A party to remember as royals pay a surprise visit to Yorkshire village

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As the 500 or so residents of West Tanfield awoke this morning, they did so to the sights of thousands of visitors slowly but surely filing into their tiny, tucked away village north of Ripon in the heart of rural North Yorkshire.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

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The bunting was already up, strung across drystone walls; symbols of this area’s proud agricultural heritage. The cast of a yellow dog adorned a driveway wall, tied with a red handkerchief around its neck. The vilage shop was doing brisk business, with Le Tour de Tanfield t-shirts selling at £8 each and as the morning wore on the streets grew increasingly busy.

By 11am, word was officially out that the village was to be visited by Royals - the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry - and by midday thousands of people had picked their spot to watch them arrive two hours before the Tour entourage rolled in, followed by the cyclists from around 4pm.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

Jeffrey Applegate, 56, and his nephew Sebastian Slatter, 20, were dressed in French outfits, donning red neckerchiefs and blue and white striped tops.

Mr Applegate, of Masham, said: “It was my wife’s idea. She decided we had to do something. You’ve got to celebrate this moment so what better way?

“It think the race is a great occasion. It’s going to be great for Yorkshire and great for everyone who is watching and participating - we’re really excited. It brings a lot of people in and puts Yorkshire well and truly on the map.”

The Royals arrived at 1pm in a police led cavalcade to huge cheers from crowds that were eight rows deep in places by The Bruce Arms pub - by race time the crowds swelled to 15 deep at some spots.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

The Duke and Duchess emerged from one Land Rover and Prince Harry from another and were introduced to a line of local dignitaries including the chairman of Hambleton District Council John Prest.

Dozens of locals acted as volunteers to deliver the celebrations here after months of fundraising. With the help of local businesses, such as Pennine Brewing Company, and Hambleton District Council, the community was able to raise £30,000 to give West Tanfield what proved to be a party to remember.

When the Royals arrived they greeted onlookers with smiles, waves and handshakes, stopping to say a few words as the Duke and Duchess toured the village via the local church. The Prince visited a field reserved for performances and a big screen showing all the action live from the race.

The Duchess, dressed in a knee-length green coat over a green and white dress and wearing flesh coloured high heels, accompanied her husband to greet market stall holders

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

Harry Gawthorpe, seven, and his brother Barnie, nine, presented them with friendship bracelets they had made themselves. Their sister Pippa, three, tried to grab the Duchess’s handbag to which the Royal asked if she wanted her lip gloss.

Rebecca Wadham, 27, of Leeds, who had brought along her seven-day-old daughter Poppy May Lawson, had a chance to speak to the couple.

She said the Duchess remarked: “She said many congratulations and that she is forgetting how tiny they are when they are first born.”

She said the Duchess told her to enjoy the first few weeks and told her that she was looking very well for a lady who had only given birth a week ago.

Vince Rutland, 60, of Brompton, was dressed in traditional British dancing attire and explained to Prince Harry that it was the uniform of the Brompton Scorpers Longsword Dancers and he had been performing for 32 years.

The Prince asked Ian Maris, who had traveled to West Tanfield from Cambridge to be at the event, who he tipped to win the race.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

“I said Mark Cavendish and he said he had met him earlier and he looked like he was up for it.”

The Prince stopped to talk to David Briggs, a spectator from Wakefield.

Mr Briggs said: “He said the crowds were excellent, really big, and he said we do it better than the French.”

The Prince paused to take in a short dance routine by a group of local young people aged between nine and 16.

Their acting coach Alistar Stickland said: “It’s a huge moment for them. They have done certain events and competitions for the last five years but this is a huge moment.”

Young Flynn Povey, from Folkestone, Kent, managed to give his multi-coloured friendship bracelet to the Prince who wore it on his wrist. Isabella Taylor, nine, of Bedale, managed to swap hers with the Prince, while Cassie Crow, 27, of Northallerton convinced the Prince to pose briefly for a selfie.

“I’m elated!” she said.

The Prince also tried Tour de Ale, a beer brewed especially to mark the occasion by Pennine Brewing Company which is based in the neighbouring village of Well, commenting that it tasted “very nice” as he had a swift sup at The Bruce Arms.

Gary Hutchinson, the brewery’s operations director, has combined English fuggle hops with French triskel hops to create the session brew which is available on draught and bottled from various independent outlets in the North of England.

Gil Richardson, proprietor of The Bull pub had drafted in 11 extra members of staff to serve the thousands attending the Tour as it passed through the village, drawing on favours from family and friends.

Of West Tanfield being included on the Tour route, she said: “It’s just awe inspiring how it’s come together. For a lot of people it will be such an impact to see this small village turned into Carnival City but we know the amount of sheer hard graft that’s gone into it by all the people involved. I’m worn out but so excited - the world comes to Tanfield!

“Hopefully if the weather stays nice for the rest of the weekend we will have a brilliant show of cyclists going over the Dales and it will do wonders for tourism in the area.”

The pub had also called on the expertise of French chef Philippe Lopez for the event.

Mr Lopez said he was taken aback by the county’s enthusiasm for the race.

“It is surreal. It is really nice that Yorkshire gets to do something like this and what they are doing here, I don’t think it is the same in France. In France, we see on the route not so much decoration as this. People here have embraced it. It’s like an explosion. I’m very proud.”

Spectators had started arriving in preparation for the race days before the start, including Stephen Doyle and Karen Banks from Bedale.

Mr Doyle said: “We arrived yesterday afternoon. There’s lots going on, we’re excited - it doesn’t come through our town so we decided to come here. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Stephen Bennett, who led the organisation of what is turning out to be a weekend long party in the village with a hot air balloon festival and live music, said he was blown away by the occasion.

“It’s been amazing. It has transformed it from a quiet, sleepy, tranquil village into an absolute carnival - West Tanfield has never seen anything like this.”

Amid all the excitement, there was of course the small detail of the cyclists finally arriving, 161.5km into the first stage of the race and they passed in a blur, greeted by enormous excitement from the thousands waiting for a glimpse of the riders and the spectacle did not disappoint.

Seema Bennett, who traveled from Hampshire to be here, said: “It was absolutely exhilarating. You could almost feel the pulse of adrenaline as they came past.”

The race moves on but the celebrations continue in West Tanfield today.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wave to the crowds gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield.

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