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The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visit Bethnal Green and Peckham for pre-Christmas visit

18th December 2012

The Prince and The Duchess visit Bethnal Green

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall had residents of an estate in east London in stitches this morning as they cracked jokes and chatted freely on a pre-Christmas tour of the area.

The royal couple appeared full of festive cheer as they visited the Hollybush Estate in Bethnal Green, where derelict patches of the site have been transformed into thriving vegetable and fruit allotments.

Posing for a photo with one resident, The Prince warned: "It will ruin your reputation!"

Later he had locals in giggles as he joked about everything from the difficulties of getting "couch potatoes" to volunteer to his slow speed at packing Christmas hampers.

Margaret Cox, the chair of the local Tenants and Residents Association who came up with the idea of the allotments, led The Prince on the tour and praised his quick wit.

She said: "We just laughed about everything to be perfectly honest. Wicked sense of humour. Absolutely wonderful sense of humour."

The good mood was shared by the residents of the 1,900-people estate, some of whom peered over balconies to take photos and waved at The Prince and Duchess.

Kenny Summerson, a 49-year-old greengrocer who has lived on the estate for four decades, held out a parking permit before their arrival and joked: "Will he need one of these?"

When Mr Summerson eventually met The Prince he told him that they shared the same birthday.

"Nice to meet a fellow Scorpion," His Royal Highness replied, according to Mr Summerson.

The Prince and The Duchess were shown parts of the estate which used to be focal points for anti-social behaviour, but which now feature allotments where residents currently grow carrots, onions and cabbages.

One of the areas they saw, Rocky Gardens, was opened in April 2009 and is part of the Capital Growth scheme which provides free plots to residents to grow their own produce.

The pair met those involved in running the allotments and helped pack the produce in Christmas hampers for the elderly and disabled. They also donated some Duchy Originals biscuits for the packs.

The Prince and The Duchess ended the visit by greeting a crowd of excited residents, before heading off to a Christmas celebration being held by volunteers in Peckham, south London.

In Peckham, Their Royal Highnesses were entertained by a steel band as they met residents and volunteers at a festive event at the Everlasting Arms Ministry, where earlier a new charity food bank had been launched.

During the visit the royals were sung Do You Hear What I Hear? by schoolchildren from Camelot Primary School, and listened to a poem about aspirations for young people.

Hundreds of locals turned up to the lively event, according to community organiser Nicholas Okwulu, who accompanied the royals through their visit and described the event as a great success. Mr Okwulu said: "It went really, really well. People enjoyed themselves... [The royals] more or less spoke to everyone. People just loved it."