Easy on the Hart Dykes
8, April 2006
Mrs Monk filled me in on the reasoning for today's excursion.
We were on our way to Lullingstone Castle, near Eynesford in Kent, and she had read about this place in The Guardian since it was the subject of the latest reality TV show which also featured a young man, Tom Hart Dyke.
Tom is a botanist, and is much travelled in pursuit of exotic plants, orchids in particular. On such a journey to Columbia, Tom found himself captured at gunpoint, and held hostage by a guerilla gang of criminals.
He survived this ordeal, and has now embarked on an ambitious new garden in the grounds of the family home. The project was described by the Guardian as a “bumbling” “head in the clouds” plan to rescue the ancestral home from ruin. Lullingstone Castle has been the Hart Dyke family home for 500 years, and looks magnificent, though apparently unsustainable in today's world.
Should we sympathise with the Hart Dykes?
We have not yet seen the TV show, nor had I read the Guardian article, but from Mrs Monk’s briefing I was led to expect that Tom’s father, the Lord of The Manor, was a “downcast figure,” who was reduced to selling tickets at the gate, and could easily be mistaken for the gardener.
Today, a man was at the gate, and to this man, we handed over £5.50 each However, this man was not at all downcast, but was in fact resplendent with many turquoise rings, magnificent earrings, and a ponytail. Could this be the Lord of the manor? Stranger things have happened, but in fact this English man was of North American Indian descent who, like Pocahontas, resided in Kent, England. We shared a few notes with him and made our way in search of Tom, the aristocratic gardener.
Mrs Monk had exchanged e-mails with Tom about our day trip, and felt that she already knew him. We found him working on his “head in the clouds” grand project and Mrs Monk recognised him from the picture in The Guardian
“There he is,” she said.
In view of Tom’s kidnapping, I had been wondering if Tom had both ears intact, and I was relieved to find no deficit.
We found the handsome young man talking politely to an elderly woman who was much animated and enthusiastic, presumably about those wild orchids.
Mrs Monk hovered about for a while, hoping to get his attention, but the other old lady was not about to let go of him.
We were forced to continue our way around the garden, but Mrs Monk was even more disappointed when another different old lady was seen talking to Tom.
“Why don’t you all leave the poor boy alone” I said “He just wants to get on with his gardening”
Mrs. Monk was not about to give up, I left her to it, and joined another man who was sat on a bench, also waiting for his wife, who, in turn, was also hanging about in Tom’s aura.
Mrs. Monk was duly anointed by Tom.
And in due course we continued to the main house where we were greeted politely by Tom’s parents, who within moments dismissed the Guardian article to which I have referred for getting their facts wrong.
“Typical Guardian”, I said.
“We don’t read it”, said Tom’s Mother.
Since the visit, I have read the Guardian article and noted that they were particularly rude about Tom’s parents and of course by opening up their home to the public, they are vulnerable to such sniping.
I am left wondering if Lullingstone Castle is so desperately in need of a “Business Plan”, if that would mean a gift shop full of scented candles and potpourri. in the awful National Trust model.
Tom clearly had something to offer ladies of a a certain age, and if he were able to market that intangible commodity, the ancestral home might well be safe for another 500 years.
On the way out, we stopped and chatted again to the English native American who seemed to be content to be remote from his ancestral home, but nevertheless proud of who he is.
He spoke well of the Hart Dykes and so do we. Shoestring Chronicle