All eyes turned to the sky as the unmistakeable sound of an approaching helicopter filled the air.
Youngsters clutching Union Flags screamed in excitement and it was not long before the Royal aircraft could be seen over the top of the trees.
Stepping out and sheltering underneath an umbrella to protect her from the inclement weather, Princess Anne was greeted by Lord Lieutenant of County Durham Sue Snowdon, who introduced her to the waiting youngsters.
The Princess Royal’s visit to the region started with a tour and the official opening of Durham Constabulary’s £14m new headquarters at Aykley Heads, on the outskirts of Durham City.
Mrs Snowdon said: “She was in good form and likes coming to County Durham.
This visit has taken some organising. It is a busy day but we wanted to show her quality of this development. It is superb and shows how forward-thinking Durham Constabulary is.”
The building has been open since August 2014 and replaced the former headquarters nearby, which was built in the 60’s and is due to be demolished.
After unveiling a plaque in the atrium, the Princess said: “I remember your previous building and I am sure that this one is considered to be huge improvement on that.
“Don’t forget what a huge improvement that building appeared to be when that was built. So we will wait and see, but I doubt I will be around for the next one.”
The opening of the new environmentally friendly building, which houses 600 staff, coincides with the force’s 175th anniversary this year.
During the two-hour tour the princess took part in a tree-planting ceremony and looked round several of the operational departments including the force communications room, which on a typical day handles several hundred 999 and also non-emergency calls.
Chief Constable Mike Barton said: “This wonderful, modern, transparent, building serves a metaphor for everything we stand for. It is green, fit for purpose, forward-thinking and is built with people at its core.”
The Princess heard about the force’s work in reducing offending, including its role in the national trial for the restorative justice scheme.
The police dog section also gave a display and pupils from several local primary schools took part in activities to demonstrate force’s community work.
Eleven-year-old Shincliffe Primary School pupil Alex Parker, from Durham, who is a member of the Mini Police programme, said: “She was saying ‘morning’ to all of us. She asked what our role was with the Mini Police and what we were doing at school. It was amazing.”