Quirky News

  • 9 October 2012, 13:21

Stately home owner's labour of love

Patrick Cooke /Rex

Keen gardener Patrick Cooke has to clear his diary for two weeks every year - to trim his hedges.

The feat involves cutting 12 huge 30ft Yew pyramids at his stately home at Athelhampton in Dorset.

The labour intensive task sees him spending literally days climbing up and up down a ladder.

However, he takes on the annual challenge in the knowledge that the trees have been in place for 120 years and it's now his responsibility to keep them alive.

It's a job that his father Sir Robert took on until he died in 1987 and Mr Cooke has been happy to continue to do his part.

Planted back in Victorian times, the yews have now grown so high that even the modern ladder he uses is starting to be a little too short for the task.

Mr Cooke said: "The trees are such a key part of the garden and it's a really important job so I have to clear space in my diary every year making sure the task is done correctly by keeping their shape and any vigorous growth in check.

"The one thing you must have is a really good head for heights, wielding a power trimmer 30 foot up you have to be confident and sure in what you are doing.

"Over the past 40 years they have doubled in size and the ladder is just about long enough for the task at present."

The famous Yews were used in the film Sleuth, starring Michael Caine and Sir Laurence Olivier, and the massive trees form an iconic part of the house and grounds.

Mr Cooke added: "I enjoy keeping them in great condition and to be able to hand them on to the next generation is a challenge I am happy to take on.

"They could well last for another 100 years. Despite all this ladder climbing keeping me fit I'm not sure if I can last another 100 so I will leave that to my children!"