There were cheers from flag-waving staff and residents as the Queen made her first visit to Norwood’s Ravenswood village in Berkshire to open a new facility last Thursday.
The Queen, Norwood’s royal patron, spent an hour touring The Precinct, which houses a number of therapy workshops, before opening the Pamela Barnett Centre, a £3 million home for 16 adults with profound learning disabilities.
Among the first people the Queen met were Peter Girvin, Laurence Black, Stephen Treisman and Jackie Andresier, who were cycling gold medallists at the national Special Olympics.
“The Queen asked whether I would fit on a bike because I am very short and have such short legs,” Jackie, 44, said. “I told her Norwood made a tandem especially for me. She said it was very good to be a cyclist. She was so friendly.”
Norwood head of sport and leisure Nigel Trumper said: “I told the Queen they cycle between 50 and 70 miles a day to train. She replied that it seemed awfully hard work and it could be quite painful.
“I have never been so nervous. But it was a very special moment for all of us.”
After viewing the music, pottery and art therapy rooms, where she chatted to residents, the Queen smiled as nine members of Unity — Norwood’s recreation club for children with learning disabilities — gave a rousing rendition of Consider Yourself from Oliver.
Thirty-year-old Kirsty Regan met the Queen in the pottery workshop. “She asked me what I was doing and looked at my pottery.
“She said she liked it and then she talked to everyone in the room. It was very exciting meeting the Queen and I will remember this for a long time.” In the Pamela Barnett Centre, the Queen spoke to parents, trustees and donors. There was laughter as she told outgoing chairman Michael Teacher and his successor Bernie Myers: “You seem to have an awful lot of ex-chairmen.”
Another to meet the royal was head of the families association, Harvey Pinkus, whose 38-year-old daughter has been at Ravenswood since she was 16. “The Queen said how important families were in the scheme of things and how the organisation looks at families as a whole rather than just the resident.”
Norwood chief executive Norma Brier pointed out: “It was the Queen’s wish to visit Ravenswood and we were delighted that she chose to do so. She made it a special day because she took such an interest in staff as well as residents and showed enormous understanding of the jobs that they do. She managed to meet a large number of people in the time she was here.”
Norwood president Richard Desmond added that the visit had been two years in the planning. “It is the most fantastic accolade for Norwood,” he said. “The visit has given a huge uplift to staff and residents. Every time I come here I realise how important Norwood is to the community.”