sophie-wessex-tandem-cycle

Why the Countess of Wessex was startled during recent royal outing

Sophie took part in a tandem cycle ride in Bushy Park

Danielle Stacey

The Countess of Wessex is very hands on when it comes to her royal patronages, from volunteering to prepare meals to taking on sporting challenges. But Sophie had a little bit of a fright during one of her recent summer engagements.

The royal mum-of-two joined a group of visually impaired cyclists for a tandem cycle ride in Bushy Park, West London, in July.

The outing was in conjunction with one of her patronages, Vision Foundation, to highlight the importance of independent living for blind and partially sighted people and to promote its See My Skills report. 

Sophie, 56, was pilot for the lead tandem and Monica Smith, the charity's centenary appeal manager, was her stoker. Monica, who has been blind all her life, has revealed what startled the Countess during their tandem cycle ride.

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Speaking on the latest episode of The Daily Mirror's royal podcast, Pod Save The Queen, Monica said: "We had an extremely smooth start - we just put our feet on the pedals and off we went. 

"We rode round the park and Sophie was describing various things that were happening.

"It was only one instant when she suddenly said 'oh my goodness'.

"She said: 'There are some massive stags with big horns and I'm a bit scared about going past them, I don't know what to do.'

"Obviously I couldn't see how enormous these things were, but we cycled past them and she breathed a sigh of relief."

Monica, who was joined on the podcast by Olivia Curno, chief executive of the Vision Foundation, added of the Countess: "It was really like cycling with a friend, I hadn't realised it would be so relaxed."

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The Countess with Monica Smith during the tandem cycle ride

She even got to join Sophie for a practice run at her Surrey home, Bagshot Park, before the event at Bushy Park.

The Countess has been Vision Foundation's patron since 2003, having taken over the role from the Queen Mother.

Sophie is a keen cyclist, having completed the 450-mile Diamond Challenge as she cycled from Edinburgh to London in 2016.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex are currently enjoying their summer break with their children, Lady Louise Windsor, 17, and James, Viscount Severn, 13.

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