The Countess of Leicester helped pre-school youngsters prepare their lunch during a visit to Burnham Market’’s playgroup.
The group, now 40 years old, will have a new look when it re-opens next month as the Burnham Market Nursery School.
And the Countess, who is the playgroup’s patron, backed the re-launch when she met youngsters and joined in washing potatoes which were planted in and harvested from their own vegetable garden.
Healthy eating co-ordinator Kate Davey said the children were offered a variety of healthy snacks each day and they particularly respond to eating food they have grown themselves.
The group was started by parents in 1973 and welcomed into the school by the then headteacher, Geoffrey Abson.
At the time many heads in Norfolk were suspicious of these new parent-run groups and were loath to let them into their school.
Mr Abson was one of the few who were far-sighted enough to see the advantages of introducing children to aspects of the school environment at an early age.
The group is now a fully-fledged Ofsted regulated pre-school, which was rated good at its last inspection.
Being on the school premises is now regarded as being very important to the future education of young children.
Although they have their own ‘classroom’ and outdoor area they mix with school pupils for lunch in the school hall and also enjoy some of the school’s’ other facilities such as a wild nature environment known as the Forest School area.
Local youngsters can join the nursery school from the age of two. Current government legislation provides parents with 15 free hours per child per week from the age of three.
Otherwise the cost is £3.75 per hour though funding is also available for means-tested children at two years of age.
The group operates for five days a week from 9am –to 3pm during school term time.
The Countess, who is the high sheriff of Norfolk, said she regarded the group as crucial to a child’’s development.
“I’m an enthusiastic supporter. They get to interact with other children and the group is a good feeder into the main school.””
She added that apart from the importance of learning skills such as writing and drawing the group also threw in practical skills such as gardening.
Up to the end of the summer term the group had 26 children on its roll. Fifteen are transferring to the main school in September when the roll will fall to 22.
““We have a few vacancies,”” said the group’s chair, Milly Cary, who can be contacted on 01328 738448 or at firstname.lastname@example.org