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All Hands Garden group visit Capel Manor Gardens and hear truly royal anecdotes

28th June 2024

On June 28th 35 of the All Hands Garden Group took a coach to Capel Manor Gardens in Enfield. We always like to organise a guided tour of the places we visit, that’s the only way to really find out about a garden. Capel Manor, now home to Capel Manor College, is set amongst 30 acres of diverse gardens including the Gardening Which trials area and this was the focus of our tour. But we got so much more.

Our guide was Dr Steve Dowbiggin, who had been principal of the college for 33 years, retiring in 2016, but returning after Covid on a part time basis.  He regaled us with facts and wonderful anecdotes: Here’s a flavour. Princess Anne takes a great interest in the College and on a visit, asked why the horses there at the time were all Clydesdales, a Scottish breed of draught horse. She asked why horses from so far North, when the Suffolk Punch was a lot closer. Dr Dowbiggin told her the owner there was a passionate Clydesdale breeder and that in his estimation Suffolks were like ‘Pigs on Sticks’ as they were built for pulling loads in heavy land.

Both the Princess and her husband were convulsed with laughter, to the point of tears! When Dr Dowbiggin enquired what was so funny, having made this quip many times, without quite so much appreciation, he was informed that Princess Anne was a patron of the Suffolk Punch breed.

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