In the world of topiary, this must be the evergreen equivalent of the terracotta army. One hundred and fifty yews, painstakingly cut into representations of Spitfires, anchors, windmills, three bears, dogs, lie just off the Clipsham to Castle Bytham road in Rutland. There's apparently an elephant in here somewhere too. Estate worker Amos Alexander started clipping away in 1870 at the yews which lined the carriage drive that stretched from his gate lodge home to Clipsham Hall. Most of these green giants are over 200 years old, and every September they get a short-back-and-sides from the Forestry Commission, whose badly-designed sign at the entrance makes one worry about what might be sheared-out in the future. Yews trimmed into I-Phones, Gordon Brown's rictus smile.
It's bit like suddenly finding yourself in Alice's Wonderland, expecting any minute that playing cards will run out from between the trees, or at the very least a pig baby crying in the surrounding woods. But it is an amazing place to walk, particularly as I did on a cold sunlit winter's afternoon when the black shadows give definition to the cut-out shapes. Later it must get very eerie here, as I expect they all start to silently shuffle about in the gloaming.