Twickenham is gearing up for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI on Friday.

The pontiff is due to begin his four-day visit to the UK - the first Papal visit since 1982 - on Thursday.

He will spend Friday morning with about 3,500 children from all over the country at St Mary’s University College, in Waldegrave Road.

About 300 staff and pupils from borough schools are to be part of a welcoming committee before the main event, described as a celebration of Catholic education, which is set to start at about 10am.

The event - known as The Big Assembly - will take place on St Mary’s running track and will include a ceremony to mark the inauguration of the John Paul II Institute for Sport. The schools’ project was the vision of previous Pope John Paul II who believed sport and faith should work hand in hand.

Geraldine Davies, head of the school of education at St Mary’s, said: “We are delighted to be involved with the preparations for the Big Assembly, a unique and historic occasion for all involved in Catholic Education.

“We are very proud that our students will be both represented in the audience but also lead participants in The Big Assembly itself.

“It has been a privilege for us to be able to contribute to the planning and delivery of the event.”

The university college will also host an opportunity for the pontiff to pray with representatives of religious congregations before the Big Assembly. After the main event its historic Waldegrave Drawing Room, built in about 1855 as part of an extension of the famous Strawberry Hill villa, will be the venue for him to meet religious leaders of various denominations.

A St Mary’s spokesman said: “Attendance at events at St Mary’s is by invitation only.

“For security reasons the campus will be closed off and it will not be possible to see the Pope on his arrival at, or departure from, the university college campus.”

Richmond Council has confirmed the Pontiff will arrive some time before 10am and leave before 1pm but exact details of his route have not been released and he will not be in the "Pope Mobile".

There are no plans to close Waldegrave Road but residents have been warned the stretch between Tower Road and Shacklegate Lane may be closed by police for periods between 6am and 3pm.

Parking on Waldegrave Road, between Tower Road and Waldegrave Park, will be suspended from midnight until 3pm on Friday.

Residents have been told refuse and recycling collections, scheduled for the area that day, will start at 6am close to the college.

In a joint letter to residents, Councillor Clare Head, Richmond Council cabinet member for traffic, Chief Superintendent Clive Chalk, the new Richmond police borough commander, Arthur Naylor, principal at St Mary’s, and Michael Allsop, from Strawberry Hill Residents’ Association, said: “We wish His Holiness and those attending the event a great day with minimum disruption to local people.

“Your co-operation in observing the parking restrictions and bearing with us on the necessary diversions will very much help the day to go smoothly.

“We would also ask that people do not gather on Waldegrave Road as there will be no opportunity to greet the Pope on this part of his visit.”

The Highways Agency has warned drivers to be aware of extra traffic in the areas the Pope is visiting.

Highways Agency planning manager Jenny Moten said: “Highways Agency traffic officers will be on patrol in locations where there may be additional traffic, to ensure that incidents are cleared quickly.

“Because of the level of traffic expected, all road-users should take particular care to plan their journeys and check traffic conditions before travelling."

See for live coverage of the Pope's visit on Friday and the September 24 edition of the Richmond and Twickenham Times for an eight-page pull-out with full reports and pictures.