New garden centre welcomes royal visitor

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Royalists donned their best hats, frocks and suits for a visit that was more than fit for a princess.

Around 500 specially-invited customers turned out to see Princess Anne officially open the new Barton Grange Garden Centre at Brock on Tuesday.

The Princess Royal was welcomed by managing director Guy Topping as The High Society Jazz Band played My Blue Heaven.

Excited shoppers mingled around as the Princess was given a guided tour through the various departments.

Gladys Lamb, 77, of Links Gate in Fulwood, who has worked there for 23 years, said: "I was introduced as having been here one of the longest.

"She asked me what I do and about the house plants. I arrange the plants in a nice order and give an advisory service.

"It was an honour to be introduced and it's something that will always be in my mind."

The Princess Royal stopped to chat to staff and even picked up some gardening tips to take back to her Gloucestershire home from the general manager of one of the centre's three nurseries.

Trevor Connah, of Garden Centre Plants, said: "She was particularly interested in the clematis - a climbing plant - that we grow and was explaining that she didn't have a lot of luck growing them.

"We were giving her a little bit of advice on the right variety, the different types to grow and how to prune them. She seemed quite keen to take up the advice and was very chatty and pleasant to speak to."

Princess Anne then cut a huge cake, in the shape of the Garden Centre and Marina site, and declared the centre officially open by unveiling a commemorative plaque in The Riverside Cafe.

The 15m development was built by the Preston-based Topping family who established the Barton Grange name over 60 years ago.

Rosalind Waite, 65, of Springvale in Forton, had her wedding reception at the Barton Grange Hotel in 1966.

To see a slideshow of the Princess' visit click here

She said: "I'm a regular customer and it was very nice to get an invitation."

Sister-in-law Jean Hiles, 68, of Ratten Lane in Hutton, said: "The Princess is very hard-working. I'm a big royalist, I was so close I could've touched her - but I didn't!"

As she left, Princess Anne was waved off by local schoolchildren and Guy hailed the visit a great honour and success.

He said: "It was fantastic. She's very knowledgeable about gardening and was very interested in the farm shop and the plants that are grown locally.

"It was very easy to show her round because she showed a great interest in the place."

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