Her Royal Highness Princess Anne had a warm welcome as she helicoptered in to East Sussex yesterday (Wednesday).
The Princess Royal was a huge success as she graced Alfriston’s Rathfinny wine estate and Plumpton College.
She formally opened the winery’s new innovative facility, and celebrated with volunteers, children, and ponies at the college’s equestrian centre.
The royal’s first stop was Plumpton College.
RDA President for 32 years and patron before that, Princess Anne expressed delight in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Hope in the Valley group whose riders use the college’s equestrian facilities.
She 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.”
After meeting the charity’s leaders, council and police chiefs, she presented awards to children and long-serving ponies.
A surprise award from SE Regional RDA Chair Lindsay Correa went to Group Chair Lesley Morill who completed 52 marathons in 52 weeks.
The Princess also watched a Countryside Challenge display where riders tackled obstacles they might find in the country such as going through gates, crossing a road and posting a letter.
From fine riding to fine wines: HRH then visited Rathfinny where was greeted by founders Mark and Sarah Driver.
She opened a new disgorging and bottling centre, the size of a football pitch, where wines can be stored in the bottle in a temperature controlled cellar.
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.”
The vineyard’s first Sussex Sparkling Wines will be released to the trade on June 1.