Mathilde Giard - 2011-04-15
Prince William enjoys spending weekends at his father’s rural estate in the heart of England, where he has so many childhood memories. Kate has become a regular visitor to this area favoured by Londoners in quest of a quiet weekend in the country.
Those churches with spires rising above the hills of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds are called ‘wool churches’. They were built thanks to the generosity of rich medieval sheep farmers; the quality of the wool and yarn from this area has been renowned far and wide since the Middle Ages. Today, those who own a honey-coloured stone house here - one of England’s least populated regions - are fortunate indeed. Ideally located two hours west of London, they are often used as second homes. The latest star to settle in the Cotswolds is Kate Winslet, who now owns a manor near Stow-on-the-Wold. Stella McCartney, Elizabeth Hurley and Kate Moss are among the many other celebrities who have chosen to buy property in this bucolic and picturesque part of England.
Prince Charles was one of the first trendsetters. In 1980 HRH bought Highgrove House in Gloucestershire. He and Diana used it as a weekend place; young William and Harry would come here to ride their ponies and let off steam when they visited. Nowadays, Prince Charles spends much of his time here engaging in his beloved hobby: gardening. He has created a wilderness garden, a French garden and a walled kitchen garden, all with an eye to respecting the environment. These gardens may be toured from April to October, but visits are by appointment only and the waiting list is approximately two years long.
Prince William visits Highgrove regularly and often brings his friends along. Kate has become a regular visitor. She enjoys having dinner out now and again; Malmesbury’s Potting Shed is one of her preferred haunts. Columnist Katie Nicholl, who has been following the royal family for ten years and who published William in Love in March, writes that Kate gets along well with Camilla, and William loves this manor where he has so many fond childhood memories.
Tetbury and its antique dealers
If you haven’t reserved your ticket to the gardens well ahead of time, don’t worry. The 100% organic products of the Duchy Originals label created by Prince Charles are sold in Highgrove Shop in Tetbury, the town that Highgrove House belongs to. The shop carries fine gardening tools, pretty china and essential oils made from plants cultivated by the Prince - just right for buying a royal gift as a token, knowing that all profits are given to HRH’s various charities. Former mayor Stephen Hirst is delighted; he says that since the shop opened three years ago, three times as many people visit the town.
Tetbury is known for its 25 antique shops on Long Street, Church Street andNew Church Street, all extremely popular Sunday destinations. The covered Market House is a fine 17C historic building set on stone pillars. A weekly market selling local produce and other products is held here Wednesday mornings. The Tetbury Woolsack Races, which take place late May to early June, are foot races during which competitors must carry a sack filled with wool (60lb/27kg for men’s races and 35lb/16kg for women’s): a small reminder of the region’s glorious past as a producer of fine wool and textiles. The challenge is to scale all 250 metres of Gumstool Hill, just the distance between two pubs!
The nearby countryside is comprised of green hills criss-crossed by stone walls. Pastures are kept cropped by races of cattle reintroduced by HRH, such as the Aberdeen-Angus or the Belted Galloway, surprising black Scottish steer with white belts around their middles. This is truly the English countryside that postcards are made of!
Royal address book
Where to stay
, try the Snooty Fox
, where the Her Majesty the Queen once stopped when her car got blocked by snow. She booked a room but didn’t stay, as the roads were cleared in time. Just long enough to leave a memory of her visit (doubles from € 140/£ 124).
At Barnsley House
, a gorgeous manor neighbouring Liz Hurley’s farm (doubles from € 275/£ 243).
Book a table at Kate’s favourite restaurant when she comes to spend the weekend with her in-laws: the Potting Shed
Pub, at Malmesbury
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