Sophie, Countess of Wessex in Beds: pictures

UNION jacks were flying in Bedford on Tuesday when HRH Sophie, the Countess of Wessex came to town.

The countess drove herself to two engagements in the borough in which she officially opened a school and an elderly residential facility.

See our gallery of pictures by June Essex and Tracey Goodacre by clicking on the link on the right.

Sophie’s visit started at Lakeview School, in Wixams where, accompanied by Dave Hodgson, the Mayor of Bedford, Andrew Slack, the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire and other dignitaries, toured the school guided by headteacher Susan Vint.

During the tour Sophie had the opportunity to meet pupils and their teachers including Emily Bowers, who was the first teacher employed at the school.

In visits to three classes the countess met reception age pupils who were learning to add up using ‘magic beans’, year one pupils who greeted her in unison and year two children who sang a song in French.

The construction of Lakeview School was completed in November 2010. The school caters for children aged between three and nine who live in the upcoming Wixams village.

Before the official unveiling of a plaque the countess had the opportunity to meet representatives from architects Mouchel who designed the school as well as Tony Gallagher, the chairman of developers Gallagher UK Limited and John Homer, construction managing director at Morgan Sindall which built the school.

At the close of the visit Sophie was treated to a special assembly which included a presentation by the school’s seven original pupils as well as a performance from the pupils’ choir.

Later in the day the royal party travelled to Anjulita and Ladyslaude Courts in Brickhill where the countess met residents and staff and officially opened the two facilities.

Before the buildings, who provide four different levels of care for the elderly, were officially unveiled the countess met centenarian Eileen Alexander, the facility’s oldest resident who presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

Sophie said: “On behalf of the residents I would like to say thank you to all the lovely staff. I have heard so many lovely comments as I have been going round today.”