Kyrle Probus Club
   of Ross-on-Wye



ONE of the most fascinating items on Kyrle Probus Club’s social calendar this year was always likely to be the visit to the gardens at Highgrove, home of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in Gloucestershire. And so it proved when a group of members, wives and friends journeyed there earlier this month.


 When the Duchy of Cornwall bought the house and estate in 1980, there were hardly any gardens at all. So over the last 30 years, the Prince of Wales has devoted much energy to establishing the gardens following his well-documented philosophy that ‘it is better to work with nature than against it.’


 Before starting the tour of the gardens, the Kyrle Probus group watched a DVD in which Prince Charles welcomed the visitors, explained what he was seeking to achieve at Highgrove and expressed the hope the gardens would ‘delight the eye, warm the heart and feed the soul.’  Judging from the response of the Probus group, the gardens certainly achieved these aims, with the help of the excellent descriptions and explanations provided by garden guide, Debbie.


The gardens at Highgrove are made up of a series of interlinked areas, each with their own character and purpose and managed following the organic and sustainable principles long championed by the Prince of Wales.


 One of the first areas the Probus group came to was a fernery that featured a stone seat, constructed from redundant stone from Hereford Cathedral’s renovation project. An obelisk also carved from spare ecclesiastical stone also featured in this area.


 An intriguing, almost magical area known as The Stumpery, includes ‘the Temple of Worthies ,  created from green oak but sandblasted to give the impression of stone. It has at its centre a bronze relief sculpture of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The Stumpery also contains a thatched tree house where the young princes, William and Harry, played as children.

 The walled garden was virtually derelict when the Prince moved to Highgrove, but now produces nearly all the vegetables and fruit the house requires. Moving on from there, the wild flower meadow covers about four and a half acres and is managed as a traditional hay meadow. It boasts over 30 varieties of endangered native plants.


 Alongside the meadow, a driveway leads to the front of the house, from where the visiting group had a fine view of Tetbury Parish Church about a mile away over parkland. The tour continued into the Sundial garden and Terrace garden at the rear of the house. The sundial, after which the garden is named, stands infront of wrought iron gates, which are topped with the Prince of Wales feathers and which lead out into the Thyme Walk.


 When Prince Charles first went to Highgrove, he was particularly attracted by a giant 200 year-old cedar tree to the west of the house. Unfortunately it died of disease and had to be felled in 2007. Now, an open oak pavilion, topped by a church-like spire has been constructed over the base of the old tree.


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