Flattered by the invitation, Charles invited Armitage, 58, to come and talk to him instead in his own version of a shed – a barn at Llwynywermod, a former three-bedroom farmhouse on a 192-acre estate in Carmarthenshire which the Duchy of Cornwall bought in 2006 and converted into a Welsh residence for the Prince of Wales and Camilla.
It is undoubtely smaller than Charles’s other homes: Clarence House, a four-storey Grade I-listed 19th century royal residence in London, his Gloucestershire country retreat Highgrove House, and Birkhall, his 14-bedroom Jacobean hunting lodge on the Balmoral estate in the Highlands. He also owns a guest house in Romania.
Asked if he relished going to Llwynywermod to enjoy the simple life, the Prince said: “Yes but the houses that I am in are not grand or palatial really at the moment.
“These things are useful sometimes you know for large numbers of people you have to do things with and entertain.
“But yes it is wonderful coming down here. And I love coming in the winter when I can at a weekend. And I stump about in the Brecon Beacons and explore, which is magic, and fight my way through large numbers of sheep all over the place. It is very special because it’s more of a cottage.”
He enthused about the quality of the milk his cattle there produce and the colourful characters he has enjoyed meeting in the sheep and cattle farming area around the nearby market town of Llandovery, including a farmer who keeps asking him to buy his farm. “We do have a really good laugh,” he said.
A passionate gardener who loves planting trees and hedge laying, the Prince told the poet that he traced his love of the great outdoors to his childhood and recalled leanring to tend a vegetable patch as a child with Princess Anne at Buckingham Palace.
“My sister and I had a little vegetable patch in the back of some border somewhere. We had great fun trying to grow tomatoes rather unsuccessfully and things like that,” he said.
“There was a wonderful head gardener at Buckingham Palace, I think he was called Mr Nutbeam, rather splendidly. He was splendid and he helped us a bit, my sister and I with the little garden we had.”
“I have particular memories of being in my grandmother’s garden at Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park which she and my grandfather King George VI has made quite a lot of. So I had great fun there talking to the head gardener there. He grew melons,” he added. “They were exceptionally delicious is all I can tell you.”
Asked if he was a hands-on gardener, the Prince said: “I’d give anything to be more hands on. But It’s the time that’s always the problem. I love planting trees and plants but my problem now is my back’s not so good. So I spend my life trying to do it on my knees. Which is all very well but digging on your knees is an interesting business.”
He spoke of the joy of seeing trees he planted grow to maturity. “I keep thinking to myself, did I actually do that? Because while it’s growing so tall, I’m shrinking…”
“The fun is to get grandchildren to plant a tree now and then see so they can measure themselves if you know what I mean by the size of the tree,” he told Armitage.
He said of George’s tree: “This thing has shot up. I mean It’s higher than this barn already, which for a child is quite satisfactory when you can say ‘look at it now’. It’s grown about 3 feet a year. Not many do that.”
Charles said his favourite flower was delphinum, which he has grown up to 9ft tall at Highgrove, and his favourite bird a swift.
“Having spent a large part of my childhood at Windsor Castle, you won’t believe how the castle provides the most fantastic environment for them to nest, “he said, adding that he had built boxes and taken other measures to attract swifts to his Welsh property.
“For me, the world would come to an end if swallows, swifts and house martins didn’t come back,” Charles said.
He too got to know and admired Hughes, who died in 1998. Hughes taught him to use word association to remember the names of plants.
“I remember I said to him once; ‘I cannot remember all the names of these plants, it drives me mad’. He said: ‘Ah, what you need to do is’ – typical, wonderful poet, only a poet could think like this I think – ‘you have to see what the name conjures up, what image does it give you in your mind?’
“And then he said what you’ll find, if you practise, and this is my problem – is practising it, then you have the word association with the image that you created and that will bring it back to your memory far better than a word will.”
Hughes, he said, was much better at conjuring up an image, being a poet.
Source: EXPRESS CO UK