Kate Middleton pops to local garden centre while William gets birthday treat at bakery

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The Duchess of Cambridge popped into a garden centre near the family’s home for her first post-lockdown engagement.

Kate chatted to Martin and Jennie Turner, owners of the Fakenham Garden Centre in Norfolk, about how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their family-run business.

Meanwhile Prince William was presented with a birthday cake as he visited a local bakery to buy some pain au chocolats.

He also joked with staff that George, Charlotte and Louis had been “attacking the kitchen” during the lockdown and revealed that Kate has been doing a lot of baking.

Kate told staff that she takes her royal kids to garden centres all the time, saying: “They love it, it’s such a great space for children and families.

“I’ve been food shopping but I have to say I haven’t been out a huge amount more but it’s good and so important, now as things start to ease, people know they can go out and particularly to places like this.”

She also revealed that George loved to play with Venus flytrap plants at garden centres, and that the kids have been growing tomato plants.

She said: “They were very excited to grow them from seeds and now they’re as tall as them.”

She also voiced her concerns about the social effects of the pandemic, adding: “When we do our food shopping we notice that everyone keeps their head down and it’s hard for that social interaction.”

She heard how the centre was forced to close for seven weeks but has since reopened, in line with government guidelines, following social distancing rules.

She also chatted to customers during her visit.

It’s the first time Kate has been seen publicly since the March, when she visited a 111 call centre in London. She has been working through the pandemic, but has been carrying out engagements remotely.

The Cambridge family have been staying at their Norfolk home Anmer Hall, where Kate and William have been home-schooling George and Charlotte.

William chatted to staff at Smiths the Bakers, in the High Street in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, a short drive from their countryside home.

He was given a personalised vanilla sponge cake with white icing, cream and jam cake ahead of his 38th birthday on Sunday.

It was decorated with Union flags and footballs and had the message: “Happy Birthday Prince William from all at Smiths the Bakers”.

The duke heard how the bakery, which has been trading since 1971 and holds a Royal Warrent, was managing during the pandemic.

Paul Brandon, who runs the bakery business with his wife Teresa, told the duke that he had read that he had done some baking during lockdown.

“I’ve done a little bit of baking,” William said.

“The children have been attacking the kitchen and it’s just been an explosion of flour and chocolate everywhere.

“Catherine’s been doing quite a bit of baking.”

William also bought some treats for his family, telling staff: “I can’t come in here and not buy anything, so have you got any pain au chocolat at all?

“Have you got any more by any chance?

“My children will not talk to me if I turn up without enough.”

He asked for five pain au chocolat but there were not enough in the shop, so he opted for four pain au chocolat and a plain croissant.

Taking out his card to pay the £4.15 total by contactless, the duke said “I hope this works”, before the transaction went through.

“Good, it’s still working – first time out in a while!”

The duke was told how the bakery shop took the decision to close its doors soon after lockdown was announced as so few people were visiting the High Street, before reopening on Monday.

The business ran a home-delivery service while its shop was closed.

William heard how most of the bakery’s business comes from wholesale, including to schools which closed during lockdown, but is now starting to see customers return to the shop.

He said: “The important thing is that shops like yours can get the footfall back in again and the High Street and town feel like it’s getting a little bit more back to normal.

“Because I think everyone’s just been, you know, it’s like they’ve just been in a daze.

“They don’t quite know what to make of it all.”
William heard how the bakery’s products currently have to be sealed with plastic film.

“It’s a shame because we were doing quite well on the anti-plastic and then this comes along and we have to protect the food. It’s heartbreaking,” he said.

The duke cleaned his hands with hand sanitiser on arrival and was told about safety measures at the bakery, including limiting the number of people in store at once.
In a lighter moment, he joked: “I was saying the other day about how I’m worried about the waistline of the nation.

“I think we’ve all eaten so many cakes and chocolate.

“All the NHS team, they’re so grateful, all the local communities have been giving them loads and loads of sweets and chocolate, which is great for them.

“They must be enormous now and brushing their teeth five times a day, with the amount of sugar.”

William also spoke to bakery trainee Ted Bartram and furloughed tearoom deputy manager Sarah Easthall about how they have been coping.

He was also given a loaf of Norfolk crunch bread and a jar of Sandringham loose tea.

After the duke left, Mr Brandon said: “He’s a very pleasant guy.

“It’s very nice of him to come and see us.

“Being as he lives only down the road, to think he’s taken an interest in his local town and his local businesses, that’s good.”

The Duke returned to work earlier this week when he visited King’s Lynn Ambulance Station at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Tuesday.

He  joked with NHS heroes who have been working on the frontline about how he is concerned about Brits’ waistlines after spending three months indoors, and said he can’t wait to get back to the pub.

He passed a Covid-19 temperature test and washed his hands before stopping himself from shaking hands with hard-working staff from the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST).

William, 37, said: “I’m still fighting the urge to shake hands. I’m keeping my hands by my side.”

William praised the staff adding: “How was it for dealing with the unknown. Most jobs you have experienced and done for a long time but this was completely new for the NHS.”

William told staff he enjoyed the weekly Clap For Carers initiative during the crisis.

He said: “It was powerful wasn’t it. Everyone appreciates the NHS. Countries around the world envy what we have.”

He then joked: “I look forward to messages when we can drink more and go out to the local pub and have a pint.”

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