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Sophie The Countess of Wessex meets Benenden volunteers who saved village shop and post office

By Rachael Woods

The Countess of Wessex chatted over tea and cake with volunteers who saved a village shop and post office from closure.

Sophie visited Benenden this morning, where she unveiled a plaque commemorating her visit and the shop’s official opening.

Residents joined forces with Benenden School, which bought and renovated the premises and leased it to the community, while using the living areas of the building for its staff.

 

Sophie the Countess of Wessex on a visit to Benenden

Sophie the Countess of Wessex on a visit to Benenden

There is now a cafe at the shop in The Street, where both paid staff and volunteers work.

The Countess, was greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Kent Viscount De L’Isle, who introduced the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, Cllr David Neve and Helen Grant MP.

Sophie takes tea with staff and volunteers at Benenden village shop

Sophie takes tea with staff and volunteers at Benenden village shop

Martin Pexton who chairs the Benenden Community Shop committee took the Countess on a tour of the shop, accompanied by Samantha Price, head teacher of Benenden School.

Her Royal Highness, who met managers and volunteers over tea and cake, learned how the shop was saved two years ago by residents.

Lucy Hodges, 12, also presented the Countess with a posy.

Sophie meets Benenden pupils Natasha Wyke and Adeira Ariez who volunteer at the shop

Sophie meets Benenden pupils Natasha Wyke and Adeira Ariez who volunteer at the shop

Mr Pexton said: “The visit of Her Royal Highness was a very special way to celebrate the success of our community shop, which has been achieved through the hard work and enthusiasm of many members of our community.”

Benenden School head teacher Samantha Price said: “We are proud to have played a role in securing this wonderful asset on behalf of the community, and it was a great honour for everyone’s hard work to be recognised by HRH Countess of Wessex today.”

The Countess had been due to officially open a bereavement suite for families who had lost a baby at Medway Maritme Hospital today, as well as launch a new exhibition space at Rochester Cathedral but the visits were cancelled because of fog.

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