Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in County Durham for first visit since the end of royal mourning for Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been to a farm near Darlington as part of a visit to the region.

Prince William and Kate took turns behind the wheel of a hi-tech tractor during a visit to a farm at Little Stainton near Darlington that aims to become carbon neutral.

Manor Farm has been run by the same family for 145 years, and which uses 21st-century technology to achieve sustainable farming.

The automated tractor had a route across the field pre-plotted using GPS and is designed to use less fuel by efficiently covering the ground, cutting emissions.

Farmer Stewart Chapman, 51, who sat in the tractor on both journeys with the masked royals:

It is the first official visit the royal couple have made since the end of the official period of mourning following the death of HRH Prince Phillip.

The engagement also comes just two days before their 10th wedding anniversary.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got behind the wheel of a tractor during the visit Credit: PA

It was the Cambridges' first official in-person engagement away from London since their royal train tour in December last year.

At the fifth-generation family-run mixed cattle, sheep and arable farm, William and Kate were taken on a tour of the cattle, calving and lambing sheds by owners Clare Wise and Mr Chapman.

The family explained how farm practices can be made more productive and sustainable.

The Cambridges also joined the farmers' daughters Clover, nine, Penelope, seven and Wren, four, and their lambs named Dumbledore and Heather.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to a Darlington Farm Credit: PA

Clover said afterwards: "It was very exciting, but it was also quite nerve-wracking."

In a cow shed, William and Kate grabbed a handful of the silage and ran it through their fingers.

Ms Wise, 40, said afterwards: "They asked how do we know what good feed looks like and the duke was very knowledgeable on feeding livestock and said how this year has been a nice sample and handles particularly well."

William has previously told of his passion for farming, revealing that his children are already playing on tractors.

William and Kate talked to farmers about the challenges the agricultural industry has faced during the pandemic Credit: PA

The duke and duchess chatted with Ms Wise and Mr Chapman about how they protect the health and welfare of their livestock.

William and Kate also joined a discussion with local farmers, who are being supported by The National Farmers' Union, about their experiences of the past year, including the mental health impact of Covid-19 for farmers and the challenges of balancing home-schooling with farm work.

William added: "The pandemic takes away your coping mechanisms. We all have ways getting through the days when you strip that away and at home all the time it starts to wear on people."

William and Kate met young people supported by the Cheesy Waffles Project Credit: PA

For the second part of their Royal visit, Prince William and Kate travelled to Durham.

The Duke of Cambridge spoke of his late grandfather when he met young people who have finished their Duke of Edinburgh Award.

While visiting a group for young people with learning difficulties, William heard how Evan Jones, 18, and Lee Middleton, 23, had earned their gold awards.

William and Kate were visiting The Cheesy Waffles Project (CWP), which provides young people with learning disabilities with the skills and independence they need for adulthood.

The project has benefited from the couple's Royal Wedding Charitable Gift fund, which totalled more than £1 million when they married almost exactly a decade ago.

Donations were made by well wishers in lieu of gifts and £33,000 went to The Key, which works with organisations across the north east of England to develop skills in young people.

The Duke and Duchess demonstrated their golfing skills on the grass outside the project, with Kate laughing heartily after she connected with the ball.Cheesy Waffles Project manager Erika Denholm said some activities usually enjoyed by members such as trips away and cookery sessions had been halted by the pandemic, but they are hopeful that they might resume from next month.

William said: "It's that hope, that light at the end of the tunnel - everybody wants something to look forward to now."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last visited the North East back in 2018.

The royal couple visited Sunderland to officially open the Fire Station, which was transformed into the city's £3.5 million pounds new music and arts hub. 

Prince William and Kate then put the finishing touches to Northern Spire, the new Wear crossing. Wearing hard hats, goggles and high visibility jackets, they tightened a couple of bolts on the £117 million infrastructure project aimed at helping with the regeneration of the city.