Royal seal of approval for canal training in Stockton

Picture by Graham Stone   Picture Shows: Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal at the Offical Opening of Willow Wren Training Centre at Nelson's Wharf Stockton.  Photos supplied to Steve Vaughan of Willow Wren Training.
Picture by Graham Stone Picture Shows: Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal at the Offical Opening of Willow Wren Training Centre at Nelson's Wharf Stockton. Photos supplied to Steve Vaughan of Willow Wren Training.
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The Princess Royal took to the cut after officially opening a training centre which teaches people how to safely handle narrowboats.

And Princess Anne took over the helm of Peggy, one of the training boats, to show assembled guests and onlookers how it should be done.

She was in Stockton to open the Willow Wren Training Centre, on the Grand Union Canal.

Steve Vaughan, training centre principal and chief instructor, said: “It’s phenomenal having Her Royal Highness opening the centre – the hairs on the back of my neck have been standing up. With HRH coming here it gives it all credibility and says ‘Look training is ok’.

“It’s lovely to see people’s faces when we show them how something should be done and it clicks and, for example, they don’t take four attempts to come into moor. They do it first time every time no matter how windy or shallow it is. Whatever the conditions they can do it every time.”

Work on the centre started last October and was finished in March and the princess opened it in her capacity as President of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).

Rachel Andrews, RYA chief powerboat instructor, said: “The Midlands is the capital for inland waterways, everything meets here. If you’re thinking of hiring a boat, just doing two days’ training gives you so much confidence in terms of how are you going to approach locks, what the protocols around the locks are and how you pass other vessels. It makes things a whole lot safer and more enjoyable.”

Princess Anne unveiled a commemorative plaque, was presented with a posy by Alexandra Mackay, aged three, of Southam, and children from Stockton Primary School greeted her and waved flags.

More pictures on pages 20 and 21.