FAMILIES at a holiday respite home in North Waltham were treated to a royal visit this afternoon.

HRH Sophie, The Countess of Wessex visited Sebastian’s Action Trust’s respite holiday house, The Bluebells, in North Waltham this afternoon.

The 50-year-old countess was given a visit around the home by the founder of Sebastian’s Action Trust, Jane Gates OBE, and spoke to families of seriously-ill children who use the facilities at the home.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Basingstoke and Deane, Councillor Roger Gardiner and wife Tricia, and North West Hampshire MP Sir George Young also toured the facility with the countess.

Following the tour, the countess unveiled a plaque in the leisure room of the home to mark her visit.

Before unveiling the plaque, the countess praised families and people who work at the charity, saying: “Thank you so much. It has been a lovely afternoon and I have enjoyed every single minute of it and what you do here is truly special and there are hundreds of families who really couldn’t do without you so please keep up the work.”

Founder Jane Gates OBE told The Gazette: “It was a lovely family orientated occasion and it was a huge deal for everybody to meet the countess who showed so much interest in the families and what Sebastian’s Action Trust is able to do to support families in need.

“She was completely charming, very natural, engaging and she was very keen to find out as much as possible during her visit. It was an honour for us all here on our first royal visit.”

Mother-of-two Felicity Etherington, who lives in Bliss Close, Brighton Hill, met the countess during her visit.

Her four-year-old daughter Mabel was born with Williams Syndrome, a genetic syndrome which causes medical problems such as cardiovascular disease, development delays, and learning disabilities.

Felicity, 34, told The Gazette: “It has been an amazing and really lovely day. We had a cup of tea and cake with the countess and she was really lovely and chatty.

“It is absolutely brilliant here and we are so lucky to have this. It is for the whole family and they do events such as mum sleepovers, dad days and it is a really nice place to come to.”