The Countess of Wessex had a busy schedule today as she visited the Isle of Wight, heading to Shanklin Chine,the Earl Mountbatten Hospice and a new Centre of Excellence for Composites, Advances Manufacturing and Marine (CECAMM).
Sophie was on the island to mark the 200th anniversary of Shanklin Chine, the island’s famous tree-lined gorge. The gorge is lined with trees and traces a path between the Shanklin old village and the beach, and 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the popular tourist attraction; the gorge originally opened its gates in 1817.
While at the Chine, Sophie viewed an art exhibition designed to mark the history of the gorge through the last two centuries. The royal guest was also invited to see the PLUTO exhibition, otherwise known as the ‘Pipeline under the sea’.
Sophie’s second engagement was carried out at the Earl Mountbatten Hospice, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year; the hospice was originally opened in 1982 by the Duchess of Kent. This is the only hospice on the Isle of Wight, and as such provides an invaluable service to the island’s residents.
The hospice provides care to those who are in the last stages of their lives, as well as their family and friends. The Countess spoke with the centre’s CEO, Nigel Hartley, and unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion. Sophie also took time to chat to residents of the hospice, as well as their family and friends.
The Queen’s daughter-in-law was also taken on a guided tour of the Hospice’s Chelsea Garden, which was designed by Matthew Wilson and donated by the Greenfinger’s. The garden was formally opened by Alan Titchmarsh, after it was put on display at Chelsea Flower Show in 2015.
The Countess’ final visit of the day was to the Isle of Wight college to visit their new CECAMM (centre of excellence for composites, advanced manufacturing and marine) facility in Whippingham. The centre cost £12 million to build and is part of an initiative to improve investment in the Isle of Wight.
Its objective is to promote the island as a key location for advanced manufacturing, thereby developing the workforce and sustainability. The CECAMM facility will offer specialised education in engineering to some 600 students.
Upon officially opening the new centre, Sophie made a speech, praising the unique opportunities provided by the facility: “It takes a lot of brave people to break the mould. It’s very rare for me to come on the first day. I’m really impressed. It feels completely polished already.
— Isle of Wight Radio (@iwightradio) September 13, 2017
“Businesses on the Island stand to benefit from well-skilled well-motivated young people. If we could use the 3D printer to replicate this college right the way around this country, just this what we could do for the future of our young people. I have a feeling there’ll be a lot of people beating a path to your door. Thank you very much for letting me do the honours.”
The Countess of Wessex has visited the Isle of Wight several times in the past, most recently in 2014 and 2015, although she has generally been in the company of her husband. The Earl of Wessex is currently in Italy, carrying out various engagements.