the £4.15 total by contactless, the duke said "I hope this works," before the transaction went through.

"Good, it's still working - first time out in a while!"

The bakery presented the duke with a vanilla sponge cake with white icing, cream and jam ahead of his 38th birthday on Sunday.

The bakery made a birthday cake ahead of the duke's 38th on Sunday
The bakery made a birthday cake ahead of the duke's 38th on Sunday. Picture: PA

It had the message "Happy Birthday Prince William from all at Smiths the Bakers" piped in blue icing on the top and was decorated with iced football boots, footballs and Union flags.

For the duchess, spending time outdoors is a cornerstone her work with youngsters and something she encourages her children to do as much as possible.

She said: "It's come up in so many different conversations whether it's food, volunteering, and in all the mental health work that we've been doing, about how everyone is benefiting from being outside.

"So yes, they've been in lockdown but loads of families have been out on walks, more than they would do, outside."

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