Thirty years of mud and magic was celebrated at Farms for City Children’s Lower Treginnis farm in St Davids yesterday (Thursday) with a very special visit.

HRH The Princess Royal, Patron of charity Farms for City Children, returned to Lower Treginnis having last visited 10 years ago, to join a host of VIPs including co-founders of the charity; much loved writer and former Children’s Laureate Sir Michael Morpurgo and his wife Lady Clare Morpurgo.

Also present was actress and presenter Joanna Lumley, who is the Vice President of Farms for City Children, and her husband the conductor Stephen Barlow, as well as pottery and homewares luminary Emma Bridgewater and a host of other friends and supporters.

Her Royal Highness first visited the site in St Davids when she launched the charity’s work at Lower Treginnis farm 30 years ago.

Farms for City Children is a charity that offers children from disadvantaged backgrounds all over Wales and England the opportunity to live and work together, for a week at a time, on a real farm in the heart of the countryside. The children who visit are immersed in a learning-through-doing experience of a different life.

The charity needs to raise £1.5m every year to subsidise the cost of the trip by at least 60% for every child.

Sir Michael Morpurgo said of Farms for City Children: “Since we started the charity back in 1976 almost 100,000 children have been to one of our farms – Lower Treginnis here in Pembrokeshire, Nethercott House in Devon, and Wick Court in Gloucestershire – but it should be millions.

“It’s a week that builds their self-confidence and self-worth as they work together to care for the livestock and grow and cook with fresh vegetables.

“It’s a week full of fun too, the most memorable week of their young lives.”

Sir Michael also commented “what Farms for City Children does is more necessary today than ever before.

“Children need to spend time in the outdoors, to get into the countryside, to care for the environment, and to understand where their food has come from so that they can make good choices” Sir Michael said.

As Patron, The Princess joined Sir Michael and Lady Clare Morpurgo and the Trustees of the charity at a Board Meeting to confirm the new strategic direction for the charity. Going forwards, Lower Treginnis will be open during term-time for week-long visits from school groups from disadvantaged backgrounds, and during the holidays the charity will welcome groups of children who face other disadvantages – children in care, young carers, youth groups from deprived areas, and military children.

During the visit Her Royal Highness enjoyed a tour of the farm, meeting children from the Harris Primary Academy in Orpington, Kent, as they worked with the farm’s donkeys, planted seeds for winter salads, fed the rare-breed piglets, and split logs for the fire.

Accompanied by Farms for City Children Chief Executive Vanessa Fox, The Princess met the charity’s staff and trustees; local partners; and a group of donors and corporate sponsors who help raise funding for Farms for City Children.

Her Royal Highness ended her visit by opening Lower Treginnis’ new creative classroom which provides a space for the visiting groups to write poetry inspired by the vivid landscapes or create paintings and sculptures that depict experiences of features of the farm.

“This charity is really important,” said The Princess Royal. “Some of us have been lucky enough to grow up in the countryside and move in and out of farmyards with livestock and farming activities.

“It took us a while to realise how lucky we were to have that experience and what we learnt from it.

“What Clare and Michael started here is a really important movement; to allow children from the middle of the city to have this experience.

“The nice thing is so many schools keep coming back. So many generations have had the opportunity to come to the farm.”

She told the visiting school children: “This is a unique place and a unique experience. For each and every one of you it will be different. I hope that you have all gained something from your week.

“The creative classroom is for the days you can’t see out the windows because of the weather raining down.

You can respond to your experiences and that’s the creative bit. It will add to what Treginnis is offering alongside the experience to get outside and enjoy it. Thanks to those who have recognised the value of the vision and contributed to it.”

Co-founder of FFCC, Sir Michael Morpurgo added: “This is a wonderful moment. Thirty years ago, Her Royal Highness came down here and opened this farm. In those thirty years around 30,000 children have come to this place and taken away the memories of it.

“What’s wonderful is that she has come back. She is the patron of our charity and has stuck with it. Thank you for all you have done for FFCC over the years, thank you for all your work. I speak on behalf of the board, the children and everyone here.”

The award-winning writer also thanked the children who visited the farm and their teachers, all those who help on the farm, the staff behind the scenes and Farm School Manager Dan Jones.

Also enjoying coming back to Lower Treginnis after 30 years was FFCC Vice President, the television star and presenter Joanna Lumley.

“It’s thrilling to be back, to see the group of school children and the royal helicopter coming over their heads.

“The same vision that Clare and Michael had all those years ago is still as relevant today as then – giving children the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of living and working on a farm in the countryside.

“To come here and see the fields and the wild sea and the huge skies. The confidence that it gives the children is just wonderful.

“When they arrive, they are afraid of everything, the mud, the darkness. By the end of the week they grow to love it. By the end of a week they have changed completely.