The Duchess of Cornwall was near Marlborough today to cut the ribbon to officially re-open Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre.

Camilla, who is patron of the Devizes based charity Community first met a small number of young carers, who spoke about their experiences during the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown and to learn more about the Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre and the tailor made activity programmes held there.

The event culminated with the Duchess cutting a ribbon to mark the re-opening of the centre post lockdown with Dr Martin Hamer, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Community First

The Duchess was greeted upon arrival by the Lord-Lieutenant of Wiltshire Sarah Troughton.

Lynn Gibson, host for the visit and Chief Executive of Community First escorted HRH to the Round House where her tour began. She was introduced to Ed Plank, Centre Manager and Cleo Evans, Youth Action Wiltshire Programmes Coordinator and four young carers attending the centre. HRH talked to the young carers about their lives and experiences, the support they receive from Youth Action Wiltshire and what they do at the outdoor centre

She spoke to four young carers outside of the historic Iron Age Round House that was built across the road from the centre

The Duchess also watched an archery demonstration within the grounds and talked to the instructor and young carers about how the courses combine fun and exciting learning and respite from their caring roles at home

In a speech, the charity’s Chair of the Board of Trustees Dr Martin Hamer said: “We, as Community First, were very pleased to be able to work with Wiltshire Council to acquire the Oxenwood Centre last year.

" It complements many of our core activities, maintains Outdoor Education for the young people of Wiltshire and affords the opportunity to further diversify our work with young people and adults across the County. We thank our staff, our small army of volunteers and all the other people who have supported us in this endeavour.

"It is a very real pleasure to welcome Her Royal Highness here today and we are all delighted that our Patron, The Duchess has also extended her patronage of the charity. HRH has been our Patron since 2005. As the lockdown comes to an end, it is fitting that we invite Her Royal Highness to cut this ribbon to symbolise the re-opening of the Centre”

Lynn Gibson CEO of Community First commented “The lockdown has presented some challenges to the young people we support.

"Young carers have had concerns and worries regarding the safety of their family members who are vulnerable and have been shielding. There are also concerns about returning to school. The re-opening of Oxenwood this month for small groups of young people (current guidance is 15) to deliver activities is such a positive time. The centre is tailoring activities under the National Youth Association and Government guidelines”

Oxenwood is an outdoor learning provider committed to providing first class educational visits. The centre has re-opened with an exciting summer planned and the new school year on the horizon. Schools return to the centre this week in their ‘bubbles’ and next week the team of instructors are visiting primary schools in Hungerford, Swindon and Chilton Foliat as part of their outreach services. Get in touch to discuss your future booking or Telephone: 01264 731 274

Youth Action Wiltshire is the largest provider of Young Carers services in Wiltshire. We currently have 874 open cases aged from 5 to 18 years. We provide support and mentoring to improve the lives of young people across Wiltshire & Swindon. Make a donation to help fundraise.

Community First is a registered charity based in Devizes. As a member of ACRE, it supports rural communities across Wiltshire and Swindon through advisory services for Village Halls and Local Councils. We envisage, create and manage projects to support people and places including community transport schemes, community led housing, community organising and volunteering services.

A spokesman said: "We are passionate about helping people work together to identify and find solutions to things that matter to them. From championing local grassroots causes to managing multi-million pound projects, we are proud to support people and places in the vibrant communities we have served for over 50 years.

"Community First works tirelessly to help people overcome challenges in their lives and we are passionate about brighter futures for young and old alike. We support young people through our national award-winning ‘youth arm’ Youth Action Wiltshire, including Wiltshire Young Carers, Splash, Project Inspire and youth club support. In 2019, Community First purchased Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre."

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