Royal visit endorses event in aid of Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The Duchess of Cornwall tries some hand cream at a stall during a visit to the Bowood House Christmas Extravaganza at Bowood House The Duchess of Cornwall tries some hand cream at a stall during a visit to the Bowood House Christmas Extravaganza at Bowood House

The Duchess of Cornwall was treated to a taste of Christmas today as she browsed a number of craft stalls, including children's toys and gifts, at a Christmas Extravaganza.

Camilla was visiting Bowood House - home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne - which was lavishly dressed for a family Christmas, including an 18ft Christmas tree in the library.

The grand house is hosting its first Christmas Extravaganza, which is helping to raise funds for the Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust.

The duchess, who was wearing a brown jacket and grey skirt with grey patterned scarf, is the patron of the trust and, as she toured some of the 40 gift stalls, indulged in a spot of shopping.

She was also greeted by her son, Tom Parker-Bowles, who was at the house signing his cookery book as part of Bowood's Cooks-with-books signing sessions.

Camilla was met in the library next to the spectacular Christmas tree by the director of the Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust, Jennie Shaw, along with Ruth Entwistle, the charity's project manager, and John Bolwell, who volunteers for the charity.

She went on to tour the Christmas Extravaganza, which was taking place in a number of areas within the house including the sculpture gallery and orangery.

The Duchess browsed the stalls, which were selling a range of items from stocking fillers to indulgent presents, along with Lord and Lady Lansdowne.

She took time looking at everything from jewellery, hand creams and clothes to toys, cakes and sweets.

The first stall they came to was stacked with wooden children's toys and the Duchess could not resist picking up a small gift.

The stall, Buzz and Matilda Toys, was run by Charlie Kinch, from Minety.

Charlie said: "She (Camilla) came to the stall and loved the array of toys I had, the traditional toys, and she purchased a big teddy puzzle from me.

"She commented about the toys but didn't mention the new royal baby. It was just a delight to meet her."

The Duchess, who has five grandchildren, was also presented with some knitted teddies wrapped in red paper with blue ribbon by the Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust.

As she continued around the stall, she also picked up a cream jug with a Union Jack on the side from Barty's Trading Co and a grey and red union jack-patterned dog neckerchief from Mutts and Hounds.

Mutts and Hounds director Laura Gough, 25, from Allington, near Castle Combe, said: "I believe she said they were for her two jack russells.

"Lady Lansdowne had earlier bought one for her cocker spaniel, who has been running around with it on, so I think that helped.

"I'm just thrilled she chose to buy from us and it was very pleasant to meet her. She was very nice and friendly."

Camilla chatted with as many of the store holders as possible before joining her son and his fellow author Xanthe Clay, who was also signing cookery books in the library.

The Wiltshire Bobby Van Trust, which provides a home security service for the elderly and vulnerable and disadvantaged people throughout Wiltshire.

Operators carry out about 1,350 tasks each year and deal with a diverse range of situations, including comforting victims of distraction theft and burglary, assisting those subjected to domestic violence by partners or family, and installing door chains and viewers, where possible, to empower the elderly against unwelcome callers.

Mrs Shaw said: "We're very lucky to have her as our patron, she will do anything for us, she's very open to suggestions and when we said we were going to do something like this (Christmas Extravaganza), she immediately said she would come, which is very heart-warming for us all.

"Knowing we have her support really helps our morale and makes us feel we are doing a good job."

Before leaving, the Duchess was also treated to a short Christmas carol performance in the chapel by the chamber choir from St Mary's School in Calne.

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