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Kate Takes Early Years Survey to Northern Ireland and Scotland

The Duchess made two unannounced engagements today.  She started the day in casual pieces for a visit to Northern Ireland. Kate Middleton Ark Open Farm Feb 2020

NOTE: Per a reader request, anyone with a snake phobia should be advised there is coverage of the Duchess with a snake in the post.   

Here you see Baroness Carrickfergus, as Kate is styled in Northern Ireland, being greeted by First Minister Arlene Foster at Belfast City Airport.

The Mirror reports that “The Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Northern Ireland at midday today, meeting young children and livestock, during a guided tour of the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards, near Belfast.”  

The Ark Open Farm was opened “back in 1990 as one of the first open farms in Northern Ireland specialising in rare breeds of farm animals.  Over the years we have added to our collection as well as developing our facilities to include indoor & outdoor play areas, quad & tractor rides and a really cool fairy-tale forest.”

Children from two different nursery schools were at the farm today. 

Kate spent time with the children.

She met some very interesting animals.

Including a guinea pig. 

And a reptile named Sophie.

Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

More from a Daily Mirror story

Kate was left amazed as she held the pale yellow reptile named Sophie at the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards, confessing it was the first time she had picked one up.

Holding out her arms, the duchess remarked: “Are you sure it’s OK? Oh my goodness. No way,” before adding: “Is there a way to hold her? Wow, look at that.”

She asked a youngster next to her: “Do you want to touch the snake?”

Kate added: “She’s got the most amazing skin. This is the first time I’ve ever held a snake like that. How cool is that?”

I believe this photo was taken after Kate bonded with Sophie. 

The trip is part of Kate’s Early Years work.

The Duchess was continuing her promotion of the 5 Big Questions survey about early childhood. 

A refresher on the survey via this Hello! story

The Duchess launched a landmark online survey last month, ‘5 Big Questions on the Under Fives,’ which aims to spark a UK-wide conversation on raising the next generation and will run until 21 February. Kate has already visited Birmingham, Cardiff, Woking and London to carry out engagements in connection with the launch.

Kate spoke with parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others about the study and her Early Years work.

Hannah Furness reports in The Telegraph that Kate “spoke to mothers and fathers about their thoughts on raising the next generation. “There’s a huge amount of pressure on parents feeling like they have to do this by themselves, but really it’s everyone,” she said.”  Below, the Duchess unveils a plaque marking her visit and the farm’s 30th anniversary.

The Duchess then traveled to Aberdeen, Scotland, where she is styled as the Countess of Strathearn.

She spent time at a Social Bite Café, which provides assistance to those struggling with homelessness.Kate Middleton Social Bite Blue Grey Reiss Delaney Coat Scotland

Social Bite operates a number of cafés. The organization may sound familiar to some readers; the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited the Edinburgh café in February 2018.  Here is a quick video of Kate’s arrival at the cafe.


More about Social Bite from the organization’s website

Today our Social Bite Academy enables the employment of people affected by homelessness (32 in 2018) and also supports homeless people to volunteer (45 in 2018).

We distribute more than 140,000 items of healthy free food via our cafes each year and our weekly Social Supper events connect 400 vulnerable people every week with food, support and opportunities. We also have a restaurant, Vesta Restaurant & Bar, formerly called ‘Home’ which opened in 2016 and which provides weekly sit down meals for 40 people experiencing homelessness and food poverty, as well as training opportunities for our supported employees.

Below, Kate with Social Bite co-founder Alice Thompson. Kate Social Bite Cafe Aberdeen

From Hannah Furness’s piece in The Telegraph:

The duchess asked Social Bite co-founder Alice Thompson: “Have you found examples of how an individual’s childhood has affected them, leading them to where they are now?

“You obviously see a lot of issues close up, people who come into the cafe to perhaps reach out and you help them. 

“It’s a really big thing to be able to do that and understand everyone’s story and the journey they are on.”

Ms Thompson said: “Oh absolutely, it’s such a massive factor in what we see in our work and we see so many of the same patterns emerging all the time.”

More from Scotland’s Daily Record: 

Kate spoke to staff and customers about their experiences of homelessness and how tough times in their early years shaped their lives, as well as the stigma they have faced.

In conversation, she said: “This isn’t about a second chance, it’s about finding a first chance.”

She added: “Sometimes it’s the simple things, like the idea of listening to people.

“It’s the kindness of communities like this that really make a difference.”

She was clearly engaged by the conversation.

Kate speaking with a gentleman named Richard Bradley Anderson and an unidentified woman who looks like a café employee.

After speaking with people about the Early Years project and 5 Big Questions survey Kate spent a little time in the kitchen.

She helped Matt Thomas make chicken wraps, a popular item at the café. Duchess Kate Social Bite Feb 1 2020

More from The Daily Record:

Staff member Matt Thomas, 49, who was homeless five years ago but now works in the cafe full-time and has a permanent home, showed her how to make a chicken wrap, joking: “You can come back and help me tomorrow.”

They spoke about how Social Bite helped him and others who find themselves homeless.

Mr Thomas said: “She made you feel very much at ease very quickly. She’s very interested in you as a person and finding out what your experience is.

Kate joined everyone for a group photo. 

Now for our look at what Kate wore for today’s engagements, starting with the Northern Ireland ensemble.

The Duchess brought back her ‘Defence’ jacket by Barbour.  The waxed jacket is lined in tartan cotton, has four front tab pockets, shoulder epaulets, a corduroy-lined stand collar, and front zipper.

Barbour has released an updated version of the Defence Jacket; it is now available for preordering at Saks ($450) with an expected March 1st shipping date. 

In some photos, you can see that Kate wore her Seeland ‘Hawker’ quilted jacket (€79.95, roughly $87 at today’s exchange rates) beneath her Barbour. There were questions about this on FB; both pieces are lightweight and would not provide much warmth.

The lightweight jacket is 100% nylon lined in nylon; it folds easily into a small, packable size.   

It looks like the Duchess was wearing a turtleneck by Pure Collection, the brand’s Cashmere Roll Neck ($175) in cornflower blue. The piece is 100% cashmere with a ribbed collar, cuffs, and hem.

The piece is also machine washable. We show it at Pure Collection’s US site, but it is also offered at John Lewis (£125). Kate’s Our thanks to Bojanana and Kate’s Royal Closet for this ID!  (I added some quick repliKates here.) 

For the Aberdeen engagement, Kate switched out her Barbour and Seeland jackets for a piece we’ve seen before, the ‘Delaney’ coat by Reiss. The Delaney was first worn for a December 2013 engagement at the Shooting Star Children’s Hospice. It is from the label’s AW 2013 collection.

From our description of the garment: “The Delaney showcases that fit and flare silhouette Kate is so fond of, in the clean, tailored lines she likes. The piece is constructed with multiple gores, elbow darts, and that little extra something, a flourish we frequently see with the Duchess: in this case, it is the triangular point of interest in the center back. There are also slit pockets on the front. Reiss describes the color as cool grey, and the garment is a mix of wool and polyamide with a rayon lining.”

Kate accessorized with her Penelope Chilvers Tassel Boots ($475) in the Conker Brown colorway.

The boots are cut close to the ankle, have a scalloped detail at the zip panel and a leather tassel on the zipper pull, as well as a Goodyear Welted Commando rubber sole. They are on sale in brown for 20% off in at John Lewis (£379, about $490), and at Country Attire

With thanks to an anonymous commenter for the tip, there is a story in today’s Telegraph titled, “Why the Duchess of Cambridge has had these boots in her wardrobe for 16 years”. From that piece: 

For the most part, fashion is a fickle environment. What is cool and of-the-moment one season looks dated the next, leaving us on a perpetual treadmill of buying ever more ‘stuff’ in an effort to feel au courant.

That’s why it’s worth paying attention to the Duchess of Cambridge, a rare woman in the public eye who is celebrated for her style, yet invests carefully, buying wardrobe staples that she knows she can wear year after year.

And according to Chilvers, Kate has never replaced her original conker brown pair, making the cost-per-wear of the £475 boots very low indeed.

Below, the Duchess wearing the boots in 2004.

The story answers a question many of us have about boot care, at least as it pertains to these boots. 

Given the pristine condition of Kate’s boots, she likely follows the brand’s care instructions to the letter. The leather should be treated with the brand’s Leather Feed every three months, as well as a leather-protecting spray. She’ll probably use boot trees so that they keep their shape while not in use, and store them in a dust bag too.

If interested in a repliKate, the Mark Todd Tall Masterton Boots (price varies $147 to $247) are a good stand-in, offered at Amazon and through Fruugo. For those with wider calves, Jenny posted on Facebook about the Really Wild Wider Fitting Spanish Boots ($345). 

Kate also changed her boots for the Aberdeen visit. It looks like she put on her Fab-Dry Boots (originally £295, on sale for £145, about $190) from Russell and Bromley, made by Aquatalia.  

The Duchess wore her hair down today. 

But we were still able to see a new (to us) pair of earrings, Catherine Zoraida’s Gold Fern Drop style ($213/£165).

The earrings are 18ct gold-plated silver; they are also offered in rose gold and silver.  Our thanks to Jenny on the Facebook page and Kate’s Royal Closet for the earring ID. 



The Royal Family Channel has 3+ minutes coverage of Kate’s arrival for the farm visit. 

The RFC also has video of the farm visit itself, including Kate’s newest friend, Sophie the snake. 

 And the Royal Family Channel also brings us coverage of the Aberdeen visit at Social Bite. 

 Kensington Palace posted a 1-minute piece on Twitter. 

 The Telegraph has a report on the Aberdeen visit that runs about 3:30.



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Sunday 16th of February 2020

Excuse me, I would like to ask a little off topic question. I found an interview with Duchess on Happy mum, happy baby. I am not so good in English, especially in listening. Could I find transcription of that interview somewhere? Thank you for any information.


Sunday 16th of February 2020

Hello, Jitka, and thank you for commenting. This link is to a transcript of the full podcast: I hope that helps!?


Saturday 15th of February 2020

It’s always a tonic to see Kate completely in her element like this, I’m tempted to think that outings with Penelope Chilvers’ boots are my favourites, they represent something of who she really is. I love seeing a royal in something they’ve owned, cared for, and loved for years, and which looks all the better for the wear, an authentic wardrobe item, not just for the occasion.

I’m impressed how well the neat Barbour jacket manages to look despite Kate having layered up with a quilted jacket underneath. It’s very handy to add the layers and still be able to move freely, and cashmere underneath as well is such a brilliant yarn, it fits so snug but seems to hold a cosy factor of wool three times its weight and bulk.

I love the switch up to the gorgeous Reiss jacket for the Scottish engagement, it has wonderful clean lines with the sleek opening with just one fastening, and the wide edge band leading to slightly raised collar. It looks great teamed with skinny jeans and neat Aquitalia booties. It’s also great how the Pure roll neck segues from country setting to chic townie, matching the jacket so happily. Fun too how Kate gets a third look out of her outfit by taking off the Reiss jacket when in the café.

The Catherine Zoraida earrings are ok, relevant to a country visit, though for my money not as subtle a design as her other Zoraida’s.


Saturday 15th of February 2020

I personally love Kate in skinny jeans, her trusty Chilvers boots and that lovely periwinkle sweater. I see no problems with Kate wearing skinny jeans, because 1) everyone wears them now, and 2) I am part of the generation that grew up wearing skinny jeans, and I wear them everyday, even to work as a teacher, since they are comfortable, flattering and practical, allowing me to crawl around on the floor, sit in kindergarten-sized chairs, paint, run, and play outside in the sand.

I also love the sweater, and I’m partial to that lovely blue color. I love the Barbour jacket, Aquatalia boots, and earrings. I am not a fan of the Reiss jacket, because to me it is too much “neither here nor there”- not long enough to be an overcoat, and not short or slim enough to be a blazer.

It’s so nice to see all these pieces re-worn, especially the Penelope Chilvers boots, which she’s had for years, because investing in good pieces, like good leather boots, and wearing them for years is something we all do (although obviously our investment pieces might cost less).

Lucy's Opininated

Friday 14th of February 2020

Well Done! Appropriate, flattering, approachable, reworn and help focus us on the work at hand.

Caroline A.

Friday 14th of February 2020

I love those Catherine Zoraida earrings! They are a very feminine shape, and add interest to a casual outfit without being too dressy. I also like the Reiss jacket, although I would prefer to see it in a slightly brighter or deeper colour on The Duchess, as the pale blue (or grey?) looks a little cold to me in winter. I feel the same about the blue roll neck top. I'm not a great fan of blues in the winter at all, unless they have a purple hue to add some warmth and depth. As others have said, the Reiss jacket did look a little snug. NOTE: admin edit

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