Highgrove: An unexpected dimension

Since tomorrow May 6, 2023 is the coronation of King Charles III, I thought it fitting to post something in His Majesty´s honor.  Looking through my notes, I found this vignette I wrote about his garden, Highgrove, after my visit there back in 2018.

On this year’s trip to England we had the good fortune of visiting Highgrove, the garden of TRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, outside the town of Tetbury in Gloucestershire.


A visit to Highgrove requires planning – one has to book several months in advance and the visit is not confirmed until it actually happens – after all this is a private garden and the busy schedules of their royal highnesses are subject to last minute changes.  So it was with some excitement and trepidation that we underwent the thorough security procedure which every visitor must undergo to enter the grounds of the royal property.


An expert guide then took charge of our group and led us around the gardens.  Photographs are not allowed and lingering is not encouraged– there is a lot of ground to cover in just two hours. The walk takes one from the formal front garden to the loose plantings of the meadows, alternating structured and more relaxed areas. One also visits the stumpery, the thyme walk, as well as the vegetable garden. 


I was left with the impression that  Highgrove is a very large garden where the owner enjoys experimenting with all manner of plants, styles and cultivation methods.  This is the garden of a plantsman and a gardener.  The spirit of the place is benevolent and playful despite the grand scale. 


What I remember best, however, is  the .CRINKLE CRANKLE hedge found in the woodland.  Coming from the bright meadow where Camassias bloom, we entered the shade of the woods through a formal gate.  It felt a bit as if we had been admitted to a sacred sanctuary.  We walked along a path on either side of which our guide pointed out a CRINKLE CRANKLE hedge.  The name alone evokes the world of druids and pixies, fairies and spirits.  Our guide explained that a CRINKLE CRANKLE is a winding hedge after the Saxon custom, in this instance planted with seven native species.  The Saxons believed that CRINKLE CRANKLE hedges were good protection against evil spirits.  As these tend to travel in a straight line, a weaving hedge would confuse them and thus keep them out. 


Wikipedia will tell you that CRINKLE CRANKLE is just another term for serpentine, ie winding like a snake.  East Anglia is famous for its CRINKLE CRANKLE walls, a practice which was introduced in the 17th century by Dutch masons who were brought in to drain the area.  CRINKLE CRANKLE walls have the advantage of being just one brick thick, thus saving on building material compared to a straight wall.  In the United States the most famous CRINKLE CRANKLE wall is perhaps the one designed by Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia.


But the CRINKLE CRANKLE hedge at Highgrove, used in the informal setting of the woodland, brings a magical dimension to the meaning of serpentine.  I found this charming and unexpected, especially in the formal gardens of Highgrove. 



May the CRINKLE CRANKLE hedge continue to fend off the evil spirits.  Long reign to his Majesty King Charles III.  God save the King!


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