The South of England Show was graced with glorious sunshine and a royal visitor on its first day.

Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, paid a visit to the annual event as it returned to the South of England showground in Ardingly today.

The South of England Agricultural Society appointed the duchess as their president for this year.

Already serving as patron of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO), Prince Edward’s wife has been a regular at agricultural shows throughout the UK.

The duchess’s first port of call was to the discover the countryside tent where she met with children from agricultural colleges.

One of the students said they had been “dreaming” to meet her.

She then had a look at craft stalls including Thomas Smith's Royal Sussex Trugs.

Sophie with Robin Tuppen of Thomas Smith's Royal Sussex TrugsSophie with Robin Tuppen of Thomas Smith's Royal Sussex Trugs (Image: Savannah Nicholson/The Argus)

A Sussex trug is a handmade basket made of cleft willow for the body and coppiced sweet chestnut for the frame.

She then visited the Abergavenny barn to see the cattle.

She spoke to farmers and traders, including Roger Knowles from Knowles Dairy, and was enamoured by a dachshund.

The Duchess of Edinburgh petting a dachshundThe Duchess of Edinburgh petting a dachshund (Image: Savannah Nicholson/The Argus)

Mr Knowles had met the duchess before.

“We did a show about six years ago in Brampton and she came round the show and she came on the back of the lorry with me,” said the 74-year-old, who had travelled from Hereford.

“She was lovely, she’s one of the best there is.

“She remembered me today.

“She said ‘as a child I didn’t like milk’.

“I put my arm around her and said ‘you haven’t tried mine yet’ and she laughed.”

The Duchess of Edinburgh with Roger KnowlesThe Duchess of Edinburgh with Roger Knowles (Image: Savannah Nicholson/The Argus)

Sophie then gave out rosettes to prize winning cows before speaking to more stall holders.

Children at the Grovelands School Farm exhibit from Hailsham were “ecstatic” to receive a visit from Sophie.

The duchess spoke to headteacher Heidi Greenwood and pupils to hear all about their initiative of creating a school farm where children can learn about looking after animals and farming.

Volunteer and parent of two pupils at the school Elizabeth Kisa said the visit had been the highlight of their day and had left the team “beaming from ear to ear”.

The duchess handed out prizesThe duchess handed out prizes (Image: Savannah Nicholson/The Argus)

“I’ve got two boys, one that’s now at secondary school, and they started this farming venture from the very beginning,” said Ms Kisa.

“My younger one went on to showing pigs, becoming a Sussex pig champion shower.

“He now wants to be a farmer.

“It’s given them focus, responsibility and this is the way schools should be.

“Children find it very hard to sit still for six hours a day and we need farmers.”

Sophie with pygmy goat WhisperSophie with pygmy goat Whisper (Image: Savannah Nicholson/The Argus)

While there she met pygmy goat Whisper and tortoises Phyllis and Edith.

Robin Tuppen, from Thomas Smith’s Royal Sussex Trugs, said the duchess had shown great interest in the trugs.

He has been coming to the show for a long time to show people the traditional craft.

“Trug making is critically endangered according to the Heritage Crafts Association,” he said.

“She’s not the first duchess I’ve met.

“She was interested in the craft and she was complimentary about the trugs.”

The South of England Show takes place from Friday to Sunday and is open between 9am and 6.30pm each day.