MARMALADE sandwiches and a suitcase cake were on the menu for the opening of Gloucestershire’s first independent children’s physiotherapy clinic.

Star of the hit children’s film Paddington, Hugh Bonneville, paid the centre in Rodborough a visit on Thursday to attend a special bear-themed tea party.

The celebrated British actor, also known for his role as Robert Crawley in hit TV drama Downton Abbey, cut the ribbon to officially open Bodybetter Kids Physiotherapy Clinic.

He met some of the young children with cerebral palsy who would soon be benefiting from the unique health centre.

The new clinic off Rodborough Hill offers independent physiotherapy to children with all levels of ability and need, and is aimed at increasing children's movement enjoyment, ability and comfort.

It is the first of its kind in Gloucestershire built specifically for children.

After cutting the ribbon, Mr Bonneville praised the work and dedication of the woman behind Bodybetter – Jenny McLaughlin.

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“I’ve known Jenny for more than 30 years. She is a remarkable woman and I’m so proud to call her my friend.” he said.

“So many children will benefit hugely from this wonderful new clinic. Places like this and the service they provide really are invaluable.”

Jenny, who is a qualified paediatric physiotherapist, had been hoping to open this kind of clinic for 25 years.

“It’s a dream come true,” she said.

“Today has been amazing; I’m absolutely over the moon. Everyone has been so helpful.

“I am so passionate about adding value to these kids’ self esteem and movement skills and hope to give them a fun experience as well as marking a moment in my professional life.

“It’s great they now have a safe and caring space to play and explore that isn’t a hospital environment – and parents have the choice and the flexibility to use a service closer to home.”

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Her work is 80 per cent charity funded, but she collaborates with her colleagues in the local NHS services including paediatricians and therapists.

“We believe that all children can  love their bodies and enjoy moving regardless of what constraints they face,” sheadded.

“Our work specialises in building movement and play confidence as well as improving body mobility skills and reducing discomfort in children with a range of needs.”

More than 50 people gathered in the afternoon sun to celebrate the grand opening.

Among them were family and friends, as well as parents and children who will make use of the clinic.

“Jenny has put in so much effort to make this happen, we’re so thankful to her,” said Kate Bodger, whose four-year-old daufghter Charlotte has been using the clinic already.

"Coming here is brilliant - we've been seeing Jenny for years.

“The new equipment is fantastic and it’s a safe, warm environment where children know they can play freely.”

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