The Duchess of Cambridge made an unannounced trip to Northern Ireland on Wednesday

By Simon Perry
February 12, 2020 07:28 AM
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Kate Middleton on the farm!

The royal mom of three made a previously-unannounced trip to Northern Ireland on Wednesday to meet with locals about her new mission in support of early childhood development.

Princess Kate, 38, was given a tour of a farm in Newtownards by the owners of the Ark Open Farm before she spoke to local parents and grandparents about their experiences of raising young children.

The farm, which is open to visitors, such as groups of schoolchildren and families, is set on 40 acres of countryside and is home to a variety of animals, including alpacas and lambs.

The royal mom of three wanted to use the visit to spread the news of her key research on childhood development and care. Laid out as a simple survey, it is called “5 Big Questions on the Under Fives,” and was launched earlier this month.

Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Before she arrived, owner Stewart Donaldson told the Belfast Telegraph that there was one slippery farm resident Kate wasn’t keen on meeting — a snake. “It’s our 30th anniversary. We’re all very excited. It was quite a job keeping her visit secret. We had only 10 days notice,” he told the paper.

And parent Claire Savage who was with her daughter, Alexa, added, “I think the parents are more excited than the kids. I’ve always wanted to meet Kate and say hello. I don’t think the kids know what’s going on.”

The Ark Open Farm opened in 1990 and after initially specializing in rare breeds of farm animals, the farm has now developed a number of play areas and activities for children. Open farms such as this “are important in providing places in the community for family members of all generations to spend quality time together, while allowing children to benefit from spending time outdoors,” her office says. Encouraging kids to play outside and enjoy the outdoors is a key area of interest for Kate and goes in tandem with her work with nurturing wellbeing for children.

The questions in Kate’s survey include topics such as nature vs. nurture, health and happiness. The results will help guide what is done to help vulnerable children and families for generations to come. The 5 Big Questions survey is being conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Kate and William’s Royal Foundation and will run for a month, from 21st January 21 to February 21.

The visit to the farm is the latest leg in her mission to get to the four corners of the U.K. Her initiative began in Birmingham and has taken her to Cardiff, London and Woking, Surrey.

Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Kate’s idea is already off to a great start — with more than 100,000 people taking part in the poll in the first week.

Last week, Kate spoke about her campaign with parents over some ice cream during an outing in South Wales alongside Prince William.

The results of the survey will help guide Kate as she maps out how she can help young people and their caregivers and parents in the coming years and decades. “I have listened to experts, academics, practitioners and service providers who work every day to make our families and communities stronger,” she said at the launch. “I wanted to dig deeper to understand issues we face and how best to tackle them together.”

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Her trip to Northern Ireland comes at a busy time for Kate, 38, and husband William, 37. They have just announced that they will visit Ireland for three days in March and are likely to be factoring in a tour to Australia’s fire-ravaged areas too.