THE Princess Royal travelled to the Yorkshire Dales to join the birthday celebrations of a leading local charity.

Northallerton-based Herriot Hospice Homecare provides end-of-life care for people in their own homes and this year it is celebrating its 21st anniversary.

And Princess Anne paid a visit to a garden party held to celebrate the occasion in the Masham home of the Earl and Countess Peel, a patron of the charity.

She praised the charity for setting “an extraordinary standard of care” over the past 21 years and chatted with many of the 150 volunteers, supporters and staff at the event.

The celebration also provided an opportunity for the charity to formally thank those who have helped make it such a success since its foundation 1992.

Over the years, Herriot Hospice Homecare’s expert staff members have cared for thousands of people with life-limiting illnesses in their own homes across Hambleton and Richmondshire – as well as supporting their carers.

Chief executive Liz Pollard said: “We now provide support to almost 600 people each year and we can’t do it without the support of everyone here today.”

Cuts in NHS funding had put fresh pressure on resources, she added, meaning that new sources of funding had to be found to enable the charity to continue to provide free end of life care across a sprawling rural area with high travel costs for care staff.

At the end of her visit, a posy was presented to the Princess by Joan Howarth, 82, from Masham, who first became a volunteer for the charity 18 years ago.

Hospice Homecare, as it was known then, provided respite sitters in the final hours of Mrs Howarth’s youngest son John, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 27 and nursed at home for four years by Joan and her husband Frank.

“When I lost John needed to do something – it honestly was my salvation. I started helping almost straight away,” she said.