Thursday, June 29, 2017

UK Day 8–In Which We Visit Royalty and Arrive in London

Highgrove Garden Tour

Highgrove House, the Country Home of Prince Charles and Camilla, is one of those special places that take a fair amount of planning in advance to make sure you actually get there. It was my mum’s suggestion to plan a garden tour and so, months ago, I got on their website and scheduled us in to one of the few remaining time slots that were still open during our window of opportunity. A few weeks later an important-looking glossy purple folder arrived in the mail. Inside were 5 tickets (one for my mum who sadly was not able to come on this trip –we miss her so much! Hi mum!) and a brochure outlining the requirements of our visit: we were to arrive no earlier than 15 minutes before our time slot, photo ID would be checked, absolutely no photography on site (sorry!) and no phones allowed within the grounds. There were also mysterious instructions to find the place once we had entered the village of Doughten, near Tetbury: proceed for 1 mile, follow the high stone wall until it ends, turn right just before the end of the 30mph zone. What?  We had run into a spot of traffic trouble at the Chippenham Roundabout from Hell which had put us behind by about 15 minutes so we were a bit breathless when we turned down what looked like any driveway anywhere. Terra soon spotted security cameras though and as we turned the corner, we came upon a checkpoint, complete with highly armed soldiers, and a very nice man in a suit who had our names down on a clipboard.”You’re a bit late” he said, very nicely, and encouraged us to go “as quickly as you can down the drive and into the car park where John will meet you”.

Here are the only pictures I took, at risk of certain death:


What does that even mean?


John did indeed meet us, and after another very nice admonishing for being late, checked our ID and tickets and sent us into the Reception. There a very nice woman with a clipboard whose name was probably Tabitha or Caroline (the woman, not the clipboard) met us, once again pointing out that we were late, but not to worry as our guide would come and get us shortly.

Cicely, our guide, has worked at Highgrove for over 30 years and so knows every corner inside and out. When she started, the grounds were mostly just fields and so she has seen the full results of the  transformation that Prince Charles has made since he bought the property in 1980. As I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures, you’ll have to believe me when I say that what followed was two hours of bliss for anyone who has ever enjoyed gardens, or gardening. Our group tramped through 22 acres of gardens ranging from a cottage garden full of roses and delphiniums, to a massive walled kitchen garden where we walked through a tunnel of sweet peas and under an arbour of ancient crab-apples, to a huge wildflower meadow, then through an arboretum with rare Japanese maples beside flowering dogwoods, and into a large shade garden known as the stumpery where we saw Prince William and Harry’s childhood tree house, which has been lowered and is now a favourite of Prince George ad Princess Charlotte. Prince Charles has a ‘Let it be’ approach to gardening and so we saw many areas where weeds are left to grow and fallen trees are left as habitat for animals and birds.

The house itself is out of bounds, but we all felt sure that the Prince was home as his royal standard was flying and there was a lot of security about the place including actual policeman in the bushes etc.

Another clue was that the Royal Photographer was on the grounds and had offered to take pictures of our group. We took him up on it – that’s the picture you see up top.

After our tour, we had an amazing lunch in the Orchard Café which serves local food as much as possible. We may have lingered a little too long over lunch though as we had a train to catch back in The Real World, in Salisbury to be exact which is about 1hour 45 minutes away, and we hadn’t left ourselves much time. So it was another very fast drive back to Salisbury and to the car rental office where I practically threw the keys at Ralph, my local Car Hire Expert, jumped in a taxi and hurled ourselves into the train.

This also marked the official end of the Driving Games  and the results are displayed below on Travis’ official scorecard, which he diligently kept on his lap the entire time we were in the car:


Yes, that’s right, I won at Dead Badger.

We were definitely sad to leave the countryside,and Travis and I fell into a depression which could only be lifted by drinking Ribena on the train. Terra dealt with it by promptly falling asleep.


It was easy to find our apartment which happens to be located above the Ravi Shankar Vegetarian Indian restaurant. It’s not easy to find a four bedroom flat in London for a reasonable price so I felt pretty happy that a) it was actually there and b) that it was good. We have managed to deal with the fact that there is no living/dining room by all piling into my room to eat breakfast together and hang out.

Also, this building is just down our street. Sherlock Holmes fans will instantly recognize this as the location for Sherlock Holmes’ flat in the TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, who unfortunately was nowhere in sight


Maybe I’ll see him tomorrow.

London is my favourite city and I’m happy to be back here. More tomorrow.

Danks for thieving,




  1. Good thing you saw that sign. I shudder to think how many old fashioned establishments I've entered without exercising any significant degree of caution!
    - Jon

  2. Jon I don't know why I don't see these comments until later - so annoying! Yes I wondered about the sing too - what's the point? Is it code?