Elaine and I drove across to Tetbury this morning, albeit with difficulty – there was a long tailback before we got on to the M4, because truck had hit a car, or vice versa, the ensemble blocking two lanes out of three. We ended up having to drive significantly faster than I would have liked to get to the Calcot Manor Hotel in time for me to begin my speech at 11.00 at an event organised by executive coaching firm Praesta. After an excellent lunch at the hotel, we were all coached across to Highgrove to see what Prince Charles and his gardeners have achieved there.
It’s a long time since I was there – and progress has been very considerable. A high wind was blowing as we walked around, with the trees sounding as if they were gravel beaches, with great storm surges coming in and receding. My favourite corner, by far, was in the old ‘Stumpery,’ where one of two classical mini-temples now contains a stunning black plaque in memory of Ted Hughes, showing him with a Longfellowish head of hair together with a crow and what my eye variously made out to be a salmon or a pike.
After a champagne tea, we were bussed back to the hotel, via Kemble station, and Elaine and I decided to drive up through Cirencester and thence to Little Rissington, to drop in on Hill House. Turned out very well – with a lovely light slanting across the gardens as we collected vegetables to bring back to London. I spent some happy moments watching bees making free with the foxgloves. But all of this buccolia comes at a price: filling up the Volvo’s fuel tank in Tetbury cost £73. Thanks heavens we rarely have to go anywhere by car.