The Duchess of Cambridge could not resist sharing a fun moment with a young mother and her daughter as she launched her latest family-friendly garden.
Kate put her hands on 15-month-old Matilda’s head, danced with the youngster and playfully rubbed her hair as she relaxed with families invited to the opening of her Back to Nature play garden, at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Garden Wisley in Surrey.
Celebrity chef Mary Berry, an RHS ambassador, joined the duchess for the event and the pair even travelled on a tractor trailer to a fete-style festival at Wisley that marked the garden’s launch.
Kate’s new open space – which encourages children to play, explore and engage with nature – has been inspired by previous gardens she co-created with landscape architects Andree Davies and Adam White, with input from the RHS.
In a speech, the duchess told invited families from charities she supports it was an “amazing experience” being given the opportunity by the RHS to help create open spaces at the Chelsea Flower Show and the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival.
She confessed: “I am not as green fingered as many of you here, but I was passionate about creating a garden that inspired children and adults alike to get back to nature and reap the positive mental and physical health benefits that it can bring.”
Kate added: “The experiences we gain during our earliest years influence who we become as people. They influence how we interact in school, in work and in society and, ultimately how we bring up our own children.
“Whether it is planting, exploring, digging, creating, or playing; quality time spent outside provides children with the perfect environment to form those positive relationships with the people in their lives and the world around them.”
Speaking about her own experiences of being a mother to three small children: “As a parent, I have learnt just how important it is to foster our children’s development, in all areas, not just physical, as soon as they are born. We build the blocks, the foundations, for future success and happiness later in their lives.”
Proud mum Sarah Griffiths, 25, described her encounter with Kate as “overwhelming” but “exciting” while her daughter Matilda had taken it in her stride.
Ms Griffiths, from Southend, said the duchess had talked about her son Prince Louis, who at 16 months old is a similar to Matilda:”She was talking about her son going up and smelling flowers.”
The 25-year-old said: “The experience was a bit overwhelming, it’s still a bit of a daze but really exciting.”
During the festival that followed the opening of the garden, Kate stopped to chat to another family, crouching down to speak to Dylan Corbin, aged three, who had a tiger painted on his face.
His mother Katie Vinton, 32, from Woking, said: “Kate asked, ‘Are you a tiger?’ and Dylan replied, “No, it’s just face paint.”
The duchess toured the festival, which had a village fete feel, watching toddlers trying their luck at a coconut shy, while nearby was a cake stall covered with sweet treats.
Earlier, she was taken on a tour of her garden by Matthew Pottage, curator of RHS Wisley, and planted a weeping blue cedar tree to formally mark its opening.
Local children taking part in an RHS garden project were enjoying the features of the open space – bouncing on small trampolines embedded in the ground and crawling through a tunnel, while six youngsters were crammed into the seat of a very large swing.
Kate, who wore an Emilia Wickstead summer dress, could not help smiling when she saw the group happily swinging and quizzed them about her garden.
She said about a water feature: “I like the idea of water on a hot day – take your shoes off and have a splash.”
The Back to Nature garden included elements like the hollow log from Kate’s Chelsea Flower Show garden and the wildflower meadow and rolling hill showcased at Hampton Court.
New features include two connected tree houses and slides, which encourage families and friends to have fun together at the garden, which is now a permanent attraction at Wisley.