RESIDENTS and staff at the Crossways Community received a royal visit last week to unveil a plaque commemorating 50 years since the charity’s work in the field of mental health began.

Sophie, the Countess of Wessex was guided on a tour of the Crossways premises, which straddle Culverden Park Road in Tunbridge Wells.

Her Royal Highness’s invitation to mark the anniversary  was in part a recognition of her own interest in mental health. It also took place during the same week in which Prince Harry spoke publicly about his own fragile mental health following the death of his mother, Princess Diana.

The Chief Executive of Crossways, Chris Munday, escorted the Countess around Culverdale House – where residents who require supported accommodation but not round the clock care are looked after – before crossing the road to Moxham House, the charity’s 24/7 care home.

In Moxham House, the Countess was treated to a lively rendition of The Beatles hit With a Little Help From My Friends by the Crossways Singers and Music Group.

She then popped next door into Crossways Community Enterprises, where residents use their practical skills to sell donated items and ‘upcycle’ furniture. There was considerable merriment when she tried a spot of upholstery and joked about the ‘level of suspense’ as those around her waited for her to hammer tacks into a newly fabricated chair.

After several less than successful attempts, she again joked that people had ‘no idea about the number of holes in the wall’ at her home that have resulted from her using a hammer.

Throughout her visit, the Countess chatted freely with staff and residents, taking a genuine interest in their routines, interests and how the facilities were run.

The sun was shining brightly when she joined the tea and cake party in the gardens, where she conversed further with many of the charity’s 47 residents, some of whom presented her with a large card thanking her for the visit.

Unveiling the commemorative plaque in the Crossways gardens, Her Royal Highness said: “It is a great pleasure to have visited you all today. I enjoyed hearing your stories and very much appreciated your openness. I’m so glad that you have found your way here, a place of real community where you can step forward and make progress in your individual ways.”

Mr Munday added: “Fifty years ago, a group of Christians had a brilliant idea. They started Crossways Community to help those with mental health difficulties. We are delighted that The Countess of Wessex has been able to come and see what is going on here and to meet residents.

“We have an amazing staff team for whom going the extra mile is a daily occurrence. We have a great tradition, a great legacy and lots of plans to expand. We also have a large heart to reach out to others and help their suffering, and also to join in the debate against the stigma that mental illness still carries.”