The Duchess of Cambridge at an archery session during a visit to The Way Youth Zone in Wolverhampton, West Midlands (Jacob King/PA)
The Duchess of Cambridge at an archery session during a visit to The Way Youth Zone in Wolverhampton, West Midlands (Jacob King/PA)
PA Wire

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge proved they were up for a challenge when they joined in sporting activities with a group of young people – but had to admit they were not up to the mark.

Kate described her archery skills as “terrible” after she picked up a bow and arrow and missed the target during a visit to The Way Youth Zone, an organisation that provides sports, arts and recreation activities for youngsters in Wolverhampton.

When William tried the football skill of keepy-uppy he struggled to keep the ball in the air and admitted “I’ve got no left foot at all”, but added: “I can’t not have a go, that’s the problem.”

The Cambridges spent the day in Wolverhampton marking Mental Health Awareness Week by learning about projects supporting the wellbeing of the city’s young people.

When William joined a game of table tennis, it was an unmissable opportunity for the ever-competitive Cambridges to play against each other.

“Come on Catherine!” he said as he encouraged her to join their foursome.

“Catherine is really good at table tennis.”

When she did, the couple were in their element.

“This could go on for hours,” said William.

“Talk amongst yourselves!”

The Duke of Cambridge handles Gus the guinea pig (Adrian Dennis/PA)

As they were introduced to a line-up of experts in youth and mental health, the duke talked about feeling of being on the cusp between young and old with Kate turning 40 next January and William 39 in June, saying: “We are still calling ourselves young, but we are not.”

Later the duke melted when he met Gus the guinea pig, the star of a children’s therapy session, and asked for a cuddle.

William could not resist the fluffy pet when he and wife Kate met youngsters receiving support for low moods and anxiety with animals used to help them talk about their issues.

When the guinea pig was brought into the room the duke could not take his eyes off the pet and asked: “He looks very cuddly, can I have a cuddle with Gus?”

As wife Kate watched William cooed over the ball of fluff and joked “my jacket’s covered in white hair” and, clearly taken with Gus, he added “such a funny nose, such funny eyes and a cute brown nose”.

The duchess also stroked the animal, one of a number which are key in the therapy sessions run by the organisation HugglePets in the Community giving the children a boost of endorphins which relaxes them and enables the reticent youngsters to speak freely.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge playing table tennis (Jacob King/PA)

The eight and nine-year-olds from Loxdale primary school in Bilston, Wolverhampton had been referred to the six-week long sessions by their teaches to support their mental health.

When Gus was replaced with Barbara the bearded dragon lizard, William was impressed and said to the group of children sat a tables “Wow, look at this guys he’s so cool, never heard of a bearded dragon before.”

HugglePets in the Community is a non-profit organisation founded by father and son Ian and Mike Dixon who run a pet-shop of the same name and were encouraged to take their successful one-day therapy sessions using animals from their store further.

The children moved to sit on beanbags arranged in a circle and William and Kate also sat down on the comfortable seats and listened as the children took it in turns to hold a rabbit and talk about something positive in their lives.

The group later visited the aquarium centre, holding the shop’s stock of exotic and unusual fish which provides a calming sensory experience when the lights are turned off and the blue glow of the tanks illuminate the room.

During their day in Wolverhampton, the couple visited Base 25 in the city centre and met staff and clients of the charity, which supports young people who have difficulties in accessing mainstream services.

The Duchess of Cambridge handles a chameleon (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Alan Jarvis, head of service, told the royal visitors: “Our service has changed to adapt to the needs of young people. We never closed any of our services and we saw a sharp increase in people committing self-harm and being targeted for child sexual exploitation.”

William and Kate chatted to Ellie-Mae O’Sullivan, 17, who described how she had been affected by child sexual exploitation but with support from Base 25 was receiving counselling.

With her 18-month-old son Noah in her lap, she said: “It was having someone to talk to more than anything.

“It helped me open up and realise what had happened to me. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for them.”

Base 25, which has operated for more than 20 years, works with around 9,000 young people aged 11 to 25 each year, offering counselling and a daily drop-in service and working with young people and families who have been affected by child sexual exploitation, domestic violence and gangs.

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