Roy has been the Estate Warden since the foundation of the Trust. Before that, he was Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe's Gamekeeper for nearly 30 years. A proud welshman, he is part of the fabric of West Horsley Place; a daily sight on the estate in his green Defender (adorned with the Prince of Wales' feathers on the rear) and a pack of spaniels. He shares his memories with us:

It was June 1988 when I received a call from Mervyn Flux who was then the tenant farmer at WHP. He had been given my name by someone (I never found out who) recommending me as being skilful at shooting and crop protection. WHP was then a flourishing arable farm with a wide variety of crops – wheat, corn, barley, oilseed rape, beans, maize indeed practically any crop had been grown over the years. The entire farm was dedicated to crop production. As a consequence, all sorts of wildlife thrived. Unfortunately, some of these species could devastate crops – for example pigeons, rabbits and roe deer unless their numbers were controlled.

At the outset Mervyn was very strict and particular imposing many rules and restrictions about how I was expected to behave on WHP – as time went by, we became good friends and he allowed me to manage things as I saw fit.

It was not long before I was introduced to Her Grace, Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. I fell in love with her immediately! She was such a charming and beautiful lady. She said I was allowed to shoot anything on the estate except foxes and pheasants. I was also introduced to Mr Michael Baxter who managed the estate for the Duchess; he was an excellent man and we got on well (although I did not fall in love with him!).

I would often meet the Duchess being driven around the estate by Mervyn. She soon knew the names of my dogs but sometimes forgot my name! It transpired when Mervyn retired, I was called upon to take her around. She welcomed members of the public onto the estate but was adamant that they stuck to the rights of way, footpaths and bridleways, and did not encroach upon private woods and fields. Mervyn enforced these conditions with vigour and encouraged me to do the same. Woe beside anyone caught out of bounds!

The Duchess would not allow any changes to the estate without her express permission. A big oak tree with dead massive branches was overhanging the main bridleway. This was deemed to be dangerous to the public. [ Land Agent] Michael Baxter persuaded her to have the branches removed. The next day I was asked to take the Duchess around the estate, when she saw the tree, she became very angry, exclaiming  "look what they have done to my tree – it looks like a coat hanger!” Which it does to this day.

On occasions, the Duchess would insist on stopping the vehicle whilst she climbed a five- bar gate. She was in her late eighties! Another morning, she asked me to take her around in my land rover. At that time her leg was in plaster. I questioned her ability to climb into the vehicle and she replied angrily “of course I will – I will expect you in 20 minutes” and finished the call! I was non-plussed and rang Pat, her housekeeper who was getting the Duchess’ car an MOT. I explained the case and she said she would resolve the problem. Which she did for I heard no more about it.

Sadly, the Duchess passed away. She was almost one hundred years old. No-one knew what would happen to WHP so we all waited with trepidation for the will to be read. To our surprise (and I think his) Bamber Gascoigne inherited the whole estate. He soon sent for me and asked me to take him around and explain my role at WHP. It transpired that we had something in common, in that I served in the Welsh Guards whilst Bamber had served in the Grenadier Guards! In due course I was appointed with Bamber’s approval as the Estate Warden/Gamekeeper by Peter Pearce who was then head of the Mary Roxburghe Trust (now West Horsley Place Trust).

Nowadays, WHP is part of the Higher Stewardship Scheme which means that crops can no longer be grown on the farm. It is all down to grass. Sometimes in the early morning or late evening I remember WHP as it was many years ago. In my mind’s eye I can still see Mervyn driving around in his tractor puffing at his pipe, tending the crops. I can also hear the Duchess berating me about the tree that looks like a coat hanger. They were happy days indeed.