Gardening & guinea pigs for William and Kate as they mark Mental Health Awareness Week

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled to Wolverhampton to carry out a series of engagements on Thursday, marking Mental Health Awareness Week.

The three engagements carried out by the couple took place in the West Midlands, highlighting this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which has the theme of nature, and how it can help people’s mental health to experience the outdoors and wildlife.

The main focus of the trip for William and Catherine was to understand the workings of the organisations they were visiting. All the organisations share the same aim: to motivate and inspire young people to transform their lives.

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The Duke and Duchess’ first stop of the day was to The Way Youth Zone, one of the many OnSide Youth Zones throughout the UK. The organisation supports young people and gives them the inspiration and motivation they need. The couple were in their element on the visit, as the organisation uses sports and physical activity in their work.

The couple first met with staff and young people before they enjoyed some lunch with their hosts.

They also took part in some wellbeing sessions with pupils from the nearby Moreton School and Long Knowle Primary School as well as users of The Way. The wellbeing sessions are part of the HeadStart programme and saw the couple do a mind-mapping activity based on nature.

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As the Royals were introduced to Keisha Riley, a youth ambassador for the programme, the 14-year-old asked the Duke what he liked to be called.

After some giggles, he replied: “My name, which is William If you call me Dave, I probably won’t answer!”

The couple then made their way outside where they joined a group in planting fruit and vegetables. The Duchess has spoken previously about the importance she puts in getting her three children, George, Charlotte and Louis, out in nature and planting their own fruits and vegetables so this was an activity that she is used to.

William told one group: “Catherine is very good at gardening.”

At another table, a boy told the future King he had been growing chillies at home. “Do you like chillies?” said William. “Do you like spicy food? Good man!”

“I like a little bit of spice, not too much.”

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It was then time for the physical side and William, who is the proud president of the Football Association, didn’t do his patronage proud with his football skills – but it was more his shoes fault than his own (or so he said!).

The group, including the Prince, were asked to do four consecutive kicks of the ball, ‘without it bouncing’. He managed two kicks and a knee of the ball before exclaiming, “I can’t!”

“I’ve got no left foot all,” he said. “I can’t not have a go, that’s the problem.”

A video tweet of the day added a personal excuse note: “(P.S blaming the shoes for [football emoji] attempts)”

Meanwhile Catherine tried her hand at archery –  “Terrible!” was her verdict, as she missed the target – and had a game of table tennis against her husband.

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William played table tennis against his wife, Catherine (@KensingtonRoyal)

The notoriously competitive couple looked to be enjoying themselves, with the Duke commenting: “This could go on for hours… Talk amongst yourselves!”

Age came up in conversation, and William joked about his. “We are still calling ourselves young, but we are not.” The Duke of Cambridge turns 40 next June, while his wife will hit the milestone in January.

Keisha, who had shown them round the centre, spoke of the visit and her conversation with the royal couple: “I asked them about their dog, and what they do to be active. They like to walk their dog, and spend time with their kids. They like to bake as well, and make different foods with their family.

“They asked questions about what we like to do. I spoke about how I like to dance. Catherine said how she loves to be in nature. She likes to go on walks, and is also interested in sport, as we saw outside with the table tennis. They are very competitive!”

William and Kate lost their spaniel, Lupo, in November, but have been spotted with another black spaniel near Kensington Palace, leading us to think they have another puppy.

The second visit of the day was to Base25, an organisation which provides services like anger management courses and counselling to young people. It works with 9,000 people a year, from the ages of 3-25 years of age, in their local area, normally in groups and in a holistic way.

The couple sat down with a group of people during their visit to learn more about the organisation.

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The last visit of the day was to see some very interesting friends! The couple visited HugglePets, where they made friends with Barbara the bearded dragon, and Gus the guinea pig.

HugglePets use Animal Assisted Therapy and support and work alongside individuals and groups to improve mental health, combat loneliness, challenge behavioural issues and promote psychological well being. They work with children, young people and adults in their community through emotional and social wellbeing sessions.

The Duchess has previously mentioned she had guinea pigs as a child.

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After joining a session with local schoolchildren and touring the organisations many different areas, which includes a store for pet supplies and a pet shop, the Duke and Duchess ended the day, and their visit to HugglePets, by taking a trip to the organisation’s aquarium.

Ian Dixon, director of HugglePets, said: “The couple took part in an animal therapy session with children to build their confidence and support their mental health.

Duchess Kate meets Gus the guinea pig, while William spends time with Barbara the bearded dragon (@KensingtonRoyal)

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“It was fantastic that they came to honour us, we came from nothing and set up this business from a crowdfunder campaign and with support from the community and local authority. We now have the backing of the National Lottery.

“We were so surprised that they found us and wanted to come and see what we do, it’s just fantastic for us.”

Mental Health Awareness Week ends on the 16th May, but the importance of Mental Health doesn’t end on a certain date. If you are struggling with your mental health, please speak out to a friend, family, or an organisation. Mind is a great place to start.

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