The festive atmosphere of St Paul’s Church in Bedford made a warm welcome for Prince Charles following his walkabout around the Market Square.
The Christmas Tree Festival was brought to life with a number of schools singing carols as the Royal visitor made his way around the beautifully decorated trees, meeting local groups, schools and charities.
As he arrived, the Prince was greeted by churchwardens Wendy Jones and James Stephenson, and he also went on to meet festival organiser Jude Cottam and her husband Chris.
Jude said: “It was nice to meet him again - I met him before when I received my MBE from him.”
Schoolchildren from Bedford Girls School, Shortstown Primary and Queens Park Academy were providing the festive atmosphere, much to the Prince’s delight.
And it was a special day for Luca Todisco, a pupil at Castle Lower School - he presented Prince Charles with a decorated leaf from their Christmas tree.
Luca said: “He said did you make this leaf and I said yes I did.”
The Prince also met youngsters and staff from Peter Pan and Southway nursery groups.
Aragon Lacemakers Sarah Sayer, Lisa Tilley and Ann Prigmore were displaying a tree with 116 lace decorations made by 36 lacemakers.
Ann said: “He asked us if the tree was real, and we were pleased to say yes it is. He said he wouldn’t be able to make lace as his fingers wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Bedford Women’s Institute members Rita Holyoak, Judith Adamson and Pat Gannon were able to tell the Prince about their WI.
Rita said: “He said he always enjoys jams and chutney, and fruit cake is his favourite.
A bottle of wine from the Warden Vineyard caught the Prince’s eye when he stopped to meet staff from the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity.
Bob Hughes, Lisa King, John Hambley and Janet Ridge all got to meet him, and said he was very interested in the charity’s ‘Wheels To Work’ scheme, where transport is provided to overcome barriers to access work.
Bob said: “The focus of our work is mainly in Central Beds but we are hoping to move it across to Bedford borough.”
Prince Charles asked the St Paul’s Knit and Natter group members Pat Robertson, Yvonne White and Christine Gaisford if it was possible to knit and knatter while watching TV.
Pat said: “He asked me if I had knitted my cardigan I’m wearing, which I had.” The Prince joked that he gave up knitting when he was 7.
Forty years 3 to 6 pupils from Bedford Girls School also met the Prince, who asked them if they were going on holiday at Christmas.
Charlotte, aged 8, said: “He asked us how many more weeks to the Christmas holidays, and also how many languages did we speak, and I said French and English. He was very nice.”
Church members Margaret Dickinson, Pat Slade, Pat Dean and Hazel Sidebottom said the Prince was interested in the flowers on display.
Hazel said: “I thought he was lovely, really nice and friendly. He was very approachable.”
Among dignitaries at St Paul’s Church were the Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Rev Richard Atkinson, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Alan Smith, and the Archdeacon of Bedford, the Venerable Paul Hughes.
The Bishop of Bedford, who was among those accompanying the Prince on his tour of St Paul’s Church, said: “I am delighted that Prince Charles came not just to Bedford but also to St Paul’s Church.
“There, in the church at Bedford’s heart, some of the many different community groups who contribute so much to the vibrant life of Bedford came together to meet him.”