A Monkey's Revenge - My Blog

Potted history and parsnip wine

Chatting on Facebook today I was reminded about my days back on the local evening newspaper, The Northants Evening Telegraph. To be specific, working with their gardening correspondent Nick Warliker at the home of HRH Princess Alice, The Duchess of Gloucester in Barnwell Manor, Northants., where he was the Head Gardener.

Nick is a really likeable chap and extremely knowledgeable about plants and gardening. My job was to follow him around and get up to ten gardening tips photographed for the next month's papers. Of course, along the way I learned a few things too and also, er, acquired a few Royal cuttings for my own garden. Many of these are still thriving, including these snowdrops I photographed last year for a fine art print.

Photographing in the extensive gardens wasn't without it's hazards. Apart from being terrified I'd have to chat to royalty,(the Princess often used to pop into the gardens and chat to 'Warliker'), there was also the risk of being run over. You see the Duke of Gloucester had previous form for dashing around the grounds on his quad bike, despite several near misses and tipping it over on one occasion. His Royal Highness had connections with Northern Ireland, so security at the Manor was always another hazard to be negotiated. Not just the security cameras that kept watch throughout the estate, but also beams triggered by humans walking around. So trip more than one beam and several armed special branch police would be asking you serious questions about the purpose of your visit! Last but not least was the hazard of being asked to pass judgement on Nick's latest winemaking creations-his parsnip wine was especially potent.

Sadly in 1994 the house and gardens were sold for financial reasons and Nick lost his accommodation as well as his job.Last time we spoke he was working as a plant expert for a local garden centre-I think they are so lucky to have him there. Princess Alice moved to Kensington Palace and lived on to be the oldest person in the history of the British Royal Family at 102.

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