EXCITED crowds lined up to greet Kate Middleton as she made her first visit to Teesside yesterday.

She was greeted by hundreds of cheering people as she made her debut appearance in Stockton.

Wearing a burgundy jacket and a radiant smile, the Duchess spent time meeting and greeting her public, many of whom had spent hours waiting behind the barriers to catch a glimpse of their favourite royal.

Ruby Robinson, 19, was among a large group of teenage girls who had turned out to see the woman they dubbed the perfect princess.

She said: “It is a very special day. I did not think I would ever get the chance to see her. She is the perfect princess and I rushed out of my house to get here today.”

Kate arrived by helicopter and was whisked into the town centre in a black Land Rover ahead of a visit to the Crime Reducation Initiative’s Stockton Recovery Service, a centre in William Street that offers help and support to the town’s drug users.

While at the centre, she spent time with families taking part in the Action on Addiction’s Moving Parents and Children Together scheme. The princess became a patron of the Action on Addiction charity, which aims to free people from drug addiction, in January.

Susan Spence, 50, from Stockton, who turned out to see the royal visit said she hoped the princess’ arrival in the town would boost the profile of the centre.

She said: “I hope that Kate coming here will put its name on the map and help people to find the support they need. I also think it’s nice to see a royal in the North.

“It will be good for her to see how normal people here live and maybe it will encourage people to come to the town.”

The princess spent an hour in the centre before emerging to chants of “We want Kate” from the crowds waiting patiently to bid her farewell. Clutching flowers given to her by members of the public, she mingled with the crowd, chatting and smiling as people jostled for the chance to get close to her.

Three-year-old Amy Knox, who watched with her grandmother, left saying “I want to be a princess”.

Her grandmother Joan Wilkinson, 64, said: “She has been really excited and it has been lovely. To have something like this in Stockton is really important.

We needed something to give us all a boost.”

The Duchess was hosted during her visit by the Vice Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, Alasdair Mac- Conachie, who said: “She was a joy to be with – not only stunning, but charming with the crowds. It was an unforgettable day.”

Green fingered Kate gets down to earth

THE Duchess of Cambridge thanked volunteers for their “top growing tips” when she visited a community’s horticultural project as part of her North-East tour yesterday.

Revealing herself as a green-fingered down-to-earth Duchess, she got her hands dirty when she examined potatoes dug up at Elswick Park community garden, in the West End of Newcastle.

Garden volunteer Marie Gilbert, 52, said: “The Duchess wanted to know how we managed to grow our potatoes so big.

“She said that she grew potatoes at her home – in a sack, but that they were only small.

“I explained that if she had too many in at once, they don’t get enough growth on them. And I suggested she leave them in a little longer.

She said thanks for the top growing tips.”

The Duchess was on her first official trip to the North- East, which turned into a solo event when the Duke of Cambridge cancelled his appearance to attend the funeral of his former nanny, Olga Powell.

Community gardener Emma Hughes said the facility was set up in 2009 to give girls and young women the chance to learn how to grow vegetables and plants.

There are also 14 schools taking part in a Seeds for Life programme, which includes the children growing all the ingredients for a pizza they will make.

The Duchess unveiled a plaque for Elswick Park – a newly protected Queen Elizabeth II field – before greeting hundreds of children waving union flags. Among those who met her as she left was threeyear- old Daisy D’Agostino, who handed her an envelope filled with flowers and hearts she had spent the morning cutting out for the Duchess.

Her mother, Gemma Dobson, said: “Kate said she loved Daisy’s hat and she had seen her earlier. She is in touch with the people, at the end of the day.”

The Duchess then headed over the Tyne to Gateshead to meet representatives from Gateshead Youth Council after Keyfund was nominated by The Duke and Duchess to benefit from The Royal Wedding Charitable Gift Fund.

Among the groups who travelled to the Keyfund event were eight members of Oxhill Youth Club, in Stanley, County Durham. Three members who met her were Bethany Renwick, 16, Emma Davies, 14 and Charlotte Crawford, 14.

The Duchess started her North-East tour at Newcastle Civic Centre, where she met volunteers who helped to bring the Olympics to Newcastle, including football organisers, torch-bearers and people working with the Active 500 project.

She also spoke to staff from Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health about their research into ageing.

Youngsters from Percy Hedley School, which teaches children with cerebral palsy, performed for the Duchess.

Richmond youngsters speak of experiences with charity

A GROUP of young people from Richmond, North Yorkshire, were chosen to meet the Duchess to talk about their experiences with one of her chosen charities.

Kate Middleton met North- East charity Keyfund chief executive Hannah Underwood in Gateshead yesterday, along with young people who use the charity.

The Keyfund group known as the Richmond Jaguars are friends with learning and mental disabilities aged 13 to 18 who attend weekly Youth Ability sessions at Richmond Youth Centre.

James Parkes, a youth support worker for North Yorkshire County Council, said: “The young people had a fantastic day.

“There was five in our group and they were allotted ten minutes with Kate in a room to talk about their projects and interests, but it ran over. They all said she was really friendly and interested in what they had to say, and asked them lots of questions about their current project to make a sculpture for the community.”

Keyfund gives young people with disabilities the chance to socialise with friends, become involved with activities, learn about issues that may affect them as teenagers and go on trips.

There are four stages to the project, with funding of £250, £500, £1,000 and £2,000, and young people can decide what they want to use the money for, while learning skills in an informal environment.