A POOLE hospice received a royal visitor on Friday when Sophie, Countess of Wessex, dropped in to look around the new building.

Patients, staff, volunteers and supporters of Lewis-Manning Hospice, based on Crichel Mount Road in Lilliput, welcomed the Countess, who took a tour of the state-of-the-art facilities, which opened in 2012, after first opening in 1992.

The Countess also viewed the 15 new bedrooms, which will soon offer respite, rehabilitation and end-of-life care for patients, and unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the special occasion.

After, she described it as ‘a real pleasure and privilege’ to meet those who had turned out to greet her and said that hospice visits are one of the most ‘uplifting’ and ‘worthy’ things that she does.

Patient, Maurice Ward, 89, was given the important role of giving the Countess of posy of flowers. He said: “It was thrilling, and she gave me two kisses. I said ‘Welcome, your royal highness’, and she said 'thank you' for the flowers.

She said that she would like to take me home with her and I asked if that was back to the Palace, and she said it was.”

Nikki Hastings, who also visits Lewis-Manning for treatment and is a former Daily Echo blogger, said: “She asked about how long I had been coming to Lewis-Manning and what treatment I was having, with Jasmine, the complementary therapist and I told her that I wasn’t having any active treatment at the moment.

“Jasmine was rubbing my feet when the Countess came in, so she sat on the bed and she actually jokingly joined in as well.”

Elizabeth Purcell, chief executive of Lewis-Manning, said: “It has been the most wonderful visit from the Countess of Wessex to the opening of the whole new Lewis-Manning hospice.

“It was absolutely marvellous, so now we are able to offer the full facilities here. There is still lots of work to do, but it is an exciting time, and the patients are absolutely delighted by the visit.”