Two jewels in the county’s crown, Plumpton College and the Rathfinny Wine Estate, Alfriston, were honoured with a visit by HRH Princess Anne when she arrived by helicopter on Wednesday (May 9).
As President of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), the Princess Royal’s first stop was Plumpton College’s equestrian centre to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hope in the Valley RDA group.
Escorted by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, she was greeted by the Bishop of Lewes, council chiefs, Sussex Police Chief Constable, RDA chair, Plumpton College principal and RDA group and regional chairs.
After presenting commemorative rosettes to 17 Hope in the Valley riders, she smiled as two long-serving ponies received rewards and presented an award to Margaret Fogg for 35 years of service.
Mrs Lesley Morrell was also given a surprise trophy marking her 52 marathons in 52 weeks for the RDA. Jack Robertson, eight, and a rider with the group for three years, presented the Princess with a posy.
The Princess Royal said: “RDA groups like Hope in the Valley that have kept going for 50 years have seen a lot of change and this birthday demonstrates the supreme dedication of volunteers and organisers. It’s a pleasure to see parents here also showing a commitment that makes such a difference.”
Her next task was to open a disgorgement and bottling centre at Rathfinny - a final piece in the production jigsaw at one of Britain’s newest vineyards meaning it can produce up to 80,000 cases of wine a year.
The £multimillion facility will make Rathfinny one of the UK and Europe’s most up-to-date. The Princess unveiled a plaque marking the culmination of more than eight years of work by founders Mark and Sarah Driver.
Mr Driver said: “It’s just fantastic to be able to share our first sparkling wines with everyone. This new and exciting industry is providing much needed skilled employment in the rural community.”