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Royal fan Tibeth write on time to meet 'pen pal' Charles

Published 09/11/2015

Charles meets the locals during a walkabout in New Plymouth, New Zealand
Charles meets the locals during a walkabout in New Plymouth, New Zealand

The Prince of Wales has received the warmest of welcomes from one royal fan - a hug and an unexpected kiss.

Tibeth Smith, 80, has regularly written to Charles over the decades, congratulating him on birthdays, wishing him well at Christmas and other significant occasions.

So when the heir to the throne arrived at a garden party in her New Zealand home town of New Plymouth, she seized the moment to meet him.

She first hugged Camilla and then got to grips with her favourite royal and said afterwards: "That was absolutely thrilling."

Mrs Smith added: "I said to him, 'I've given Camilla a hug, can I give you one?' and he said, 'Go ahead', so I gave him a hug and a kiss as well."

When she met Charles, Mrs Smith, who emigrated from the UK to New Zealand 50 years ago, was clutching some of her royal correspondence from the Prince's office and a picture of the royal couple sent by Clarence House to mark her 60th wedding anniversary in 2014.

She said: "When he lost Diana I wrote to him about it and when everybody hated Camilla I wrote and said she was a very regal lady - I knew people would come round eventually."

Many of those at the garden party had won their invites in a competition and the royal couple mingled with the guests who included former New Zealand rugby player Peter Burke.

The event was held in a marquee at Brooklands Park and just outside, Camilla joined a group of women weaving mats from the leaves of the harakeke plant.

Artist Kim Kahu talked the Duchess through the process and as she became engrossed in the work she said: "I can see it's very therapeutic."

Ms Kahu said: "She picked it up very quickly, I just showed her a couple of times and she knew exactly what to do."

Later Charles crossed the architecturally-stunning Te Rewa Rewa bridge designed by Peter Mulqueen, which has a shape reminiscent of a whale's skeleton.

It crosses a river close to the New Plymouth area's eight-mile long coastal walkway that has majestic views of the sea and landscape.

Charles met local groups associated with the outdoors including young surf guards and members of a walking club.

He joked with Ivor Ellis, a sprightly 91 year old, who has been walking for decades, that his activity was "the secret of longevity".

Charles later visited Trewithen Dairy Farm in Tikorangi, Taranaki, to discuss issues facing dairy farmers.

He spoke to the farm's owner, Gavin Faull, about the holding, which is recognised as one of the leading dairy farms in Australasia.

Speaking after the visit, Mr Faull said it had been a fantastic day and he had found the Prince to be very knowledgeable about farming.

He said: "You can't bluff him, he knows the issues facing dairy farming and he asked lots of good questions about the issues dairy farmers are facing in New Zealand."

Jeremy Thomson, a farmer and riparian planting expert, accompanied Charles on a drive to an area of established riparian planting on the farm.

The well-established trees and plants help combat the rise in nitrogen levels associated with dairy farms as a result of cow manure contaminating the water table.

Before leaving, the Prince was invited to plant a native kauri tree to mark his visit.

Watched by pupils from Tikorangi school, he planted the tree and then joked with the children, saying: "At least you don't have to go back to school after this."

The Duchess carried out her own engagements in the area and visited the Len Lye Centre - dedicated to the New Zealand artist famed for his kinetic sculptures.

Within minutes of being inside the newly opened gallery, Camilla had her eye on Universe - a piece by Lye made from a steel band and a ball.

Although there are small signs dotted around the gallery asking people to resist touching the works, she was taken by the art and asked director Simon Rees if she could touch the kinetic sculpture.

Mr Rees said that this week he had been asked many times by journalists if Camilla would be able to touch the works.

He said: "I still hadn't decided, but John Matthews said 'Please, go ahead, just don't cut your finger on the razor-sharp edge'."

Mr Matthews, who is chairman of the Len Lye Centre Foundation, had joined Mr Rees in escorting the Duchess on a tour of the museum, which opened in July this year.

She met about 10 children who were making musical instruments inspired by Lye's work and spoke with them about their creations.

Jaydee Lea, six, told Camilla he was going to take his instrument home to show his mother and father.

The Duchess responded by asking Jaydee, who was wearing a Taranaki rugby jersey, if his parents minded noise.

The Len Lye Centre, designed by architect Andrew Patterson, is New Zealand's first gallery dedicated to a single artist.

Its curved stainless steel exterior walls are the country's first example of destination architecture linked to contemporary art.

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