Thursday, July 16, 2009

A visit to Highgrove - Thyme Walk and Lime Avenue

The Thyme Walk and house at Highgrove
8" x 10", pencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Yesterday I visited the garden at Highgrove with a party from the Prince's Drawing School. Highgrove is the family home of the Prince of Wales, his two sons and the Duchess of Cornwall. He bought it in 1980, the year before he married Diana, Princess of Wales and the garden has been developed over the course of nearly 30 years. When he bought it the grounds were very largely parkland and the house was very plain.
A garden should delight the eye, warm the heart and feed the soul
Prince Charles
This is a very visual garden - and one which amply fulfils the Prince's aim as stated above. Having visited very many fine gardens I think that it's one of the best I've ever seen. If, like other fine gardens which have been developed, it was one which had been made over by the Estate to the National Trust I'm absolutely convinced that it would be attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year as it certainly rivals the likes of Sissinghurst and Hidcote. As it is there's a long waiting list for organised groups seeing the garden.

The visit is a tour conducted by one of the volunteer garden guides. We had a splendid one with a name I forgot to take a note of. She was very knowledgeable about both the garden and how it had developed. The tours are conducted whether or not it rains and the paths are ones which require stout shoes in wet weather.

I'm going to write about this visit over more than one post as there was so much to see.

I was sketching on my way round the garden - but I have to emphasis these were very quick sketches - approximately two-three minutes each and all 'done on the hoof' as it were. They were also limited to areas where the subject matters was suitable for a quick sketch done before we moved on. I saw many more views which I'd have loved to draw but which would have taken more time than was available.

In practical terms, sketching fast meant big simple shapes were OK - while lots of flowers and lots of colours were not OK! All sketches completed on site were done in pencil with annotations about important colours. I then developed them further on the coach going home and last night when I got back to more coloured pencils! I've trained my memory to stay fairly good about colour for about 24 hours after a visit. In this instance the colours are about right and there need to be more work done on values which I'll maybe revisit. Quick outlines and colour note annotations don't leave a lot of time for hatching values!

It became very apparent to me that the garden has a strong architectural slant to it - strong structures underpin all the different parts of the garden and there are defined colour schemes (rather like Giverny) for particular areas. The planting them appears to be much more relaxed and has a more relaxed feel - until you notice that beds work particularly well because of the chosen colour scheme. I gatehr it's also a garden which provides year round colour.

The first sketch I'm showing you (above) is of the view looking towards the western facade. It involves looking down the Thyme Walk and past the golden yew balls which has have been topiarised into fascinating and fantastical shapes and which mix very well with the golden thyme which also lines the path. and lavendar coloured plants which line the path. On the right you can see the pleached hornbeams which have been planted and cut to make a rectangular shape which joins up. The latter very much reminded me very much of Hidcote and the pleached limes at Sissinghurst.

Turning 180 degrees and looking the other way meant looking towards what used to be a fine view of an avenue of lime trees leading down to a dovecote which is nor obscured. In front of them stands a statue of a bronze Borghese gladiator - copied from one at Houghton in Norfolk.

The Lime Avenue and Borghese Gladiator at Highgrove
8" x 10", pencil and coloured pencils in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

How to visit Highgrove

The way it works is that you contact The Garden Tours Administrator using the formal headed
notepaper of your organisation and get in the queue. The website suggests it could be quite a wait!

When you get there you have to provide your name and address and also take proof of your identity (such as a passport) and address. You also cannot take cameras onto the Estate as no photography is allowed.

More soon......


  1. Brava for getting the statue as well, Katherine.

    You seem to have done very well with your colour memories. I always really like the way you focus so much of the big shapes (architecture?) of the foliage. It says 'garden' even without considering the colour.

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  3. Great post a always Katherine. I feel like I am standing next to you from your discription and wonderful drawings.

  4. Thanks for this interesting report, and the visual notes, I wish I had such good color memory!


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