All sorts of people were crossing fingers that Queen Elizabeth would hang on for just a while longer. None had quite such a specific reason as those involved in the current series of The Cotswolds and Beyond with Pam Ayres (Channel 5). The chief interviewee of episode five was a famous resident of the region, the banned environmental campaigner formerly known as HRH the Prince of Wales.
King Charles III was still a plain old prince when Ayres and her crew descended on his garden for a guided poke around. So he was referred to throughout by the styling which has now gone elsewhere. Some things can’t be post-dubbed in the edit suite.
The accident of timing aside, this was quite a coup for the Channel 5 series. For nearly half a century England’s loamy marchioness of rhyme, Ayres was given her own show last year with a roaming brief to wander about her home patch reporting on things you generally feel you might have seen on telly before. She did such a comprehensive job that the second series expands west and east of the Cotswolds’ borders.
In this edition she nervously drove an old steam locomotive in the Forest of Dean and chilled with Steve Redgrave among the blazered tofferati at Henley Regatta. She’ll fetch up in the Black Mountains if she’s not careful. But best not mention Wales.
Its former prince welcomed Ayres to Highgrove and showed her around his, er, kingdom. Here was the thyme walk, currently lacking its eponymous plant owing to an exasperating profusion of herbaceous rabbits. It’s more of a marjoram and Alchemilla walk these days, which doesn’t quite dance on the tongue, even a poet’s. Still, reckoned Ayres, doing commendably little in the way of forelock-tugging, its’s lovely to sniff.
We also encountered the golden yew balls, which were in situ when the owner moved in 40 years back. “I’m afraid it’s a bit of passion of mine,” confessed the topiarist-in-chief, who received guidance over the years from Lady Salisbury and Dame Miriam Rothschild. Their advice was presumably not of the common-or-garden variety.
The latter gave him many types of wild flower seed to scatter. “But then you have to wait seven or eight years to see if something happens,” groaned the king. “By which time I’m dead!” At a guess, a man who’s been hanging around in the employment bureau for seven decades is probably quite a patient gardener.