Duke and Duchess of Cambridge lift spirits at Winmalee

A street ravaged by fire and still struggling to rebuild had its spirits lifted by visiting royalty today (April 17).

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet Blue Mountains Rural Fire Service district manager David Jones at Buena Vista Road, Winmalee. Photo: Reuters

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet Blue Mountains Rural Fire Service district manager David Jones at Buena Vista Road, Winmalee. Photo: Reuters

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were scheduled to meet with just two fire affected families from Buena Vista Road in Winmalee today - a street where almost half the homes were destroyed in a savage firestorm one frightening afternoon in October last year - but they chose to talk to many more.

Six months to the day, 67-year-old widow Miranda Hansen, who lost her home and all her possessions, including her husband's ashes, at number 19 couldn't believe the generosity of the Royals who took time out from their busy schedule to visit her street. Forty three homes from Buena Vista were destroyed from the 212 that went up in the Blue Mountains.

"I was really happy and excited they came," she said.

Kate, who stepped out in a stunning blue and white Diane von Fürstenberg wrap dress and blue wedges, walked from Mrs Hansen's home to the Odells home at number 21.

"They were very sincere in trying to understand our grief and very kind and warm and approachable to the children," Eartha Odell, 47, said.

"For them to come out all this way to say hello and say "I'm sorry this happened to you', ... it didn't seem like duty to them, it seemed like a pleasure'."

"My son made a picture for them of all his favourite animals. He heard they were going to the zoo and he wanted to go with them, I told him "You don't really hang out with them', so he drew a picture and he gave his own baby doll to Prince George," Mrs Odell said.

A cheer went out from the crowd of more than 300, as the royal couple walked across road, occasionally splitting up to chat to residents and gather bouquets of flowers or children's books for baby George, including one from Jesse Nicholls, 10, by author Jackie French about bushfires. "She told me George will like that very much," Jesse said.

Four young girls dressed as princesses captured Kate's attention. She asked them who they were dressed as and whether the flowers she had just been given were picked from their garden.

The excited crowd was four deep in places.

Earlier the couple had listened solemnly as Rural Fire Service Blue Mountains district manager David Jones spent several minutes briefing them on the disaster explaining 3,623 hectares burnt in the Links View Rd firestorm, approximately one-third the area of the City of Cambridge. 

There was some disquiet on social media earlier in the day about how few families were getting to meet the Royals. The event was co-ordinated by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The Royals were meeting with a range of Rural Fire Service volunteers from the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Lithgow area and other emergency services for a lunch at the Springwood-Winmalee Girl Guides Hall at nearby Singles Ridge Road and after the event planted a tree with up to 80 local girl guides outside the hall, to replace many that were lost.

Mayor Mark Greenhill said "the Royal visit will also focus the world's media on our beautiful tourist areas and showcase that we are open for business. With five hundred jobs lost and a one hundred million dollar decline in our economy since the fires this is a boost we really need."

Monarchists Louise and Bruce Carr had jokingly told media during the week they would be cutting up the cucumber sandwiches and sitting on the deck chairs as the royal parade passed them by. As an eight-year-old with his parents, Mr Carr, had seen the Queen near Faulconbridge train station during her first Australian tour in 1954.


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