The Princess Royal descended on Marlow this week to launch an “inspiring” new regatta for children with disabilities.

The sun shone as Princess Anne visited Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre on Wednesday to open the first ever Rivertime Accessible Regatta alongside a string of Paralympians and Olympians, including Dame Katherine Grainger.

More than 250 children from schools across the Thames Valley took part in the inaugural event, which was aimed at children with disabilities and special needs aged eight to 15.

Her Royal Highness was running late to the regatta following delays caused by the horrific Grenfell Tower fire in London but arrived at the Marlow Road centre just before 11am.

She was led around the riverside site by Peter May, regatta director, and unveiled a plaque commemorating her visit before she boarded a boat called Rivertime and waved to youngsters on the river.

The Royal also handed out medals to children who took part in the races before officially launching the first race of the regatta by waving a flag.

The Princess spent plenty of time chatting to participants, including Penny Edwards, a learning support assistant from Bishopswood Special School in Sonning Common.

Speaking about her encounter with the Royal, she said: “She asked me if I enjoyed going in the boat and I said yes but it was very difficult because I have a disability of my own, I have Parkinson’s. I was very nervous, I was shaking. She was very friendly.

“All of our kids are having a great time, you only need to look at their faces to see how pleased they are.”

She also spoke to Paracanoeists Anne Dickins and Jeanette Chippington, who praised the Royal for her kindness.

Jeanette said: “She was very down-to-earth and open. She was asking me about my training and how it was going. I am really honoured and privileged to be here and be a part of this event and the children seem to be having a great time.”

Anne added: “She has a real talent of just working with the crowd. She had lovely conversations with both children and adults, it was really nice to see.”

The day-long event saw a packed programme of water sports including bell boating, sailing and powerboating.

Naomi Riches, Marlow’s own Paralympian, said the event was important for breaking down barriers for disabled people.

She said: “It is so inspiring to see these children enjoying sport. I look back to my own childhood and this sort of thing never happened when I was younger. It is wonderful to see that there are no barriers holding them back, it is really refreshing and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

“It is all about educating people about disabilities. Being able to talk about para-rowing and things like that is brilliant.”

Dame Katherine Grainger, who chatted with young people and helped launch their boats into the river, added: “As an athlete, you genuinely want to see as many young people as possible experiencing some enjoyment or getting some sort of benefit out of a sport. It is really lovely to see so many young people taking on and enjoying the challenge.

“This event was a year in the planning and at times we were wondering how we were going to pull this off, but it is going really well and it is lovely to see the Princess Royal down here.”