Queen’s fondness for Sandringham in Norfolk
- Credit: Ian Burt
The Sandringham estate in West Norfolk has played a significant role in the Queen's life – she was only eight months old when she spent her first Christmas there.
Her parents made no secret of their affection for the Royal Estate and fondness for the monarch's private home has obviously been passed down the generations.
As youngsters Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were able to grow up there quietly and privately and the Queen has continued to visit regularly throughout her life.
It is somewhere she can enjoy rest and relaxation from her very busy year round diary and where she can pursue her special interests.
The Queen is a countrywoman at heart and at Sandringham she can exchange tiaras for headscarves and glittering evening gowns for waterproof jackets and become involved with Prince Philip in the responsibilities of an estate owner.
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She is always kept informed about what is happening on the estate's 20,000 acres and has a real interest in the people who live and work there.
Although her red boxes are never far away the Queen clearly savours time on her own estate and the opportunity to indulge two of her favourite interests - dogs and horses.
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The estate's vast acres of woodland, heath and farmland provide the perfect setting for her to enjoy horse riding and seeing her retriever dogs in action when she follows pheasant shoots.
She has a special interest in bloodstock breeding and regularly visits the Royal Stud, especially to see the new foals. Since 1977 Sandringham House has been open to the public and visitors from all over the world continue to be fascinated to see inside what is essentially a family home.
During Christmas and New Year the house is the setting for traditional family get-togethers and the Queen stays on until early February and the anniversary of her accession.
During that period she undertakes several public engagements such as to Norfolk Hospice and RAF Marham, but she also makes private visits to various organisations in West Norfolk villages.
The Queen continues to take frequent short breaks at Sandringham throughout the year and some years has spent her birthday quietly alone there.
She has also carried out many public engagements in the area such as opening Lynnsport and new facilities at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. No wonder West Norfolk people feel they have a special bond with the Queen, knowing that the Sandringham estate plays such an important part in her life.