I visit gardens the way most folks watch MasterChef, I love to watch someone else perform but I haven’t a clue how to garden. Still, when the announcement arrived from my daughter’s school that tickets had been obtained to tour the Prince of Wales's gardens at Highgrove, I leapt at the chance. MasterChef Grand Finale here I come.
It’s a bit complicated getting oneself to Highgrove southwest of Tetsbury in the Cotswolds. First, you must pre-book a ticket from the website or you can call the booking office on 0207 766 7310. I’ve been told tickets for the season go fast. On arrival, you must show a photo ID to get in. Public transport involves a train journey and a pre-booked taxi. Highgrove maintains a strict timetable so don’t be late. No phones, no cameras, no binoculars. But then, this is the home of the heir to the British throne so with that in mind, the rules seem pretty reasonable.
And the gardens? In a word - wonderful - and completely worth the effort. For the past 30 years, Prince Charles has engaged in an environmental project so full of vision, passion and empathy for nature that it totally lifted my spirits about the sorry state of the world.
The guided tour takes about 2 hours. Groups are small and the feeling is intimate. Our guide was terrific, knowledgeable and lots of fun. We had a delicious light lunch after our tour and of course, an opportunity to buy very tasteful things from the shop where all the proceeds go to support the Prince’s many charitable endeavors.
If you are a gardener beg, borrow or steal a ticket. If you are travelling in the Cotswolds, ditto. Even if you are a garden nincompoop like me, go. After 20 years of living in the United Kingdom, I would rank my day spent at Highgrove as one of the very best.