Kate and William on a mission in the Black Country

Kate and William thrilled youngsters as they brought their mission to highlight mental health issues to the heart of the Black Country.

The Duke of Cambridge strokes a chameleon alongside children from Loxdale Primary School during a visit to HugglePets in the Community
The Duke of Cambridge strokes a chameleon alongside children from Loxdale Primary School during a visit to HugglePets in the Community

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge laughed along as they played ping pong, archery and football at The Way youth centre in Wolverhampton on Thursday.

And they visited not-for-profit business HugglePets in the city, where they took part in an animal therapy session with children as they petted rabbits, a chameleon and even a bearded dragon.

They also visited Base25, which provides support for young people who have difficulties in accessing mainstream services.

The royal couple marked Mental Health Awareness Week by spending the day in the city to learn about vital projects supporting the wellbeing of young people.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at The Way Youth Zone

Carla Priddon, of The Way, said: “It was a privilege to show the Duke and Duchess around and to enable them to take part in a mind-mapping activity with the young people and to help plant fruit and vegetables in our garden.”

Ian Dixon, director of HugglePets, said: “The couple took part in an animal therapy session with children to build their confidence and support their mental health.

"It was fantastic that they came to honour us, we came from nothing and set up this business from a crowdfunder campaign and with support from the community and local authority. We now have the backing of the National Lottery.

“We were so surprised that they found us and wanted to come and see what we do, it’s just fantastic for us.”

The Duchess of Cambridge handles a chameleon alongside children from Loxdale Primary School during a visit to HugglePets in the Community

Pupils from Moreton School and Long Knowle Primary School in Wolverhampton met the couple at The Way, and Loxdale Primary School youngsters were invited to HugglePets to handle the animals during the visit.

The visit of William and Kate to the Black Country was part of a week of engagements that have highlighted the importance of mental health, with particular emphasis on young people.


The week was today culminating in a ‘Mental Health Minute’ in which the couple were taking part on a global initiative involving more than 500 radio stations.

The royal couple showed they were up for any challenge as they visited The Way Youth Zone in Wolverhampton.

Kate watches the archery session

They delighted children as they got stuck in, chatting happily with staff at the centre as well as pupils from Moreton School and Long Knowle Primary School.

Sporty Kate, 39, was in her element as she took part in an archery session and she and William played a game of table tennis with youngsters who attend the centre

Kate described her archery skills as “terrible” after she picked up a bow and arrow and missed the target.

Keepy uppy from Prince William

Aston Villa supporter William, 38, showed off his football skills – and jokingly blamed his formal footwear when he couldn’t take keep control of the ball.

When William tried the football skill of keepy-uppy he struggled to keep the ball in the air and admitted “I’ve got no left foot all,” but added “I can’t not have a go, that’s the problem.”

When William joined a game of table tennis, it was an unmissable opportunity for the ever-competitive Cambridges to play against each other. “Come on Catherine!” he said as he encouraged her to join their foursome. “Catherine is really good at table tennis.”

When she did, the couple were in their element. “This could go on for hours,” said William. “Talk amongst yourselves!”

Table tennis time for William

The couple also shared a joke as they tried their hand at gardening, donning their gardening gloves to have a go at re-potting pot plants at a gardening station.

Those who come through The Way’s city centre doors are offered advice and support on health and wellbeing, life skills and independent living, and can explore different foods and learn to budget in the training kitchen.

As they were introduced to a line-up of experts in youth and mental health, the duke talked about feeling of being on the cusp between young and old with Kate turning 40 next January and William 39 in June: “We are still calling ourselves young, but we are not.”

Later the duke melted when he met Gus the guinea pig the star of a children’s therapy session – and asked for a cuddle.

The Duke of Cambridge handles Gus the guinea pig alongside children from Loxdale Primary School

William could not resist the fluffy pet when he and wife Kate met youngsters receiving support for low moods and anxiety with animals used to help them talk about their issues.

When the guinea pig was brought into the room the duke could not take his eyes off the pet and asked: “He looks very cuddly, can I have a cuddle with Gus?”

As wife Kate watched William cooed over the ball of fluff and joked “my jacket’s covered in white hair” and clearly taken with Gus he added “such a funny nose such funny eyes and a cute brown nose.”

The duchess also stroked the animal, one of a number which are key in the therapy sessions run by the organisation HugglePets in the Community - giving the children a boost of endorphins which relaxes them enables the reticent youngster to speak freely.

William and Kate at Base25 in Wolverhampton

The eight and nine-year-olds from Loxdale primary school in Bilston, Wolverhampton had been referred to the six-week long sessions by their teaches to support their mental health.

When Gus was replaced with Barbara the bearded dragon lizard, William was impressed and said to the group of children sat a tables “Wow, look at this guys he’s so cool – never heard of a bearded dragon before.”

He added: “Very cool, I love its spikes. Anything with the with the word dragon I love and my boy George would love it.”

Kush Patel, children’s innovation lead at Wolverhampton Council, also spoke to couple about the HeadStart Wolverhampton programme, which aims to improve the resilience and emotional wellbeing of children.

William and Kate at Base25 in Wolverhampton

She said: “I was honoured to meet Their Royal Highnesses and have the opportunity to discuss with them the vital role that HeadStart is playing in supporting our city’s children and young people to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

“Our young ambassadors were also thrilled to meet the Duke and Duchess and take part in activities with them during their visit.”

The rain did not stop a small group of passers-by congregating outside of the youth centre to try to spot the couple as they left the building.

William and Kate at Base25 in Wolverhampton

William and Kate waved to the crowd from the window as they drove along Worcester Street.

Davanna Rattew, had just finished a spot of shopping with her two children when she spotted the cars and decided to wait to catch a glimpse of the couple.

The mum from Wolverhampton said: “It really was a surprise to see that they were here in Wolverhampton today visiting and that both Kate and William came together.

“I decided to stay to see them leave The Way and they waved at us from their car.

“I think it’s really nice to know that they do come and visit these small places while carrying out their Royal duties.”

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