Gardening & Wildlife visit to
8th April 2014

The highlight of this Summer season was the undoubtedly our visit to the home of HRH Prince Charles at Highgrove, near Tetbury in Wiltshire.

We set on a bright and dry day and prior to our visit to Highgrove we had time for lunch in the little historic town of Tetbury, we had time for a little wander round after lunch before making our way to our planned tour of the gardens of Highgrove.

We were restricted by numbers, 26 being the maximum number for an organised tour. Our tour was booked for 12 noon, and we arrived 15 minutes in advance where we were met by very strict security - everyone had to produce their identification before being admitted - but they did let us all in !!

We were met by our expert tour guide Jenny, who certainly did know everything there was to know about the house and the gardens. We stayed together as a group and were not permitted to wander on our own for obvious security reasons.

Although our visit did not include a tour of the house - it stands surrounded by the beautiful gardens. The house itself is rather stark but is improved by abundant climbing plants which add personality to the rather plain building, built in the 1790s, and purchased by Prince Charles in 1980, making itself a home for Princess Diana and the Princes William and Harry.

The house is surrounded by parkland and has been much improved by Prince Charles - many impressive trees were in place at the time of its purchase.

Highgrove is famed for its 6 acre flower studded meadow which contrasts with the classical house, which is surrounded by neatly clipped ornate hedges. There are many busts of Prince Charles, given to him by various dignitaries, set into the hedges. He insists this is not vanity - but as they are gifts it is a good way of showing these sculptures to their best advantage.

As we passed through the Sun Dial Garden with its impressive wrought iron gates and well tended gardens we were delighted to see that many of the trees were hanging with well-stocked feed cages for the birds. There was an orchard of trees which were circled with muscari flowers which looked so pretty.

There were plenty of water features stocked with fish some of which had little fountains in the middle.

We wandered through the stumpery garden, full as expected by old tree stumps, ferns and hostas. This garden contained a tree house built for the Princes Harry and Williams - called "Hollyrood House". It was originally built in a 10 ft. holly tree, which unfortunately became diseased and the house had to be repositioned in its current spot.

These delightful gardens are full of delightful surprises - the Indian Gate found by Prince Charles on a visit to India and brought back for the garden - the Cottage Garden full of spring bulbs.

The pastel painted garden furniture is dotted around - one of our members has already painted her own garden furniture in the same colour (I won't mention her name, but initials are JM).

Following our tour of the garden, we all headed for the Orchard Restaurant, which overlooks the garden, and partook of cream teas - it would have been rude not to do so!!

A lovely day and a delightful visit - one that we can all recommend.

Isabelle Paradice

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