She arrived a few minutes early, left more than a few minutes late and, in between, impressed young students with her interest and knowledge.
In a whistlestop tour yesterday afternoon of Harper Adams University College, the Princess Royal – who has been the college’s Honorary Fellow for many years – was her usual good value on one of her frequent trips to Shropshire.
And she told her waiting audience she couldn’t believe the changes which had taken place each time she visited.
However, this one was a bit special – a new first year hall of residence, now bearing the elegant plaque: The Princess Royal Hall.
Before the unveiling, though, a favourite stop-off point and the one which threw the timing schedule a bit, was the Soil Hall.
Perhaps curiously named until you follow Her Royal Highness into the cavernous space and find an array of farm equipment, a 4x4 and a whole raft of intriguing designs from engineering students and ex-students.
They all stood on soil – for this is an indoor field used for tests. It’s just like being outside but without the rain.
The hall was like a cross between boys’ toys and giant Lego, except that girls were heavily involved in their creation as well and an intrigued princess wanted to know all about them. In detail.
The Princess Royal was welcomed from her helicopter of the Queen’s Flight by Lord Lieutenant Mr Algy Heber-Percy and his wife, the Honourable Jane Heber-Percy, while her lady-in-waiting, the Honourable Shan Legge-Bourke, arrived on duty from just across the border – she is also Lord Lieutenant of Powys.
Student warden Robyn Elliott proudly escorted the princess on a tour of the hall which now bears her name.
The royal visitor demonstrated her extensive knowledge of agriculture and land management at Harper Adams and yesterday, was absorbed by its Pyroformer facility, a novel energy from waste system.
Robert Boffey, from Cheshire, who is 21 and has graduated with a BSc Honours, gave her a photograph album of Royal visitors to Harper Adams in the past 60 years.
While for Mrs Heber-Percy, there was a family touch when her 19-year-old niece Madeleine Wilson, who lives near Whitchurch, gave the Princess with flowers.
Madeleine is in her first year and hopes to work in engineering. Her aunt said: “We hope she’ll mend the family tractors.”
Last month Prime Minister David Cameron announced Harper Adams was to get nearly £1.5m to help it develop a new engineering building to accommodate and support the centre as well as related teaching and research activities. The visit ended with tea in a marquee when Princess Anne heard that a recent university guide placed Harper Adams third of all universities for teaching excellence and the best for graduate employability.
The Royal visitor told an appreciative audience: “I am impressed that you are always prepared to change and move on. If people think colleges don’t change, they should come here.”
After leaving Harper Adams Princess Anne flew to Shrewsbury by helicopter
She was visiting Bradbury House, on Eskdale Road to open a new building and chat to its three adult tenants, all of whom have learning disabilities.
Her Royal Highness toured the building, which was opened in March. It is run by MacIntyre Care and was built following large donations from The Development Trust and the Bradbury Foundation.
Pamela Embrey, mother of Graham, 55, who has cerebral palsy, said the visit had delighted her son. She said: “We were all very nervous to meet her but she was so lovely and she asked how long Graham had lived with me before moving here.
Ruth Houghton, service manager for learning disabilities, said the royal visit had been a resounding success.
She said: “We’re really very pleased to have welcomed Princess Anne here today and I know the families are too.
After leaving Shrewsbury, Princess Anne attended a private event in Craven Arms.