All aboard! Duchess of Cornwall visits Victoria Station

The Duchess of Cornwall expressed her surprise that an affluent town needed a food bank service while visiting a church in Lewes, East Sussex, just miles away from her £2.3million childhood home.

Camilla, 73, who is back in the UK after a whirlwind trip to Greece last week, visited Lewes Open Door charity and Fitzjohn’s Food Bank at Christ’s Church in Lewes, East Sussex on Tuesday.

While greeting volunteers, Camilla admitted that she was ‘surprised’ that the town needed a food bank service after spending her own childhood living just six miles away in the village of Plumpton.

Earlier in the day, she also visited Kamsons Pharmacy head office and met former station manager Darren O’Brien at London Victoria station for his ‘brilliant initiative’ helping people escape abusive relationships by rail.

Camilla, 73, who is back in the UK after a trip to Greece last week, visited Lewes Open Door charity and Fitzjohn's Food Bank at Christ's Church in Lewes, East Sussex on Tuesday

Camilla, 73, who is back in the UK after a trip to Greece last week, visited Lewes Open Door charity and Fitzjohn's Food Bank at Christ's Church in Lewes, East Sussex on Tuesday

Camilla, 73, who is back in the UK after a trip to Greece last week, visited Lewes Open Door charity and Fitzjohn’s Food Bank at Christ’s Church in Lewes, East Sussex on Tuesday

Camilla (pictured) admitted that she was 'surprised' that the town needed a food bank service after spending her own childhood living in the village of Plumpton, just six miles away

Camilla (pictured) admitted that she was 'surprised' that the town needed a food bank service after spending her own childhood living in the village of Plumpton, just six miles away

Camilla (pictured) admitted that she was ‘surprised’ that the town needed a food bank service after spending her own childhood living in the village of Plumpton, just six miles away

Camilla grew up just six miles away in a nearby seven-bedroom Georgian-style estate called The Laines, which is currently estimated to cost £2.3million, in Plumpton (pictured)

Camilla grew up just six miles away in a nearby seven-bedroom Georgian-style estate called The Laines, which is currently estimated to cost £2.3million, in Plumpton (pictured)

Camilla grew up just six miles away in a nearby seven-bedroom Georgian-style estate called The Laines, which is currently estimated to cost £2.3million, in Plumpton (pictured)

While visiting the food bank, Camilla expressed her surprise at the town needing a food bank, after growing up in a nearby seven-bedroom Georgian-style estate called The Laines, which is estimated to cost £2.3million.

‘Goodness, I’m very surprised, having lived here all my young life,’ she said.

‘I thought Lewes sounded an unusual place for a food bank, but it just goes to show.’ 

The Duchess also thanked the two charities based in the church for the ‘brilliant job’ they were doing during the Covid-19 pandemic and said it was a ‘treat’ for her to return to Sussex.

Neil Fisher, the church secretary, gave the Duchess a church leaflet as a memento and told her that the work undertaken by the volunteers was ‘so necessary, especially in these times and even in an apparently prosperous town such as Lewes’.

The Duchess thanked the food bank volunteers for providing vital help to the community while meeting Tracy Cheeseman, who volunteers for the food bank but has also used the service herself on and off for several years.

Ms Cheeseman, one of the Lewes Mayor’s Covid Heroes, told Camilla which ingredients go into the bags each week, adding that for Easter, some extra vouchers were being added, which the Duchess said was ‘wonderful, a lovely idea’.

The Duchess thanked the food bank volunteers for providing vital help to the community while meeting Tracy Cheeseman (pictured), who volunteers for the food bank

The Duchess thanked the food bank volunteers for providing vital help to the community while meeting Tracy Cheeseman (pictured), who volunteers for the food bank

The Duchess thanked the food bank volunteers for providing vital help to the community while meeting Tracy Cheeseman (pictured), who volunteers for the food bank

Camilla again expressed her surprise she was told that the Open Door charity was set up four years ago when residents noticed a rising number of homeless people on the streets

Camilla again expressed her surprise she was told that the Open Door charity was set up four years ago when residents noticed a rising number of homeless people on the streets

Camilla again expressed her surprise she was told that the Open Door charity was set up four years ago when residents noticed a rising number of homeless people on the streets

Food bank chairman Roz Bassford (pictured) said they had 'not had to buy a tin of beans for a year' thanks to the generosity of the local community and the regular action food drives

Food bank chairman Roz Bassford (pictured) said they had 'not had to buy a tin of beans for a year' thanks to the generosity of the local community and the regular action food drives

Food bank chairman Roz Bassford (pictured) said they had ‘not had to buy a tin of beans for a year’ thanks to the generosity of the local community and the regular action food drives

‘Thank goodness people like you are around,’ Camilla told her.

The Duchess also met Belinda Crawford, a trustee and volunteer from the Lewes Open Door charity, that runs a weekly lunchtime drop-in from the church for local homeless and vulnerable people.

Camilla again expressed her surprise after Belinda explained that the Open Door charity was established around four years ago when local residents noticed a rising number of homeless people on the streets. 

Camilla was shown through the church and around the stockroom by Fitzjohn’s foodbank’s chairman Roz Bassford, who said they had ‘not had to buy a tin of beans for a year’ thanks to the generosity of the local community and the regular action food drives.

The Duchess was also told that Fitzjohn’s, based at Christ Church, just outside the town centre, caters for around 49 households a week.

Between 15 and 25 per cent more people have been using the service during the pandemic, many of whom have lost their jobs. 

Roz also showed her a three-metre-long stick they had been using to ensure safe social distancing because they were ‘terrified’ when the pandemic started and they ‘needed to keep everyone safe’.

Jane Perry, who is undertaking collaborative work in the area of local food poverty, told the Duchess that poverty was ‘quite a big problem’ in the region. 

Camilla was shown through the church and around the stockroom by Fitzjohn's foodbank's chairman Roz Bassford (pictured)

Camilla was shown through the church and around the stockroom by Fitzjohn's foodbank's chairman Roz Bassford (pictured)

Camilla was shown through the church and around the stockroom by Fitzjohn’s foodbank’s chairman Roz Bassford (pictured)

Camilla sported a colourful golden face covering embellished with colourful dragonflies to keep herself protected while visiting the church

Camilla sported a colourful golden face covering embellished with colourful dragonflies to keep herself protected while visiting the church

Camilla sported a colourful golden face covering embellished with colourful dragonflies to keep herself protected while visiting the church

The Duchess thanked the charities for the 'brilliant job' they were doing amid the Covid-19 pandemic and said it was a treat to return to Sussex

The Duchess thanked the charities for the 'brilliant job' they were doing amid the Covid-19 pandemic and said it was a treat to return to Sussex

The Duchess thanked the charities for the ‘brilliant job’ they were doing amid the Covid-19 pandemic and said it was a treat to return to Sussex

‘It’s much harder for people to get help in places like this than in big cities, such as Sheffield,’ she said. ‘We provide that help for them.’ 

She later met Rev Jules Middleton, one of the founders of Open Door, and Claire Duc, who provided special support during lockdowns to an older lady who is an entrenched rough sleeper.

‘Thank you all for the brilliant job you are doing here,’ the Duchess told them.

‘I can see the work here has been absolutely invaluable.

‘I’m so glad I could come and see you all. It’s always a treat to come back to Sussex.’  

Camilla kept her make-up minimal and wore her golden tresses swept back from her face for the visit, while she wore a stunning emerald dress with a white collar.

She also sported a colourful golden face covering embellished with colourful dragonflies to keep herself protected while visiting the church.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Duchess of Cornwall performed Prince Charles’ signature namaste bow as she met with frontline workers during a visit to a pharmacy.

Camilla donned an emerald green dress as she thanked members of staff at the Kamsons Pharmacy head office and warehouse in Uckfield this afternoon.  

The royal performed the namaste greeting, which her husband Prince Charles regular uses to avoid touching hands upon her arrival. 

The Duchess of Cornwall performed a namaste bow as she met with frontline workers during a visit to a pharmacy in East Sussex earlier today

The Duchess of Cornwall performed a namaste bow as she met with frontline workers during a visit to a pharmacy in East Sussex earlier today

The Duchess of Cornwall performed a namaste bow as she met with frontline workers during a visit to a pharmacy in East Sussex earlier today

The royal performed the greeting, which her husband Prince Charles regular uses to avoid attending hands, upon her arrival (pictured, the Prince of Wales offering the greeting during a visit in Soho in December)

The royal performed the greeting, which her husband Prince Charles regular uses to avoid attending hands, upon her arrival (pictured, the Prince of Wales offering the greeting during a visit in Soho in December)

The royal performed the greeting, which her husband Prince Charles regular uses to avoid attending hands, upon her arrival (pictured, the Prince of Wales offering the greeting during a visit in Soho in December) 

She also met with former station manager Darren O’Brien at London Victoria station for his ‘brilliant initiative’ helping people escape abusive relationships by rail.

The Duchess of Cornwall, who wore her blonde hair coiffured away from her face, kept her makeup minimal and opted for a fine layering of mascara. 

The royal spoke with staff at the Kamsons Pharmacy before she was whisked around a tour of the warehouse.

The Duchess donned a medical face mask for the occasion, which she was quick to remove once outside in the sunny open air.  

As she drove away from the offices, the royal could be seen waving a hand out of the window and beaming. 

During a day of royal engagements she travelled by train from London Victoria – thought to be the first rail journey a senior member of the monarchy has made this year. 

She met with staff from a domestic abuse initiative on the platform at Victoria, before hopping on a train out of the station.

The royal bowed into the greeting upon her arrival at the pharmacy and warehouse earlier today

The royal bowed into the greeting upon her arrival at the pharmacy and warehouse earlier today

The royal bowed into the greeting upon her arrival at the pharmacy and warehouse earlier today 

Camilla was shown around the warehouse as she thanked the unsung frontline workers during a visit to Kamsons Pharmacy

Camilla was shown around the warehouse as she thanked the unsung frontline workers during a visit to Kamsons Pharmacy

Camilla was shown around the warehouse as she thanked the unsung frontline workers during a visit to Kamsons Pharmacy

The Duchess donned a medical grade face mask as she attended the engagement at the pharmacy

The Duchess donned a medical grade face mask as she attended the engagement at the pharmacy

The Duchess donned a medical grade face mask as she attended the engagement at the pharmacy 

The programme by train companies and Women’s Aid aims to help more people escape violence and reach a safe refuge amid rising levels of domestic abuse during lockdown

Camilla said ‘we need more Darrens’ when she met Mr O’Brien, who came up with the scheme, at London’s Victoria station to highlight his Rail to Refuge scheme.  

When Camilla met Mr O’Brien, a retail systems and contract manager with train operator Southeastern, she told him: ‘This is a brilliant initiative and you should feel very proud of yourself.

‘It’s amazing during this lockdown how many wonderful ideas have been thought up… we need more Darrens!’

Rail to Refuge was launched during the first lockdown and has been extended for the foreseeable future after reports showed that abuse had worsened during coronavirus restrictions.

It is a joint initiative between rail companies and Women’s Aid, with train operators in the mainland UK covering the costs of those travelling to refuge accommodation.

During the past year almost 1,350 people – including 362 children over five – have received free tickets, equivalent to four abuse survivors travelling to safety each day on average.

Almost two-thirds of people who used Rail to Refuge said they would not have travelled if the journey had not been free. 

Mr O’Brien came up with the idea of free travel for survivors after watching the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary Safe at Last, about Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid.

He said after the visit: ‘When I first came up with the idea, I had no idea how many people it would support, but I was motivated by the possibility that it could be life changing, even if just to one person.

She appeared animated as she gestured toward boxes and crates within the warehouse in East Sussex

She appeared animated as she gestured toward boxes and crates within the warehouse in East Sussex

She appeared animated as she gestured toward boxes and crates within the warehouse in East Sussex 

Once outside, the Duchess was quick to remove her face mask and enjoy the warm spring-time sunshine

Once outside, the Duchess was quick to remove her face mask and enjoy the warm spring-time sunshine

Once outside, the Duchess was quick to remove her face mask and enjoy the warm spring-time sunshine 

She appeared in high spirits as she gestured from the window of her car before departing the engagement

She appeared in high spirits as she gestured from the window of her car before departing the engagement

She appeared in high spirits as she gestured from the window of her car before departing the engagement 

‘I’m incredibly proud to have played a part, and hopeful that today’s activity will help to raise even more awareness of the scheme so that it continues to help others.’

Last week, Camilla spoke about the importance of the scheme in a pre-recorded message. 

Camilla, who is a longtime advocate for victims of domestic abuse, said she was ‘delighted’ train companies have extended the scheme. 

The Duchess, speaking from her Gloucestershire base, Highgrove, said: ‘Lockdown has been hard for everyone. But for the survivors of domestic abuse, it has been life-threatening.’ 

‘I’m delighted to hear that Britain’s train companies are extending the Rail to Refuge scheme for longer to provide free travel to a safe refuge for those fleeing domestic abuse.

‘If you need help, contact Women’s Aid for support and access to the Rail to Refuge scheme.’ 

Camilla previously expressed fear that the coronavirus pandemic would have a ‘horrific’ impact on the levels of abuse. 

Earlier today, Camilla  cut an elegant figure as she met with the pioneers behind a life saving support scheme for those escaping domestic abuse in London

Earlier today, Camilla  cut an elegant figure as she met with the pioneers behind a life saving support scheme for those escaping domestic abuse in London

Earlier today, Camilla  cut an elegant figure as she met with the pioneers behind a life saving support scheme for those escaping domestic abuse in London

Camilla opted to wear an elegant emerald dress for the occasion which she paired with a colourful yellow face mask

Camilla opted to wear an elegant emerald dress for the occasion which she paired with a colourful yellow face mask

Camilla opted to wear an elegant emerald dress for the occasion which she paired with a colourful yellow face mask 

The royal spoke with staff on the platform before climbing aboard a train and travelling out of the station

The royal spoke with staff on the platform before climbing aboard a train and travelling out of the station

The royal spoke with staff on the platform before climbing aboard a train and travelling out of the station 

Rail to Refuge is a joint initiative between rail companies and Women’s Aid in which train operators cover the cost of train tickets for women, men and children travelling to refuge accommodation. 

All train operators in Great Britain took up the initiative on April 9 2020, initially for the length of the first lockdown, before extending it until the end of March 2021.

Train companies have now decided to continue Rail to Refuge due to reports showing that abuse has worsened during coronavirus restrictions.    

Since April 2020, train operators have provided free tickets to 1,348 people, including 362 children over five, equivalent to four survivors travelling to safety each day on average. 

The Duchess of Cornwall, who wore her blonde hair coiffured away from her face, kept her makeup minimal and opted for a fine layering of mascara

The Duchess of Cornwall, who wore her blonde hair coiffured away from her face, kept her makeup minimal and opted for a fine layering of mascara

The Duchess of Cornwall, who wore her blonde hair coiffured away from her face, kept her makeup minimal and opted for a fine layering of mascara

The royal was joined by staff aboard the train as she learned more about the scheme, which was due to end this week but has now been extended

The royal was joined by staff aboard the train as she learned more about the scheme, which was due to end this week but has now been extended

The royal was joined by staff aboard the train as she learned more about the scheme, which was due to end this week but has now been extended 

Almost two-thirds of people who used Rail to Refuge said they would not have travelled if the journey had not been paid for. 

Women’s Aid estimates that in 2019-20, refuge services in England supported 10,592 women and 12,710 children, but demand is even higher.  

Farah Nazeer, chief executive at Women’s Aid, said: ‘Many women and children have to travel long distances to escape their abuser. There remains a serious shortage of refuge spaces, so it is vital that women are not prevented access to safety in a refuge by the cost of travel. 

‘In addition, many survivors have experienced years of economic abuse and will not have access to a bank, credit card or even cash. Women tell us that they cannot afford to leave because the perpetrator has controlled their money and they have none of their own.’   

The Duchess opted for a bold yellow facemask adorned with two dragon flies for the train journey

The Duchess opted for a bold yellow facemask adorned with two dragon flies for the train journey

The Duchess opted for a bold yellow facemask adorned with two dragon flies for the train journey 

The royal, who has long been passionate about helping women escape domestic violence, appeared animated as she chatted with staff on board the train

The royal, who has long been passionate about helping women escape domestic violence, appeared animated as she chatted with staff on board the train

The royal, who has long been passionate about helping women escape domestic violence, appeared animated as she chatted with staff on board the train

‘We are delighted that train companies have worked with us to remove a significant barrier to people escaping abuse. The Rail to Refuge scheme will continue to be lifesaving for hundreds of women and children, and it is incredibly welcome news that it has been extended.’ 

Camilla has continued with business as usual in the wake of the fall out of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Oprah Winfrey interview earlier this month. 

The explosive interview saw Harry claimed he was ‘trapped’ within the monarchy as he revealed his father Charles ‘stopped taking my calls’ during the build-up to the announcement that he and Meghan were leaving the royal family.

During their sit-down Meghan and Harry also claimed racism drove them out of Britain and that their son Archie was denied the title of prince because he is mixed-race. 

In a pre-recorded video message for the Rail to Refuge scheme last week, Camilla said she was 'delighted' that UK train companies are extending a scheme providing free rail travel to domestic abuse victims

In a pre-recorded video message for the Rail to Refuge scheme last week, Camilla said she was 'delighted' that UK train companies are extending a scheme providing free rail travel to domestic abuse victims

In a pre-recorded video message for the Rail to Refuge scheme last week, Camilla said she was ‘delighted’ that UK train companies are extending a scheme providing free rail travel to domestic abuse victims

Earlier this month, Prince William defended the Royal Family while on a trip to a school in London, saying it was ‘very much not a racist family’. 

Days later, Camilla appeared relaxed as she and Charles shared a sweet image from their garden at Highgrove to celebrate the first day of spring. 

The royal couple wrapped up warm as they posed on the grounds of their Gloucestershire estate, surrounded by an array on growing flowers to mark the early signs of spring. 

The carefree photo came amid a turbulent few weeks for the royal family, which also saw Charles’ 99-year-old father Prince Philip leave a month long stay in hospital following a heart operation.  

It comes after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shook the Firm to its core following their explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey (pictured)

It comes after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shook the Firm to its core following their explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey (pictured)

It comes after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shook the Firm to its core following their explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey (pictured)

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall shared a sweet image from their garden at Highgrove to celebrate the first day of spring last week

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall shared a sweet image from their garden at Highgrove to celebrate the first day of spring last week

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall shared a sweet image from their garden at Highgrove to celebrate the first day of spring last week 

Where can domestic abuse victims seek help during lockdown?

Hannah Bridgwood, associate solicitor at Clarke Willmott LLP, outlined what exactly lockdown emergency measures mean for vulnerable women: 

Are there provisions in the Coronavirus bill for victims of domestic abuse who will be isolated with their abuser?

The measures provide for people leaving their home in exceptional circumstances and one of these is to ‘avoid or escape risk of injury or harm’.

So, if you are in fear for your safety and that of your children, you are able to leave your household to get help and seek refuge.

The police have been placed on high alert because other countries have experienced a significant increase in domestic abuse since lockdown was introduced. The police are ready and willing to help.

If you are in immediate danger, you should never hesitate to call 999 straight away. If you are unable to speak because you are scared your abuser will hear, you can dial 55 during your call; this will alert the police that the call is genuine, extremely urgent and will be prioritised.

Solicitors can help; the courts remain open and are able to deal with emergency applications quickly. We can apply for non-molestation orders which are injunctions designed to protect you and your children from further harm.

We can also apply for occupation orders to get your abuser out of the family home. It is worth noting that if your abuser pays the bills and rent/mortgage, the court can also order that they can carry on paying. We offer telephone and video calls so that we can act quickly to get you the protection you need. 

WOMEN’S AID 

Women’s Aid is providing advice specifically designed for the current Covid-19 outbreak, including a live chat service they will help you flee, locate a safe place to stay and provide you with support to help you come to terms with your experiences. 

MEN’S ADVICE LINE 

The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse. They will help you to plan your escape, locate safe accommodation and support you throughout. 

They can be contacted on 0808 801 0327.

GALOP – for members of the LGBT+ community

Galop is a LGBT+ anti-violence charity. Galop runs a specialist helpline on 0800 999 5428 or you can contact them by email help@galop.org.uk . They will support you to safety.

HESTIA 

Hestia is another domestic abuse charity that provides a free-to-download mobile app, Bright Sky, which provides guidance, support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those worried about someone they know you can download at the app store or android store. 

CHAYN 

Chayn provides online help and resources in a multiple languages, to help sufferers and friends supporting those being abused. 

NATIONAL DOMESTIC ABUSE HELPLINE 

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline  can provide guidance and support for victims, as well as those who are worried about friends and loved ones. 

They can be called, for free and in confidence, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247. 

They will also call you back at a safe time if you book a call through their website.

SURVIVING ECONOMIC ABUSE 

If you are worried that your abuser will leave you financially vulnerable, the charity Surviving Economic Abuse can provide additional guidance and support.

The government has recognised that sufferers of domestic abuse may be feeling particularly vulnerable at this time. Earlier this year Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged to crack down on those using the lockdown to make their victims feel ‘especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed’. 

She told The Mail on Sunday she was aware that for some ‘home is not the safe haven it should be’, adding: ‘I am acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave the victims of hidden crime, such as domestic abuse and child sexual abuse, feeling especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed.

‘But my message to every potential victim is simple: we have not forgotten you and we will not let you down. And my message to every perpetrator is equally as simple: you will not get away with your crimes.

‘I also want to make clear – whilst our advice is to stay at home, anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge.

‘In times of crisis such as these, whilst we are socially distancing ourselves, we must not forget the most vulnerable in society. 

‘Last year on average three people a week were killed as a result of domestic abuse and this year’s statistics are expected to increase as a result of the current Covid-19 lockdown. I would encourage anyone currently in fear of domestic abuse to reach out; to the police, to me or to specialist charities.’ 

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