The Chelsea Flower Show of 2014: Contemplating the Biggest Pop-Up Gardens in the World.

The Daily Telegraph Garden, at the 2014  Chelsea Flower Show. This is just a portion of the elegant space designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz. Tommaso grew up in Florence, and Paul in New York, and together they have an international practice, based in Shoreditch, East London. Here, a giant panel of Nocino Travertine Limestone punctuates a tall, green hedge. Low topiaries, pruned into pincushion shapes, flank a bench that floats in front of the limestone.

The Daily Telegraph Garden, at the 2014
Chelsea Flower Show. This is just a portion of the elegant space designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz. Tommaso grew up in Florence, and Paul in New York, and together they have an international practice, based in Shoreditch, East London. Here, a giant panel of Nocino Travertine Limestone punctuates a tall, green hedge. Low topiaries, pruned into pincushion shapes, flank a bench that floats in front of the limestone.

Late July 2014.

September of 2008: As I was displaying my garden furniture in a rather grotty convention hall in Birmingham, England, I was invited by a representative of the Royal Horticultural Society to exhibit my designs at their next Chelsea Flower Show. And so, in May of 2009, I found myself and my creations arranged in an elegant tent, on the grounds that surround Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital, in London. I’d made it to Biggest Gardening Extravaganza on Earth. With that invitation to be part of the Show, my life changed, but not in the obvious ways. Certainly, I was honored to have my furniture recognized: when the Trade Stand Manager first settled herself onto one of my hand-crafted, wrought iron and steel chairs, she exclaimed “there’s nothing else in the World like what you design! I’d like you to come our Show next year.”

My Lorenzo Arm Chair, powder coated in Black Velvet.

My Lorenzo Arm Chair, powder coated in Black Velvet.

My Lorenzo Side Chair, powder coated in Bright Orange.

My Lorenzo Side Chair, powder coated in Bright Orange.

My Lorenzo Love Seat, powder coated in Chinese Red.

My Lorenzo Love Seat, powder coated in Chinese Red.

My Chalice Coffee Table, and Lorenzo Side Chairs, powder coated in Creamy Chartreuse.

My Chalice Coffee Table, and Lorenzo Side Chairs, powder coated in Creamy Chartreuse.

My Tiara Chair, powder coated in Violet

My Tiara Chair, powder coated in Violet

My glass-topped Tiara Dining Table, powder coated in Black Velvet.

My glass-topped Tiara Dining Table, powder coated in Black Velvet.

My Classical Backless Chair, powder coated in Metallic Gold.

My Classical Backless Chair, powder coated in Metallic Gold.

My Chalice Dining Table, filled (from below) with lilacs and roses.

My Chalice Dining Table, filled (from below) with lilacs and roses.

But what my nine days as an Exhibitor then really began — as I witnessed the hard labor and significant sleight of hand that went into assembling the nearly-instant Show Gardens at Chelsea, and later on began to learn about what the judges of the Royal Horticultural Society deemed prize-worthy — was a train of thought about the purposes and methods of creating ornamental gardens…one that has consumed me ever since, and which has compelled me to delve deeper and deeper into the huge inventory of REAL gardens that grace England’s landscape.

What I saw, behind the scenes. This was Main Avenue, where the major Show Gardens are, on May 17, 2009...just two days before Press Day at that year's Flower Show. One could never imagine that this Avenue would shortly boast large gardens which looked mature and permanent.

What I saw, behind the scenes. This was Main Avenue, where the major Show Gardens are, on May 17, 2009…just two days before Press Day at that year’s Flower Show. One could never imagine that this Avenue would shortly boast large gardens which looked mature and permanent.

When one visits the Chelsea Flower Show — held each May, as it has been for 101 years — the hope is always to see the most ingeniously designed and most impeccably planted examples of the gardener’s art. The Chelsea Flower Show also can serve as a master class in fads, techniques, and horticulture. On May 21st of this year, I accompanied my dear friends, Anne and David Guy, to the Flower Show. (For a look at Anne Guy’s garden designs, follow this link
http://www.anneguygardendesigns.co.uk .)

Per usual, when I’m with Anne and David, part of the Show’s entertainment-value comes from comparing notes about our favorite displays, and, more entertainingly, kvetching about our LEAST favorite Show Gardens. Yes, every Show-Goer becomes a Critic! This article will be the third that I’ve written about Chelsea. In the summer of 2009, I described my experience as an Exhibitor, for New York Social Diary. Two summers later, yet another NYSD article appeared about that year’s Show (If, after you’ve finished this article, you’re not totally gardened-out, you can read my 2011 report by following this link. http://www.nysocialdiary.com/node/1906745 )

Being fortunate enough to see the workings of the Show, from the different perspectives of Exhibitor, and later of Spectator, and also to have photographed and analyzed a succession of Chelsea Flower Shows, has caused my attitudes about the Show to evolve. Here now, my report on the most recent Spectacle, held in Chelsea, on the banks of the Thames.

The first order of business for a stay in London’s Chelsea neighborhood is to secure a comfortable perch. As I’ve done for the past six years, I perched at the Sloane Square Hotel ( http://www.sloanesquarehotel.co.uk ) ,
a place that has become my home away from home, whenever I’m in London. The Hotel is on the north side of the Square, and the best of London’s museums, historic buildings, parks, shops and river-scapes are all either close at hand or within healthy-strolling distances. An Underground station is nearby, and the Square also has two taxi stands, so nabbing a cab is never a problem…as can often be, in many other parts of the city.

The Sloane Square Hotel's location, high calibre staff, very fine breakfast menu, low-keyed but elegant decor, and extremely comfortable beds and bedding make me forget all of the discomforts that can come after long weeks away from home, and instead make me feel utterly serene, well-rested and expertly cared for. Photo courtesy of Sloane Square Hotel.

The Sloane Square Hotel’s location, high calibre staff, very fine breakfast menu, low-keyed but elegant decor, and extremely comfortable beds and bedding make me forget all of the discomforts that can come after long weeks away from home, and instead make me feel utterly serene, well-rested and expertly cared for. Photo courtesy of Sloane Square Hotel.

The Lobby at the Sloane Square Hotel. Photo courtesy of Sloane Square Hotel.

The Lobby at the Sloane Square Hotel. Photo courtesy of Sloane Square Hotel.

This is the Club Room I always request, for my sojourns at the Sloane Square Hotel. Photo courtesy Sloane Square Hotel.

This is the Club Room I always request, for my sojourns at the Sloane Square Hotel. Photo courtesy Sloane Square Hotel.

Street Map of Sloane Square neighborhood, in Chelsea, London.

Street Map of Sloane Square neighborhood, in Chelsea, London.

Fine cafes and restaurants abound in Sloane Square. For refueling at various times of day, my favorites are these: Cote Brasserie (within the Sloane Square Hotel) for breakfast; the Top Floor Cafe at the Peter Jones Department Store (diagonally across the Square from the Hotel) for late-morning coffee; Coco Maya (on the pedestrian-only stretch of Pavilion Road) for early-afternoon lunch; and Gallery Mess, or Manicomio (both on Duke of York Square), for dinner. Good Traveling MUST be accompanied by Good Feeding.

The Peerless Morning View over Southwest London, from my table at the Top Floor Café, in the Peter Jones Department Store, on May 19th. More soon, about the architecture of this Store. www.johnlewis.com/our-shops/peter-jones

The Peerless Morning View over Southwest London, from my table at the Top Floor Café, in the Peter Jones Department Store, on May 19th. More soon, about the architecture of this Store.
http://www.johnlewis.com/our-shops/peter-jones

Coco Maya, on the southernmost end of Pavilion Road, offers home-made salads and sandwiches, quiches, and goodies. They also serve the best pots of tea in London. www.cocomaya.co.uk/our-stores

Coco Maya, on the southernmost end of Pavilion Road, offers home-made salads and sandwiches, quiches, and goodies. They also serve the best pots of tea in London.
http://www.cocomaya.co.uk/our-stores

The most delightful surprises for a Visitor to Sloane Square during Chelsea Flower Show week come from the flower-bedecked storefronts. For the past nine years, local merchants, with the blessing of the Royal Horticultural Society, have transformed their street-scapes with flowers, as they’ve sought Gold (aka, First Prize) in the Chelsea in Bloom competition. The sidewalks come alive with color and fragrance….and often also with a pure and very-welcome exuberance which the garden designers at the nearby Chelsea Flower Show either do not—or cannot—allow themselves. All in all, this neighborhood celebration can be less stressful and more joyful than visiting the Flower Show itself. Even better, the storefront displays of Chelsea in Bloom are free for all to admire…unlike the Show, for which tickets are scarce, and costly.

Here’s a ramble ‘round the streets near Sloane Square, with a look at some of the most charming floral concoctions. I always enjoy watching the assembly of those displays, and so this picture album will begin with peeks at the delightful and eccentric presentations of two next-door neighbors on Pavilion Road: Basia Zarzycka, and Moyses Stevens. Basia hand-crafts life-like silk flowers, along with nearly-over-the-top wedding tiaras (many of which I’ve purchased over the years….that would be her flowers… NOT her tiaras, because getting married just once was enough for me), and Moyses Stevens stocks some of the most beautiful REAL flowers in all of London.
On the morning of Monday, May 19th, I lingered on Pavilion Road, as a posse of florists worked their magic in front of these two shops…

Chelsea in Bloom displays at Basia Zarzycka, and Moyses Stevens, are underway.

Chelsea in Bloom displays at Basia Zarzycka, and Moyses Stevens, are underway.

Controlled Floral Mayhem, at Basia Zarzycka.

Controlled Floral Mayhem, at Basia Zarzycka.

Precision Petal-Affixing, at Moyses Stevens.

Precision Petal-Affixing, at Moyses Stevens.

A closer look at the Moyses Stevens Mannequin and her Dresser

A closer look at the Moyses Stevens Mannequin and her Dresser

A peek inside Basia's Shop

A peek inside Basia’s Shop

A rather Goth arrangement, outside of Basia's

A rather Goth arrangement, outside of Basia’s

Every little detail at Moyses Stevens', done up in flowers.

Every little detail at Moyses Stevens’, done up in flowers.

I WANT these slippers, at Moyses Stevens....

I WANT these slippers, at Moyses Stevens….

The Finished Product, at Basia Zarzycka

The Finished Product, at Basia Zarzycka

Basia Zarzycka

Basia Zarzycka

Basia Zarzycka

Basia Zarzycka

The right-hand side of the Finished Product, at Moyses Stevens

The right-hand side of the Finished Product, at Moyses Stevens

A closer look at Moyses Stevens

A closer look at Moyses Stevens

The left-hand side of the Finished Product, at Moyses Stevens

The left-hand side of the Finished Product, at Moyses Stevens

Now, for a look at some other finished displays, in and around Sloane Square.

The entrance to my very own Sloane Square Hotel had been transformed into a flower-bedecked aviary.

The entrance to my very own Sloane Square Hotel had been transformed into a flower-bedecked aviary.

Fragrant roses, with ornamental birds, at the Sloane Square Hotel

Fragrant roses, with ornamental birds, at the Sloane Square Hotel

Rag & Bone, which is located at one corner of the Sloane Square Hotel's block, presented a much simpler display in 2014 than their 2013 entry in the Chelsea in Bloom competition...which had won them a Gold.

Rag & Bone, which is located at one corner of the Sloane Square Hotel’s block, presented a much simpler display in 2014 than their 2013 entry in the Chelsea in Bloom competition…which had won them a Gold.

Smythson, on Sloane Street

Smythson, on Sloane Street

Tiffany's, on Sloane Street

Tiffany’s, on Sloane Street

Another doorway, on Sloane Street

Another doorway, on Sloane Street

And a gorgeously-filled Sloane Street window box. Note one of London's omni-present cranes, looming in the background.

And a gorgeously-filled Sloane Street window box. Note one of London’s omni-present cranes, looming in the background.

A towering Green Wall, on Symons Street, which is directly across from the Peter Jones Department Store. I watched this wall being assembled and now understand that such vertical gardens are neither simple to plant, nor easy to maintain.

A towering Green Wall, on Symons Street, which is directly across from the Peter Jones Department Store. I watched this wall being assembled and now understand that such vertical gardens are neither simple to plant, nor easy to maintain.

A Nose-Close view of the Green Wall

A Nose-Close view of the Green Wall

The Green Wall continued around the corner, to the pedestrian mall on Pavilion Road. The Symons Street elevation of the Peter Jones Department Store is visible at the end of the mall.

The Green Wall continued around the corner, to the pedestrian mall on Pavilion Road. The Symons Street elevation of the Peter Jones Department Store is visible at the end of the mall.

The Peter Jones Department Store, which was constructed in 1936—1938, is one of the finest buildings of that decade. As Jones & Woodward’s GUIDE TO THE ARCHTECTURE OF LONDON states, this is “a rare example of a modern building solving the complex problem of relating both to existing street and square frontages, and to a corner. Although it was not London’s first curtain wall, the façade remains one of its finest examples.”

An early-morning view of the Peter Jones Department Store, from my windows at the Sloane Square Hotel. I took this photo on August 21, 2013.

An early-morning view of the Peter Jones Department Store, from my windows at the Sloane Square Hotel. I took this photo on August 21, 2013.

To continue with the GUIDE TO THE ARCHITECTURE OF LONDON, ”The top floor is set back, like an ocean liner. The interior has a large, glazed spiral staircase. In the 1960s, a splendid seven-storey interior atrium was created. “ The Top Floor Café that I recommend for morning coffee provides two spectacular views: one, down into the atrium; the other, out over the rooftops of Chelsea.”

Now, back to year 2014. Here, a less-towering living wall, this one at Kate Spade on Pavilion Road, which is directly opposite the Green Wall. The Royal Horticultural Society awarded the 2014 Chelsea In Bloom GOLD to this exuberant and exotic display.

Now, back to year 2014. Here, a less-towering living wall, this one at Kate Spade on Pavilion Road, which is directly opposite the Green Wall. The Royal Horticultural Society awarded the 2014 Chelsea In Bloom GOLD to this exuberant and exotic display.

A close-up of the flowers at Kate Spade.

A close-up of the flowers at Kate Spade.

Another window at Kate Spade

Another window at Kate Spade

Bruno Cucinelli's, on Sloane Street

Bruno Cucinelli’s, on Sloane Street

A closer look at Bruno Cucinelli's display

A closer look at Bruno Cucinelli’s display

On Duke of York Square, flags announce the Chelsea in Bloom storefronts

On Duke of York Square, flags announce the Chelsea in Bloom storefronts

On Duke of York Square, the Liz Earle display, to which the RHS awarded their Silver (aka 2nd Prize), for Chelsea in Bloom. I wasn't inspired by this display...

On Duke of York Square, the Liz Earle display, to which the RHS awarded their Silver (aka 2nd Prize), for Chelsea in Bloom. I wasn’t inspired by this presentation…

 

The Mary Quant store on Duke of York Square kept it simple...

The Mary Quant store on Duke of York Square kept it simple…

 

...as did their neighbor, Dubarry of London.

…as did their neighbor, Dubarry of London.

Onward, to the Main Event: my day-long visit to the Chelsea Flower Show, on May 21, 2014. I hope these photos will make you feel that you too were there with us in London on a cloudy and cool-ish Wednesday.

Anne and David Guy and I approach the entry gates, which are on the grounds of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea. It's early, and the densely-packed crowds haven't yet materialized...this will soon change.

Anne and David Guy and I approach the entry gates, which are on the grounds of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea. It’s early, and the densely-packed crowds haven’t yet materialized…this will soon change.

 

We pause now for a Reality Check. This is what the same area at the Royal Hospital looks like when there's no Hullabaloo happening. I took this photo on August 23, 2013, during my previous visit to London.

We pause now for a Reality Check. This is what the same area at the Royal Hospital looks like when there’s no Hullabaloo happening. I took this photo on August 23, 2013, during my previous visit to London.

 

Five Days that Shape the Gardening Year? We shall see... Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Five Days that Shape the Gardening Year? We shall see…
Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

 

Plan of the grounds at the Chelsea Flower Show. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Plan of the grounds at the Chelsea Flower Show. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

First, a survey of the Show Gardens, in the order that we encountered them. Bobbing and weaving through the crowds at the Show is an art, one which I’ve learned from observing the quiet, no-body-contact way in which Anne Guy sidles her way through the press of people at the ropes which separate Spectators from Show Gardens. Taking photos at the Show is NOT easy. For every tranquil-looking image you see here, there’s been quite a bit of waiting and maneuvering done beforehand.

Let the Show (Gardens) Begin!  Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Let the Show (Gardens) Begin! Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

To introduce each of the Show Gardens, I’ll begin with a page taken from the Catalogue. It’s always interesting to compare the Designers’ drawings–and their various manifestos—with the actual gardens.

The M&G Garden. M&G has generously sponsored the Chelsea Flower Show for the past five years. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The M&G Garden. M&G has generously sponsored the Chelsea Flower Show for the past five years. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The M&G Garden. Given a Gold Medal by the RHS

The M&G Garden. Given a Gold Medal by the RHS

The M&G Garden. Don't imagine that you too could explore this garden. Mere mortals cannot venture inside: one must be a member of the Press, an RHS official, or a Friend to gain entry.

The M&G Garden. Don’t imagine that you too could explore this garden. Mere mortals cannot venture inside: one must be a member of the Press, an RHS official, or a Friend to gain entry.

A BBC film crew sets up in the M&G Garden, for an interview with the Designer.

A BBC film crew sets up in the M&G Garden, for an interview with the Designer.

The M&G Garden. This garden's plantings seem almost scattershot. I enjoy pleasant chaos in a garden as much as anyone, but the plantings here need a bit more focus. Photo by Anne Guy.

The M&G Garden. This garden’s plantings seem almost scattershot. I enjoy pleasant chaos in a garden as much as anyone, but the plantings here need a bit more focus. Photo by Anne Guy.

Another Reality Check! Peering back in time: during my August 23, 2013 visit to the grounds at the Royal Hospital. This is the exact site upon which the 2014 M&G Show Garden would be built, 8 months later.

Another Reality Check!
Peering back in time: during my August 23, 2013 visit to the grounds at the Royal Hospital. This is the exact site upon which the 2014 M&G Show Garden would be built, 8 months later.

The Brand Alley Renaissance Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Brand Alley Renaissance Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Brand Alley Garden. This is the absolutely KINDEST angle I could devise, for photographing this garden.

The Brand Alley Garden. This is the absolutely KINDEST angle I could devise, for photographing this garden.

A Throng...alongside one edge of the Brand Alley Garden. In front of them: a murky expanse of water, where more garden plots should have been. Using so much precious square footage for this uninviting pool seems sheer design laziness.

A Throng…alongside one edge of the Brand Alley Garden. In front of them: a murky expanse of water, where more garden plots should have been. Using so much precious square footage for this uninviting pool seems sheer design laziness.

This one nicely-planted border slightly redeemed the Brand Alley Garden. Photo by Anne Guy

This one nicely-planted border slightly redeemed the Brand Alley Garden. Photo by Anne Guy

Another view of the Brand Alley Garden, with its unwholesome-looking pool. If the water had been made clear, and into a home for aquatic plants and some happy koi, and the pool then punctuated with some stepping stones, this view could have been much nicer. And the screamingly-red pavilion should have been painted in a muted shade...something which suggested the patina of time. My head spins that so much money and effort was spent to create such a mediocre garden.

Another view of the Brand Alley Garden, with its unwholesome-looking pool. If the water had been made clear, and into a home for aquatic plants and some happy koi, and the pool then punctuated with some stepping stones, this view could have been much nicer. And the screamingly-red pavilion should have been painted in a muted shade…something which suggested the patina of time. My head spins that so much money and effort was spent to create such a mediocre garden.

The Telegraph Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Telegraph Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Telegraph Garden. Nope...I won't be coy. This is my favorite Show Garden....utterly inviting and serene, while also stimulating to the eye. A gorgeous blend of classical and modern design. I want one!

The Telegraph Garden. Nope…I won’t be coy. This is my favorite Show Garden….utterly inviting and serene, while also stimulating to the eye. A gorgeous blend of classical and modern design. I want one!

Tommaso del Buono, and Paul Gazerwitz, designers of the Telegraph Garden. The RHS wisely awarded these gentlemen a Gold Medal. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph.

Tommaso del Buono, and Paul Gazerwitz, designers of the Telegraph Garden. The RHS wisely awarded these gentlemen a Gold Medal. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph.

Plan of the Telegraph Garden, with Plant List. Image courtesy of The Telegraph.

Plan of the Telegraph Garden, with Plant List. Image courtesy of The Telegraph.

The Telegraph Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Telegraph Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Telegraph Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Telegraph Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Telegraph Garden.

The Telegraph Garden.

The Telegraph Garden. Photo by Anne Guy

The Telegraph Garden. Photo by Anne Guy

The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. Given a Gold Medal, and also declared by the RHS to be the Best Show Garden of 2014.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. Given a Gold Medal, and also declared by the RHS to be the Best Show Garden of 2014.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. While I admire this elegant space, the garden nevertheless seems stiff, and doesn't make one long to settle down there, for an afternoon dawdle. Too much precision can suck the joy out of a garden, and the horticultural uniformity shown here seems almost timid, rather than refined.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. While I admire this elegant space, the garden nevertheless seems stiff, and doesn’t make one long to settle down there, for an afternoon dawdle. Too much precision can suck the joy out of a garden, and the horticultural uniformity shown here seems almost timid, rather than refined.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. Photo by Anne Guy

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. Photo by Anne Guy

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. Once again, I stress that this is a Most Admirable Garden....but somehow my admiration cannot transform itself into love.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. Once again, I stress that this is a Most Admirable Garden….but somehow my admiration cannot transform itself into love.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden

The Laurent-Perrier Garden

The Laurent-Perrier Garden

The Laurent-Perrier Garden

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. Perhaps the stern gray color of the stone here in the pool is what makes me want to keep my distance from this carefully-crafted garden.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden. Perhaps the stern gray color of the stone here in the pool is what makes me want to keep my distance from this carefully-crafted garden.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden. What's wrong with this picture, you ask? This garden demonstrates a worrying trend in Chelsea Show Gardens. Tall trees are planted along the edges, which makes it nearly impossible for Spectators to peer inside. The designer has fashioned a garden which can only be experienced by the BBC film crews, and RHS judges. This is Bad Show Garden Design...no matter WHAT the RHS thinks.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden. What’s wrong with this picture, you ask? This garden demonstrates a worrying trend in Chelsea Show Gardens. Tall trees are planted along the edges, which makes it nearly impossible for Spectators to peer inside. The designer has fashioned a garden which can only be experienced by the BBC film crews, and RHS judges. This is Bad Show Garden Design…no matter WHAT the RHS thinks.

The Brewin Dolphin Garden

The Brewin Dolphin Garden

The Brewin Dolphin Garden

The Brewin Dolphin Garden

The Homebase Garden--"Time to Reflect." Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Homebase Garden–“Time to Reflect.” Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Homebase Garden. Awarded a Gold Medal, by the RHS.

The Homebase Garden. Awarded a Gold Medal, by the RHS.

The Homebase Garden.

The Homebase Garden.

The Homebase Garden.

The Homebase Garden.

No Man's Land: ABF The Soldiers' Charity Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

No Man’s Land: ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

No Man's Land, with the Garden Terrace Restaurant building looming...

No Man’s Land, with the Garden Terrace Restaurant building looming…

No Man's Land

No Man’s Land

No Man's Land. Photo by Anne Guy.

No Man’s Land. Photo by Anne Guy.

No Man's Land. Photo by Anne Guy.

No Man’s Land. Photo by Anne Guy.

Here's the illustration of No Man's Land, provided by the Designer. This was yet another nearly-impossible to see, much less photograph, garden. The leafy trees at the outer perimeters, and the tall grasses on the mound to the rear of the garden, kept most of the interior features invisible. Although admirable in its intent (and appreciated by the RHS, who awarded a Gold Medal), if a garden cannot be fully SEEN by a normal Show-Goer, I cannot consider that garden to be a success.

Here’s the illustration of No Man’s Land, provided by the Designer. This was yet another nearly-impossible to see, much less photograph, garden. The leafy trees at the outer perimeters, and the tall grasses on the mound to the rear of the garden, kept most of the interior features invisible. Although admirable in its intent (and appreciated by the RHS, who awarded a Gold Medal), if a garden cannot be fully SEEN by a normal Show-Goer, I cannot consider that garden to be a success.

A Garden for First Touch at St. George's. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

A Garden for First Touch at St. George’s. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

A Garden for First Touch

A Garden for First Touch

A Garden for First Touch. Photo by Anne Guy

A Garden for First Touch. Photo by Anne Guy

A Garden for First Touch

A Garden for First Touch

A Garden for First Touch

A Garden for First Touch

A Garden for First Touch

A Garden for First Touch

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent.
Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent

Positively Stoke-on-Trent

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. Photo by Anne Guy.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. Photo by Anne Guy.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent

Positively Stoke-on-Trent

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. Photo by Anne Guy.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. Photo by Anne Guy.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. Photo by Anne Guy.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. Photo by Anne Guy.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. There's an awful lot going on in this garden....certainly too much! But the audaciousness and vigor of the display made for fun viewing.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. There’s an awful lot going on in this garden….certainly too much! But the audaciousness and vigor of the display made for fun viewing.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. Photo by Anne Guy.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent. Photo by Anne Guy.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent

Positively Stoke-on-Trent

Positively Stoke-on-Trent, with the Rock Bank Restaurant and Food Court in the background.

Positively Stoke-on-Trent, with the Rock Bank Restaurant and Food Court in the background.

Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden. No point beating around the bush: this is a largely charmless garden.

Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden. No point beating around the bush: this is a largely charmless garden.

Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden.

Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden.

Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden. To me...this is only mildly appealing spot in the garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden. To me…this is only mildly appealing spot in the garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Extending Space. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Extending Space: a superb, smaller Show Garden. This is a garden to study.

The Extending Space: a superb, smaller Show Garden. This is a garden to study.

The Extending Space. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space

The Extending Space

The Extending Space. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space

The Extending Space

The Extending Space. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space. Note the partially-submerged "stepping stones." This is a beautiful and intriguing detail. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Extending Space. Note the partially-submerged “stepping stones.” This is a beautiful and intriguing detail. Photo by Anne Guy.

Here's the Plant List, for The Extending Space

Here’s the Plant List, for The Extending Space

RBC Waterscape Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS  Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

RBC Waterscape Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

RBC Waterscape Garden. Awarded a Gold Medal, by the RHS.

RBC Waterscape Garden. Awarded a Gold Medal, by the RHS.

RBC Waterscape Garden

RBC Waterscape Garden

RBC Waterscape Garden. This garden has too many elements: water, densely planted areas, intricate poured concrete gullies, rusted metal walkways...the cooks had good ingredients, but threw too many of their spices into the pot.

RBC Waterscape Garden. This garden has too many elements: water, densely planted areas, intricate poured concrete gullies, rusted metal walkways…the cooks had good ingredients, but threw too many of their spices into the pot.

RBC Waterscape Garden

RBC Waterscape Garden

RBC Waterscape Garden, with Sea of Humanity

RBC Waterscape Garden, with Sea of Humanity

Vital Earth the Night Sky. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Vital Earth The Night Sky.
Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Vital Earth The Night Sky

Vital Earth The Night Sky

Vital Earth The Night Sky

Vital Earth The Night Sky

Vital Earth The Night Sky. Here again is a garden which cannot be fully-viewed by people who must remain behind the ropes. It becomes increasingly difficult not to be impatient with Show Gardens where plantings obscure interior details.

Vital Earth The Night Sky. Here again is a garden which cannot be fully-viewed by people who must remain behind the ropes. It becomes increasingly difficult not to be impatient with Show Gardens where plantings obscure interior details.

The Massachusetts Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Massachusetts Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The Massachusetts Garden

The Massachusetts Garden

The Massachusetts Garden. The backdrop of leather, appliquéd flowers is utterly awful, and thus distracts from the rest of the garden. As a proud New Englander, I'd hope for better from my Massachusetts neighbors. Groan....

The Massachusetts Garden. The backdrop of leather, appliquéd flowers is utterly awful, and thus distracts from the rest of the garden. As a proud New Englander, I’d hoped for better from my Massachusetts neighbors. Groan….

The Massachusetts Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Massachusetts Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Hope on the Horizon. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Hope on the Horizon. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Hope on the Horizon. Winner of the People's Choice Award, in the separate competition run by the BBC.

Hope on the Horizon. Winner of the People’s Choice Award, in the separate competition run by the BBC.

Hope on the Horizon. Further explained by the Designer.

Hope on the Horizon. Further explained by the Designer.

Hope on the Horizon

Hope on the Horizon

Hope on the Horizon. Photo by Anne Guy.

Hope on the Horizon. Photo by Anne Guy.

Hope on the Horizon

Hope on the Horizon

Done with our surveys of the Show Gardens, we threaded our way through the crowds toward the Artisan Gardens, which are arrayed along the eastern edge of Ranelagh Gardens. But first, we passed the RHS’s own contribution to the Show Garden area, titled “From the Moors to the Sea.” This garden was made to mark the 50th anniversary of their Britain in Bloom program, along with their colleague Alan Titchmarsh’s 50 years in horticulture.

From the Moors to the Sea. Designed by Alan Titchmarsh and Kate Gould

From the Moors to the Sea.
Designed by Alan Titchmarsh and Kate Gould

From the Moors to the Sea. Photo by Anne Guy.

From the Moors to the Sea. Photo by Anne Guy.

From the Moors to the Sea

From the Moors to the Sea

After “From the Moors to the Sea,” we crossed Eastern Avenue, which is the Main Retail Drag of the Flower Show. The press of Humanity there had achieved a daunting density, which would be maintained for the remainder our day. Truly, Chelsea isn’t for the easily-exhausted, or faint-hearted.

The crowds thicken on Eastern Avenue

The crowds thicken on Eastern Avenue

Another Reality Check. Here's a reminder of what Eastern Avenue looks like, during tranquil times. I took this photo on August 23, 2013.

Another Reality Check. Here’s a reminder of what Eastern Avenue looks like, during tranquil times. I took this photo on August 23, 2013.

Now: back to May Madness in 2014. Here's the Humble Garden Glove, elevated to new, artistic heights at a stall on Eastern Avenue.

Now: back to May Madness in 2014. Here’s the Humble Garden Glove, elevated to new, artistic heights at a stall on Eastern Avenue.

We arrived at Serpentine Walk, where we craned our necks to catch glimpses of the Artisan Gardens. Here’s how the Royal Horticultural Society explains
their Artisan Garden category: “The Artisan Gardens engage visitors with their artistic and naturalistic approach. These small plots are crafted with incredible workmanship, maintaining traditional skills, and enhancing the beautiful surroundings of Ranelagh Gardens.”

Will it be possible to see anything at all of the Artisan Gardens? That's the Dial A Flight Potter's Garden, behind the Mob.

Will it be possible to see anything at all of the Artisan Gardens? That’s the Dial A Flight Potter’s Garden, behind the Mob.

At #7 Serpentine Walk: The Topiarist Garden at West Green House. Designed by Marylyn Abbot.

The Topiarist Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Topiarist Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Topiarist Garden

The Topiarist Garden

The Topiarist Garden

The Topiarist Garden

At #6 Serpentine Walk: Togenkyo—A Paradise on Earth. Designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara. The RHS gave this garden a Gold Medal, and also named it Best Artisan Garden, and justifiably. The exquisitely detailed space, which seems to occupy a far larger area than its small footprint, can teach a careful observer a lifetime’s worth of gardening techniques.

Togenkyo

Togenkyo

Togenkyo. Photo by Anne Guy.

Togenkyo. Photo by Anne Guy.

Togenkyo

Togenkyo

Togenkyo. Photo by Anne Guy.

Togenkyo. Photo by Anne Guy.

Togenkyo

Togenkyo

Togenkyo, Photo by Anne Guy.

Togenkyo, Photo by Anne Guy.

Togenkyo

Togenkyo

Togenkyo

Togenkyo

At #5 Serpentine Walk: 75 years of the Roof Gardens in Kensington, designed by David Lewis (which apparently made NO impression whatsoever upon me, thus my Lack of photographic record!).

75 Years of the Roof Gardens at Kensington. YIKES...now that I see this display, my eyes are screaming:"Too Much Here, Crammed Into Too Little Space!" Photo courtesy of the RHS.

75 Years of the Roof Gardens at Kensington. YIKES…now that I see this display, my eyes are screaming:”Too Much Here, Crammed Into Too Little Space!” Photo courtesy of the RHS.

75 Years of the Roof Gardens at Kensington. At least Anne Guy was alert enough to take this single photo of the garden.

75 Years of the Roof Gardens at Kensington. At least Anne Guy was alert enough to take this single photo of the garden.

At #4 Serpentine Walk: Tour de Yorkshire. Designed by Alistair W. Baldwin.
Alongside RHS Judgment-Passing, the BBC conducts its own Peoples’ Choice Survey. Tour de Yorkshire won Best Artisan Garden, in that populist contest.

Tour de Yorkshire. The rear wall of this garden is partially composed of reclaimed bicycle wheels, sourced from recycling centers in Yorkshire.

Tour de Yorkshire. The rear wall of this garden is partially composed of reclaimed bicycle wheels, sourced from recycling centers in Yorkshire.

Tour de Yorkshire. Photo by Anne Guy.

Tour de Yorkshire. Photo by Anne Guy.

Tour de Yorkshire. Photo by Anne Guy.

Tour de Yorkshire. Photo by Anne Guy.

At #3 Serpentine Walk: Arita. Designed by Shuko Noda.

Arita

Arita

Arita. Photo by Anne Guy.

Arita. Photo by Anne Guy.

Arita

Arita

Arita. Photo by Anne Guy.

Arita. Photo by Anne Guy.

At #2 Serpentine Walk: The Dial A Flight Potter’s Garden. Designed by Nature Redesigned.

The Dial A Flight Potter's Garden. Awarded a Gold Medal by the RHS.

The Dial A Flight Potter’s Garden. Awarded a Gold Medal by the RHS.

Potter's Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Potter’s Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Potter's Garden. Note: the Artisan Gardens all sit on plots measuring 5 meters by 4 meters. Photo by Anne Guy.

Potter’s Garden. Note: the Artisan Gardens all sit on plots measuring 5 meters by 4 meters. Photo by Anne Guy.

Potter's Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Potter’s Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

And at #1 Serpentine Walk: The Viking Cruises Norse Garden. Designed by Sadie May Stowell.

Norse Garden....what else can I say?

Norse Garden….what else can I say?

Worming our way through the crowds at the Artisan Gardens had made us very hungry…time to get some lunch. We walked past the Ranleagh Gardens
Bandstand: an oddly sedate audience sat there while a band did some serious rocking-out (perhaps mostly only Old Farts who don’t dance…or tap their toes… attend the Flower Show?).

The Bandstand, in Ranleagh Gardens.

The Bandstand, in Ranleagh Gardens.

Our attention was riveted by an enormous, upside-down packing crate, which we later learned was one of the entries in the recently-established
Fresh Gardens category of small Show Gardens. The RHS describes the Fresh Gardens as: “Welcoming new ideas and the latest in contemporary materials and design. Innovative, unusual, informative and sometimes challenging, the Fresh Gardens are the cutting-edge face of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.”

What's in the Mystery Crate?

What’s in the Mystery Crate?

It's an Upside-Down-World in the "The World Vision Garden," which was designed by John Warland. The plants which seem to be growing up out of the floor are actually reflections of pots, which are suspended from the ceiling.

It’s an Upside-Down-World in the “The World Vision Garden,” which was designed by John Warland. The plants which seem to be growing up out of the floor are actually reflections of pots, which are suspended from the ceiling.

The World Vision Garden. This is the single Fresh Garden, in the Ranleagh Garden area of the Show.

The World Vision Garden. This is the single Fresh Garden, in the Ranleagh Garden area of the Show.

The World Vision Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

The World Vision Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Upside-Down plants hanging in the World Vision Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Upside-Down plants hanging in the World Vision Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

A closer look at the reflections in the World Vision Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

A closer look at the reflections in the World Vision Garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Little did we know that, after enjoying The World Vision Garden, the rest of the Fresh Gardens (which were all clustered on Royal Hospital Way, next to the Great Pavilion) would prove to be disappointing…. but you’ll eventually get to decide if you agree with me, in a bit.

We lunched in Plateau Picnic Area, where the food trucks were serving surprisingly good grub, along with gallons upon gallons upon gallons of Pimm’s Cup (a gin-based potation, with orange and cucumber slices thrown in as garnish).

The tired, hungry masses

The tired, hungry masses

More masses...now made happy after many glasses of Pimm's Cup.

More masses…now made happy after many glasses of Pimm’s Cup.

Revived by our meals, ‘twas time to for us to get to the Heart of the Horticultural Matter — otherwise known as The Great Pavilion—which the RHS calls: “The centerpiece of the Chelsea Flower Show. The Great Pavilion is a horticultural haven of stunning floral displays from the UK and around the world, complemented by floristry and informative scientific exhibits.” When Elizabeth II makes her annual visits to the Chelsea Flower Show, she takes a fast trot through the major Show Gardens, but then spends the lion’s share of her time in the Great Pavilion, where the folks with dirt under their fingernails—the ones who actually GROW things— explain their work.

HM The Queen, in 2013, during a fast tour of a Show Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

HM The Queen, in 2013, during a fast tour of a Show Garden. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

On Main Avenue, the entrance to The Great Pavilion

On Main Avenue, the entrance to The Great Pavilion

Yet another Reality Check. This was my view, on August 23, 2013, of the area at the Royal Hospital where the Great Pavilion and the Show Gardens are erected, every May. The obelisk on the law serves as the central point, in the Flower Show's Great Pavilion.

Yet another Reality Check. This was my view, on August 23, 2013, of the area at the Royal Hospital where the Great Pavilion and the Show Gardens are erected, every May. The obelisk on the lawn serves as the central point, in the Flower Show’s Great Pavilion.

Here's that same obelisk, now become the Center, in the Great Pavilion...way back when, on May 17th, 2009.

Here’s that same obelisk, now become the Center, in the Great Pavilion…way back when, on May 17th, 2009.

Map of the Exhibitors in the Great Pavilion, at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Map of the Exhibitors in the Great Pavilion, at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show. Image courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

Years now of Chelsea-going have taught me that there’s no systematic way of touring the Great Pavilion, where displays are organized on a grid which is separated by many, too-narrow, grass walkways…which eventually turn into mud. The point is to keep progressing along any path where movement is possible; but sometimes foot traffic grinds to a halt…especially when folks gather to gawk at the various and competing displays of towering delphiniums. The Great Pavilion is a Slow-Motion-World of BIG and BRIGHT and MORE!

Here, a record of my random prowling through the Great Pavilion.

Oh My! Peonies...and Iris.

Oh My! Peonies…and Iris.

And still more Iris, in every color imaginable.

And still more Iris, in every color imaginable.

Orchids...woven into a Massive WHAT ???? To me, this is the equivalent of a Floral Headache.

Orchids…woven into a Massive WHAT ???? To me, this is the equivalent of a Floral Headache.

That's more like it....a calming sea of Iris.

That’s more like it….a calming sea of Iris.

Impeccably-grown plants, nicely displayed at the Daisy Roots stand. This grower specializes in choice and unusual perennials and grasses. Their address: Jenningsbury, London Road, Hertford. SG14 3LG, England. Phone# 07958-563355

Impeccably-grown plants, nicely displayed at the Daisy Roots stand. This grower specializes in choice and unusual perennials and grasses. Their address: Jenningsbury, London Road, Hertford. SG14 3LG,
England. Phone# 07958-563355

Exquisite colors and textures. Photo by Anne Guy.

Exquisite colors and textures. Photo by Anne Guy.

See that lady, with the Big Yawn, in the background? This is what I felt like, at Hour Five of our Chelsea visit.

See that lady, with the Big Yawn, in the background? This is what I felt like, at Hour Five of our Chelsea visit.

How nice it would be stretch out for a nap...amid such a field of flowers.

How nice it would be stretch out for a nap…amid such a field of flowers.

Perfect blooms

Perfect blooms

Never, in all of my gardening-life, will I be able to grow such flawless plants as these.

Never, in all of my gardening-life, will I be able to grow such flawless plants as these.

YES! Armies of Delphiniums

YES! Armies of Delphiniums

...and Armies of Hyacinths. Photo by Anne Guy.

…and Armies of Hyacinths. Photo by Anne Guy.

Begonias....showing off.

Begonias….showing off.

A mountain of Japanese Maples

A mountain of Japanese Maples

Why does this display disturb me......?

Why does this display disturb me……?

What you see here are just a fraction of hundreds of Amaryllis, which were hung upside down from the ceiling.Photo by Anne Guy.

What you see here are just a fraction of hundreds of Amaryllis, which were hung upside down from the ceiling.Photo by Anne Guy.

Lilies

Lilies

Very tempting...

Very tempting…

Rose-Lovers congregate at David Austin's

Rose-Lovers congregate at David Austin’s

Why David Austin's roses are so sought-after

Why David Austin’s roses are so sought-after

Cacti !!!!

Cacti !!!!

Yowza !

Yowza !

Allium-Heaven. This is what I'd like my Late-Springtime-Dream-Garden to look like...

Allium-Heaven. This is what I’d like my Late-Springtime-Dream-Garden to look like…

...but I'd settle for these.

…but I’d settle for these.

Perfection

Perfection

Begonias of every stripe, from Dibley's

Begonias of every stripe, from Dibley’s

Topiary-To-Go

Topiary-To-Go

Water-loving plants

Water-loving plants

This spic-n-span, cartoon-version of a WWI trench, used as a setting for flowers, seems misguided. Image courtesy of the RHS.

This spic-n-span, cartoon-version of a WWI trench, used as a setting for flowers, seems misguided. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Nelson Mandela's face...in rocks? Image courtesy of the RHS.

Nelson Mandela’s face…in rocks? Image courtesy of the RHS.

This sums up the aesthetic of the Great Pavilions' displays. The RHS gave this a Gold. Image courtesy of the RHS>

This sums up the aesthetic of the Great Pavilions’ displays. The RHS gave this a Gold. Image courtesy of the RHS

Done with the Great Pavilion (or, in my case, Brain-Scrambled-and-Generally Done-In–By… ), we ambled outside toward Royal Hospital Way, in search of an energy-boost, which we soon found in the form of strong tea, accompanied by warm scones and clotted cream. One last mission remained: we needed to explore the Fresh Gardens area. But I was distracted by our view of the central portion of Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital, which loomed ahead… serene and unbothered by the nearby Flower-show Fray.

The Royal Hospital, seen from the grounds of the Chelsea Flower Show.

The Royal Hospital, seen from the grounds of the Chelsea Flower Show.

Since I’m never one to forego an opportunity to inflict a little architecture-history-lesson, let’s pause for a moment, with another excerpt from the GUIDE TO THE ARCHITECTURE OF LONDON. Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital was built from 1681—1691. His colleagues on the project were Nicholas Hawksmoor, (of whom I’m a Great Fan) and John Vanbrugh.

“The hospital was established to house army veterans [note: as it does, to this day], imitating Louis XIV’s building of Les Invalides.”

The Chelsea Pensioners are always the jolliest attendees, at the Flower Show. I took this picture on May 17, 2009, during a build-up dat at the Show, prior to its opening. Here, Pensioners and construction workers say "Cheese!"

The Chelsea Pensioners are always the jolliest attendees, at the Flower Show. I took this picture on May 17, 2009, during a build-up day at the Show, prior to its opening. Here, Pensioners and construction workers say “Cheese!”

“It gave Wren one of his largest secular jobs, and while the planning is that of the traditional closed squares or Oxford colleges, the courts are open, the largest looking outwards to the river [Note: Or, during the Chelsea Flower Show, looking outwards toward the Great Pavilion]. The style, in brick, is more Dutch than French, although each façade is equipped with a triple-height Tuscan portico or centerpiece in stone. King Charles II and Christopher Wren provided a model for institutional and collegiate architecture which has proved workable for three centuries in all the English-speaking countries.”

Aerial view of the Royal Hospital. Image courtesy of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

Aerial view of the Royal Hospital. Image courtesy of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

Perhaps the clarity and elegance of Wren’s buildings had made it impossible for my eyes and brain to then adjust to the visual chaos and intellectual confusion of the nine, small-scale Fresh Gardens that were arrayed nearby. Reassessing one’s assumptions about what good design is—or what good taste is, for that matter– is always invigorating, but these Fresh Garden entries seemed all to be trying too hard (I’ll spare you, and will not quote the various statements-of-intent which accompanied each garden). The Fresh Gardens left me with the feeling that what I’d seen had been mostly sophomoric attempts to explore gardening’s new frontiers. However—on the positive side: the general absence at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show of what the RHS advertised as the “cutting-edge face” of gardening means that a Fresh Face or Two may indeed appear, in future years. Here’s hoping….

The centerpiece of the Fresh Gardens area

The centerpiece of the Fresh Gardens area

I’ll (mostly) let these pictures speak for themselves.

The Mind's Eye. Designed by LDC Design, for the Royal National Institute of Blind People. The RHS gave this a Gold Medal, along with its award for Best Fresh Garden. The BBC People's Choice contest also named this Best Fresh Garden.

The Mind’s Eye. Designed by LDC Design, for the Royal National Institute of Blind People. The RHS gave this a Gold Medal, along with its award for Best Fresh Garden. The BBC People’s Choice contest also named this Best Fresh Garden.

The Mind's Eye. Try as I might, I simply cannot see this as anything other than a combination elevator/shower. The entire space, which the designers describe as "a sensory garden for blind and partially sighted people...a journey of discovery, memory and imagination," seems unreasonable and hazardous.

The Mind’s Eye. Try as I might, I simply cannot see this as anything other than a combination elevator/shower. The entire space, which the designers describe as “a sensory garden for blind and partially sighted people…a journey of discovery, memory and imagination,” seems unreasonable and hazardous.

The Mind's Eye. Image courtesy of the RHS.

The Mind’s Eye. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Translucent, colored panels at The Mind's Eye

Translucent, colored panels at The Mind’s Eye

Cave Pavilion in Support of The Garden Museum. Designed by Sophie Walker for the Garden Museum.

Cave Pavilion in Support of The Garden Museum. Designed by Sophie Walker for the Garden Museum.

Cave Pavilion in Support of The Garden Museum

Cave Pavilion in Support of The Garden Museum

The Well Child Garden.  Designed by Olivia Kirk Gardens.

The Well Child Garden. Designed by Olivia Kirk Gardens.

City of London Corporation Oak Processionary Moth Garden. Designed by Helen Elks-Smith, for the City of London. Image courtesy of the RHS.

City of London Corporation Oak Processionary Moth Garden. Designed by Helen Elks-Smith, for the City of London. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Fabric. Designed by Chris Deakin and Jason Lock for House of Fraser. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Fabric. Designed by Chris Deakin and Jason Lock for House of Fraser. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Flora. Designed by Sarah Eberle for Gucci. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Flora. Designed by Sarah Eberle for Gucci. Image courtesy of the RHS.

London Square. Designed by Jo Thompson, for London Square. Image courtesy of the RHS.

London Square. Designed by Jo Thompson, for London Square. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Reachout. Designed by John Everiss, for Newground. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Reachout. Designed by John Everiss, for Newground. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Himalayan Rock Garden. Designed by Janey Auchincloss and James Soane for Global Paving. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Himalayan Rock Garden. Designed by Janey Auchincloss and James Soane for Global Paving. Image courtesy of the RHS.

Now, back to that Train of Thought about the purposes of ornamental gardens, and the methods of creating them. Whether or not the Chelsea Flower Show in any given year seems edifying or entertaining, seeing these massively costly and nearly-instant-gardens causes anyone who loves gardens to wonder if the designs that pop up from the earth around the Royal Hospital every May are either representative of the realities of British garden-making, or harbingers of the fashions to come.

In early July, Tim Richardson, who is arguably the most accomplished garden writer in England, published his post-mortem about the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show. Here are the most salient points of his article, which he titled “GOING FOR GOLD LEAVES GARDEN DESIGN IN A RATHER DULL STATE. WHERE IS THE VERVE?”

“The widespread perception among visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show this year was that it was once again afflicted by ‘samey-ness,’ with the planting in the main show gardens appearing to be almost interchangeable. In addition, the much-heralded cadre of ‘exciting new designers’ failed to materialize. They may well have been inexperienced, and several were in their 20s, but some were clearly inhibited by their sponsors’ eagerness to secure a gold medal.”

“The RHS’s reforms to its own judging procedures—a new ‘tick-box’ structure for judging that is supposed to lend transparency and accountability—may end up simply exacerbating the problem: those designs which commit fewest sins in the eyes of the judges could end up winning the day, as opposed to those which show the most imagination. Is it the case that the desire for medals is leading to garden design which, literally, simply ticks the right boxes?”

“I wish designers and sponsors could be allowed to relax a little, to stop worrying about gold medals and concentrate instead on originality, verve and fun. Risk-taking should be rewarded. The obsession with horticultural quality, complexity, and ‘sophistication’ – as opposed to the overall impact of the space – has led to a strange subgenre of garden-making that is only seen at Chelsea and the other RHS shows.”

“The designers themselves have to take their share of the responsibility for this. The ‘naturalistic’ turn in planting has led to many of them resorting to a style of planting which is situated somewhere between a wild garden….plus the….prairie look, mingled with a fantasy vision of wildflower meadows.This naturalistic look tends towards uniformity, especially if many examples are seen cheek by jowl, as they are at the shows.”

“Charity gardens have become almost self-parodic: they always seem to be journeys either from darkness to light or from turbulence to tranquility.”

“I wish the RHS could do away with medals for show gardens altogether. The paradox is that the result would be better design. Designers and sponsors could calm down, and visitors might be able to enjoy a little more dash and daring.”

Although daring-and-dash seemed in short supply this May, in past years there have indeed been some exuberant, impractical, and yet gloriously inspiring Chelsea displays. Here’s a sampling of sights from 2009 through 2012, when wildly different Show Gardens nevertheless shared the quality of being fully VISIBLE to normal visitors.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2009

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2009

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2009

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2009

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2009

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2009

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2009

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2009

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2010. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2010. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2010. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2010. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2010. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2010. Photo by Anne Guy.

AT the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2010. Photo by Anne Guy.

AT the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2010. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2011

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2011

At the Chelsea Flower  Show in May 2011

At the Chelsea Flower
Show in May 2011

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2011

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2011

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2011

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2011

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2012. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2012. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2012. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2012. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2012. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2012. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2012. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2012. Photo by Anne Guy.

Every visitor to the Show should realize that every garden at Chelsea has first had to pass serious muster with the admissions board of the RHS. The multi-page application form for garden designers is wide-ranging, and also quite specific. Here’s how the RHS Application Form begins its inquiries:

“DESIGN INTENTION. 1) Who is your imagined client and what are their requirements for the garden, including its intended use?
2) What inspired the garden’s design?
3) What is the intended character/atmosphere of the garden? You may want to consider describing this as how the garden will be experienced by your client walking through the garden and/or the visitor looking into the garden.”

The application form considers the possibility that visitors might indeed want to SEE into the gardens! Please now recall the nearly impenetrable veil of foliage on the edges of the Brewin Dolphin garden…which inexplicably received a Silver Gilt (meaning: a 2nd prize that’s just a HAIR short of deserving a Gold Medal) from the RHS. Or consider how the interior details in many of the other 2014 Show Gardens were impossible to discern, from behind the ropes.

Here’s the criteria which the RHS claims to use when judging garden exhibits:

“DESIGN. The layout of the garden, including spatial balance and scale, is a key element for judging.”

“ATMOSPHERE. Each garden has its own unique character that evokes a certain atmosphere, depending upon the originality and flair featured in the garden.”

“DELIVERY. Have the design objectives of the garden been achieved? How challenging is the design of the garden?”

“PLANTING. The plant associations must be relevant and correct, giving fantastic coverage of the garden, with bold visual impact adding texture and form.”

“CONSTRUCTION. A high quality of build is expected, with superb finish and attention to detail across the whole garden. The selection of materials and craftsmanship featured in the garden are also important factors.”

And the unspoken RULE for all gardens (except in 2013, which was the 100th anniversary of the Flower Show, when concessions were grudgingly made….) is that ABSOLUTLELY NO GNOMES ARE ALLOWED! Of course, each year, rebels sneak garden gnomes onto the premises, but the RHS-Gnome-Busters
invariably find and then eject the offending lawn ornaments….and sometimes also the humans who’ve smuggled them in. I confess that when I spot what seem to me to be some especially bad-looking garden ornaments or statuary (which the Royal Horticultural Society HAS deemed acceptable to be displayed at the Show)….something, for instance, like this giant, snarling boar, which Anne Guy photographed at the 2010 Show….

A questionable choice for garden decoration. Photo by Anne Guy.

A questionable choice for garden decoration. Photo by Anne Guy.

…I think that, instead, a Gnome or Two would actually seem quite tasteful in comparison.

No Gnomes allowed at the Chelsea Flower Show !!!

No Gnomes allowed at the Chelsea Flower Show !!!

Since its founding in 1804, the Royal Horticultural Society’s objectives have been clearly stated: “Our core objective is to be the world’s leading gardening charity by inspiring passion and excellence in the science, art and practice of horticulture. In everything we do, we will aim to use our guiding principles, which are to: 1) inspire, 2) Involve, 3) Inform, and 4) Improve.”

Show Gardens at Chelsea are not so much gardens as performances done in the service of the laudable aims of the Royal Horticultural Society.
But instead of using actors and dialogue and theatre flats, garden designers direct flowers and trees and stone and water as they try to tell us stories about the ways in which gardens can transform our lives.

If nothing else, attending Chelsea Flower Shows has given me an insatiable appetite to visit as many of England’s REAL gardens as I can. In a country such as England, which has a thousand years of horticulture under its gardening-belt, finding grand gardens—both ancient and new—isn’t difficult.

Now….imagine that you’ve shelled out a substantial sum to pay for a ticket to see a play that’s being performed by a venerable British theatre troupe. You’ve settled yourself down into a too-narrow seat in a packed auditorium, but feeling a bit crowded is alright with you, because you know that you’re about to see a performance by the most famous theatre company in the world. The lights go down, and the curtain rises. The action begins, and you smile…certain that, whatever unfolds, you’ll still be thinking about it for days and days afterward. But odd things begin to happen onstage. A scrim is unfurled, and then another…until many of the actors are hidden. It seems the stage designer has devised a set whose purpose is to make the actors intermittently invisible. And during those scenes when the players are visible, they begin to whisper, and seem timid about projecting their voices; it almost seems as if the playwright is afraid of what the critics might decide, if they could actually hear his words. You know that there must be a complete story unfolding, and you lean forward, puzzled: eyes and ears straining, but to no avail. When the lights finally rise, you turn to your companion and ask, “did YOU see it all?” He shrugs and says: “Nope. When we get home, we’ll turn on the BBC. They’ll have a review of the play.” Later, it turns out that the BBC’s cameras were allowed to film the performance in its entirety…even those scenes that were played out behind the scrims. The commentator’s report makes it plain: there was indeed a plot, albeit one that seemed a rehash of many, older tales. You think: “How perverse to have had the performance hidden from the folks in the seats.….how unsatisfying….and what bad showmanship! “ You wonder if by next year, when the theatre company again rolls into town, you’ll have forgiven them for tonight’s sloppy performance. The next morning, after you’ve slept and your disappointment about the play has faded, you laugh and realize that you’re a hopeless optimist. Certainly, when the theatre company has returned, you’ll once again find yourself sitting in another lumpy seat, in the same overheated theatre….hoping, this time, to be amazed, by a better, newer story….and one that you can actually SEE.

I have many, MANY new articles in the pipeline. Coming soon:

“Of Onion Domes in Albion: Sezincote, and the Royal Pavilion at Brighton.”

Sezincote: A a dream of the Victorian Raj, made real in the Costwolds. Built in 1805 by architect S.P.Cockrell, and artist Thomas Daniell, Sezincote influenced the Prince of Wales to build his very own--and much more elaborate--Indian Dream, in Brighton. Photo taken by David Guy, on August 15, 2013.

Sezincote: A dream of the Victorian Raj, made real in the Cotswolds. Built in 1805 by architect S.P.Cockrell, and artist Thomas Daniell, Sezincote influenced the Prince of Wales to build his very own–and much more elaborate–Indian Dream, in Brighton. Photo taken by David Guy, on August 15, 2013.

And later, “My Recipe for a Stress-Free Week in Rome.”

My view from the rooftop terrace of the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood, in late afternoon, on May 9, 2014. Sigh......

My view from the rooftop terrace of the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, in late afternoon, on May 9, 2014. Sigh……

Copyright 2014. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express &
written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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Part Five. Rambling Through the Gardens & Estates of Kent, England.

The House at Goodnestone Park, near Canterbury. Nan provides human scale here, in front of the manor, which was built for Mister Brook Bridges, in 1700. Goodnestone (pronounced GUN-Stone) Park is famous because of its link to Jane Austen. In 1791, Elizabeth (daughter of Sir Brook Bridges, 3rd Baronet) married Edward Austen, a brother of Jane Austen. During the early years of their marriage, Elizabeth and Edward Austen lived at Rowling, a manor house close to Goodnestone Park, where Elizabeth's parents resided. Jane Austen was a frequent visitor, and made many references to Goodnestone Park in her letters. This photo was taken on August 8, 2013.

The House at Goodnestone Park, near Canterbury. Nan provides human scale here, in front of the manor, which was built for Mister Brook Bridges, in 1700. Goodnestone (pronounced GUN-Stone) Park is famous because of its link to Jane Austen. In 1791, Elizabeth (daughter of Sir Brook Bridges, 3rd Baronet) married Edward Austen, a brother of Jane Austen. During the early years of their marriage, Elizabeth and Edward Austen lived at Rowling, a manor house close to Goodnestone Park, where Elizabeth’s parents resided. Jane Austen was a frequent visitor, and made many references to Goodnestone Park in her letters. This photo was taken on August 8, 2013.

April 30, 2014.

In just a matter of days I shall once again be heading out into the World…for a month of still-deeper England-explorations, and also for an additional nine days in Italy. During the Italian portion of this forthcoming journey I’ll photograph the quiet corners of Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood; I’ll travel north toward Viterbo, where I’ll explore the gardens of Sacro Bosco in Bomarzo, along with the gardens of Villa Lante, in Bagnaia; and I’ll be returning for the third time Tivoli,to see the Baroque, mountainside gardens at Villa d’Este. Back in England, I’ll brave the mobs at the Chelsea Flower Show, and I’ll ogle the flower-bedecked storefronts of Sloane Square; I’ll do many days of serious walking in London; I’ll pop up to the Midlands for a long weekend; I’ll spend a week in Sussex; and I’ll then linger for yet another week in Kent…..all of which will provide grist for future Armchair Traveler Dairies.

Since I try to find charm in even the most mundane aspects of travel, deciding how little to pack (even for this 41-day-long journey) can become entertaining. Although I’ve not quite yet achieved the perfect balance between traveling elegantly and packing lightly—and in a way that adjusts to ANY weather conditions, in ANY season— I’m ALMOST there. This is my kit, in its entirety:

Apart from the clothes on my back, this is all I'll drag along, during my 41-day journey to England and Italy.

Apart from the clothes on my back, this is all I’ll drag along, during my 41-day journey to England and Italy.

With apologies to my male readers, here’s my packing-list, which is something that many of my female readers have requested:

LUGGAGE:
Kiva Packing Genius–21” upright carry-on
Kiva Stowaway Messenger Bag (with a fold-up nylon tote bag tucked inside)

PURSE: Travelsmith Metrosafe 200–Shoulder Bag

CLOTHING:
Burberry classic hooded raincoat (with button-in lining)
Hunter Regent boots (black)
gloves (black)
cashmere beret (white)
Eric Javits packable sun hat
Mephisto sandals (black)
Thierry Rabotin flat pumps (black)
Thierry Rabotin walking shoes (black)
Emilio Pucci lightweight woolen shawl (multicolored)
Ralph Lauren jeans (black)
from Babette of San Francisco (all clothing made of pleated, Italian microfiber):
2 pair City Pants (both black); 1 knee-length, sleeveless dress ( multicolored);
1 knee-length skirt (black); 1 ankle-length, sleeveless dress (black);
3 blouses (multicolored);1 lightweight, hooded rain jacket (tan).
from Three Dots: 2 cotton turtlenecks (1 black, 1 white); 4 cotton scoop neck tops (3 black, 1 white).
1 black cashmere cardigan sweater
7 days worth of underwear
2 pair black tights
4 pair socks
Anne Cole black maillot swimsuit
2 cotton nightgowns by BedHeadPJs
jewelry: wristwatch, 2 necklaces, 1 cocktail ring
2 black leather belts

MISCELLANEOUS:
basic toiletries & cosmetics ( but skip the shampoo, sun block, body lotion & toothpaste….buy those as you travel)
travel clothesline
8 clothespins
2 plastic hangers
2 sets universal electric plug adaptors
Conair Travelsmart curling iron
travel alarm clock
2 microfiber washcloths
2 cameras & battery rechargers
passport
wallet, foreign currencies & credit cards
small calendar
notebooks, pens, pencils & small address book
sunglasses & reading glasses
small flashlight
small tape measure
small magnifying glass
small manicure set & sewing kit
small travel umbrella
pocket-sized reference books, maps, and a compass ( !! )

The KEY to happy travels: Happy Feet. These are the most comfortable shoes on the Planet. I get them from Arthur Beren  Shoes, in San Francisco.

The KEY to happy travels: Happy Feet. These are the most comfortable shoes on the Planet. I get them from Arthur Beren
Shoes, in San Francisco.

My life as a serious, solo-traveler began in 2002. After extricating myself from a marriage of long standing, the time on Earth that I hoped still remained to me seemed alarmingly short. Mastering new skills, and actually inhabiting some of the far-off places I’d experienced only through books seemed vitally important. I moaned and fretted. Should I build the idiosyncratic dream house I’d longed for since my childhood? Should I abandon book publishing and embark upon an uncertain new career as a garden furniture designer? Should I confront my nearly crippling fears about public speaking, and about finally becoming a writer? Should I decamp to Italy, and then to England…at least for a little while? Should money saved, now be spent? To a true Yankee, and one afflicted with an extreme Puritan work ethic, the mere prospect of beginning risky endeavors— of doing things purely for the joy which might come from the setting aside of self-imposed boundaries —plagued me with guilt. But my mother reminded me that the first word my infant-self had ever uttered was “DOING!” And my wise father, who had himself lived with nose to grindstone, listened patiently as —ad nauseam— I spun my worried-wheels. His answer? Always simple, and always the same: “Nan, just DO it!” And so I built, and designed, and spoke, and wrote, and packed my suitcase…

I will continue to travel, and share my adventures…until either my body or my bank account fail me.

Now, with some haste, I complete my report about last summer’s fifth and final day of Kent-explorations, as they were orchestrated by my wonderful Blue Badge Guide, Amanda Hutchinson
( http://www.southeasttourguides.co.uk ),
and our lovely chariot-driver, Steve Parry
( http://www.snccars.co.uk )
….both of whom I’ll see again, very soon.

Our destinations on August 8, 2013.

Our destinations on Thursday, August 8, 2013.

Destination #1: Goodnestone Park Gardens
Catsole Hill
Goodnestone, South of Canterbury
Kent CT3 1PL

Open from April 15th until September 26th
Tuesday through Friday, from 11AM until 5PM, and
on Sunday, from Noon until 5PM

Telephone: 01304-840107
Website: http://www.goodnestoneparkgardens.co.uk

Goodnestone Park Gardens, one of Jane Austen's favorite places to visit in Kent. Image courtesy of Goodnestone Park.

Goodnestone Park Gardens, one of Jane Austen’s favorite places to visit in Kent. Image courtesy of Goodnestone Park.

In August of 1796, Jane Austen made her first visit to Goodnestone Park, the home of Sir Brook Bridges, 3rd Baronet, and his wife Fanny (nee Fowler), who were the parents of her brother Edward’s wife, Elizabeth. Since their marriage in 1791, Edward and Elizabeth had been living at Rowling, a manor house within a stone’s throw of Goodnestone Park.

Edward Austen's in-laws. Image courtesy of Goodnestone Park.

Edward Austen’s in-laws. Image courtesy of Goodnestone Park.

As was her habit during her long sojourns in Kent (her initial visit lasted until October of 1796), Jane wrote her sister Cassandra to report: “We are very busy making Edward’s shirts, and I am proud to say that I am the neatest worker of the party.” Her next letter sent more glamorous news: “We were at a Ball on Saturday. We dined at Goodnestone and in the Evening danced two Country Dances and the Boulangeries. I opened the Ball with Edwd Bridges…We supped there, and walked home at night under the shade of two Umbrellas.” Sounds quite nice, doesn’t it?

Edward Austen Knight (born 1768, died 1852) was Jane Austen's third eldest brother, and the benefactor who ultimately gave her the safe haven of Chawton Cottage (in Hampshire, on England's South Coast). 'Twas at Chawton, during the last 8 years of her life, that Jane Austen was finally able to concentrate upon her writing.

Edward Austen Knight (born 1768, died 1852) was Jane Austen’s third eldest brother, and the benefactor who ultimately gave her the safe haven of Chawton Cottage (in Hampshire, on England’s South Coast). ‘Twas at Chawton, during the last 8 years of her life, that Jane Austen was finally able to concentrate upon her writing.

Elizabeth Bridges Austen Knight, Edward Austen Knight's wife (born 1773, died 1808), and mother of eleven of Jane Austen's veritable herd of nieces and nephews.

Elizabeth Bridges Austen Knight, Edward Austen Knight’s wife (born 1773, died 1808), and mother of eleven of Jane Austen’s veritable herd of nieces and nephews.

Jane Austen dined, and danced, and clearly found Goodnestone Park much to her liking. And, being a Consummate and Doting Aunt, as well as a fine dancer and an adept conversationalist, she was often invited back for many long stays with her brother’s burgeoning family, and his in-laws.

As you may recall from Part Two of my Kent articles, Jane Austen declared:
“Kent is the only place for happiness.” It didn’t hurt that Fanny (born in 1793), the eldest of Edward and Elizabeth’s eleven children, soon became Austen’s most-favorite niece. Honoring her real niece, Austen eventually bestowed the name of Fanny upon the heroine of her third novel, the problematical and rather hard-to-love MANSFIELD PARK.

In MANSFIELD PARK, Fictional-Fanny, the second eldest of an impoverished family’s nine children, is shipped off to live with wealthy relatives, in their grand country house. After many lonely years and much privation, she eventually triumphs, simply by being more virtuous than the utterly louche circle of her cousins, and their friends. Fictional-Fanny’s triumph comes about though her marriage to her first cousin Edmund (cringe….I wonder about the health of their fictional offspring…). In MANSFIELD PARK there’s an echo of the circumstances of the strange life of Jane Austen’s brother, whereby Edward, as the third of the eight children born to the ever-financially-strapped George and Cassandra Austen, was presented to the very wealthy Catherine and Thomas Knight, childless relatives in Kent, who hankered for an heir. Edward did his best to charm, and was eventually adopted by the Knights, at which point he took their surname. Happily, Edward Austen didn’t have to marry a first cousin for all to be made right with his world. Once married, Edward and Elizabeth began to crank out children: 11 in 17 years. Sadly, Elizabeth died in 1808, as their son Brook John was born. No matter how great her wealth may have been, life then for a married woman was a perilous proposition.

Now…. onward with our tour of the landscape around Goodnestone Park’s manor house (the house itself isn’t open), which has continually evolved since 1700. The rolling, park-like grounds that Austen enjoyed in 1796 were much changed from the much more expansive and hugely formal gardens which originally surrounded the house.

Goodnestone Park, in 1719. From the engraving in Harris's HISTORY OF KENT. Image courtesy of Goodnestone Park.

Goodnestone Park, in 1719. From the engraving in Harris’s HISTORY OF KENT. Image courtesy of Goodnestone Park.

In the 1760s, Sir Brook Bridges, 3rd Baronet (what a mouthful) inherited Goodnestone, and made profound alterations to his property. The house, originally two stories tall, was enlarged with the addition of a third storey. And the strictly-geometric layout of the gardens was banished, in favor of natural-looking parklands, which swept up to the front door.

The 3rd Baronet's changes to the landscape around Goodnestone Park. This is Goodnestone, as Jane Austen saw it. Image courtesy of Goodnestone Park.

The 3rd Baronet’s changes to the landscape around Goodnestone Park. This is Goodnestone, as Jane Austen saw it. Image courtesy of Goodnestone Park.

But, as the Goodnestone Park guidebook states, “In the 1830s, a measure of formality was returned to the gardens by the 5th Baronet, who divided the park and gardens with a long wall and introduced the terraced lawns with central flights of stone steps on both east and west sides of the house. As a suitably grand approach to his new porticoed entrance, he also planted the half-mile avenue of horse chestnut trees which approaches from the north-west, parallel to the village.”

“After a long period of neglect through the war years and immediately afterwards, the garden was restored and significantly developed by Brook and Margaret FitzWalter (relations of the Bridges family), who moved into Goodnestone in 1955. Building on the garden’s long established framework of terraces, walls and trees, different areas were restored and new planting schemes introduced. Formality is retained in front of the house’s main east-facing façade with only clipped yews stretching across the lawn of the upper terrace. On the narrow lower terrace a box-hedged parterre was created to mark the millennium in 2000. Laid out by the garden designer Charlotte Molesworth, its pattern was taken from a detail of the original formal garden as shown in the 1719 Harris engraving.”

SO….after 314 years, some portions of the garden at Goodnestone have come full circle. Join me now, as I retrace the steps that Amanda and I took, on that misty August morning, when gray skies, the result of a high, ocean fog which hadn’t yet burned off (The Strait of Dover is only about 7 miles, due east) cast a gentle, pearly light. Per usual, Amanda planned our visit well: she took pains to contact the owners of the Gardens, who allowed us entry at 10AM,
an hour prior to opening time. As I’ve said many times before, being able to have such a garden as Goodnestone’s entirely to one’s self is the highest luxury imaginable.

A Map of the Gardens at Goodnestone Park, as they are now. Note: This map is truncated. The Walled Garden extends much farther, to the North, in the direction of the Village, and Church.

A Map of the Gardens at Goodnestone Park, as they are now. Note: This map is truncated. The Walled Garden extends much farther, to the North, in the direction of the Village, and Church.

The East Face of the House overlooks a sunken Parterre, which was created in 2000.

The East Face of the House overlooks a sunken Parterre, which was created in 2000.

The East Face of the House is adorned with hydrangeas. In 1959 the house was nearly destroyed by a fire which started in the top floor. The roof collapsed and there was extensive damage to the two two floors. Happily, the ground floor rooms and most of the major contents survived intact, but renovations to the house took almost two years.

The East Face of the House is adorned with hydrangeas. In 1959 the house was nearly destroyed by a fire which started in the top floor. The roof collapsed and there was extensive damage to the two two floors. Happily, the ground floor rooms and most of the major contents survived intact, but renovations to the house took almost two years.

From the East Face's Upper Terrace, one has long views over the Parterre, and then farther off, of meadows filled with grazing cattle and sheep.

From the East Face’s Upper Terrace, one has long views over the Parterre, and then farther off, of meadows filled with grazing cattle and sheep.

A mossy, marble column is mounted at the center of the Parterre.

A mossy, marble column is mounted at the center of the Parterre.

The Parterre, planted in 2000 to echo the design of the original gardens of 1719.

The Parterre, planted in 2000 to echo the design of the original gardens of 1719.

On that morning last August, the tangy scents of Boxwood  and Lavender filled the air.

On that morning last August, the tangy scents of Boxwood and Lavender filled the air.

To the southeast of the House, a majestic birch tree looms.

To the southeast of the House, a majestic birch tree looms.

A close-up of the birch's beautiful bark.

A close-up of the birch’s beautiful bark.

A view down the Yew Walk, on the East Side's Upper Terrace.

A view down the Yew Walk, on the East Side’s Upper Terrace.

As clouds thickened, we walked to the West Side of the House. During the 1830s, the 5th Baronet added this grand portico.

As clouds thickened, we walked to the West Side of the House. During the 1830s, the 5th Baronet added this grand portico.

From the drive on the House's west side, we looked west, upward across an amphitheater of terraced lawns. This part of the garden is now the setting for occasional  theater and opera productions, which are held on summer evenings.

From the drive on the House’s west side, we looked upward across an amphitheater of terraced lawns. This part of the garden is now the setting for occasional theater and opera productions, which are held on summer evenings.

The 5th Baronet also added these flights of stairs, on the west, terraced lawns. A huge smoke bush draws one's eyes upwards.

The 5th Baronet also added these flights of stairs, on the west, terraced lawns. An ancient Cedar of Lebanon is at the center, in the distance, and, to the left, a huge smoke bush draws the eye toward the top of the steps.

The morning fog began to lift, which considerably brightened out view of the west side of the House, as we stood at the top of the stairs.

The morning fog began to lift, which considerably brightened out view of the west side of the House, as we stood at the top of the stairs.

Droplets of moisture from the heavy fog still clung to the blossoms of the smoke bush.

Droplets of moisture from the heavy fog still clung to the blossoms of the smoke bush.

An even closer look at the smoke bush.

An even closer look at the smoke bush.

Yes...one MORE look at the smoke bush. You can see why it is so-named.

Yes…one MORE look at the smoke bush. You can see why it is so-named.

After the smoke bush, a narrow, yew-hedged walk leads us away from the House, toward a Long Avenue of Lime Trees.

After the smoke bush, I turned to take a last look at the House.

West of the smoke bush and the narrow yew walk is an avenue of Lime Trees, which stretches for over 330 feet, to the focal point of a large, classical urn. This Avenue was planted in 1984. To one side of the Avenue are parklands and grazing fields. To the other side is an Arboretum, which is underplanted with thousands of springtime bulbs.

West of the smoke bush and the narrow yew walk is an avenue of Lime Trees, which stretches for over 330 feet, to the focal point of a large, classical urn. This Avenue was planted in 1984. To one side of the Avenue are parklands and grazing fields. To the other side is an Arboretum, which is underplanted with thousands of springtime bulbs.

The Urn, at the far end of the Avenue of Lime Trees, with pastureland beyond the fence.

The Urn, at the far end of the Avenue of Lime Trees, with pastureland beyond the fence.

To the north of the Lime Tree Avenue is a newly-established Gravel Garden. In 2003, the FitzWalters decided to remove the tennis court which had occupied this space, and to create a low-maintence Gravel Garden. This whole area is self-sufficient, and is given no maintenance other than an annual pruning in late February, when the grasses and late-summer-flowering perennials are cut down to stimulate new growth.

To the north of the Lime Tree Avenue is a newly-established Gravel Garden. In 2003, the FitzWalters decided to remove the tennis court which had occupied this space, and to create a low-maintence Gravel Garden. This whole area is self-sufficient, and is given no attention other than an annual pruning in late February, when the grasses and late-summer-flowering perennials are cut down to stimulate new growth.

We left the Gravel Garden, and wandered down part of the half-mile-long approach drive, which runs north-west of the House. The most majestic tree along this drive is an ancient Cedar of Lebanon.

We left the Gravel Garden, and wandered down part of the half-mile-long approach drive, which runs north-west of the House. The most majestic tree along this drive is an ancient Cedar of Lebanon.

An Urn decorates the lawn, near the base of the Cedar of Lebanon tree.

An Urn decorates the lawn, near the base of the Cedar of Lebanon tree.

Nearby the Cedar of Lebanon is this archway, which leads to the Walled Garden. Amanda held open the gate, and smiled her little-cat-smile, as she waited to see my reaction to this glimpse of a distant, church tower.

Nearby the Cedar of Lebanon is this archway, which leads to the Walled Garden. Amanda held open the gate, and smiled her little-cat-smile, as she waited to see my reaction to this glimpse of a distant, church tower.

Goodnestone Park describes their Walled Garden thusly:

“Beyond the Cedar of Lebanon, a small arched gateway leads into the Walled Garden: for many visitors, a spectacular surprise, lying as it does completely out of sight from the areas surrounding the house.”

“The view through the three sections of the Walled Garden to the flint and stone tower of the village church at the far end is among the most memorable to be found in any English garden. “

“In the first section, old-fashioned roses are underplanted with a selection of choice perennials. To one side of the rose borders a venerable yew hedge conceals a gravel path along the upper boundary wall; beyond the large greenhouse and a low flint wall on the other side are a glorious iris border tucked into a secluded corner, and an area of lawn shaded by three Magnolia grandiflora of varying ages.”

“The central section was transformed in 2009 when old planting was swept away, the area leveled, and a long rectangular pool created in the centre. A neat, narrow border lined with lavender stretches in front of the tall east-facing boundary wall on one side. On the other in front of the lower wall forming the boundary with the charming Dower House beyond is a magnificent border planted in 2010, after the completion of the new pool.”

“In the third section closest to the church tower, traditional borders overflowing with roses, peonies, iris and perennials, and towering columns of yew enliven blocks of vegetables, fruit and flowers for cutting. All around the ancient brick walls are hung with climbers and wall plants. One leading British writer recently described Goodnestone Park as ‘Sissinghurst without the crowds.’ “

A closer look at the church tower, from within the Walled Garden.

A closer look at the church tower, from within the Walled Garden.

Inside the Walled Garden, Goodnestone's gardeners were hard at work.

Inside the Walled Garden, Goodnestone’s gardeners were hard at work.

This central section of the Walled Garden is new: created in 2009, when old plantings were removed so that the ground could be leveled. After an 8-foot-slope had been flattened, a long, rectangular pool was placed in the center of the garden.

This central section of the Walled Garden is new: created in 2009, when old plantings were removed so that the ground could be leveled. After an 8-foot-slope had been flattened, a long, rectangular pool was placed in the center of the garden.

On a sunnier day, this is the view from inside the Walled Garden. Image courtesy of Goodnestone Park.

On a sunnier day, this is the view from inside the Walled Garden. Image courtesy of Goodnestone Park.

Beyond the east side of the new reflecting pool, the undulating rooflines of Dower House (which is adjacent to the Main House) create a charming backdrop for newly-planted flower borders.

Beyond the east side of the new reflecting pool, the undulating rooflines of Dower House (which is adjacent to the Main House) create a charming backdrop for newly-planted flower borders.

Another corner of the extensive Walled Garden (which is actually a series of walled gardens).

Another corner of the extensive Walled Garden (which is actually a series of walled gardens).

A secluded sitting area in the Walled Garden.

A secluded sitting area in the Walled Garden.

Nan's Toes! On the shell-decorated pavements in the Walled Gardens.

Nan’s Toes! On the shell-decorated pavements in the Walled Gardens.

An even closer look at the spire of the nearby church, from the Walled Garden.

An even closer look at the spire of the nearby church, from the Walled Garden.

A view from the far end of the Walled Garden, back down along the central path.

A view from the far end of the Walled Garden, back down along the central path.

The brick walls of the Walled Garden date from the 1830s.

The brick walls of the Walled Garden date from the 1830s.

Abundant veggies and annual flowers in the beautifully-tended Walled Garden.

Abundant veggies and annual flowers in the beautifully-tended Walled Garden.

Cascading clematis, in the Walled Garden.

Cascading clematis, in the Walled Garden.

A Tapestry of Zinnias and Herbs in the Walled Garden.

A Tapestry of Zinnias and Herbs in the Walled Garden.

One of the rare curiosities in the Walled Garden is this flint-decorated archway.

One of the rare curiosities in the Walled Garden is this flint-decorated archway.

A closer look at the split-flint decoration on the Walled Garden arch.

A closer look at the split-flint decoration on the Walled Garden arch.

Now I'm Nose-Close, to the amazing split-flint on the Walled Garden archway.

Now I’m Nose-Close, to the amazing split-flint on the Walled Garden archway.

We prepared to leave the Walled Garden, but paused to admire this lush stand of Agapanthus.

We prepared to leave the Walled Garden, but paused to admire this lush stand of Agapanthus.

Exiting the Walled Garden through yet another split-flint decorated archway, we headed into the shadows of the Arboretum, and the Woodland Garden.

Exiting the Walled Garden through yet another split-flint decorated archway, we headed into the shadows of the Arboretum, and the Woodland Garden.

This small Pond Garden is nestled into a far corner of the Woodland Garden.

This small Pond Garden is nestled into a far corner of the Woodland Garden.

Another area of the Pond Garden.

Another area of the Pond Garden.

In the Arboretum: an ancient, gnarled tree...which looks very Hobbit-ish.

In the Arboretum: an ancient, gnarled tree…which looks very Hobbit-ish.

Electric-Blue Hydrangeas abound in the Woodland Garden. WOW!

Electric-Blue Hydrangeas abound in the Woodland Garden. WOW!

Our perambulations through the gardens at Goodnestone Park at an end, I took this one, last look across the East-Side Parterre. This quiet garden was a hard place to leave....

Our perambulations through the gardens at Goodnestone Park at an end, I took this one, last look across the East-Side Parterre. This quiet garden was a hard place to leave….

As David Waldron Smithers writes in JANE AUSTEN IN KENT:

“Jane Austen was well versed in the fashionable picturesque movement of the time and had a good eye for landscape which she described in her novels. When Elizabeth Bennet looked at Pemberley: ‘She had never seen a place of which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.’ “

“Mark Girouard in LIFE IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRY HOUSE wrote of the time that: ‘The whole of polite society was increasingly on the move…they were constantly stopping to stay at the country houses of friends, or to visit the country houses of strangers. Within the club of polite society, both the grounds and the interiors of all country houses of any size were normally open to view, so that during the summer season the more famous and accessible houses could appear like country versions of the Parades at Bath, or Tunbridge Wells.’ ”

Throughout her lifetime, as she visited her wealthy relatives and their friends, Jane Austen was exposed to country living, at its most refined. Although without means of her own, Austen was no country mouse; she held her own among Baronets, after all…

As I breathed the ocean-moist air that morning in Goodnestone’s gardens, and inhaled the green scents of its meadows, it wasn’t hard to imagine what it would have been like to be Jane Austen, there on a similar, August morning in 1796, when she was just 21. Jane would have strolled quietly, oblivious to her shoes , which were becoming quite wet from the fog-soaked grass. Jane’s brain would have hummed with thoughts about who’d she’d danced with at the Ball on the night before, and who she’d then walked home with, in the moonlight. As always, Jane would have had much to report, when she penned the next letter to her sister, Cassandra.

Jane Austen, in 1810, when she was 35 years old. Pencil and watercolor, by her sister Cassandra Austen. Jane was born in 1775, and died in 1817, most likely of Addison's Disease. This portrait was made while and her sister and their mother lived at Chawton Cottage, on England's South Coast.

Jane Austen, in 1810, when she was 35 years old. Pencil and watercolor, by her sister Cassandra Austen. Jane was born in 1775, and died in 1817, most likely of Addison’s Disease. This portrait was made while Jane and her sister and their mother lived at Chawton Cottage, on England’s South Coast.

Jane Austen's visage will appear on Britain's 10 Pound Note, beginning in 2017. She's finally, officially, worth her weight in gold...as all of us who read her have known, all along.

Jane Austen’s visage will appear on Britain’s 10 Pound Note, beginning in 2017. She’s finally, officially, worth her weight in gold…as all of us who read her have known, all along.

Destination #2: The Secret Gardens of Sandwich
At The Salutation
Knightrider Street
Sandwich, Kent CT13 9EW

Salutation’s Secret Gardens have normally been open from April through September, 7 days a week, and from 10AM to 5PM. However, due to the damage from December 2013’s coastal flooding and tidal surge, one should call ahead before traveling to Sandwich. The gardeners, and many volunteers, are currently working to restore the grounds.

Phone: 01304-619919
Websites: http://www.the-salutation.com
http://www.the-secretgardens.co.uk

The Salutation, in Sandwich, Kent. House and Gardens designed in 1911 by architect Edwin Lutyens. Photo taken on August 8, 2013.

The Salutation, in Sandwich, Kent. House and Gardens designed in 1911 by architect Edwin Lutyens. Photo taken on August 8, 2013.

My view into the Gardens, from the front entry court at The Salutation.

My view into the Gardens, from the front entry court at The Salutation.

The Main Perennial Borders, near to the Main Terrace, on the other side of the House. You'll note that, during my visit on August 8, 2013, an extended drought in Kent had parched all of the lawns.

The Main Perennial Borders, near to the Main Terrace, on the other side of the House. You’ll note that, during my visit on August 8, 2013, an extended drought in Kent had parched all of the lawns.

As Steve drove us to our day’s second destination, Amanda explained that the gardens we were about to see might not much longer be open to the public. The owners of The Salutation, who also operate a small Hotel on the premises, had recently put their Grade I Listed, 3.5 acre property up for sale. The asking price? 4.5 million British Pounds (which, for you Americans with money to burn, translates to over 8 million Bucks). But the vagaries of Real Estate
last August were nothing compared to those soon to be inflicted by Mother Nature herself. In December of 2013, a tidal surge up the River Stour submerged Salutation’s Gardens under more than 5 feet of salt water.

News flashes such as these came, with depressing frequency:

“The registered Secret Gardens at the Salutation in Sandwich were severely damaged by a tidal wave and coastal flooding on 5th December 2013. The once neglected gardens had been fully restored. Sadly, they have now been devastated by salt water contamination and flooding, which have destroyed plants, killed earthworms and ruined equipment.”

The Salutation's Secret Gardens, on December 6, 2013.

The Salutation’s Secret Gardens, on December 6, 2013.

“Steve Edney, head gardener at The Secret Gardens said: ‘The working area of the garden is completely under water, including workshops, heated greenhouses and sheds. A bridge in the garden has been uprooted and pushed into a tree. There are plants down there we need to save; it’s a historic collection…one of the biggest private collections that is open to the public. One plant down there is just one of three in the country. A box hedge–about waist height–was completely submerged and water is trapped in the garden.’ “

“Owner Dominic Parker added: ‘Ten years of hard work, and a seven-figure investment…gone in a matter of hours. It’s devastating and heartbreaking to see.’ “

In late December 2013, gardeners at The Salutation surveyed the storm damage.

In late December 2013, gardeners at The Salutation surveyed the storm damage.

As of Spring 2014, head gardener Steve Edney made this update:
“We’ve pumped approximately 5 million litres of sea water back to the river in which it came. The main damage to the garden came in the form of sea water. Two of our holly trees were killed, many potted plants floated away, and the gardening sheds were destroyed. One of the main issues we have seen is the quality of the soil degrade, due to the sea water, and the subsequent deaths of thousands of worms across the gardens. Worms are so vital for soil and compost.
BUT…with our cavalier attitude, we are rising against it, and are slowly working towards getting the garden back up and running.”

Head Gardener Steve Edney sloshed through the flood to save rare, potted plants...at least the ones which hadn't floated away.

Head Gardener Steve Edney sloshed through the flood to save rare, potted plants…at least the ones which hadn’t floated away.

These Natural Calamities have made the photos I took in Salutation’s gardens last August all the more meaningful.

Here, views of what I discovered then, when All Was Still Well:

The Front Side of the Secret Gardens' brochure

The Front Side of the Secret Gardens’ brochure

The Flip Side of the brochure, with a Map of the Gardens.

The Flip Side of the brochure, with a Map of the Gardens.

Architect Edwin Lutyens, who my Readers will recall also laid out the gardens at nearby Great Dixter, designed Salutation’s House and Gardens for a pair of bachelors, in 1911.

Architect Edwin Lutyens, who began his prolific architectural practice in 1888. Born 1869, died 1944)

Architect Edwin Lutyens, who began his prolific architectural practice in 1888.
(Born 1869, died 1944)

Salutation. North Elevation of House. Image courtesy of greatbuildings.com

Salutation. North Elevation of House. Image courtesy of greatbuildings.com

Salutation. Plan of Lower Floors. Image courtesy of greatbuildings.com

Salutation. Plan of Lower Floors. Image courtesy of greatbuildings.com

Salutation. Cross section of House. Image courtesy of greatbuildings.com

Salutation. Cross section of House. Image courtesy of greatbuildings.com

Salutation. Site Plan. Image courtesy of greatbuildings.com

Salutation. Site Plan. Image courtesy of greatbuildings.com

Lutyens is famous among garden-aficionados for his many collaborations with the garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, but (despite The Salutation’s brochure copy) there is no firm evidence that Jekyll worked with him to design the gardens at The Salutation.

From the first moment that Amanda and I entered The Salutation’s grounds, it became clear from these notes by Head Gardener Steve Edney that he truly loves the little plot of land that he calls his “Plant Playground!”

Steve Edney's Notes on August 8, 2013

Steve Edney’s Notes on August 8, 2013

More Notes from Steve Edney, on August 8, 2013

More Notes from Steve Edney, on August 8, 2013

At the Main Entrance, I paused to admire yet another example of the Kentish-habit of combining brick, stone, and flint. This particular split-flint wall is GALETTED...so-called when those little black specks of rock are added, and used as spacers in the mortar.

At the Main Entrance, I paused to admire yet another example of the Kentish-habit of combining brick, stone, and flint. This particular split-flint wall is GALETTED…so-called when those little black specks of rock are added, and used as spacers in the mortar.

At the Main Entrance end of the Long Border, there's a little Tropical Garden, bursting with palms and dahlias.

At the Main Entrance end of the Long Border, there’s a little Tropical Garden, bursting with palms and dahlias.

On the Long Border

On the Long Border

Bright blocks of color, on the Long Border

Bright blocks of color, on the Long Border

Subtle blocks of color, on the Long Border

Subtle blocks of color, on the Long Border

As we walked down the path of the Long Border, we looked over toward the Main Perennial Borders, with their huge columns of green.

As we walked down the path of the Long Border, we looked over toward the Main Perennial Borders, with their huge columns of green.

Further along the Long Border, we spied the pond--which is rather grandly named "Lake Patricia"--and its Island.

Further along the Long Border, we spied the pond–which is rather grandly named “Lake Patricia”–and its Island.

At the far end of the Long Border, there's a tidy Vegetable Garden

At the far end of the Long Border, there’s a tidy Vegetable Garden

The view from the Vegetable Garden, toward the Main Terrace of the House

The view from the Vegetable Garden, toward the Main Terrace of the House

The Bridge to the Island, back in August....when water didn't seem to be a threatening thing!

The Bridge to the Island, back in August….when water didn’t seem to be a threatening thing!

The Lake Garden

The Lake Garden

The central path through the Main Perennial Border, with a view toward the back of the 3.5 acre property.

The central path through the Main Perennial Border, with a view toward the back of the 3.5 acre property.

On the Holm Oak Walk, looking toward the House

On the Holm Oak Walk, looking toward the House

At the opposite end of the Holm Oak Walk, looking toward the back of the garden.

At the opposite end of the Holm Oak Walk, looking toward the back of the garden.

The point at which the Holm Oak Walk meets the Poplar Walk

The point at which the Holm Oak Walk meets the Poplar Walk

A WIDE view of the Poplar Walk, with one of Lutyen's omni-present teak benches.

A WIDE view of the Poplar Walk, with one of Lutyen’s omni-present teak benches.

And now a TALL view of the Poplar Walk

And now a TALL view of the Poplar Walk

A triangular Spring Garden separates the Poplar Walk (which is behind us) and the regularly-spaced green columns of the Holm Oak Walk. Below these brown grasses, the leaves of spent daffodils are being allowed to wilt gracefully, which is what must occur if those same daffodils are to re-bloom, when Springtime returns.

A triangular Spring Garden separates the Poplar Walk (which is behind us) and the regularly-spaced green columns of the Holm Oak Walk. Below these brown grasses, the leaves of spent daffodils are being allowed to wilt gracefully, which is what must occur if those same daffodils are to re-bloom, when Springtime returns.

At one end of the Spring Garden, behind tall yew hedges, is the Bowling Lawn. which frames the best view of the House. This is the classic view of The Salutation.

At one end of the Spring Garden, behind tall yew hedges, is the Bowling Lawn. which frames the best view of the House. This is the classic view of The Salutation.

In the end-most curve of the hedge that encloses the Bowling Lawn: two more of Lutyen's Signatue Benches flank a joyous Angel Statue. In the background: a glimpse of one of the ancient buildings in the town of Sandwich, which was one of the original Cinque Ports; established in the 12th century to defend England's south coast from invasion.

In the end-most curve of the hedge that encloses the Bowling Lawn: two more of Lutyen’s Signatue Benches flank a joyous Angel Statue. In the background: a glimpse of one of the ancient buildings in the town of Sandwich, which was one of the original Cinque Ports; established in the 12th century to defend England’s south coast from invasion.

A long view across the sunburnt green of the Bowling Lawn

A long view across the sunburnt green of the Bowling Lawn

Shoe-horned into the most-pointed space on the property is the Circular White Garden

Shoe-horned into the most-pointed space on the property is the Circular White Garden

A glimpse of the House, from the White Garden

A glimpse of the House, from the White Garden

Looking toward the Poplar Walk, from the White Garden

Looking toward the Poplar Walk, from the White Garden

The freshly-pruned back-side of the hedge that encircles the White Garden

The freshly-pruned back-side of the hedge that encircles the White Garden

The walk along the House-end of the Bowling Lawn, with a view down the distant, Holm Oak Walk

The walk along the House-end of the Bowling Lawn, with a view down the distant, Holm Oak Walk

Detail of House, at the Bowling Lawn Terrace

Detail of House, at the Bowling Lawn Terrace

Detail of House, at the Main Terrace

Detail of House, at the Main Terrace

The House, at the Main Terrace. Note the gorgeous sundial, over the carved decoration.

The House, at the Main Terrace. Note the gorgeous sundial, over the carved decoration.

After a fast stop at the Tea Room, where I bought a box of delicious lemon squares, we finished our little Salutation-garden-jaunt with a look at the Kitchen Garden.

After a fast stop at the Tea Room, where I bought a box of delicious lemon squares, we finished our little Salutation-garden-jaunt with a look at the Kitchen Garden.

Little did we suspect that the fertile soil under these dahlias would in a few months time be submerged under more than 5 feet of salt water.

Little did we suspect that the fertile soil under these dahlias would in a few months time be submerged under more than 5 feet of salt water.

Writing about these now-profoundly-damaged gardens at The Salutation, I’m once again reminded that, in each and every historic garden that still survives, we who love gardens are witnessing Miracles.

The Armillary, on The Salutation's Bowling Lawn...before the deluge. Image courtesy of The Salutation.

The Armillary, on The Salutation’s Bowling Lawn…before the deluge. Image courtesy of The Salutation.

Destination #3: Walmer Castle & Gardens
Kingsdown Road
Deal, Kent CT14 7LJ

Open on most days, year round (call ahead to confirm), from 10AM to 6PM
Telephone: 01304-364288

Website:
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/walmer-castle-and-gardens/

Walmer Castle (built in 1539) & Gardens, on the English Channel, at Deal. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

Walmer Castle (built in 1539) & Gardens, on the English Channel, at Deal. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

As we approached our day’s third destination I got my first-ever glimpse of the English Channel. Happily, the morning fog was long gone, and as Steve drove us along the ocean-side road in Deal, my brain went into happy-in-the-sunshine-by-the-seashore-mode. In this blissful state of mind, I began my tour of Walmer Castle, and its gardens.

Aerial view of Walmer Castle, showing its coastal position. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

Aerial view of Walmer Castle, showing its coastal position. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

The English Heritage guidebook to Walmer Castle introduces us to the property:

“Walmer Castle was built in 1539 as one of a chain of coastal artillery forts constructed by Henry VIII against the threat of invasion by Spain. From 1708, it became the official residence of the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports, an office held by many famous people, including the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill, and the late Queen Mother. The castle was adapted over the years by successive Lords Warden, to make it into a more comfortable home, and the grounds were developed into attractive gardens, which are still changing today.”

Map of the Grounds at Walmer Castle. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

Map of the Grounds at Walmer Castle. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

“Although its exterior has been softened and its interior made more comfortable after nearly 300 years as the residence of the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports, Walmer is unmistakably a Henrician artillery fort. Dominating the centre is the great circular keep, surrounded by an open courtyard within a concentric curtain wall. Projecting from the curtain wall are four squat, rounded bastions. The northern bastion incorporates the gatehouse, leading to a drawbridge across the moat. The moat itself has a stone-faced counterscarp or outer wall, and was later divided by a couple of cross-walls added in the nineteenth century to make it into a garden. But however tranquil Walmer now looks, its construction in the politically turbulent 1530s was a response to the very real threat of invasion.”

The artillery forts built along the Kent coast all followed this basic design. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

The artillery forts built along the Kent coast all followed this basic design. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

Steve parked his Mercedes in the shade of a tall tree, and Amanda and I set out for the Castle.

We crossed the Entry Bridge, and headed toward the Gatehouse.

We crossed the Entry Bridge, and headed toward the Gatehouse.

This was our view from the Entry Bridge, down into the Moat, which has been transformed into a Garden.

This was our view from the Entry Bridge, down into the Moat, which has been transformed into a Garden.

After passing the the Gate House, we were presented with this spectacular demonstration of the Bricklayer's Art: an alcove in the open courtyard that's within the concentric curtain wall of the Castle.

After passing through the Gate House, we were presented with this spectacular demonstration of the Bricklayer’s Art: an alcove in the open courtyard that’s within the concentric curtain wall of the Castle.

Over time, as Walmer became less and less a place of military importance, and more a place where illustrious Britons could retreat for a bit of ocean air, the interior rooms of the Castle’s First Floor (i.e. Top Floor) were transformed into incongruously suburban-looking spaces.

Floor Plans of Walmer Castle. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

Floor Plans of Walmer Castle. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

In 1793, while Britain was engaged in one of its many wars with France, William Pitt the Younger, who had been Prime Minister for nearly nine years, accepted the post of Lord Wardenship. While he kept his telescope pointed toward the Channel (hoping to NOT see the approach of French warships), Pitt also did some serious redecoration of the premises, and had the central corridor, which runs the full length of the Castle, done over in high style.

William Pitt the Younger's Blue Corridor, which was fashioned in the late 1790s. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

William Pitt the Younger’s Blue Corridor, which was fashioned in the late 1790s. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

In 1828, the Duke of Wellington was rewarded with the post of Lord Warden, and further improvements were made to the Castle’s living quarters.

The Duke of Wellington loved Walmer (well...who wouldn't?). Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

The Duke of Wellington loved Walmer (well…who wouldn’t?). Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

And During Queen Victoria’s long reign (which endured from 1837, until her death in 1901), especially in the early years, while her beloved consort Prince Albert was alive, Walmer Castle saw many royal visits. In 1842, the young couple, who had married in 1840, made their first visit to the Castle.

Miniature of Prince Albert (1842) by Henry Pierce Bone. Miniature of Queen Victoria (1839) by William Essex. Images courtesy of Walmer Castle.

Miniature of Prince Albert (1842) by Henry Pierce Bone. Miniature of Queen Victoria (1839) by William Essex. Images courtesy of Walmer Castle.

English newspapers printed this etching of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert walking along the beach at Walmer, on 25 November 1842. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

English newspapers printed this etching of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert walking along the beach at Walmer, on 25 November 1842. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

After Victoria’s death, her bedroom remained the principal bedroom of the Lords Warden.

Queen Victoria's not-at-all-fancy bedroom, as pictured in a 1919 magazine spread. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

Queen Victoria’s not-at-all-fancy bedroom, as pictured in a 1919 magazine spread. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

But perhaps no Lord Warden of Walmer Castle has been as beloved, or as closely concerned with making the Castle seem like a Home, as Her Majesty Elizabeth the Queen Mother was.

HM Elizabeth the Queen Mother took great interest in both the Castle, and its Gardens. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

HM Elizabeth the Queen Mother took great interest in both the Castle, and its Gardens. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

Todays visitors to Walmer Castle see the Dining Room, just as it was used by the late Lord Warden, HM the Queen Mother. The celeste blue Minton service on the table was the one which the Queen Mother kept at the Castle. The dining table and set of thirteen mahogany chairs belonged to William Pitt. The large collection of prints provides portraits of most of the Lords Warden. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

Todays visitors to Walmer Castle see the Dining Room, just as it was used by the late Lord Warden, HM the Queen Mother. The celeste blue Minton service on the table was the one which the Queen Mother kept at the Castle. The dining table and set of thirteen mahogany chairs belonged to William Pitt. The large collection of prints provides portraits of most of the Lords Warden. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

But now…time for us to get back outside, into that wonderful, fresh ocean air!
We went to the top of the Castle, and out onto the ramparts which overlook the English Channel.

As we stepped out onto the Ramparts, I looked across the moat, and saw Steve's well-shaded silver car.

As we stepped out onto the Ramparts, I looked across the moat, and saw Steve’s well-shaded silver car.

On the Ramparts, banks of cannon face the sea (...and France).

On the Ramparts, banks of cannon face the sea (…and France).

Another view from the Ramparts.

Another view from the Ramparts.

Happy visitors, on the Ramparts. Really....I would have been happy to have stayed right here...for the rest of the day!

Happy visitors, on the Ramparts. Really….I would have been contented to have stayed right here…for the rest of the day!

Just looking at these pictures now makes me almost feel the fresh air, and the warm sunshine. If you strain your eyes, you can see the gray profiles of ships, as they navigate, on the English Channel.

Just looking at these pictures now makes me almost feel the fresh air, and the warm sunshine. If you strain your eyes, you can see the gray profiles of ships, as they navigate, on the English Channel.

Ka-BOOM!

Ka-BOOM!

Glass brick in the floor of the Ramparts.

Glass brick in the floor of the Ramparts.

The view from the Ramparts, down into the circular, open courtyard.

The view from the Ramparts, down into the circular, open courtyard.

As we walked further around the Ramparts, we glimpsed the rectangular pool in the garden that was made in 2000, for the Queen Mother.

As we walked further around the Ramparts, we glimpsed the rectangular pool in the garden that was made in 2000, for the Queen Mother.

Another view from the Ramparts, down into the Moat Garden.

Another view from the Ramparts, down into the Moat Garden.

A view of the Top Floor of the Castle, from the Ramparts. From this vantage point, the place seems very much a Serious Fort.

A view of the Top Floor of the Castle, from the Ramparts. From this vantage point, the place seems very much a Serious Fort.

We exited the Castle, and began our tour of the Gardens.

In 2000, the garden designer Penelope Hobhouse was asked to design a garden, just for the Queen Mother. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

In 2000, the garden designer Penelope Hobhouse was asked to design a garden, just for the Queen Mother. Image courtesy of Walmer Castle.

My view of the Queen Mother's Garden, on August 8, 2013.

My view of the Queen Mother’s Garden, on August 8, 2013.

Flowers in the Queen Mum's Garden.

Flowers in the Queen Mum’s Garden.

A place to rest in the Queen Mum's Garden

A place to rest in the Queen Mum’s Garden

In 1866, this immensely long (at 263 feet) Broad Walk was planted. The yew hedges that extend along each side of the Walk are pruned into fantastic shapes, which are known by the delightful name of DRUNKEN HEDGES. I want some Drunken Hedges for MY yard!!!!

In 1866, this immensely long (at 263 feet) Broad Walk was planted. The yew hedges that extend along each side of the Walk are pruned into fantastic shapes, which are known by the delightful name of DRUNKEN HEDGES. I want some Drunken Hedges for MY yard!!!!

The Drunken Hedges' undulations catch shadows, even at high noon. The Hedges didn't achieve their wonderful tipsy-ness until 1947, when a heavy snowfall damaged the previously-geometrically-shaped yews. As the gardeners pruned away storm-damaged parts of the yews, it occurred to them that they had the makings for the Best Drunkes Hedges....EVER.

The Drunken Hedges’ undulations catch shadows, even at high noon. The Hedges didn’t achieve their wonderful tipsy-ness until 1947, when a heavy snowfall damaged the previously-geometrically-shaped yews. As the gardeners pruned away storm-damaged parts of the yews, it occurred to them that they had the makings for the Best Drunken Hedges….EVER.

We ambled up the Broad Walk, all the while admiring the artfully-planted flower beds...and then headed toward the Upper Terraces.

We ambled up the Broad Walk, all the while admiring the artfully-planted flower beds…and then headed toward the Upper Terraces.

On the Upper Terrace, we paused by this Armillary Sundial, which was presented to the Queen Mother in 2000, as a 100th Birthday Present to her.

On the Upper Terrace, we paused by this Armillary Sundial, which was presented to the Queen Mother in 2000, as a 100th Birthday Present .

Beyond the Upper Terrace, this statue of Hermes welcomes visitors to the wild ramble of the Garden's Paddock-area.

Beyond the Upper Terrace, this statue of Hermes welcomes visitors to the wild ramble of the Garden’s Paddock-area.

We headed back toward the Castle, to its Kitchen Garden, which has been in continuous cultivation for 300 years; growing fruit, veggies and flowers.

We headed back toward the Castle, to its Kitchen Garden, which has been in continuous cultivation for 300 years; growing fruit, veggies and flowers.

Flanked by these espaliered fruit trees in the Kitchen Garden, we returned to the Castle.

Flanked by these espaliered fruit trees in the Kitchen Garden, we returned to the Castle.

We crossed this timber bridge, which was probably built in Pitt's time, and headed back into the Castle's South Bastion.

We crossed this timber bridge, which was probably built in Pitt’s time, and headed back into the Castle’s South Bastion.

And we took one, last look at the sunken Moat Garden. The sheltered conditions in the Moat allow tender plants and fruit trees (which could not normally survive the harsh, salty, seaside conditions) to flourish.

And we took one, last look at the sunken Moat Garden. The sheltered conditions in the Moat allow tender plants and fruit trees (which could not normally survive the harsh, salty, seaside conditions) to flourish.

English Heritage (aka the Historic Buildings & Monuments Commission in England) is a branch of the British government. Its mission is the stewardship of more than 400 significant historical and archaeological sites, throughout the U.K.

English Heritage (aka the Historic Buildings & Monuments Commission in England) is a branch of the British government. Its mission is the stewardship of more than 400 significant historical and archaeological sites, throughout the U.K.

After this joyous little stop, the next pressing bit of business HAD to be LUNCH. And so, with our three stomachs growling in some sort of harmony, we headed south, toward St.Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, where Steve and Amanda would be my guests, at a great seaside fish-joint called The Coast Guard.

Destination #4: St. Margaret’s-at-Cliffe & St. Margaret’s Bay
The Coast Guard Restaurant & Pub
The Bay, St. Margaret’s Bay
Kent CT15 6DY

Telephone: 01304-853176

St. Margaret's-at-Cliffe, on the English Channel.

St. Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, on the English Channel.

Every not-foggy morning at St.Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, the topmost point of the white chalk cliff that looms over the Channel is the first bit of English soil that’s shined upon by the rising sun. This small village, which is on the coast road between Deal and Dover, first appeared in the Domesday Book (1086AD) as “Santa Margharita.”

For as long as ships have sailed past those cliffs, lights have been kept burning on the beach to warn mariners of the dangerous shores. From late Victorian times, the village developed as a holiday resort. Among those who have stayed or lived there are Lord Byron, Max Beerbohm, Noel Coward, Ian Fleming and Peter Ustinov. The coming of WWII saw all but the most essential citizens evacuated, and the area then occupied by British troops. The village was subjected to almost daily German bombardment, and became known as “Hell-fire Corner.” Anti-aircraft guns were mounted on the cliff-tops; the emplacements included some old naval guns that had been scrounged from the battleship HMS King George, which were named “Winnie,” and “Pooh.” What with those monikers, it’s not surprising that, when fired, those pieces of artillery only managed to break local windows.

Amanda and Steve and I found ourselves a table under an umbrella, on the sunny deck at the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard Restaurant & Pub. We dined on freshly-caught fish, and basked on the sunny deck, while we watched the incessant shipping traffic on the English Channel...a perfect, seaside interlude.

The Coast Guard Restaurant & Pub. We dined on freshly-caught fish, and basked on the sunny deck, while we watched the incessant shipping traffic on the English Channel…a perfect, seaside interlude.

Per Steve’s recommendation, I ordered the restaurant’s specialty: a freshly and locally caught whole, Dover sole: which was cooked simply and scrumptiously in a toasted crumb coating, and garnished with lemon.

I didn't take a photo of my plate...I was way too hungry to fool around with my camera. But this is how a whole, cooked, breaded Dover Sole looks like.

I didn’t take a photo of my plate…I was way too hungry to fool around with my camera. But this is what a whole, cooked, lightly-breaded Dover Sole looks like.

After my plate had been set before me, Steve gracefully demonstrated with his own sole how to fillet the fish…a procedure that turned out to be one which required much finesse. The skeleton in Steve’s sole was removed, intact. The skeleton in my sole? Not so prettily excised! But the Dover sole tasted sublime.

Restored by food, we walked along the shingle beach, and admired the looming, chalk cliffs.

Beach-goers lounge on the rough, single beach, while an endless armada of ships passes, on the English Channel. On the far horizon, France can be seen, as a thin smudge of darker blue.

Beach-goers lounge on the rough, shingle beach, while an endless armada of ships passes, on the English Channel. On the far horizon, France can be seen, as a thin smudge of darker blue.

The Danger Sign...that everyone ignores.

The Danger Sign…that everyone ignores.

As we walked along the beach, Amanda told me to look uphill: Noel Coward rented the light-colored stucco cottage, at the top of this slope. At each house that Coward rented during his lifetime, he attached a set of tin angel's wings.

As we walked along the beach, Amanda told me to look uphill: Noel Coward rented the light-colored stucco cottage, at the top of this slope. At each house that Coward rented during his lifetime, he attached a set of tin angel’s wings to the front door, or wall.

We then walked in the opposite direction, along the shingle beach.

We then walked in the opposite direction, along the shingle beach.

These wooden breakwaters are called GROYNES, and are built to control erosion of the shingle beach.

These wooden breakwaters are called GROYNES, and are built to control erosion of the shingle beach.

How Groynes Work to control beach erosion

How Groynes Work to control beach erosion

A closer look at the Groynes

A closer look at the Groynes

The Chalk Cliffs of St.Margaret's-at-Cliffe

The Chalk Cliffs of
St.Margaret’s-at-Cliffe

Closer to the Cliffs

Closer to the Cliffs

A magnificent white villa...but its location does look a bit precarious?

A magnificent white villa…but its location does look a bit precarious?

...no more time for seaside-strolling. We headed back toward the Coast Guard Restaurant's parking lot.

…no more time for seaside-strolling. We headed back toward the Coast Guard Restaurant’s parking lot.

Since 2008, the village of St.Margaret’s-at-Cliffe has been working to become a “Carbon Neutral” village: all residents have begun retrofitting their homes to reduce energy use. This town-wide initiative was begun by the Bay Trust, which is based at the Pines Garden…a beautiful 6 acre garden and conference center that rests at the very top of the chalk cliffs.

Destination #5: The Pines Garden, Museum and Conference Centre
Beach Road
St.Margaret’s Bay
Kent CT15 6DZ

Open Year-Round, Daily. 10AM to 5PM.

Telephone: 01304-851737
Website: http://www.pinesgarden.co.uk

The Pines Garden brochure

The Pines Garden brochure

The Pines Garden is perhaps the least-heralded of all of the places that Amanda had taken me to during our five-day pilgrimage to see the magnificent gardens and estates of Kent. But its dramatic setting, as it teeters at the Very Edge of England, makes The Pines Garden worthy of a visit. As we ambled across the gardens, our only companions were a few, local children whose mothers had set them loose to run freely, over the broad lawns. Here now, a little tour of The Pines Garden:

Map of the grounds at The Pines Garden

Map of the grounds at The Pines Garden

We passed through the entrance gates, and then turned for a moment, to take in this vista of the English Channel.

We passed through the entrance gates, and then turned for a moment, to take in this vista of the English Channel.

The Pines Calyx Conference Center is constructed from chalk and other local materials, and also has a gorgeous, living, green roof. I can imagine a James Bond movie from the 1960s happening here, can't you?

The Pines Calyx Conference Center is constructed from chalk and other local materials, and also has a gorgeous, living, green roof. I can imagine a James Bond movie from the 1960s happening here, can’t you?

Detail of a Chalk Wall, at the Demo Dome

Detail of a Chalk Wall, at the Demo Dome

We followed this sinuous path.

We followed this sinuous path.

Broad parklands spread out before us.

Broad parklands spread out before us.

We paused, and looked back toward the massive chalk cliffs on the Channel...the view seemed surreal, to me.

We paused, and looked back toward the massive chalk cliffs on the Channel…the view seemed surreal, to me.

The view across a pond, and uphill toward an arboretum.

The view across a pond, and uphill toward an arboretum.

A bridge spans the pond.

A bridge spans the pond.

From the far side of the bridge, I paused to take in yet another view of the distant chalk cliffs.

From the far side of the bridge, I paused to take in yet another view of the distant chalk cliffs.

Further uphill, we met this rather grumpy-looking statue of Winston Churchill.

Further uphill, we met this rather grumpy-looking statue of Winston Churchill.

Beyond Winston, there's a wonderful example of recycling: architectural remnants from the facade of a grand building have been laid out on the ground, where they serve as divisions for an elegant series of garden beds.

Beyond Winston, there’s a wonderful example of recycling: architectural remnants from the facade of a grand building have been laid out on the ground, where they serve as divisions for an elegant series of garden beds.

Origin of the building facade, which is now used to delineate garden beds.

Origin of the building facade, which is now used to delineate garden beds.

Another view of the architectural remnant garden.

Another view of the architectural remnant garden.

The Grass Labyrinth

The Grass Labyrinth

Owl statue in garden, uphill from the pond.

Owl statue in garden, uphill from the pond.

Three lovely, young ladies, who we met on the Pond's Stepping Stones.

Three lovely, young ladies, who we met on the Pond’s Stepping Stones.

View of the pond, from the slopes of the arboretum.

View of the pond, from the slopes of the arboretum.

The arboretum, above the pond. It's beautiful at St.-Margaret's-at-Cliffe, isn't it!

The arboretum, above the pond. It’s beautiful at St.-Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, isn’t it!

Believe it or not, there remained yet ANOTHER wonderful destination, on our day’s dance-card. Much as lingering by the seaside appealed to us all, the afternoon was progressing, and ‘twas time to get a move on. Although Dover wasn’t a formal item on Amanda’s amazing itinerary, she and Steve made sure that, as we traveled to our ultimate garden (of the Day, and of our Grand Tour) I got a glimpse of Dover Castle.

Dover Castle looms in the distance.

Dover Castle looms in the distance.

Steve paused, so I could take this fast-photo of Dover Castle. I shall try to visit the Castle, on a future Kent-journey.

Steve paused, so I could take this fast-photo of Dover Castle. I shall try to visit the Castle, on a future Kent-journey.

Dover Castle, founded in the 12th century by Henry II, is the largest castle in England.

Dover Castle, founded in the 12th century by Henry II, is the largest castle in England.

Aerial View of Dover Castle

Aerial View of Dover Castle

Destination #6: Godinton House & Gardens
Godinton Lane
Ashford, Kent TN23 3BP

Open: March through November, Daily. 1PM–6PM

Telephone: 01233-643854
Website: http://www.godintonhouse.co.uk

Godinton House & Gardens. A house has been on this property, since the end of the 14th century. Image courtesy of Godinton.

Godinton House & Gardens. A house has been on this property, since the end of the 14th century. Image courtesy of Godinton.

And Now: the Last But Not Least Entry in my Kent Opus!

For this final destination, on the ultimate day of our touring together, Amanda chose to lead me to the Gardens at Godinton House…to a grand, gracious landscape where antiquity and modernity serenely coexist.

Simon Houfe, in his excellent little book on Godinton, introduces us to the property:

“In his classic book on Kent, Richard Church refers to the county as a gateway to Britain, as famous for its welcome to strangers as for its hospitality. Julius Caesar called the men of Kent civilized, and Church added: ‘Again and again, in studying the history of the county, one is impressed by the closeness of this association with the mainstream of European civilization… It became the home of the administration and was enriched with the comings and goings of the cultural traffic from Rome and Gaul.’ ”

Aerial view of the House, at Godinton. Image courtesy of Godinton.

Aerial view of the House, at Godinton. Image courtesy of Godinton.

“In much the same way, Godinton House has absorbed the history and culture of its region for six hundred years. Standing in its tranquil parkland setting, it has seen the rise and fall of a score of monarchs, uprisings, rebellions, Civil War and the threat of invasion. Like the great oaks in the park, it has been buffeted by the occasional onslaughts of change, but has remained relatively unsullied by time. It has been fortunate, and unusual among its neighbors, in having only two major changes of ownership in six hundred years. It has been doubly fortunate in that its owners improved their inheritance without sweeping away what had gone before, ensuring that such a rich heritage continues.”

Watercolor of Godinton, circa 1790. By John George Wood. Image courtesy of Godinton.

Watercolor of Godinton, circa 1790. By John George Wood. Image courtesy of Godinton.

“In 1879 when Colonel John Leslie Toke, the last of his line to occupy Godinton, was carrying out renovations, he discovered that Roman bricks, together with those of medieval date and later, formed part of the foundations. This mixture of dates and styles is almost a metaphor for the house itself, where the ancient world meets the modern world; where Kentish materials and Continental designs jostle for position; where Flemish glass and English glass decorate the windows; and the smell of the sea as well as the Downs is in every touch of chisel and adze.” [Note: An adze is an ancient steel tool, used to cut and shape timber.]

Hand Adze

Hand Adze

Mother Nature gifted us with a perfect, late-summer afternoon. Golden light, soft warm breezes (and near-total absence of other visitors) made that old refrain of “Kent is the only place for happiness” play silently again in my brain. So now, as we bid adieu to the wonders of Kent that Amanda revealed to me last August, please enjoy this Tour of the lovely sights at Godinton House & Gardens.

Leaving Steve with his chariot in the parking lot, Amanda and I passed through this fancifully-shaped gate, and into Godinton's Gardens.

Leaving Steve with his chariot in the parking lot, Amanda and I passed through this fancifully-shaped gate, and into Godinton’s Gardens.

Map of Godinton's 12 acres of Gardens.

Map of Godinton’s 12 acres of Gardens.

We approached the North Entry Court, at the front of the House.

We approached the North Entry Court, at the front of the House.

As we passed between the clipped yew hedges, I was charmed to see how that hedge-tops were shaped to mimic the lines of House's Jacobean gables.

As we passed between the clipped yew hedges, I was charmed to see how the hedge-tops were shaped to mimic the lines of the House’s Jacobean gables.

The Columbia Encyclopedia summarizes the Jacobean style as “an early phase of English Renaissance architecture and decoration. It formed a transition between the Elizabethan and the pure Renaissance style later introduced by Inigo Jones. The reign of James I (1603-25), a disciple of the new scholarship, saw the first decisive adoption of Renaissance motifs in a free form communicated to England through German and Flemish carvers rather than directly from Italy. Much use was made of columns and pliasters, round-arch arcades, and flat roofs and open parapets. These and other classical elements appeared in a free and fanciful vernacular rather than with any true classical purity.”

The North Front of the House. Behind this Jacobean exterior, which dates from about 1628, the medieval hall of the original timber-framed House, which was built in the 14th century, remains. As with all venerable English homes, layers upon layers of architectural styles co-exist at Godinton.

The North Front of the House. Behind this Jacobean exterior, which dates from about 1628, the medieval hall of the original timber-framed House, which was built in the 14th century, remains. As with all venerable English homes, layers upon layers of architectural styles co-exist at Godinton.

The North Front's Entry Door

The North Front’s Entry Door

At the southern edge of the North Front Entry Court, this sculpture clearly announced that in   Godinton's gardens, we would find a mixture of the classical and contemporary.

At the southern edge of the North Front Entry Court, this sculpture clearly announced that in
Godinton’s gardens, we would find a mixture of the classical and contemporary.

We ducked under this yew arch, and entered the Garden Proper.

We ducked under this yew arch, and entered the Garden Proper.

As afternoon shadows lengthened, we found ourselves on this Long Walk, on the House's east side. Sunken below the Walk: the parched expanses of a Croquet Lawn.

As afternoon shadows lengthened, we found ourselves on this Long Walk, on the House’s east side. Sunken below the Walk: the parched expanses of a Croquet Lawn.

We headed north on the Long Walk, toward the Pan Garden, which is tucked into the northeast corner of the estate.

We headed north on the Long Walk, toward the Pan Garden, which is tucked into the northeast corner of the estate.

From the Long Walk, we caught our first glimpses of Pan himself.

From the Long Walk, we caught our first glimpses of Pan himself.

Pan plays the pipes, at the center of his Garden.

Pan plays the pipes, at the center of his Garden.

Pan, ready for his Close-Up

Pan, ready for his Close-Up

The East Face of the House, seen from within the Pan Garden

The East Face of the House, seen from within the Pan Garden

Leaving Pan to his own devices, we ambled over to the Croquet Lawn

Leaving Pan to his own devices, we ambled over to the Croquet Lawn

Serious Breathing Room, on the Croquet Lawn

Serious Breathing Room, on the Croquet Lawn

Glass Garden Ornaments (very much like the ones I was soon to see, in Anne Guy's Midlands garden), in a border on the north side of the sunken, Croquet Lawn.

Glass Garden Ornaments (very much like the ones I was soon to see, in Anne Guy’s Midlands garden), in a border on the north side of the sunken, Croquet Lawn.

The East Face of the House, seen from the Croquet Lawn

The East Face of the House, seen from the Croquet Lawn

Another view of the East Face, from the north border flower bed of the Croquet Lawn....during a less drought-ridden time. Image courtesy of Godinton.

Another view of the East Face, from the north border flower bed of the Croquet Lawn….during a less drought-ridden time. Image courtesy of Godinton.

A view of the South, and East Faces of the House, from the Croquet Lawn.

A view of the South, and East Faces of the House, from the Croquet Lawn.

A Perfectly Bucolic Scene: cattle grazing in the pastures of the Great Stour Plain.

A Perfectly Bucolic Scene: cattle grazing in the pastures of the Great Stour Plain.

From the Croquet Lawn, we proceeded south, on the Herbaceous Border path. The Lily Pond shimmers, in the distance.

From the Croquet Lawn, we proceeded south, on the Herbaceous Border path. The Lily Pond shimmers, in the distance.

Informal plantings, on the Herbaceous Border.

Informal plantings, on the Herbaceous Border.

Topiary, near the Herbaceous Border

Topiary, near the Herbaceous Border

A closer look at the cattle who graze, on the other side of the Garden's perimeter wall of yew hedges.

A closer look at the cattle who graze, on the other side of the Garden’s perimeter wall of yew hedges.

Steps on the south end of the Herbaceous Border walk

Steps on the south end of the Herbaceous Border walk

We reached the tranquil Lily Pond

We reached the tranquil Lily Pond

Steps down to the Lily Pond

Steps down to the Lily Pond

Massive weeping willow trees are planted along the east side of the Lily Pond

Massive weeping willow trees are planted along the east side of the Lily Pond

A classical statue stands at the southern-most curve of the Lily Pond

A classical statue stands at the southern-most curve of the Lily Pond

An ancient sycamore tree, by the Lily Pond

An ancient sycamore tree, by the Lily Pond

Our view, from the Lily Pond lawn, up toward the Herbaceous Border

Our view, from the Lily Pond lawn, up toward the Herbaceous Border

At the opposite and southern-most end of the Long Walk that begins by the Pan Garden, there's a Belvedere, which affords long views out over the Great Stour Plain.

At the opposite and southern-most end of the Long Walk that begins by the Pan Garden, there’s a Belvedere, which affords long views out over the Great Stour Plain.

Free-form Wooden Chairs look right at home on the Belvedere. Amanda enjoys the afternoon's warm breeze.

Free-form Wooden Chairs look right at home on the Belvedere. Amanda enjoys the afternoon’s warm breeze.

And FINALLY.....my Intrepid Guide allows herself a moment of rest.

And FINALLY…..my Intrepid Guide allows herself a moment of rest.

From the Belvedere, we retraced our steps

From the Belvedere, we retraced our steps

We hung a left, onto the Tennis Lawn, where Godinton's greatest concentration of sculptures is displayed.

We hung a left, onto the Tennis Lawn, where Godinton’s greatest concentration of sculptures is displayed.

The Tennis Lawn

The Tennis Lawn

A closer look at a jolly decoration on the Tennis Lawn

A closer look at a jolly decoration on the Tennis Lawn

There's Classical too, on the Tennis Lawn

There’s Classical too, on the Tennis Lawn

A rhino prepares to charge, on the Tennis Lawn

A rhino prepares to charge, on the Tennis Lawn

North of the Tennis Lawn, there's a small Rose Garden

North of the Tennis Lawn, there’s a small Rose Garden

The South Face of the House overlooks the Rose Garden

The South Face of the House overlooks the Rose Garden

West of the Rose Garden, we found this Neoclassical Colonnade, which leads to the Italian Garden.

West of the Rose Garden, we found this Neoclassical Colonnade, which leads to the Italian Garden.

Detail of Italian Garden Colonnade

Detail of Italian Garden Colonnade

A Rill bisects the Italian Garden. This area was established in 1916.

A Rill bisects the Italian Garden. This area was established in 1916.

A closer look at the Rill in the Italian Garden

A closer look at the Rill in the Italian Garden

The Italian Garden's Fountain

The Italian Garden’s Fountain

A Cheeky Bit of Decoration, on a bench in the Italian Garden

A Cheeky Bit of Decoration, on a bench in the Italian Garden

Under the pergola in the Italian Garden: My Favorite Sculpture of them all!

Under the pergola in the Italian Garden: My Favorite Sculpture of them all!

Another view of those Gorgeous Gams.

Another view of those Gorgeous Gams.

A more modestly-attired Lady stands guard in the Italian Garden

A more modestly-attired Lady stands guard in the Italian Garden

A long view of the Italian Garden....which is a place that I could happily occupy, every day.

A long view of the Italian Garden….which is a place that I could happily occupy, every day.

The late 18th century Walled Garden can be discreetly entered through this brick gazebo that's next to the center of the Rill in the Italian Garden.

The late 18th century Walled Garden can be discreetly entered through this brick gazebo that’s next to the center of the Rill in the Italian Garden.

From the Gazebo, I peek into the expansive Walled Garden

From the Gazebo, I peek into the expansive Walled Garden

We pass from the Italian Garden, out into the great spaces of the Walled Garden

We pass from the Italian Garden, out into the great spaces of the Walled Garden

An explosion of color and texture, in the Walled Garden

An explosion of color and texture, in the Walled Garden

And still more happy plants, in the Walled Garden

And still more happy plants, in the Walled Garden

Along the north side of the Walled Garden, an old Oast House (see those double, conical roofs, peeking up from behind the front gable?) has been converted into a cottage.

Along the north side of the Walled Garden, an old Oast House (see those double, conical roofs, peeking up from behind the front gable?) has been converted into a cottage.

In the Walled Garden, we look back toward the brick gazebo, at the edge of the Italian Garden

In the Walled Garden, we look back toward the brick gazebo, at the edge of the Italian Garden

A circular fish pond is placed, dead-center, in the Walled Garden

A circular fish pond is placed, dead-center, in the Walled Garden

We in a far corner of the Walled Garden. Every gate in the garden has a unique design.

We’re in a far corner of the Walled Garden. Every gate in the garden has a unique design.

Another corner in the Walled Garden

Another corner in the Walled Garden

A view over the Walled Garden, as we stand in its southwest corner

A view over the Walled Garden, as we stand in its southwest corner

An old pump, and small lily pool, by the south wall

An old pump, and small lily pool, by the south wall

Blown-Glass Decorations and Espaliered Pears. This is a Serious Garden...that doesn't take itself seriously. Pure Fun.

Blown-Glass Decorations and Espaliered Pears. This is a Serious Garden…that doesn’t take itself seriously. Pure Fun.

Gorgeous shadows, cast by the late-afternoon sun.

Gorgeous shadows, cast by the late-afternoon sun.

With more than a little regret, I admitted that it was time for us to leave Godinton's Gardens. We exited the Walled Garden....

With more than a little regret, I admitted that it was time for us to leave Godinton’s Gardens. We exited the Walled Garden….

...and found ourselves in the shady Wild Garden, which is surrounded by acres and acres of sunny pastureland.

…and found ourselves in the shady Wild Garden, which is surrounded by acres and acres of sunny pastureland.

As Simon Houfe explains, “The magnificent park and gardens setting of Godinton that we see today has in fact evolved over many centuries. Medieval in origin, the early park was centered to the northeast of the house, and was enclosed by a dike and a hedge. By 1619, the farmyard and barns lay to the north of the house and were linked to it by walled enclosures and gardens scattered with small buildings. Fishponds were stocked with pike, carp, bream and tench; the orchards were hedged around and planted with Crab Apple, Cherry, Pear and Apple trees; and on the estate “chesnut wood” and “the great oake in the meadow” were pollarded. “

“During the late 18th century, extensive alterations were made, setting in place the foundations of the present landscape. In the spirit of the naturalistic landscape fashion of the time, the farm buildings and approach north of the house were swept away. The park was enlarged westwards and southwards and fine views of the house were created from new carriage drives. Walled gardens were added to the west and linked to the south front of the house by new garden shrubberies. The remaining fishponds and ditches were combined to create a new pool below the gardens.”

“The new park remained largely unaltered during the 19th century. In 1896, a new owner commissioned Sir Reginald Blomfield, noted architect and garden writer, to remodel the house and the gardens. The formal layout of the yew-hedged entrance forecourt, terraced lawns, rose garden and pond reflected Blomfield’s views on the pre-eminence of formal garden structure as a setting for architecture. Blomfield’s design remains the framework of the gardens today.”

A view from the fields beyond the Pan Garden, toward the East Front of the House at Godinton. Image courtesy of Godinton.

A view from the fields beyond the Pan Garden, toward the East Front of the House at Godinton. Image courtesy of Godinton.

As I’ve completed this account of Day Five of my Kent explorations, I’m once again amazed at the variety of places and experiences that my guide Amanda Hutchinson managed to compress into ten hours of a single day. I’m awed by Amanda’s inventiveness, and by her understanding of the need to provide contrasts, which in turn gave rhythms to our travels…. in fact, each of our days on the road felt relaxed, and not at all hurried. And I’m stunned by our stamina….hers, mine…and Steve Parry’s! But I think that the thing which most ensured the success of our odyssey throughout Kent was our combined Good Humor. Never before had a client worked Amanda or Steve so hard…..and they rose magnificently to the challenges I’d given them. However….all’s not yet done in Kent-Land! On June 2nd we three shall reconvene. We’ll then head off in Steve’s Mercedes; this time to explore Canterbury and Rochester–there are some serious cathedrals for me to see. We’ll visit the homes of Charles Dickens, and of Rudyard Kipling, and we’ll walk along the same Margate seashores that J.M.W.Turner painted. I’ve also asked that we return to Rye for a look inside Henry James’ Lamb House. There’s still the battlefield at Hastings to visit, and—miraculously—there are STILL a few MORE Kentish estates for us to admire, in the breathtakingly-lovely “Garden of England.”

As we bade each other farewell last August, Steve gave me a bag of gifts, which included this little book. I am now dutifully studying. In June, when we next encounter a flock of sheep, I intend to KNOW what I’m looking at.

I will indeed soon KNOW my Sheep!

I will indeed soon KNOW my Sheep!

Copyright 2014. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express &
written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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Part Four. Rambling Through the Gardens & Estates of Kent, England.

The British film-maker, Derek Jarman, created a tiny, breath-takingly beautiful garden in the inhospitable environment around Prospect Cottage, his home on the shingle beach at Dungeness. Photo courtesy of garden designer, Anne Guy. www.anneguygardendesigns.co.uk

The British film-maker, Derek Jarman, created a tiny, breath-takingly beautiful garden in the inhospitable environment around Prospect Cottage, his home on the shingle beach at Dungeness. Photo courtesy of garden designer, Anne Guy.
http://www.anneguygardendesigns.co.uk

March 2014. Behind the making of every garden there’s a Story. But, interesting stories alone don’t make for interesting gardens. Only in those rare instances when a compelling story is joined with idiosyncratic inspiration, and then honed by deep design expertise, does a world-class garden spring forth.

Although it’s a rare bird who can create a fine garden, the rest of us don’t need formal training in landscape architecture in order to recognize that a garden IS indeed fine. All a garden-goer needs to do is to pay attention: Phone OFF! Senses OPEN! When a garden’s elements work in concert to satisfy us completely — when what we see, and hear, and smell, and touch and taste seem of a piece — we know we’re on a speck of soil where, for at least a little while, there’s harmony between our animal and spiritual selves, and Mother Nature.

All of the significant gardens that I’ve written about over the past several years have begun as playgrounds for the very rich. But Derek Jarman’s tiny plot on Kent’s barren, southern seashore — which during his truncated lifespan had already gained renown among garden-lovers — shows us how modest means, combined with clear poetic vision, horticultural-smarts, and an endless supply of beach-rock, CAN result in a world-class garden.

On August 7, 2013, day four of Kent-Exploring with my wonderful Blue Badge Guide Amanda Hutchinson ( http://www.southeasttourguides.co.uk ) and our Mercedes-Master Steve Parry ( http://www.snccars.co.uk ) , we traveled to Rye, an ancient seaside town, and to Leeds Castle, yet another romantic, moated fortress. We also we visited a couple of hugely influential English gardens, which represent opposite poles of horticultural showing-off, as practiced by two of the Bad Boys on the English gardening scene….both of them gentlemen who let it be known how little they cared about the conventional methods of planting gardens. Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage is haiku: a spare little plot that shows how driftwood and stone and rusted iron can be transformed into eloquent backdrops for scrappy, beach-tolerant plants. Christopher Lloyd’s Great Dixter is epic: a sprawling demonstration of one plantsman’s passionate determination to make gardens that included all of the plants he loved—regardless of color, texture, scale, or native habitat. Join me now, as our Kent-travels continue:

Our destinations on Wednesday, August 7, 2013.

Our destinations on Wednesday, August 7, 2013.

Destination #1: Great Dixter House & Gardens Great Dixter Drive Northiam Near Rye East Sussex TN31 6PH Open from April through October, Tuesday through Sunday, 11AM—5PM Telephone: 01797-252878 Website: http://www.greatdixter.co.uk

 Christopher Lloyd’s gardens at Great Dixter surround his House, a rambling structure that grew larger, over the centuries. The original structure, built in the mid 15th century, was expanded when an early 16th century yeoman’s house from a nearby town was moved onto the site. In 1912, the architect Edwin Lutyens was hired by Christopher Lloyd’s father, Nathaniel Lloyd. Lutyens restored and further expanded the house, and, more importantly, laid out terraces and walls and paths which provided the framework for the gardens around the House which today’s visitors to Great Dixter continue to enjoy. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust

Christopher Lloyd’s gardens at Great Dixter surround his House, a rambling structure that grew larger, over the centuries. The original structure, built in the mid 15th century, was expanded when an early 16th century yeoman’s house from a nearby town was moved onto the site.
In 1912, the architect Edwin Lutyens was hired by Christopher Lloyd’s
father, Nathaniel Lloyd. Lutyens restored and further expanded the house, and, more importantly, laid out terraces and walls and paths which provided the framework for the gardens around the House which today’s visitors to Great Dixter continue to enjoy. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust

For students of 20th century garden-history, the gardens at Great Dixter are equal in fame to those at nearby Sissinghurst. Just as Vita Sackville-West’s prolific writing about her gardens had made them known to the world, so had Christopher Lloyd’s decades of book and article writing about Great Dixter garnered legions of fans. Having on the previous afternoon braved the coach-mobs at Sissinghurst, I anticipated equally crowded conditions at our morning’s first stop, and so approached Great Dixter in a quietly resigned frame of mind. Silly me…. Amanda had arranged for us to arrive at Great Dixter prior to opening time, and thus well before the herds of other garden-tourists would be tumbling out of their busses. And the iffy weather was also on our side. Heavily-clouded skies, which looked as if they were considering dumping serious wetness, would discourage all but the most dedicated of garden-trompers.

....always nice to have a sign declaring "You Are Here!" Having cleared THAT up, we began our explorations of Great Dixter's gardens.

….always nice to have a sign declaring “You Are Here!” Having cleared THAT up, we began our explorations of Great Dixter’s gardens.

Map in hand (you'll have noticed that I do love my maps), Amanda and I entered the gardens, where planted beds still adhere to the framework established in 1912 by Edwin Lutyens. The contents of those various sections of the gardens are MUCH changed since that time. Christopher Lloyd once said: "I couldn't DESIGN a garden. I just go along and CARP!" We're about to see what his carping yielded...

Map in hand (you’ll have noticed that I do love my maps), Amanda and I entered the gardens, where planted beds still adhere to the framework established in 1912 by Edwin Lutyens. The contents of those various sections of the gardens are MUCH changed since that time. Christopher Lloyd once said: “I couldn’t DESIGN a garden. I just go along and CARP!” We’re about to see what his carping yielded…

My first view of the Meadow Garden, alongside the walk toward the front of the House. Christopher Lloyd’s mother, Daisy, taught him how to garden, and instilled in him her love of meadow gardening, in particular.

My first view of the Meadow Garden, alongside the
walk toward the front of the House. Christopher Lloyd’s mother, Daisy,
taught him how to garden, and instilled in him her love of meadow gardening, in particular.

As Christopher Lloyd explains, in his GUIDE TO GREAT DIXTER: “Your first sight, on entering the front gate, is of two areas of rough grass, either side of the path to the house. These, and a number of other, similar areas scattered through the garden, bear witness to my mother’s love of this kind of meadow gardening. They are not just plots of grass that we gave up mowing for lack of labour; but were intended from the first.” The meadows “contain a rich assortment of plants that enjoy growing in turf and the grass is not cut until all its contents have completed ripening and shedding their seed. The poorer the soil, the richer the tapestry.”

The seasons unfold, and various flowers emerge from under the turf. Thousands of wild daffodils, and snakeshead fritillaries burst into bloom. Early purple, green winged, twayblade, and spotted orchids emerge. Tall spikes of blue camassia sway in the wind.

Twayblade Orchid. Image courtesy of Lisa Culp.

Twayblade Orchid. Image courtesy of Lisa Culp.

Wild Daffodils

Wild Daffodils

Snakeshead Frittillaries

Snakeshead Frittillaries

Camassia Quamash

Camassia Quamash

Christopher Lloyd died in 2006, at the ripe age of 84. Per his obituary in THE GUARDIAN: “One of six children, Lloyd was born at Great Dixter, into a strictly-run household, where no smoking or drinking was permitted. His father, Nathaniel Lloyd, came from a comfortably off middle-class family in Manchester and his mother, Daisy Field, was reputedly a descendant of Oliver Cromwell. Nathaniel had bought Great Dixter in 1910, and commissioned Edwin Lutyens to restore and add to its 15th century buildings. Lutyens also set out the framework of the garden as an array of formal spaces, which still exist today. Nathaniel died in 1933, leaving the 450-acre estate to his formidable widow.” In 1954, Lloyd, who had been working as an assistant lecturer in science and botany at Wye College, returned to the family home. “He started a nursery, specializing in clematis and uncommon plants. Sharing their enthusiasm for gardening, mother and son continued to develop the gardens and encourage visitors until Daisy died in 1972. The house and garden then became the property of Christopher and his niece Olivia.”

“In 1957, after experimenting with Dixter’s long border, Christopher wrote his first book, THE MIXED BORDER, propounding the revolutionary idea of combining shrubbery and herbaceous border.” Then followed many more books, as Lloyd also produced a 42-year-long run of weekly articles for COUNTRY LIFE.

“As a result of Christopher’s writing, Great Dixter is the most documented of gardens, its most celebrated feature being the immense mixed border, measuring 210 feet long by 15 deep, planned for midsummer, but in reality extending from April to October. More recently, bored by his celebrated but diseased rose garden, he announced that roses were ‘miserable and unsatisfactory shrubs.’ Encouraged by his protégé and head gardener Fergus Garrett—but to the alarm of gardening cognoscenti—he created a tropical garden. Occasionally referred to as ‘the ill-tempered gardener,’ Christopher did not suffer fools gladly.”

As Polly Pattullo added to that remembrance: “He enjoyed communicating his radical views. On a March visit, he pointed out a startling display of pale blue and baby pink hyacinths under a bush of orange-stemmed spiraea; he chuckled and told us that his old friend Beth Chatto had commented that this colour scheme ‘jarred.’ But Christopher’s aim was not to shock—he wanted to stimulate the sometimes precious world of gardening.”

These portions of the House date from the 15th and early 16th centuries.

These portions of the House date from the 15th and early 16th centuries.

To the right of the front entry porch is the Great Hall, which has been restored to look very much as it did when it was built in the mid 15th century. The Hall is one of the largest surviving timber-framed halls in England (measuring 40 feet by 25 feet, and 31 feet high). Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

To the right of the front entry porch is the Great Hall, which has been restored to look very much as it did when it was built in the mid 15th century. The Hall is one of the largest surviving timber-framed halls in England (measuring 40 feet by 25 feet, and 31 feet high). Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

A cross-section of a building similar to Great Dixter's ancient Hall. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

A cross-section of a building similar to Great Dixter’s ancient Hall. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

A jungle of potted flowers and plants flanks the front entry.

A jungle of potted flowers and plants flanks the front entry.

Detail of half-timbered wall, over the front entry porch.

Detail of half-timbered wall, over the front entry porch.

Detail of window-bay, over front entry porch

Detail of window-bay, over front entry porch

In the Solar Garden, by the front of the House, a virtuoso display of the use of annual plants, in this case the humble snapdragon, took my breath away. Per Lloyd: “Annuals and tender bedding plants feature prominently throughout the gardens, but they are not often seen in obvious beds of their own cut off from other features. For example, the largest single area of bedding, next to the old bay tree facing the front of the house is backed by a swathe of white Japanese anemones. They flower from late July to mid-October and provide a suitable backdrop for any coloured bedding I choose to plant in front of them, and this varies with every year. Bedding allows you the swiftest opportunities to experiment, and, if it goes wrong, the defects can quickly be obliterated. This bedding is changed twice or even three times a year.”

The gorgeous crescent of crimson and salmon colored snapdragons, in the Solar Garden, with the Oast House, and the Great Barn to the rear.

The gorgeous crescent of crimson and salmon colored snapdragons, in the Solar Garden, with the Oast House, and the Great Barn to the rear.

A closer look at the Snaps!

A closer look at the Snaps!

We proceeded into the Barn Garden

We proceeded into the Barn Garden

Lloyd’s GUIDEBOOK describes his Barn and Oast House: “The barn, with its long, tiled roof reaching quite near to ground level, on the garden side, is characteristic of this part of the Weald. It is supposed to be contemporary with Dixter itself. The oast house, with its three kilns, was built about 1890, and hops from the nearby hop garden were dried in it up to 1939.”

In the Barn Garden

In the Barn Garden

The Barn Garden surrounds the Sunk Garden, which as a pool at its center.

The Barn Garden surrounds the Sunk Garden, which has a pool at its center.

Lloyd’s chatty GUIDEBOOK continues: “The Sunk Garden is surrounded by the Barn Garden. My father was responsible for the design and making of the Sunk Garden, originally lawn, then dug up for vegetables during the First World War; after which my father said ‘Now we can play.’ The Barn Garden has the merit of giving a good view across the Sunk Garden, wherever you may be standing. About half the floor of the Sunk Garden is deliberately kept clear of plants, by the use of herbicides.” SO….shameless use of herbicides! My natural-gardening-self recoiled, but was slightly reassured by Lloyd’s assertion that, nevertheless, “the gardens are a veritable bird sanctuary, rich in suitable nesting sites for many species.”

The Sunk Garden, with the Great Barn

The Sunk Garden, with the Great Barn

The Pool, in the Sunk Garden

The Pool, in the Sunk Garden

In the Sunk Garden, luxuriant blooms....from some of the few rose bushes that Lloyd allowed to remain at Great Dixter.

In the Sunk Garden, luxuriant blooms….from some of the few rose bushes that Lloyd allowed to remain at Great Dixter.

More lush plantings, in the Sunk Garden

More lush plantings, in the Sunk Garden

Walkway between the Sunk Garden and the Great Barn border.

Walkway between the Sunk Garden and the Great Barn border.

Profusions of pastels, in a corner of the Barn Garden

Profusions of pastels, in a corner of the Barn Garden

The grand sweep of the Great Barn's roof

The grand sweep of the Great Barn’s roof

The view from the southern end of the Sunk Garden, into the Wall Garden. Note Lutyen's careful detailing of the arch and steps.

The view from the southern end of the Sunk Garden, into the Wall Garden. Note Lutyen’s careful detailing of the arch and steps.

Lutyens embedded tiles, above his arch

Lutyens embedded tiles, above his arch

Architect Edwin Lutyens (born 1869, died 1944)

Architect Edwin Lutyens
(born 1869, died 1944)

Lloyd described his Wall Garden as “a rectangle of walls which cause destructive wind eddies and vortices. The protection they afford is largely in the imagination.”

View from the Wall Garden, toward the Oast House

View from the Wall Garden, toward the Oast House

Some plant-combos, in the Wall Garden

Some plant-combos, in the Wall Garden

As with the front entry to the house, the Wall Garden is decorated with potted flowers.

As with the front entry to the house, the Wall Garden is decorated with potted flowers.

Within the Wall Garden is a terrace, with a pebble mosaic of Christopher Lloyd's two beloved dachshunds, Dahlia and Canna. The stones for Canna's eye and nose were acquired from Derek Jarman's rock-garden, at Prospect Cottage, in Dungeness.

Within the Wall Garden is a terrace, with a pebble mosaic of Christopher Lloyd’s two beloved dachshunds, Dahlia and Canna. The stones for Canna’s eye and nose were acquired from Derek Jarman’s rock-garden, at Prospect Cottage, in Dungeness.

Christopher Lloyd and Canna. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

Christopher Lloyd and Canna. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

We headed back toward the Solar Garden, and the front of the House

We headed back toward the Solar Garden, and the front of the House

Oh No! OTHER PEOPLE had begun to arrive! This is a view through the side of the front entry porch.

Oh No! OTHER PEOPLE had begun to arrive! This is a view through the side of the front entry porch.

Detail of the house. Note that even the ROOF provides a place for plants to root themselves. This portion of the house was added by Edwin Lutyens in 1912.

Detail of the house. Note that even the ROOF provides a place for plants to root themselves. This portion of the house was added by Edwin Lutyens in 1912.

I doubt that either Dahlia or Canna ever scared anyone away.

I doubt that either Dahlia or Canna ever scared anyone away.

Chimneys and gables of the 1912 Lutyens addition

Chimneys and gables of the 1912 Lutyens addition

We've entered the Peacock Topiary Garden...a wild and wooly place!

We’ve entered the Peacock Topiary Garden…a wild and wooly place!

Beginning in 1912, Lutyens instructed that yew topiaries be planted in several areas of the garden. And yew hedges were also established. Per Lloyd: “Most of the garden design was by Lutyens; it always seems fluid, never stodgy. The yew hedges are sometimes curved, making a change from straight lines.”

The plantings in the Peacock Topiary Garden are so dense that the towering topiaries become nearly invisible.

The plantings in the Peacock Topiary Garden are so dense that the towering topiaries become nearly invisible.

While in the Peacock Topiary Garden I began to understand how radical Lloyd’s approach to gardening was. Having inherited a well-established and tidy set of formal gardens, all nicely ornamented with by-that-time mature topiaries, he began to inject chaos into those serene environments. Shrubs and annuals and perennials and biennials jostle for position. Towering, spiky mulleins, clearly self-sown (and which I ruthlessly extract from my own gardens), block paths that have been made intentionally narrow. This part of the garden is a place that enforces the touching and sniffing of plants, which caress each passer-by. Trailing nasturtiums wind themselves up and through dense growths of yew. The positioning of the plants around the topiaries seems willy-nilly, but, upon further study, harmonies—or contrasts—of color and texture and scale become apparent. There’s clearly INTENTION at work here: we’re seeing the fruits of an extremely restless-gardening-mind. These horticultural acrobatics provide much food for thought, but they’re often exhausting. Nope….don’t visit Great Dixter if you’re in need of relaxation!

A view of the 1912 wing of the house, from the Peacock Topiary Garden

A view of the 1912 wing of the house, from the Peacock Topiary Garden

A more Dramatic View, from the Peacock Topiary Garden. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

A more Dramatic View, from the Peacock Topiary Garden. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

A central path through the Peacock Topiary Garden leads toward an arch, which serves as entry to the High Garden.

A central path through the Peacock Topiary Garden leads toward an arch, which serves as entry to the High Garden.

Trailing nasturtiums are climbing up the topiaries

Trailing nasturtiums are climbing up the topiaries

Flowers run WILD, in the Peacock Topiary Garden

Flowers run WILD, in the Peacock Topiary Garden

A veritable junge, amid peacock topiary

A veritable junge, amid peacock topiary

Paths in the Peacock Topiary Garden are intentionally narrow. One brushes up against everything that grows there.

Paths in the Peacock Topiary Garden are intentionally narrow. One brushes up against everything that grows there.

We're about to pass into the High Garden, which is east of the Peacock Topiary Garden.

We’re about to pass into the High Garden, which is east of the Peacock Topiary Garden.

The High Garden , and then the Vegetable Garden, are the most utilitarian parts of Great Dixter. Compost is aged here, and stock for the on-site Nursery is grown, along with multitudes of vegetables. Espaliered fruit trees flank flower borders.

In the High Garden, compost piles. This stuff is the Black Gold of which serious gardeners dream. Notice that the compost piles also serve as homes for vigorous squash plants.

In the High Garden, compost piles. This stuff is the Black Gold of which serious gardeners dream. Notice that the compost piles also serve as homes for vigorous squash plants.

Fragrant sweet peas, in the High Garden.

Fragrant sweet peas, in the High Garden.

More flowers, in the High Garden

More flowers, in the High Garden

A view of the house, from the High Garden

A view of the house, from the High Garden

The Vegetable Garden

The Vegetable Garden

We then wended our way toward the extensive gardens that are behind the house.

We then wended our way toward the extensive gardens that are behind the house.

Early in the day, the gardeners toiling at Great Dixter outnumber the visitors.

Early in the day, the gardeners toiling at Great Dixter outnumber the visitors.

Taking a last look over our shoulders at the Peacock Topiary Garden, we're about to enter the Long Border, at its almost-mid-point.

Taking a last look over our shoulders at the Peacock Topiary Garden, we’re about to enter the Long Border, at its almost-mid-point.

Per Lloyd: “Dixter’s a high maintenance garden; I make no bones about that. It is effort that brings reward. There are many borders and much work goes into them. Labour saving ground cover is not for me. It you see ground cover, it’s there because, first and foremost, I like it. The borders are mixed, not herbaceous. I see no point in segregating plants of differing habit or habits. They can all help one another.”

“I have no segregated colour schemes. In fact, I take it as a challenge to combine every sort of colour effectively. I have a constant awareness of colour and of what I am doing. Many plants in this garden are self-sown and they often provide me with excellent ideas. But I do also have some of my own!”

“Fergus Garret and I work hand in glove and he is as fertile in making suggestions for change and improvement as I am.”

“The Long Border’s season of interest is principally aimed at a mid-June to mid-August period, but in fact extends from April to October. It is my belief that no gaps, showing bare earth, should be visible from late May on. The effect should be a closely-woven tapestry. I do not at all mind bringing some tall plants to the border’s front, so long as an open texture allows the eye to see past them. Conversely, channels of low growth can be allowed, at times, to run to the back of the border. For all the work that goes into it, I want the border to look exuberant and uncontrived. Self-sowers, like verbascums and Verbena bonariensis, help toward this.”

Even in winter, the Long Border is lovely. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

Even in winter, the Long Border is lovely. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

Just below the Long Border: a Meadow, which is south of the Orchard.

Just below the Long Border:
a Meadow, which is south of the Orchard.

A bamboo grove has recently been planted in the Orchard....let's see how long it is until the Orchard has become a bamboo forest.

A bamboo grove has recently been planted in the Orchard….let’s see how long it is until the Orchard has become a bamboo forest.

The immense Long Border extends along the northern edge of the Orchard. This mixed border, which measures 15 feet deep by 210 feet long, is the garden's most celebrated and labor-intensive feature.

The immense Long Border extends along the northern edge of the Orchard. This mixed border, which measures 15 feet deep by 210 feet long, is the garden’s most celebrated and labor-intensive feature.

Waves of color, along the Long Border.

Waves of color, along the Long Border.

Here's a view of the Long Border, in early June. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

Here’s a view of the Long Border, in early June. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

And a Long Border view, in mid-July. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

And a Long Border view, in mid-July. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

A Jolt of Orange, on the Long Border

A Jolt of Orange, on the Long Border

Contrasting textures, in the Long Border

Contrasting textures, in the Long Border

In the Long Border, as everywhere else at Great Dixter, tall plants are often placed at the front of garden beds, thus breaking the conventional rules of what to plant, and where.

In the Long Border, as everywhere else at Great Dixter, tall plants are often placed at the front of garden beds, thus breaking the conventional rules of what to plant, and where.

A relatively tranquil section of the Long Border

A relatively tranquil section of the Long Border

The Long Border, near the house

The Long Border, near the house

The Long Border, at the house

The Long Border, at the house

The border at the Lower Terrace, to the rear of the house

The border at the Lower Terrace, to the rear of the house

At the house-end of the Long Border, Edwin Lutyens built a series of circular steps and terraces, which lead down to the Orchard.

At the house-end of the Long Border, Edwin Lutyens built a series of circular steps and terraces, which lead down to the Orchard.

A view up Lutyens' Circular Steps. Atop the dry stone wall, Red Valerian flowers keep things colorful. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

A view up Lutyens’ Circular Steps. Atop the dry stone wall, Red Valerian flowers keep things colorful. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

Detail of dry stone wall, at the Circular Steps.

Detail of dry stone wall, at the Circular Steps.

Plantings on the Circular Steps

Plantings on the Circular Steps

From the Circular Steps, one path leads toward the Exotic Garden (where Lutyens originally planted a rose garden).

From the Circular Steps, one path leads toward the Exotic Garden (where Lutyens originally planted a rose garden).

A view of the rear of the house, from the bottom of the Circular Steps.

A view of the rear of the house, from the bottom of the Circular Steps.

Paths are mown through the tall grass of the Orchard. This entire area is underplanted with Spring-blooming flower bulbs.

Paths are mown through the tall grass of the Orchard. This entire area is underplanted with Spring-blooming flower bulbs.

Along the outer edges of the Meadow and Orchard, borders are filled with large-scaled plants.

Along the outer edges of the Meadow and Orchard, borders are filled with large-scaled plants.

We enter the Exotic Garden, an area which Lutyens had designed as a formal, rose garden. When disease overtook the roses, Christopher Lloyd and his head gardener Fergus Garrett enthusiastically dug up the ailing bushes, and replaced them with tropical plants, many of which actually survive England's winters.

We enter the Exotic Garden, an area which Lutyens had designed as a formal, rose garden. When disease overtook the roses, Christopher Lloyd and his head gardener Fergus Garrett enthusiastically dug up the ailing bushes, and replaced them with tropical plants, many of which actually survive England’s winters.

Of all Christopher Lloyd and Fergus Garrett’s changes to the gardens at Great Dixter, none gave them as much pleasure as their erasure of the formal rose gardens that had been designed by Lutyens. Lloyd wrote: “We created a late summer- to-autumn garden for tropical effect, though many of the best foliage plants are quite hardy. This has been a lot of fun. For colour, we are mainly using dahlias and cannas. There is a haze of purple from purple self-sowing Verbena bonariensis. A white, August-September flowering shrub, Escallonia bifida, is usually besieged by butterflies. The banana, Musa basjoo, is a hardy Japanese species.”

The loopy but charming juxtaposition of giant tropical plants, with the 16th century wing of the house.

The loopy but charming juxtaposition of giant tropical plants, with the 16th century wing of the house.

I kept thinking that the Exotic Garden really needed to have some wild parrots living among the banana plants.

I kept thinking that the Exotic Garden really needed to have some wild parrots living among the banana plants.

The Exotic Garden

The Exotic Garden

A view of the Exotic Garden, from the old cow shed that Lloyd called "The Hovel."

A view of the Exotic Garden, from the old cow shed that Lloyd called “The Hovel.”

Along the edge of the Exotic Garden, masses of annual flowers seem to extend up onto the roof of the Hovel.

Along the edge of the Exotic Garden, masses of annual flowers seem to extend up onto the roof of the Hovel.

And, for a complete change of pace, along the other side of The Hovel is the Topiary Lawn.

And, for a complete change of pace, along the other side of The Hovel is the Topiary Lawn.

This is what the Topiary Lawn looked like in 1918, when Christopher Lloyd's mother Daisy presided over a much-tidier Topiary World. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

This is what the Topiary Lawn looked like in 1918, when Christopher Lloyd’s mother Daisy presided over a much-tidier Topiary World. Image courtesy of Great Dixter Charitable Trust.

Lloyd called the yew topiaries on the Topiary Lawn his “coffee-pots.” The Lawn—–now more a meadow—is enclosed by high hedges of olive green holm oak, and by a line of closely planted ash trees.

We're in the middle of the Topiary Lawn, looking back toward the rear of the house.

We’re in the middle of the Topiary Lawn, looking back toward the rear of the house.

A view of the Oast House, from the Topiary Lawn.

A view of the Oast House, from the Topiary Lawn.

A path mown through the Topiary Lawn, toward a large bench. The roof of the Nursery Sales Shed is visible, to the left.

A path mown through the Topiary Lawn, toward a large bench. The roof of the Nursery Sales Shed is visible, to the left.

The abstract forms of hedges, and house.

The abstract forms of hedges, and house.

On that cloudy morning, even the view from Great Dixter’s parking lot was inspiring. Yes, this is my first Sheep-Picture of the Day. Steve Parry advised me that the small brick building in the field is called “A Lookerer’s Hut,” another name for a Shepherd’s Hut.  Shepherds were called  "Lookerers."

On that cloudy morning, even the view from Great Dixter’s parking lot was inspiring. Yes, this is my first Sheep-Picture of the Day. Steve Parry advised me that the small brick building in the field is called “A Lookerer’s Hut,” another name for a Shepherd’s Hut. Shepherds were called “Lookerers.”

I don’t think of Christopher Lloyd as a garden designer. Instead, I regard him as the weaver of enormous, outdoor tapestries. Plants of all descriptions were the warp and weft of his gardening life. With a craftsman’s eye, he combined colors and textures. And with a stage-designer’s cunning, he juxtaposed plants of drastically-differing sizes, and then positioned them contrarily… anything to add some drama and sizzle to each part of his garden. Formal rose bushes, all together in rows? Bah! Why not some towering Japanese banana plants instead…with a few dahlias thrown in, just to keep the traditionalists pacified. Lloyd was not an artist who sought to create gardens that paid homage to the spirit of the landscape. Rather, his inward-looking gardens are almost brain-maps; illustrations of the feverish workings of the mind of a born horticulturalist. So what if the beautiful borders that he devised would need obsessive and skilled tending? Lloyd unapologetically made gardens that required massive quantities of labor; after all, he had the time and wherewithal. Now that Christopher Lloyd and his two pooches are gone, his gardens are still just as needy, but apprentice gardeners from around the world throng to Great Dixter, where head gardener Fergus Garrett puts them to good use as he teaches them how to throw planting-inhibitions, and plants’ seeds, into the wind.

Destination #2: The Mermaid Inn Mermaid Street Rye East Sussex TN31 7EY Phone: 01797-223065 Website: http://www.mermaidinn.com

Since lunchtime approached, Amanda had scheduled our next stop to be at the Mermaid Inn, in the ancient town of Rye.

The Mermaid Inn is on Mermaid Street, in the hilltown of Rye. In the early 1700’s the Mermaid Inn was used as a meeting place by the notorious smugglers known as the Hawkhurst Gang, who were seen there, “carousing and smoking their pipes, with loaded pistols on the table before them…and no magistrate daring to interfere.” Happily, when Amanda and I eventually enjoyed our lunch in the bar, there were no smugglers to be seen.

The Mermaid Inn is on Mermaid Street, in the
hilltown of Rye. In the early 1700’s the Mermaid Inn was used as a meeting place by the notorious smugglers known as the Hawkhurst Gang, who were seen there, “carousing and smoking their pipes, with loaded pistols on the table before them…and no magistrate daring to interfere.” Happily, when Amanda and I eventually enjoyed our lunch in the bar, there were no smugglers to be seen. Image courtesy of RYE, by Ann Lockhart.

Steve dropped us off at the foot of Mermaid Street, and Amanda and I began our hike up the rough, cobbled roadway. Rye is a strictly flat-shoes-with-good-traction place! Don’t even think about approaching it without proper footwear.

Map of the Town of Rye, in East Sussex, England.

Map of the Town of Rye, in East Sussex, England.

We're at the base of Mermaid Street, and it feels like rain's about to pour down upon us.

We’re at the base of Mermaid Street, and it feels like rain’s about to pour down upon us.

We began a fast trot toward the upper reaches of the town. Halfway up Mermaid Street, we took a right turn, which led us to Watch Bell Street.

This is the Old Bell, on Watch Bell Street. From 1377 onward, a bell has always been hung here, to warn Rye's citizens that invaders are approaching. The current bell has, happily, never been rung in times of trouble. Engraved upon it: "Thomas Lester Made Me, 1740." Lester was the Master Founder of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in London. In 1752, this company also cast America's original Liberty Bell. They also made Big Ben, for the Palace of Westminster.

This is the Old Bell, on Watch Bell Street. From 1377 onward, a bell has always been hung here, to warn Rye’s citizens that invaders are approaching. The current bell has, happily, never been rung in times of trouble. Engraved upon it: “Thomas Lester Made Me, 1740.” Lester was the Master Founder of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in London. In 1752, this company also cast America’s original Liberty Bell. They also made Big Ben, for the Palace of Westminster.

And now, a digression: This is the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in London. In continuous operation since 1570, the Foundry is Britain's oldest business. 32/34 Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1DY. www.whitechapelbellfoundry.co.uk. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

And now, a digression: This is the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in London. In continuous operation since 1570, the Foundry is Britain’s oldest business. 32/34 Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1DY.
http://www.whitechapelbellfoundry.co.uk.
Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

We're still in London, at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Here are some of their exquisite creations. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

We’re still in London, at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Here are some of their exquisite creations. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

Watch Bell Street

We’re back now to Rye, and to Watch Bell Street.

As we lingered by the Old Bell, we looked southward toward the English Channel, out over the marshy lowlands that surround Rye. Amanda asked me to imagine that those green expanses had once been the shallows of Rye Bay.

A late 17th century painting of Rye, which shows the town perched on a rocky outcrop, and surrounded by marshy fields where vast herds of sheep grazed. Image courtesy of the Rye Museum Association.

A late 17th century painting of Rye, which shows the town perched on a rocky outcrop, and surrounded by marshy fields where vast herds of sheep grazed. Image courtesy of the Rye Museum Association.

By the middle of the 15th century, constant erosion of East Sussex’s coastline had drastically changed the contours of the land, and the channel of the River Rother, which flowed directly to Rye, had greatly narrowed. Rye, which from 1066 onward, had become a major port and trading center, was now inland.

Ann Lockhart’s guide to the town, “RYE,” nicely summarizes the history of Rye and the Cinque Ports. “The Confederation of the Cinque Ports has its roots in the 11th century and originally consisted of the five ports of Dover, Hastings, Hythe, Romney and Sandwich. Rye and Winchelsea has been included as ‘limbs’ of Hastings by 1189, and were made full members in 1336. The Confederation was formed as a means of mutual protection and for the benefit of trade. Approved by Royal Charter, certain rights and privileges were conferred on the ports in exchange for services to be rendered to the Crown. These included supplying ships and men for a set number of days per year, and in times of trouble. “

Cinque Port Coat of Arms

Cinque Port Coat of Arms

BUT….despite official Charters, and trade agreements, by the early 14th century, as soon as King Edward I had introduced a tax on the export of wool, the liveliest portions of Rye’s economy began to depend upon smuggling. So vigorous was the subterranean economy that nearly everyone living in Rye somehow cooperated with the smugglers, and this tax-avoidance went on for hundreds of years, until the 19th century, when the abolition of many of the duties, along with reforms instituted by the Customs Service, finally killed smuggling’s profitability.

Further along Watch Bell Street, we came upon this beautiful, stone building, which is the oldest structure in Rye. Originally built as a monastery, in 1307 it was denounced by the Pope for housing monks and nuns on the same premises (egad), and so became a private residence. It was one of only a few of Rye's buildings that survived the French razing of the town, in 1377.

Further along Watch Bell Street, we came upon this beautiful, stone building, which is the oldest structure in Rye. Originally built as a monastery, in 1307 it was denounced by the Pope for housing monks and nuns on the same premises (egad), and so became a private residence. It was one of only a few of Rye’s buildings that survived the French razing of the town, in 1377.

Across Watch Bell Street from the old monastery, and behind this stone wall, is the Churchyard and burying ground of St.Mary the Virgin.

Across Watch Bell Street from the old monastery, and behind this stone wall, is the Churchyard and burying ground of St.Mary the Virgin.

The Churchyard is on the highest part of Rye's Conduit Hill. Image courtesy of Ann Lockhart.

The Churchyard is on the highest part of Rye’s Conduit Hill. Image courtesy of RYE. by Ann Lockhart.

Directly opposite the Churchyard on Watch Bell Street are these ancient buildings, which date from the 15th century.

Directly opposite the Churchyard on Watch Bell Street are these ancient buildings, which date from the 15th century.

Historic buildings are marked with this beautiful medallion.

Historic buildings are marked with this beautiful medallion.

At the far end of Watch Bell Street, we found The Ypres Tower, which dates from 1250. Henry III built this as a defense against invaders. Clearly, it didn't work...certainly not when the French breezed into town, in 1377. Over the centuries, this has been used as a prison, a courthouse, a monastery, and a private residence.

At the far end of Watch Bell Street, we found The Ypres Tower, which dates from 1250. Henry III built this as a defense against invaders. Clearly, it didn’t work…certainly not when the French breezed into town, in 1377. Over the centuries, this has been used as a prison, a courthouse, a monastery, and a private residence.

Another look at The Ypres Tower

Another look at The Ypres Tower

On the far side of The Ypres Tower, we looked out over the River Rother. The view from this point has changed considerably over the years. During the threat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the high tide would have filled a large estuary, with wide open sea beyond. After the French sacked the town in 1377, sea-facing cannons were mounted on this spot.

On the far side of The Ypres Tower, we looked out over the River Rother. The view from this point has changed considerably over the years. During the threat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the high tide would have filled a large estuary, with wide open sea beyond. After the French sacked the town in 1377, sea-facing cannons were mounted on this spot.

If we'd climbed down to the bottom of Conduit Hill, this would have been our view of Rye, from the narrow channel of the Rother River. The steeple of the Church of St.Mary the Virgin is at the center of the town. Image courtesy of Ann Lockhart.

If we’d climbed down to the bottom of Conduit Hill, this would have been our view of Rye, from the narrow channel of the Rother River. The steeple of the Church of St.Mary the Virgin is at the center of the town. Image courtesy of RYE, by Ann Lockhart.

Adjacent to the Church of St.Mary the Virgin is the Water House (or Cistern), which was constructed in 1735.

Adjacent to the Church of St.Mary the Virgin is the Water House (or Cistern), which was constructed in 1735.

Plaque on the Water House

Plaque on the Water House

A narrow street, near the Church

A narrow street, near the Church

Rye's elegant Coat of Arms (3 lions, joined with 3 ships),  on a grille over a house door.

Rye’s elegant Coat of Arms (3 lions, joined with 3 ships), on a grille over a house door.

Rain IS coming. A very murky look at the front entry of The Church of St.Mary the Virgin.

Rain IS coming. A very murky look at the front entry of The Church of St.Mary the Virgin.

What the Church looks like, in more clement weather. Image courtesy of Been There Done That.

What the Church looks like, in more clement weather. Image courtesy of Been There Done That.

Had the day been sunny, a Church-Tower-climb would have been in order. Here's the view over Rye, from the Church tower. Image courtesy of Ann Lockhart.

Had the day been sunny, a Church-Tower-climb would have been in order. Here’s the view over Rye, from the Church tower. Image courtesy of RYE, by Ann Lockhart.

Near to the Church, where Market Street meets West Street, is Lamb House. Henry James lived here, from 1898, until his death, in 1916.

Near to the Church, where Market Street meets West Street, is Lamb House. Henry James lived here, from 1898, until his death, in 1916.

American-born author, Henry James. Painting by John Singer Sargent.

American-born author, Henry James. Painting by John Singer Sargent.

The tantalizing garden wall, at Lamb House.

The tantalizing garden wall, at Lamb House.

I'd had NO idea that Henry James---who, when he's in good form, is one of my favorite authors---had spent the final and most artistically productive years of his life in Rye. Since Lamb House was closed on that Wednesday, I've already made plans with Amanda for us to actually get inside it, during my next trip to England, which will be very soon...this coming June.

I’d had NO idea that Henry James—who, when he’s in good form, is one of my favorite authors—had spent the final and most artistically productive years of his life in Rye. Since Lamb House was closed on that Wednesday, I’ve already made plans with Amanda for us to actually get inside it, during my next trip to England, which will be very soon…this coming June.

I peered through Lamb House's parlor window, and got a glimpse of these French doors, which lead to the private garden (yes...I'll photograph that, when I'm back in Rye).

I peered through Lamb House’s parlor window, and got a glimpse of these French doors, which lead to the private garden (yes…I’ll photograph that, when I’m back in Rye).

Yet another treasure, managed by England's National Trust. While at Lamb House, Henry James wrote his two greatest, late-career novels: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (published in 1902), and THE GOLDEN BOWL (published in 1904).

Yet another treasure, managed by England’s National Trust. While at Lamb House, Henry James wrote his two greatest, late-career novels: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (published in 1902), and THE GOLDEN BOWL (published in 1904).

THE WINGS OF THE DOVE takes place in London nd in Venice...two of my favorite cities. Read it: under its polite surface, a gritty novel lurks.

THE WINGS OF THE DOVE takes place in London and in Venice…two of my favorite cities. Read it: under its polite surface, a gritty novel lurks.

THE GOLDEN BOWL is long, challenging slog...but worth the effort. Attack its 568 pages during a sleepy August...that's the month during which I've most enjoyed this story of betrayal, love, and sacrifice.

THE GOLDEN BOWL is a long, challenging slog…but worth the effort. Attack its 568 pages during a sleepy August…that’s the month during which I’ve most enjoyed this story of betrayal, love, and sacrifice.

We're at the top of Mermaid Street, about to head downhill to the Mermaid Inn, which is the ivy-covered building on the right hand side of the Street. Starvation had set in...'twas time for LUNCH.

We’re at the top of Mermaid Street, about to head downhill to the Mermaid Inn, which is the ivy-covered building on the right hand side of the Street. Starvation had set in…’twas time for LUNCH.

Yet another of Rye's charming homes, across the Street from the Mermaid Inn.

Yet another of Rye’s charming homes, across the Street from the Mermaid Inn.

The Mermaid Inn. Some of the timbers of the Inn were taken from ships that had been disassembled. For those so-inclined (which I'm NOT), the Mermaid Inn is reputed to be one of the most-haunted buildings in England. Of the Inn's 31 bedrooms, 6 are said to be plagued by ghostly visitors.

The Mermaid Inn. Some of the timbers of the Inn were taken from ships that had been disassembled. For the occultly-inclined (which I’m NOT), the Mermaid Inn is reputed to be one of the most-haunted buildings in England. Of the Inn’s 31 bedrooms, 6 are said to be plagued by ghostly visitors.

The Mermaid Inn, which was rebuilt in 1420, stands on cellars that were constructed in 1156. During medieval times, the Inn brewed its own ale, and charged a penny a night for lodging.

The Mermaid Inn, which was rebuilt in 1420, stands on cellars that were constructed in 1156. During medieval times, the Inn brewed its own ale, and charged a penny a night for lodging.

The Mermaid Inn, on a sunny day. Image courtesy of Ann Lockhart.

The Mermaid Inn, on a sunny day. Image courtesy of RYE, by Ann Lockhart.

Passage leading to the Courtyard, at the Mermaid Inn.

Passage leading to the Courtyard, at the Mermaid Inn.

After our Mermaid Inn lunch----which was very tasty---we headed down Rye's High Street, toward Hilder's Cliff, and the Landgate.

After our Mermaid Inn lunch—-which was very tasty—we headed down Rye’s High Street, toward Hilder’s Cliff, and the Landgate.

Our soggy view from Hilder's Cliff, over the Town Salts, and the River Rother.

Our soggy view from Hilder’s Cliff, over the Town Salts, and the River Rother.

At the northeast corner of Rye is the Landgate, one of four gateways that were built in 1329, when a great wall was erected around the perimeter of the town. The Landgate is the only gate that's survived. Originally, its two towers had pointed roofs, and a pitched roof was over the arch.

At the northeast corner of Rye is the Landgate, one of four gateways that were built in 1329, when a great wall was erected around the perimeter of the town. The Landgate is the only gate that’s survived. Originally, its two towers had pointed roofs, and a pitched roof was over the arch.

The Rye Coat of Arms, on the base of the Landgate.

The Rye Coat of Arms, on the base of the Landgate.

Plaque on Rye's Landgate.

Plaque on Rye’s Landgate.

Our little Rye-Tour ended, we passed through the Landgate, and found Steve waiting patiently for us!

Our little Rye-Tour ended, we passed through the Landgate, and found Steve waiting patiently for us!

Just as the Rye Town Guide promises, a return trip is inevitable. I'll report about my upcoming visit to Lamb House in a future Armchair Traveler's Diary. Image courtesy of Ann Lockhart.

Just as the Rye Town Guide promises, a return trip is inevitable. I’ll report about my upcoming visit to Lamb House in a future Armchair Traveler’s Diary. Image courtesy of RYE. by Ann Lockhart.

Before our next garden stop — Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage on the shingle beach at Dungeness — Amanda and Steve agreed that I should see a bit of the vast, 100-square-mile expanse of fabled Romney Marsh, which was where the liveliest smuggling activities on England’s southern coast occurred. The outlaws are long gone: the Marsh is now populated largely by sheep.

The view from Rye---there's our Ypres Tower again---across the River Rother, and out over the great expanses of Romney Marsh.

The view from Rye—there’s our Ypres Tower again—across the River Rother, and out over the great expanses of Romney Marsh.

Map of Romney Marsh, and the Shingle Beach at Dungeness

Map of Romney Marsh, and the Shingle Beach at Dungeness

A gull's-eye view of Romney Marsh, and the English Channel

A gull’s-eye view of Romney Marsh, and the English Channel

A motorist's-eye view of Romney Marsh, from a rare straightaway, and on a sunny day.

A motorist’s-eye view of Romney Marsh, from a rare straightaway, and on a sunny day.

Steve began to thread his way along the narrow roads that wind through the Marsh. Hundreds of small, drainage ditches — called “sewers” —snake across the lowlands–and roads usually follow those ditches….however circuitous their paths. The heavy overcast made it impossible for me to use the sun’s position to judge our direction, so I forgot about backseat driving, and simply gawked at the eerie landscapes, while I imagined smugglers, skulking about under similarly leaden skies, as they moved their cargoes of wool. I rolled down my window, and heard cacophonies of bird-calls echoing. Clearly, if you’re into either sheep-or-bird-watching, Romney Marsh is the place to be. I can imagine that, at a future and quieter time of my traveling-life, I’ll stay for a few nights in Rye, so that I can spend my days, rubber-booted and sloshing about in the Marsh, with camera and binoculars in hand.

Per the Royal Society for Protection of Birds ( http://www.rspb.org.uk ) , “The Romney Marshes are a very important area for farmland birds, owing to the presence of key species: grey partridges, corn buntings, turtle doves, tree sparrows, yellow wagtails and lapwings. In addition, there are populations of other red-listed [endangered] species, including skylarks, yellowhammers and linnets.”

Grey Partridge

Grey Partridge

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Linnet

Linnet

This church, St. Thomas Becket, is in the “lost village” of Fairfield, one of nearly a dozen villages, with fabulous names like “Snave,” “Shorne,” “Buttdarts,” and “Orgarswick,” which have disappeared from the Marsh, over the past 600 years.

St.Thomas Becket Church, in the lost village of Fairfield, on Romney Marsh. This medieval church was often surrounded by flooded fields, and thus only reachable by boat. The building was reconstructed in 1912.

St.Thomas Becket Church, in the lost village of Fairfield, on Romney Marsh. This medieval church was often surrounded by flooded fields, and thus only reachable by boat. The building was reconstructed in 1912.

Flocks of sheep, in the fields surrounding St.Thomas Becket Church.

Flocks of sheep, in the fields surrounding St.Thomas Becket Church.

....yet another bit of English-Sheep-Heaven for Nan! Romney Marsh has its own breed of sheep.

….yet another bit of English-Sheep-Heaven for Nan! Romney Marsh has its own breed of sheep.

Per Wikipedia’a handy entry on Romney Marsh Sheep: “The economy and landscape of Romney Marsh was dominated by sheep. Improved methods of pasture management and husbandry meant the marsh could sustain a stock density greater than anywhere else in the world. The Romney Marsh sheep became one of the most successful and important breeds of sheep. Their main characteristic is an ability to feed in wet situations; they are considered to be more resistant to foot rot and internal parasites than any other breed.” Here are some other-day views of the Marsh, taken by photographers who’ve posted their pictures to the web:

Another photographer's view of St.Thomas Becket Church

Another photographer’s view of St.Thomas Becket Church

Stuart Black's dawn photo of St.Thomas Becket Church

Stuart Black’s dawn photo of St.Thomas Becket Church

Destination #3: Church of St. Augustine. On Straight Lane, just off the A259 Road Broookland, Kent Postcode district TN29

Our next stop in the Marsh was the village of Brookland—population about 400— where the main attraction is the Church of St. Augustine. Again, Wikipedia has done all of my thinking for me (which I appreciate…sometimes I need to rest my brain.): “The parish of Church of St.Augustine has the unusual, if not unique, feature of an entirely wooden spire being separate from the body of the Church. Popular myth is that the steeple looked down at a wedding service to see such a beautiful bride marrying such an unpleasant groom that it jumped off the church in shock. A more popular story is that one day a virgin presented herself to be married and the church spire fell off at the unusual occurrence. In fact, it is separate as the weight cannot be supported by the marshy ground.” Thank-YOU Wikipedia…which reminds me: Each year when Wikipedia asks me to contribute some money to support their site, I do so gladly….and so should you!

Brookland's Church of St.Augustine, with its separate steeple. The 3-stage, "Candle-Snuffer" configuration of the steeple is the result of several additions to the original, 13th century bell-cage.

Brookland’s Church of St.Augustine, with its separate steeple. The 3-stage, “Candle-Snuffer” configuration of the steeple is the result of several additions to the original, 13th century bell-cage.

It's exactly 2:25PM, and we're about to enter the Church of St.Augustine through the wooden porch that was added in the 14th century.

It’s exactly 2:25PM, and we’re about to enter the Church of St.Augustine through the wooden porch that was added in the 14th century.

The main portion of the Church of St.Augustine was built in 1250. The box pews were added in 1738. This is still a functioning Anglican parish.

The main portion of the Church of St.Augustine was built in 1250. The box pews were added in 1738. This is still a functioning Anglican parish.

The round, lead Font dates from the 12th century.

The round, lead Font dates from the 12th century.

The Font is decorated with 12 panels showing the signs of the Zodiac, which are accompanied by images of the typical labors of each month.

The Font is decorated with 12 panels showing the signs of the Zodiac, which are accompanied by images of the typical labors of each month.

The much-trodden floor tiles of the Church of St.Augustine

The much-trodden floor tiles of the Church of St.Augustine

The Church of England has a LONG MEMORY. Here's a list of the Vicars of Brookland, from 1249 to the present.

The Church of England has a LONG MEMORY. Here’s a list of the Vicars of Brookland, from 1249 to the present.

And what would England be without her Tea Towels! This is displayed in the Church of St.Augustine, and I'm sorry none were for  sale.

And what would England be without her Tea Towels! This is displayed in the Church of St.Augustine, and I’m sorry none were for sale.

Destination #4: Derek Jarman’s garden at Prospect Cottage On Dungeness Road. Dungeness, Kent Postcode district TN29

Derek Jarman was an English film director, stage designer, painter, gardener and author (born 1942, died 1994). This is the front cover of the last book that Jarman wrote, before his untimely demise from AIDS. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Derek Jarman was an English film director, stage designer, painter, gardener and author (born 1942, died 1994). This is the front cover of the last book that Jarman wrote, before his untimely demise from AIDS. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

How now, should I describe this next, and most important stop, of our day? When the maker of a garden is long gone, and where no organization has thereafter stepped in to restore and maintain those gardens, a student-of-gardening is posed with a challenge to her imagination. Almost-lost gardens such as Derek Jarman’s are places which, in many ways, cannot become REAL until historical knowledge is gained, and then merged with present-day sensation…..sensation which can only be acquired by BEING on the site of the garden in question.

The garden that Derek Jarman made is, in many respects, NOT what we expect an English garden to be; certainly the grounds at Prospect Cottage do not look like they belong in Kent, aka “The Garden of England.”

And the garden that exists today at Dungeness is NOT truly Jarman’s garden, because Derek has been dead and gone for 20 years.

Further, the current owners of Prospect Cottage are private folks, who have NOT opened the grounds around their home to the garden-loving Public.

RedPoppyWatercolor

All a visitor to the shingle beach at Dungeness can do now is to linger conspicuously ( because IN-conspicuousness is impossible: there’s not a tree or hedge growing anywhere on the headland of Dungeness. ) on the shoulder of Dungeness Road, as she tries to gawk politely at the garden, which though faded, is still recognizably Jarman’s creation. To get a closer look, a bold soul might walk around what seem to be the edges of the property, but since Jarman’s former garden is unconstrained by fencing, it’s hard to know at what point one has begun to trespass.

So…considering all these NOTS, there’s explaining to do:

Unless we travel to Dungeness, and stand on the rocky beach, and feel the sharp particles of grit that are borne against our faces by the constant wind; unless we walk along the village’s single road, and realize that, apart from the crunching of our feet on the gravel, the only sounds we hear come from the breeze and surf, and from the seabirds who soar overhead; unless we stand and gaze at the rusted fishermen’s shacks which are scattered along the beach, and then squint our eyes to focus upon the hulking gray mass of the distant Nuclear Power Station which serves as the backdrop for every other built thing in Dungeness…until we’ve done these things, we cannot begin to appreciate why Dungeness worked so powerfully upon Derek Jarman’s imagination.

There’s not much of a There THERE at Dungeness. The first sight that greets the traveler is the Pilot Inn, an unprepossessing, fork-in-the-road-restaurant that dishes up what Jarman considered to be “simply the finest fish and chips in all England.”

The Pilot Inn, Dungeness, Kent

The Pilot Inn, Dungeness, Kent

Dungeness has an otherworldly feel. With one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe, it is classified as Britain’s only desert. The British military has long used the beach and marshes there for training exercises; to this day, DANGER AREAS are marked. And despite the safety risks posed by the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station (waste hot water from the Station is pumped into the sea), multitudes of birds and insects flourish there, along with more than 600 types of plants. In fact, a fistful of conservation designations have been conferred upon what at first glance seems a Godforsaken place: it’s a National Nature Reserve, a Special Protection Area, a Special Area of Conservation, and the Site of Special Scientific Interest (or NNR; SPA; SAC; and SSSI, for those who prefer acronyms).

Aerial view of Dungeness

Aerial view of Dungeness

View of Dungeness, from the top of its old lighthouse

View of Dungeness, from the top of its old lighthouse

The shingle beach at Dungeness, on a day that was sunnier than ours....

The shingle beach at Dungeness, on a day that was sunnier than ours….

Alexander Pope (born 1688, died 1744) popularized the ancient Roman notion of Genius Loci…the idea that a garden should always exist in harmony with its setting. He admonished:

“Consult the genius of the place in all; That tells the waters to rise, or fall; Or helps th’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale, Or scoops in circling theatres the vale; Calls in the country, catches opening glades. Joins willing woods, and varies shade from shades, Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines; Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.”

My dear friend, the British garden designer Anne Guy, has told me this about Prospect Cottage: “I have to say that Jarman’s garden is my most favourite garden ever. Its simplicity, and its homage to genius loci results in a true work of art and understanding that’s quite unsurpassed by wealth and ‘taste’ of the classic gardens. Also its remoteness and strange proximity to the Dungeness power station…I could go on for hours!”

Anne Guy, garden designer, at work.

Anne Guy, garden designer, at work.

Consider this. You’re not-yet-old. You’ve just been given a death sentence. Do you put on your bathrobe and retreat into a dark room? Or do you go outside, and with your remaining energies begin to consider all the things under the sun that you might still gracefully accomplish?

LizardWatercolor

This was Jarman. In 1986, when he was 45, Derek was diagnosed as HIV positive; which, in those early days of the AIDS crisis, meant that he would die soon, and painfully. Instead of hiding his condition, Jarman spoke openly about it. Knowing that his failing health could no longer sustain his frenetic, London-based life as a painter, and director of stage-plays, and of films and music-videos, Jarman traveled to Dungeness, which is literally one of the quietest places in England. He bought a fisherman’s cottage—a house with jolly, varnished black walls and bright yellow window frames that he’d long admired—and prepared to leave life with as much dignity as he could summon: perhaps he’d paint a bit, and do some writing. Those low-keyed activities would have to suffice…

PinkPoppyWatercolor

From childhood, Jarman had been a gardener, but making a garden at Prospect Cottage had never been part of his Last-Act-Script. However, almost by accident, a garden began to form around his cottage. Jarman’s daily walks along the shingle beach yielded treasures that appealed to his artist’s eye. Piles of polished stone, shards of tide-scoured flint, bundles of bleached driftwood, and twisted lengths of rebar began to accumulate outside his front door. Almost without thought Jarman began to arrange his stones in patterns on the ground, and to stake newly-planted beach-roses with the driftwood, and to barricade tender plants behind the curlicues of rusted metal. The detritus of Dungeness had began to act upon Jarman’s Artist-Self.

In his creative endeavors, Derek Jarman had never shied away from controversy; his films dwelled upon themes of sexuality and violence. When I set myself the task of writing about any garden made by an author, or filmmaker, I do my homework. I read the author’s writings, and watch the director’s films.

Jubilee

As I prepared for this Derek Jarman Chapter of my Travel Diary, I sought out Jarman’s most famous films (JUBILEE is supposed to be the UK’s first punk movie, but watching Adam Ant “act” was more than I could endure) and music-videos (see if you can tolerate watching ANYTHING with the Pet Shop Boys….) . I confess that, when it comes to drama, I prefer less histrionic acting than that favored by Jarman, so I stopped watching Jarman’s filmed work. I turned instead to Jarman’s little book about his Garden, and in those elegantly written pages, which are supplemented by Howard Sooley’s beautiful photos, I became acquainted with the clear-sighted artist and thoughtful man who Derek Jarman surely must have been.

AlliumWatercolor

There’s no need for me to paraphrase Jarman’s history of the creation of his garden. When you’re done with my article, buy his book, and you’ll gain a gardening-friend (DEREK JARMAN’S GARDEN. Published by Thames & Hudson. ISBN# 978-0-500-01656-5 ). Because the gardens that remain at Prospect Cottage are mere echoes of those which Jarman made, one could argue that, these days, a trip to Dungeness is pointless. But Jarman’s book, though lovely, does not begin to explain how the barren expanses of Dungeness make one FEEL. On the shingle beach, life seems stripped to its essentials. The very absence of visual and aural clutter cleanses the soul, and clears the deck for fresh ways of thinking.

GardenVisit.com, which can always be depended upon for a good summary, describes Jarman’s garden as: “postmodern, and highly context-sensitive; a complete rejection of modernist design theory. Jarman disliked the sterility of modernism; he despised its lack of interest in poetry, allusion and stories; he deplored the techno-cruelty exemplified in Dr. D.G.Hessayon’s ‘How to be an expert’ series of garden books. Jarman’s small circles of flint reminded him of standing stones and dolmens. He remarked that ‘Paradise haunts gardens, and some gardens are paradise. Mine is one of them. Others are like bad children, spoilt by their parents, over-watered and covered with noxious chemicals.’ ”

SeaKaleWatercolor

Now, please join me for a look at what Prospect Cottage looked like last August, as a bitter wind blew and rain spattered. After this brief, gray-day look at Jarman’s gardens, I’ll brighten things considerably with photos from Jarman’s own book, taken when his garden was in its prime. And, finally, I’ll share pictures taken on sunny days by Anne Guy, during her visits to Dungeness, in July of 2005 and 2006, when Jarman’s gardens were still nearly as gorgeous as they’d originally been.

Sign for the National Nature Reserve, directly across the road from Derek Jarman's garden, on August 7, 2013.

Sign for the National Nature Reserve, directly across the road from Derek Jarman’s garden, on August 7, 2013.

The single beach, across the road from Prospect Cottage, on August 7, 2013.

The single beach, across the road from Prospect Cottage, on August 7, 2013.

Fishermen's huts on the shingle beach, across from Prospect Cottage, on August 7, 2013

Fishermen’s huts on the shingle beach, across from Prospect Cottage, on August 7, 2013

My first view of Prospect Cottage, on August 7, 2013

My first view of Prospect Cottage, on August 7, 2013

Prospect Cottage, on August 7, 2013

Prospect Cottage, on August 7, 2013

Prospect Cottage, on August 7, 2013

Prospect Cottage, on August 7, 2013

View from Prospect Cottage's garden or the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, on August 7, 2013

View from Prospect Cottage’s garden toward the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, on August 7, 2013

Next, pictures of Jarman’s garden during his lifetime; all taken by Howard Sooley, for the book DEREK JARMAN’S GARDEN:

Derek in his back garden. When he arrived at Prospect Cottage he observed "it looked impossible: shingle with no soil supported a sparse vegetation." Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Derek in his back garden. When he arrived at Prospect Cottage he observed “it looked impossible: shingle with no soil supported a sparse vegetation.” Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Fennel, and poppy seed heads....two of the things in Jarman's garden which the hoards of hungry rabbits didn't consume. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Fennel, and poppy seed heads….two of the things in Jarman’s garden which the hoards of hungry rabbits didn’t consume. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Jarman's back garden, with the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station in the not-too-far-distance. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Jarman’s back garden, with the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station in the not-too-far-distance. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Opium Poppy in Jarman's garden. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Opium Poppy in Jarman’s garden. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Jarman watering in the seeds in his raised beds, where he grew herbs and vegetables. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Jarman watering in the seeds in his raised beds, where he grew herbs and vegetables. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Rusted rebar and an old garden hoe are used as sculpture in Jarman's garden. Eroded beach rocks become jewels, as they're threaded onto the hoe tines. Cotton lavender plants frame the sculpture. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Rusted rebar and an old garden hoe are used as sculpture in Jarman’s garden. Eroded beach rocks become jewels, as they’re threaded onto the hoe tines. Cotton lavender plants frame the sculpture. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Fragments of scrap metal and red poppies punctuate a sweep of beach rock. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

Fragments of scrap metal and red poppies punctuate a sweep of beach rock. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

California poppies with sea kale, in a forest of driftwood. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

California poppies with sea kale, in a forest of driftwood. Image courtesy of Estate of Derek Jarman.

And finally, instead of thousands more of my words, Anne Guy’s eloquent photographs of Derek Jarman’s gardens, taken during her visits to Dungeness, in July of 2005, and 2006.

The front of Prospect Cottage, from across the road. Photo by Anne Guy

The front of Prospect Cottage, from across the road. Photo by Anne Guy

The view toward the shingle beach, from the front yard of Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

The view toward the shingle beach, from the front yard of Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

A telephoto view of the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, taken from Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

A telephoto view of the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, taken from Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman chose his favorite portions a John Donne poem, and had the words affixed to the wall of Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman chose his favorite portions of a John Donne poem, and had the words affixed to the wall of Prospect Cottage. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Sun Rising by John Donne “Busy old fool, unruly sun, Why dost thou thus, Through windows and through curtains, call on us? Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run? Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide Late schoolboys and sour ‘prentices, Go tell court-huntsmen that the King will ride, Call country ants to harvest offices; Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime, Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time. Thou, sun, art half as happy as we, In that the world’s contracted thus; Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be To warm the world, that’s done in warming us. Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; This bed thy centre is, these walls thy sphere.”

With his garden and home, Derek Jarman made a final, joyful noise. Photo by Anne Guy.

With his garden and home, Derek Jarman made a final, joyful noise. Photo by Anne Guy.

Prospect Cottage is an uncompromising place…and almost intimidating in its simplicity. Perhaps its power of place comes from the fact that Derek Jarman’s gardens were made as he savored Life and conversed with Death. And lately, as I’ve been thinking about my August visit to Dungeness, a memory about something which has nothing to do with gardens has become persistent. One morning in the spring of 2006, as my complex, ambitious and creative father Elwyn Belmont Quick accepted that the illness which he’d bravely fought was about to kill him, I brought just-baked bread to his hospital bed. I broke open the warm loaf, spread it with sweet butter, and fed it to him. He took a bite, and then smiled the happiest smile I’d ever seen him make. “Nan,” he said, “We have everything we need.” As I now appreciate the way in which Derek Jarman—yet another restlessly inventive person—used the simplest of materials, scavenged on the shingle beach, to make his own little paradise, I’m certain that, as he positioned driftwood and arranged beach rocks and broadcast wildflower seeds, he must also have thought, “Yes, I have everything I need.” Bread and Butter, or Sunshine and Stone? Whichever combination makes us happy, we should try to remember that the smallest blessings are our greatest treasures, in the end.

Destination #5: Leeds Castle
Ashford Road
Maidstone, Kent ME17 1PL

Open year-round.
Hours: Daily, 10:30AM– 4:30PM
Phone# 01622-765400
Website: http://www.leeds-castle.com

Since 1119, Leeds Castle has perched upon an island in the River Len.  Over the past 900 years, the castle has been greatly expanded. It began as a Norman stronghold, and has since been the private property of six of England’s medieval queens; and a palace used by Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. After 1552, the castle passed into private ownership, and was owned successively by the Culpeper, Fairfax and Wykeham Martin families. In the early 20th century the Castle became the retreat of Olive, Lady Baillie, an Anglo -American heiress. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

Since 1119, Leeds Castle has perched upon an island in the River Len. Over the past 900 years, the castle has been greatly expanded. It began as a Norman stronghold, and has since been the private property of six of England’s medieval queens; and a palace used by Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. After 1552, the castle passed into private ownership, and was owned successively by the Culpeper, Fairfax and Wykeham Martin families. In the early 20th century the Castle became the retreat of Olive, Lady Baillie, an Anglo -American heiress. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

After the extreme excitement of our Day (because visiting the gardens of people like Christopher Lloyd and Derek Jarman sets my brain abuzz), ‘twas time for me to stop pondering theories of garden design. Now I’d decompress with a visit to a nice, soothing castle, where I’d do nothing more taxing than mindlessly ogle a beautiful and ancient building! See how jaded a week of Kent-touring can make a traveler? That I could consider seeing Leeds Castle, which is one of the most-visited historic sites in England, to be a relaxing and relatively-normal occurrence shows how wonderfully spoiled Amanda’s tour-guiding had made me. (Which is why, Gentle Reader, during this coming June, I’ll once again be putting myself into the expert hands of Amanda and Steve…as we explore places in Kent that we didn’t get to last August.)

At 4PM, Steve delivered us to the Main Entrance, and then Amanda and I set off at a fast clip toward the Castle itself, which is a fair distance from the Entrance. Amanda and I are both tall ladies, and so, happily, our long strides matched. Join us for a photo-album tour, as we explore yet another of Kent’s moated-jewels.

Map of the grounds at Leeds Castle

Map of the grounds at Leeds Castle

The Estate at Leeds Castle was nearly self-sufficient.

The Estate at Leeds Castle was nearly self-sufficient.

We trotted past the area named "The Duckery," which at first glance looked far like a "Goosery." Lady Baillie loved birds, and asked her garden designer, Russell Page, to develop this pretty area of parkland into a welcoming environment for waterfowl.

We trotted past the area named “The Duckery,” which at first glance looked far like a “Goosery.” Lady Baillie loved birds, and asked her garden designer, Russell Page, to develop this pretty area of parkland into a welcoming environment for waterfowl.

...but then a couple of Ducks made an appearance, so a "Duckery," things would remain.

…but then a couple of Ducks made an appearance, so a “Duckery,” things would remain.

White Swans joined the feathered-throng.

White Swans joined the feathered-throng.

The approach to Leeds Castle, with one of the Estate's omni-present Black Swans. Lady Baillie was the first person to import black swans from their native Australia to the United Kingdom. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

The approach to Leeds Castle, with one of the Estate’s omni-present Black Swans. Lady Baillie was the first person to import black swans from their native Australia to the United Kingdom. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

We passed the remains of the Barbican, an outer fortification that was created in the 1280s. The Barbican served as an initial line of defense for the bridge crossing the moat to the gatehouse. In addition to protecting the Castle bridge, the Barbican contained locks which controlled the water levels of the moat. In dangerous times, the river could be flooded to prevent access to the Castle.

We passed the remains of the Barbican, an outer fortification that was created in the 1280s. The Barbican served as an initial line of defense for the bridge crossing the moat to the gatehouse. In addition to protecting the Castle bridge, the Barbican contained locks which controlled the water levels of the moat. In dangerous times, the river could be flooded to prevent access to the Castle.

We approach the Gatehouse, part of the original 12th century stronghold, which was then enlarged by Edward I in 1280.

We approach the Gatehouse, part of the original 12th century stronghold, which was then enlarged by Edward I in 1280.

Amanda leads the way, over the stone bridge which leads to the Gatehouse. This bridge would originally have been a wooden drawbridge.

Amanda leads the way, over the stone bridge which leads to the Gatehouse. This bridge would originally have been a wooden drawbridge.

We passed through the arch of the Gatehouse onto the New Castle's large, oval lawn. The New Castle, which replaced a succession of buildings on this site, was built in the 1820s.

We passed through the arch of the Gatehouse onto the New Castle’s large, oval lawn. The New Castle, which replaced a succession of buildings on this site, was built in the 1820s.

But what I most wanted to see was the oldest part of Leeds Castle, the Gloriette. To get there, Amanda led me along a waterside path.

But what I most wanted to see was the oldest part of Leeds Castle, the Gloriette. To get there, Amanda led me along a waterside path.

We passed a lead rainspout marked with a black swan: the symbol of Leeds Castle.

We passed a lead rainspout marked with a black swan: the symbol of Leeds Castle.

This helpful diagram, as we made our way to the Gloriette.

This helpful diagram, as we made our way to the Gloriette.

Dead ahead: the multi-storey Bridge Corridors, which lead to the Gloriette, on the right.

Dead ahead: the multi-storey Bridge Corridors, which lead to the Gloriette, on the right.

Another view of the Bridge Corridors. During Norman times, a wooden drawbridge was here. Later on, the massive, multi-storey bridge appeared. The Bridge Corridors that we use today were reconstructed in the 19th century. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

Another view of the Bridge Corridors. During Norman times, a wooden drawbridge was here. Later on, the massive, multi-storey bridge appeared. The Bridge Corridors that we use today were reconstructed in the 19th century. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

The massive foundation walls of the Gloriette.

The massive foundation walls of the Gloriette.

The Gloriette (the right-most building), which is built on its own little island, was constructed in the late 13th century for Eleanor of Castile, on the site of the original Norman keep. The Gloriette consists of a central courtyard, a great hall and other ceremonial rooms on the ground floor, and a series of apartments on the upper two floors. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

The Gloriette (the right-most building), which is built on its own little island, was constructed in the late 13th century for Eleanor of Castile, on the site of the original Norman keep. The Gloriette consists of a central courtyard, a great hall and other ceremonial rooms on the ground floor, and a series of apartments on the upper floor. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

Floor Plan of the Gloriette's Ground Floor. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

Floor Plan of the Gloriette’s Ground Floor. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

In the Queen's Room, named for Henry V's French wife Catherine de Valois, Queen Catherine's coat of arms decorates the hearth.

In the Queen’s Room, named for Henry V’s French wife Catherine de Valois, Queen Catherine’s coat of arms decorates the hearth.

Delicately-detailed windows in the Queen's Room look out over the moat.

Delicately-detailed windows in the Queen’s Room look out over the moat.

The Queen's Gallery is the most dramatically-situated room in the Gloriette, and has broad views in two directions, across the water. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

The Queen’s Gallery is the most dramatically-situated room in the Gloriette, and has broad views in two directions, across the water. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

Inside the Queen's Gallery.

Inside the Queen’s Gallery.

A window in the Queen's Gallery.

A window in the Queen’s Gallery.

The Fountain Court, the Gloriette's central courtyard, is an enchanting space. The courtyard dates from the 1280s. Cisterns were installed beneath it, to which water was supplied from springs in the Park.

The Fountain Court, the Gloriette’s central courtyard, is an enchanting space. The courtyard dates from the 1280s. Cisterns were installed beneath it, to which water was supplied from springs in the Park.

Another view of the Fountain Court

Another view of the Fountain Court

The courtyard's gorgeous Fountain. (I wish people wouldn't throw coins in pools!)

The courtyard’s gorgeous Fountain. (I wish people wouldn’t throw coins in pools!)

Henry VIII's Banqueting Hall. This room was renovated for the visit of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine, in 1520. They were en route for Dover, to embark for Henry's meeting with Francis I of France, which be called "The Field of the Cloth of Gold." On that little outing, Henry had an entourage of 3997 people, and his Queen dragged along 1175 additional helpers. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

Henry VIII’s Banqueting Hall. This room was renovated for the visit of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine, in 1520. They were en route for Dover, to embark for Henry’s meeting with Francis I of France, which would be called “The Field of the Cloth of Gold.” On that little outing, Henry had an entourage of 3997 people, and his Queen dragged along 1175 additional helpers. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

A closer look at the mantle in Henry's Banqueting Hall

A closer look at the mantle in Henry’s Banqueting Hall

Bay windows in the Banqueting Hall. Prior to Henry's arrival, the narrow arrow-slits that had served as windows in the Hall were replaced with the generous expanses of glass that now overlook the moat.

Bay windows in the Banqueting Hall. Prior to Henry’s arrival, the narrow arrow-slits that had served as windows in the Hall were replaced with the generous expanses of glass that now overlook the moat.

The Gloriette's Chapel. A large, late 15th century tapestry depicting the Adoration of the Magi hangs above the altar. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

The Gloriette’s Chapel. A large, late 15th century tapestry depicting the Adoration of the Magi hangs above the altar. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

My view of the Chapel, in the gentle, late-afternoon light.

My view of the Chapel, in the gentle, late-afternoon light.

Hardware on a Chapel door.

Hardware on a Chapel door.

With little time to spare till closing time, Amanda and I skedaddled outside for a fast look at the gardens…which turned out to be nothing extraordinary, as compared to many of the other grand gardens we’d seen in Kent.

We entered the Culpeper Garden, which occupies the site that was long used for the Castle's kitchen garden. The Culpeper Garden is the creation of designer Russell Page (born 1906, died 1985), and takes its name from the family which owned the Castle in the 17th century.

We entered the Culpeper Garden, which occupies the site that was long used for the Castle’s kitchen garden. The Culpeper Garden is the creation of designer Russell Page (born 1906, died 1985), and takes its name from the family which owned the Castle in the 17th century.

On a terrace below the Culpeper Garden, overlooking the Great Water, is the Mediterranean-style Lady Baillie Garden, which was designed in 1999 by Christopher Carter.

On a terrace below the Culpeper Garden, overlooking the Great Water, is the Mediterranean-style Lady Baillie Garden, which was designed in 1999 by Christopher Carter.

Another view of the Lady Baillie Garden Terrace.

Another view of the Lady Baillie Garden Terrace.

The Lady Baillie Garden

The Lady Baillie Garden

Roses were swooning, by the sloping lawns of The Falconry.

Roses were swooning, by the sloping lawns of The Falconry.

Black Swans a-plenty, by the Great Water.

Black Swans a-plenty, by the Great Water.

I love those red beaks, with white stripes...but the swans were mighty crabby when they discovered that I had no bread crumbs for them.

I love those red beaks, with white stripes…but the swans were mighty crabby when they discovered that I had no bread crumbs for them.

Closing time at Leeds approached. Amanda and I strolled along the moat, to the rear of the Castle.

The side elevation of the Gatehouse.

The side elevation of the Gatehouse.

To the Left: the rear elevation of the Maiden's Tower (Nope....no actual tower there), which is a late-Tudor addition to the Castle. To the Right: the New Castle.

To the Left: the rear elevation of the Maiden’s Tower (Nope….no actual tower there), which is a late-Tudor addition to the Castle. To the Right: the New Castle.

Another look at the Gatehouse, and the non-towering Maiden's Tower. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

Another look at the Gatehouse, and the non-towering Maiden’s Tower. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

The rear elevation of the Maiden's Tower, with the New Castle 's towers visible.

The rear elevation of the Maiden’s Tower.

Continuing our walk around the moat, toward the back of the Island, we had this new view of the Gloriette (on the left), and the Bridge Corridors (center), and the New Castle (to the right).

Continuing our walk around the moat, toward the back of the Island, we had this new view of the Gloriette (on the left), and the Bridge Corridors (center), and the New Castle (to the right).

As the afternoon light darkened, Amanda and I began our walk back to Steve, at the Main Entrance. (Note: The long, low wall with the rounded protrusions that extends from the New Castle all the way to the Gatehouse is called a Revetment Wall. This wall has stood since the 13th century.)

As the afternoon light darkened, Amanda and I began our walk back to Steve, at the Main Entrance. (Note: The long, low wall with the rounded protrusions that extends from the New Castle all the way to the Gatehouse is called a Revetment Wall. This wall has stood since the 13th century.)

A duck's-eye view of Leeds Castle.

A duck’s-eye view of Leeds Castle. Image courtesy of Leeds Castle.

LeedsCastleGoldLogo

I hope this little picture-ramble at Leeds Castle has calmed you…but perhaps…instead… you’re exhausted, and in need of a nap? Rest up…there’s one more Kent-article on the way. We’ll begin with a visit to the estate at Goodnestone Park, near Canterbury, where Jane Austen often visited with relatives. We’ll explore The Salutation Secret Gardens on the seaside, at Sandwich, which Edwin Lutyens designed with his gardening-partner, Gertude Jekyll. We’ll hit the beach and Walmer Castle, which is one of a chain of coastal artillery forts built by Henry VIII. Your stomach will growl, as I tell you about the perfect, Dover sole I ate at a restaurant that sits at the base of England’s famed, white cliffs along the English Channel. We’ll wander through The Pines, a perfect little garden that’s perched at the top of those white cliffs. And then we’ll head inland, to finish off our marathon-tour in the refined and sunny gardens at Godinton, in Ashford.

It's August 8, 2013, and we're at the Edge of England! These are the white cliffs of Saint Margaret's-at-Cliffe.

It’s August 8, 2013, and we’re at the Edge of England! These are the white cliffs of Saint Margaret’s-at-Cliffe.

Copyright 2014. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express &
written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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Part Three. Rambling Through the Gardens & Estates of Kent, England.

The circular, late 14th century tower at Scotney Castle, near Royal Tunbridge Wells, in Kent. This is a close to fairy-tale as life ever gets.

The circular, late 14th century tower at Scotney Castle, near Royal Tunbridge Wells, in Kent. This is as close to fairy-tale as life ever gets.

February 2014.

On Tuesday, August 6, 2013 my meanderings through Kent continued, as I was led by extraordinary
Blue Badge Guide Amanda Hutchinson ( http://www.southeasttourguides.co.uk ),
and expertly driven to our destinations by Steve Parry ( http://www.snccars.co.uk ) .
By this, the third day of our travels, Amanda and Steve and I had settled into a jovial and comfortable companionship; it seemed as if we’d known each other forever. As we shuttled from place to place, we found more and more to laugh and to talk about, and whenever I’d express interest in something that Amanda hadn’t originally planned for me to see (Sheep Pastures—can’t get enough! Hedge-rowed Lanes—the narrower the better! Country Churches—bring ‘em on! Hop Farms—show me the Bines! And NO that’s not a typo: ”Bines” will soon be explained.), she and Steve would seamlessly weave an extra feature or two into the day’s itinerary. I realized my cohorts were determined that every one of my questions be answered; that every one of my enthusiasms be satisfied. And so our Tuesday included a grab-bag of Kent-Marvels, which seemed to encompass everything… from the Heavenly, to Hops.

Our destinations on Wednesday, August 6, 2013

Our destinations on Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The day began with sunshine…a fortunate thing, because bright light is needed to illuminate Marc Chagall’s sublime stained glass windows at tiny All Saints Church, in the hamlet of Tudeley.

Destination #1: All Saints Church
Five Oak Green Road
Tudeley
Near Tonbridge
Kent TN11 0NZ

Website: http://www.tudeley.org

The Church is open daily, from 9AM to 4PM, but since it’s a Real Church, when normal activities are underway (Sunday and Monday morning services, Saturday weddings, music festivals, etc., etc.) the Church is closed to tourists. Choose a mid-weekday-morning, like we did, and you’ll be fine.

All Saints Church at Tudeley is the only small church in the world to have all of its windows designed by Marc Chagall.

All Saints Church at Tudeley is the only small church in the world to have all of its windows designed by Marc Chagall. Image courtesy of All Saints Church.

Not until 1956, when Chagall was 70, did he begin to create stained glass windows, and most of those were made for European cathedrals. America has only two small installations of Chagall’s stained glass to admire: his tribute to Dag Hammarskjold is at the General Assembly Building of the United Nations, and his Rockefeller-commissioned windows decorate the Union Church, in New York State’s Pocantico Hills. Chagall’s most soaring expanses of stained glass are in Israel, France, Switzerland and Germany. But the only church in the world where ALL of the windows are by Chagall is tucked away in Kent’s countryside. Getting to All Saints isn’t straightforward…some satnavs can’t find the place. To avoid ending up in the middle of a field, visit the All Saints website, and download directions.

How to find All Saints Church in Tudeley, which, although near to Tonbridge, seems worlds and years apart.

How to find All Saints Church in Tudeley, which, although near to Tonbridge, seems worlds and years apart. Image courtesy of All Saints Church.

The village of Tudeley is ancient. Some historians claim the Phoenicians rowed their galleys up the River Medway to trade for the iron that was smelted there. But there’s no doubt that, by the time of the Roman occupation in 43 AD, forges were indeed built alongside the streams that stretched their fingers through the dense oak forests of the Kentish Weald. Traces of a Roman-era forge still remain, just a bit west of the Church. At the beginning of the 7th century, during the early days of Christianity in Britain, All Saints was one of only four churches in the Saxon kingdom of Kent; the current Tudeley Church is built upon the sandstone footings of a late Saxon period church. But the appeal of All Saints isn’t architectural. The building—which is nestled among apple orchards and hop-gardens and has endured centuries of demolition, rebuilding, and restoration— isn’t remarkable in appearance.

All Saints Church, glimpsed from the parking lot.

All Saints Church, glimpsed from the parking lot.

Use this side-entry when you visit...the front door is usually locked.

Use this side-entry when you visit…the front door is usually locked.

Chagall's largest piece, The Memorial Window, dominates the east wall.

Chagall’s largest piece, The Memorial Window, dominates the east wall.

View from the Burying Ground at All Saints Church. Those odd-looking, conical roofs are Oasts...about which MUCH more, in a bit.

View from the Burying Ground at All Saints Church. Those odd-looking, conical roofs are Oasts…about which MUCH more, in a bit.

All Saints is distinguished by Chagall’s 12 windows, which are on three sides of the main interior space. Those windows transform the humble church into a joyous and exalted place, and came into being because of a family’s great sorrow.

Per the All Saints Church Guide-booklet:

“It was the death in 1963 of a 21-year-old girl under tragic circumstances which led her family and friends to commemorate her name in a lasting and tangible form. Sarah Venetia d’Avigdor-Goldsmid was the eldest daughter of Sir Henry and Lady d’Avigdor-Goldsmid. In September of 1963 she and a companion were drowned in a sailing accident off the coast of Rye in Sussex. In her memory her family and many friends subscribed to the restoration of the interior of the church—a restoration which was designed to provide a setting of utter simplicity for the memorial window that [her father] commissioned Marc Chagall to design. It was when in Paris in the summer of 1961 that Lady d’Avigdor-Goldsmid and Sarah visited the Chagall exhibition at the Louvre. Both were enraptured by Chagall.”

The recollection of their daughter’s admiration of Chagall’s stained glass became the inspiration which eventually led to Chagall’s designs for every window in All Saints Church. In 1967, when Chagall visited the renovated Church for the dedication of his Memorial Window, he exclaimed: “It’s magnificent. “ Then he added: “It’s a very curious thing, but dead architects are the only ones I can work with!”

Chagall's Memorial Window, at All Saints Church, in Tudeley. The blue-ish light that's reflected against the walls around the lower portions of the window seems to splash real sea-spray into the air.

Chagall’s Memorial Window, at All Saints Church, in Tudeley. The blue-ish light that’s reflected against the walls around the lower portions of the window seems to splash real sea-spray into the air.

The humble interior of All Saints Church.

The humble interior of All Saints Church.

As an artistic genre, apotheosis follows certain conventions. The dearly departed is raised upwards by angels, and taken to a place of light and beauty and eternal life. Sometimes a prudent man—such as the Venetian, Barbaro– might commission an artist to paint an apotheosis…BEFORE he’s shuffled off his mortal coil. The existence of such a painting might serve as a suggestion, to the Higher Powers, when death actually comes:

Tiepolo's magnificent GLORIFICATION OF THE BARBARO FAMILY, which, prior to my discovering Chagall's Memorial to Sarah, was my most-favorite example of apotheosis art. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tiepolo’s magnificent GLORIFICATION OF THE BARBARO FAMILY, which, prior to my discovering Chagall’s Memorial to Sarah, was my most-favorite example of apotheosis art. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And sometimes a grateful nation gives a hint about what they’d like to have happen to an esteemed but now-departed leader:

An utterly charming APOTHESIS OF GEORGE WASHINGTON...who is the one politician I admire.

An utterly charming APOTHESIS OF GEORGE WASHINGTON…who is the one politician I admire.

But rarely has an apotheosis been presented in such a dramatic and emotional manner. In Chagall’s Memorial to Sarah d’Avigdor-Goldsmid, the moment of her death is re-enacted, and is followed by the image of her despairing mother. Chagall does not shy away from showing the horrible event; after which come time-lapsed scenes of grief, and of sorrow’s healing, and of everlasting souls. The Church’s Guide-booklet helps us to see how he does this:

“In a series of moving cameos we are drawn into the drama of this young girl drowned in the dark swirling waters of the sea. To the left, in the panel above the floating figure, the mother is seen cradling her two children; while at the lower edge a kneeling figure poignantly expresses the grief of the family and friends. From the turmoil of the sea the girl is being gently borne into calmer waters. A ladder reaches up to the figure of Christ. To the left of Christ there stands an angel figure waiting as though to herald the arrival of the new young souls; one of the girl’s two companions can already be seen at the top of the ladder: meanwhile at the foot the girl is seen preparing to mount the first rung in her ascent to the comforting arms of Christ.”

Chagall’s other Tudeley windows aren’t narratives: with his Main Window, he’d told the story that was most important. Here are some views of those companion-windows:

Window by March Chagall, at All Saints Church.

Window by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church.

Window by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church

Window by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church

Windows by March Chagall, at All Saints Church

Windows by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church

Window by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church. Image courtesy of All Saints Church.

Windows by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church. Image courtesy of All Saints Church.

Window by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church. Image courtesy of All Saints Church

Window by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church. Image courtesy of All Saints Church

Windows by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church. Image courtesy of All Saints Church.

Windows by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church. Image courtesy of All Saints Church.

Windows by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church. Image courtesy of All Saints Church.

Windows by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church. Image courtesy of All Saints Church.

Windows by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church. Image courtesy of All Saints Church.

Windows by Marc Chagall, at All Saints Church. Image courtesy of All Saints Church.

Although I didn’t know it then, as Amanda and Steve and I left the Tudeley Church, groundwork had just been laid for further Chagall explorations. During the following week of my England-stay, my dear friends Anne and David Guy would spirit me far northward, to see Tate Liverpool’s exhibit of the earliest, and not-widely-known work of Marc Chagall….a plan they’d formed as a surprise for me. Per usual, Serious Synchronicity was afoot in my travel-life.

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall (1887–1985)

It’s taken me three-Kent-articles to get to my next subject: the distinctive, conical, pointed roofs that punctuate the horizons of southeastern England. But, from the first moment on that previous Saturday, when my train from London to Royal Tunbridge Wells had crossed into the Kentish Weald, I’d beheld buildings, the likes of which I’d never before seen…at least not in the flesh.

A typical Kentish-Scene, with the conical roofs of Oast Houses, piercing the sky.

A typical Kentish-Scene, with the conical roofs of Oast Houses, piercing the sky.

A lady from the late Middle Ages wears a HENNIN, a cone-shaped headdress...perhaps a subliminal inspiration for later, agricultural buildings?

A lady from the late Middle Ages wears a HENNIN, a cone-shaped headdress…perhaps a subliminal inspiration for later, agricultural buildings?

Steve and Amanda had, I suspect, chuckled at my ignorance about Kent’s omni-present Oasts, and thus about Hop Farming…hey, I’ve only intermittently been a beer drinker, and so haven’t spent time in life wondering about how Porter— the Kent-specialty….beautiful, brown, and aromatic — gets made. That morning, when Steve had picked us up at my hotel, he’d brought along a small library of books with vintage photos of Hop Farming in Action. It turned out that Steve has Hands-On-Hopping in his distant past: during his college years, he’d spent one September helping a friend whose family owned a hop farm, and so, as we arrived at The Hop Farm Family Park, the first of two days of a very-thorough-tutorial about All-Things-Hops began.

Destination #2: The Hop Farm Family Park
Maidstone Road
Between Beltring and Paddock Wood
Near Tonbridge, Kent TN12 6PY

Telephone: 01622-872068

Website: http://www.thehopfarm.co.uk

Unlike the Church at Tudeley, The Hop Farm is located at a major intersection, and is impossible NOT to find.

Unlike the Church at Tudeley, The Hop Farm is located at a major intersection, and is impossible NOT to find.

Set in the midst of acres of “amusements” (childrens’ rides, giant jumping pillows, and funhouses) at the Hop Farm Family Park there remains one of the best-preserved complexes of traditional Oast Houses in England. My companions led me on a fast walk around the majestic structures, as Steve explained the process of hop farming, and of hop drying.

At first, for a tyro like myself, understanding hop-growing and harvesting wasn’t easy. The best website overview of Hop-History is provided by http://www.hoppingdowninkent.org.uk . Here’s their helpful timeline:

1520: First English hop garden set up near Canterbury, in Kent.
1655: One third of the UK hop crop was produced in Kent
1722: A new beer, Porter, was brewed that was a combination of 3 beers. It used lots of hops and became popular, thus making the hop industry very wealthy.
1744: A law was passed saying that all bags or “pockets” of the dried hops sold had to be stenciled with the year, place, and grower’s name.
1875: Better, and larger-scale methods of training and stringing the fast-growing hop plants were developed.
1878: Hop farming reached its peak, with 77,000 acres of land in Kent under cultivation.

But so as NOT to put cart before horse (or oasts before bines), here first are pictures of actual hop-plants, taken on the morning of Wednesday, August 7th, when we visited the hop gardens at Sandhurst Vineyards and Hop Farm
( http://www.sandhurstvineyards.com ) . Hops grow rampantly in Kent’s fertile soil. Each April, their roots begin to send out vigorous vines, which are called Bines. By May, those lengthening bines are trained away from the soil,and up onto a series of permanent, and very high trellises, which are constructed of poles which support canopies of string or wire. Prior to the 1950s, when hop-picking machines began to be used…

How hops are tended today

How hops are tended today

…workers teetering atop stilts would walk between the rows of plants, and thread bines around the high wires, in a clockwise direction. These stilt-walkers were called “Stringers.”

A stilt-walking Stringer, circa 1950. Image courtesy of Hopping Down In Kent.

A stilt-walking Stringer, circa 1950. Image courtesy of Hopping Down In Kent.

Once the bines had had their tendrils wrapped around the wire, they’d continue to grow like gangbusters. Workers at ground level, who carried long, forked twigs of hazel wood (shades of Harry Potter!), would then use those sticks as wands, to push the drooping bines back, up and over the mesh of overhead wires. Steve, who in his youth wielded such a hazel-wand (he DOES look a bit wizardly, doesn’t he?), worked as a “Stroddler, “ but stroddling is also known as straddling, or heading….colloquial terms abound, from hop-field to hop-field.

Steve Parry, aka THE OLD STRODDLER HIMSELF, on August 7th, in the Hop Garden at Sandhurst.

Steve Parry, aka THE OLD STRODDLER HIMSELF, on August 7th, in the Hop Garden at Sandhurst.

Hop Bines, giving Jack's Beanstalk a run for its money. The Hop Garden at Sandhurst. Hop Bines customarily grow to be 15 feet tall.

Hop Bines, giving Jack’s Beanstalk a run for its money. The Hop Garden at Sandhurst. Hop Bines customarily grow to be 15 feet tall.

UN-ripe Hops, in early August. Hops are harvested in September, when their cones are fully-grown. After they're picked, they're dried, and then cooled in specially-built oast houses.

UN-ripe Hops, in early August. Hops are harvested in September, when their cones are fully-grown. After they’re picked, they’re dried, and then cooled in specially-built oast houses.

Amanda Hutchinson gamely provides human scale, in the Hop Garden at Sandhurst, on August 7th. Think of how much FUN it would be to walk down these paths on stilts!

Amanda Hutchinson gamely provides human scale, in the Hop Garden at Sandhurst, on August 7th. Think of how much FUN it would be to walk down these paths on stilts!

Per Hopping Down in Kent, “Hops begin to flower in July. Petals grow and form the cones. Inside these petals yellow lupulin glands form. It is these glands that give out the bitter taste. By September, the cones are ready to be picked from the bines.”

Until the late 1950s, each September, at harvest-time, multi-generational families of working-class Londoners moved, in masse, to the fields of Kent, where they set up camps. These tens of thousands of temporary laborers worked long hours, but most considered their month out of London to be holidays; sojourns which provided them with exercise, fresh air, serious-evening-partying, and extra money.

A Hop-Picking Family, in 1958. Image courtesy of Spitalfields Life.

A Hop-Picking Family, in 1958. Image courtesy of Spitalfields Life.

Hop Picking Rules. Image courtesy of Spitalfields Life.

Hop Picking Rules. Image courtesy of Spitalfields Life.

Pole Puller, circa 1950. Image courtesy of Spitalfields Life.

Pole Puller, with Brew in hand, circa 1950. Image courtesy of Spitalfields Life.

Now that we’ve seen the Hops Themselves, I’ll return us to the Oasts, at the Hop Family Farm.

We approach the largest complex of Oasts, at the Hope Farm Family Park, on August 6th.

We approach the largest complex of Oasts, at the Hop Farm Family Park, on August 6th.

Oast roofs consist of: Roundel, Hot Air Outlet, Wind Vane, & Cowl.

Oast roofs consist of:
Roundel, Hot Air Outlet, Wind Vane, & Cowl.

Five Oast roofs

Five Oast roofs

A full view of the Oast Houses at The Hop Farm Family Park

A full view of the Oast Houses at The Hop Farm Family Park

We're about to enter an Oast House

We’re about to enter an Oast House

A Cross-Section of a Kent Oast. Image courtesy of Hopping Down in Kent.

A Cross-Section of a Kent Oast. Image courtesy of Hopping Down in Kent.

Wikipedia’s Oast House entry sums things up nicely:

“An oast, oast house, or hop kiln is a building designed for drying hops as part of the brewing process. Oasts consist of two or three storeys on which the hops were spread out to be dried by hot air from a wood kiln at the bottom. The drying floors were thin and perforated to permit the heat to pass through and escape through a cowl in the roof which turned with the wind. The freshly picked hops from the fields were raked in to dry, and then raked out to cool before being bagged up and sent to the brewery. By the early 19th century the distinctive circular buildings with conical roofs had been developed in response to the increased demand for beer. Square oast houses appeared early in the 20th century, as they were found easier to build. Hops are today dried industrially and the many oast houses on farms have been converted into dwellings.”

What would ‘The Garden of England” be without its picturesque oasts…the vestiges of agricultural-glory-days? Today, only 3000 acres of Kent are still used to grow hops. Next time you enjoy some Porter, raise your glass to the Stringers and Stroddlers of times past.

Hops...transformed.

Hops…transformed.

Destination #3: Scotney Castle
Lamberhurst
Near Tunbridge Wells
Kent TN3 8JN

Open year-round, weather permitting, from 10AM to 5PM.

Phone: 01892-893820

Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/scotney-castle/

Scotney Castle: a country house, romantic garden, and 14th century moated castle, on 770 acres of beautiful parkland, in Kent. My visit at mid-day on August 6th merely whetted my appetite. This is a place to which I shall certainly return. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Scotney Castle: a country house, romantic garden, and 14th century moated castle, on 770 acres of beautiful parkland, in Kent. My visit at mid-day on August 6th merely whetted my appetite. Scotney is a place to which I shall certainly return. This is a view of the Old Castle, at dawn, in May. In the foreground, the upper reaches of the Quarry Garden are visible, where massed clumps of rhododendrons—the shrub most-favored by the Picturesque designers—bloom in shades of mauve, purple, rose and white. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

At Scotney Castle, we’re presented with the embodiment of the Picturesque in garden design. The contrast between the Medieval ruins of the Old Castle (which was built by Roger Ashburnham in 1378) and the sturdy Elizabethan-style sandstone walls of the New House ( which was constructed 459 years later) creates a perfect tension, as The Castle’s guidebook explains:

“From the early 18th century, British landscape gardeners had been creating gardens inspired by pictures, but by 1800 a reaction had set in. Critics like the Rev.William Gilpin considered the grassy vistas designed by ‘Capability’ Brown too smooth and tidy. They might be beautiful, but they were not PICTURESQUE: to resemble the best landscape painting, a garden needed drama, variety and rough edges. At Scotney, the plunging site, the mixture of sheltered quarry and open lawn, and the ragged silhouette of the Old Castle provided all three in abundance. “

“Scotney is not one, but two houses, united by art and nature. Surrounded by the moat at the bottom of the valley are the romantic ruins of the Medieval castle. At the top of the hill is the new house, built in 1837—43, for Edward Hussey III. The carefully contrived views between the new and old represent almost the last, and perhaps the most perfect, expression of the Picturesque landscape style.”

The expansive Estate that we enjoy today is the result of land consolidation which began in 1778, when Edward Hussey I purchased the property, with its ancient moated Castle, from the Darrell family, who’d lived there for the previous 350 years. Every generation of the Hussey family, whose motto is “I scarcely call these things our own,” has since put its own stamp on the grounds. Parklands have been filled with specimen trees, streams have been dammed, elegant terraces have been built near to the New House, and romantic gardens have been fashioned in the Quarry, and around the ruins of the Old Castle.

Map of the Grounds at Scotney Castle. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Map of the Grounds at Scotney Castle. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The New House at Scotney Castle was built in an Elizabethan-Revival Style, from 1837--1843. On the Entrance Front, a battlemented tower dominates. The walls are built with a striated, golden sandstone, which was dug from the quarry that's immediately below the House. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The New House at Scotney Castle was built in an Elizabethan-Revival Style, from 1837–1843. On the Entrance Front, a battlemented tower dominates. The walls are built with a striated, golden sandstone, which was dug from the quarry that’s immediately below the House. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

After Edward Hussey I acquired Scotney, his family first lived in the Old Castle, but a malaise shrouded the ancient building. Edward Hussey committed suicide there, and his son Edward II survived for only another year. Edward’s widow Anne sensibly flew the coop, and took her surviving son, now named Edward III (why not recycle a perfectly good name, eh?) far away. Edward III, who loved gardens and architecture, never forgot Scotney, and when he came of age, he decided to return ….but not to the Old Castle, which had been tainted. As Edward III worked with his architect Anthony Salvin to build a New House, he rejected suggestions that he demolish the Old Castle. Instead, he began to consider how the Castle might be put to use as a backdrop for gardens. He whittled away at the ancient structure, keeping the oldest parts, and razing interior portions of a 17th century wing. Edward III ‘s idea of a painting-come-to-life inspired his creation of the most romantic-looking vistas within the grounds.

Since my interests tend toward gardens, and to TRULY old houses, we skipped a tour of the New House …after all, an English home built in 1843 must qualify as Merely Modern.

We bypassed the New House, and headed toward the little, arched gateway that's the Entrance to the Gardens.

We bypassed the New House, and headed toward the little, arched gateway that’s the Entrance to the Gardens.

We're inside! Our garden tour commences.

We’re inside! Our garden tour commences.

Behind the New House, on the Garden Front Terrace, this splendid vista of the Kent countryside unfolds.

Behind the New House, on the Garden Front Terrace, this splendid vista of the Kent countryside unfolds.

A Stone Kitten, on the Garden Front Terrace, with a view back toward the door to the Garden Lobby of the New House.

A Stone Kitten, on the Garden Front Terrace, with a view back toward the door to the Garden Lobby of the New House.

We're headed away from the New House, past a field where Green-Winged Orchids bloom in Springtime.

We’re headed away from the New House, past a field where Green-Winged Orchids bloom in Springtime.

Sign in the Orchid Field

Sign in the Orchid Field

As we left the Orchid Field, I noticed that Amanda had begun to wear an Atypically-Sly-Smile. Hmmm…thought I. What’s up? Our path
ended at a half-circle terrace, and as I glimpsed the ruins of a distant castle, at the foot of a steep slope, my jaw dropped. Amanda grinned even more broadly: she’d just opened the fairy-tale chapter of our day’s adventures.

The Bastion View, with the ruins of the Old Castle at the bottom of the valley.

The Bastion View, with the ruins of the Old Castle at the bottom of the valley.

A closer look at the Bastion View's balustrade. The Quarry Garden begins directly below the balustrade.

The light changed constantly, as clouds scudded across the sky. Here’s a closer look at the Bastion View’s balustrade. The Quarry Garden begins directly below the balustrade.

Before we headed downhill, we detoured past an ancient stone Chalice…

Ancient Chalice

Ancient Chalice

Detail of Chalice

Detail of Chalice

…and then inspected the remains of a drovers’ road, which was used for driving livestock on foot, from one place to another. This drovers’ road is ancient, dating back to Medieval times.

Ancient Drovers' Road, with the New House in the background.

Ancient Drovers’ Road, with the New House in the background.

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Sign by the Drovers’ Road

We then entered the Quarry Garden. As the Castle’s guidebook notes:
“When stone for the New House was removed and the quarry created, the fossilized remains of a ‘ripple bed’ were uncovered, dating from the Mesozoic geological era, when Scotney was on the shore of a great sea that stretched between England and Belgium. As the ocean tide receded, it left ripples on the sand, which became stone over millions of years.”

As mentioned, sandstone for the New House was quarried on site. The pit left by those excavations created a setting perfectly suited for a dramatic garden, where jagged rocks serve as a backdrop for flowering shrubs and trees, and luxuriant swathes of giant ferns.

The Quarry at Scotney, before it was transformed into a garden. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The Quarry at Scotney, before it was transformed into a garden. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

By August, the magnolias and azaleas and rhododendrons that fill the Quarry Garden are largely past bloom-time. In the dry heat of late summer, I could only imagine how lush the Quarry had looked, in Springtime.

In the Quarry Garden

In the Quarry Garden

Another look at the Quarry Garden

Another look at the Quarry Garden

Huge tree stumps, in the Quarry Garden. In England, Tree Stump Gardens are highly prized. To my American eyes, Stump Gardens are clearly an acquired taste....I'll work on that.

Huge tree stumps, in the Quarry Garden. In England, Tree Stump Gardens are highly prized. To my American eyes, Stump Gardens are clearly an acquired taste….I’ll work on that.

We left the Quarry Garden, and headed downhill, toward the Old Castle.

View toward the Old Castle

View toward the Old Castle

Bridge to the Old Castle

Bridge to the Old Castle

We cross the bridge over the Lily-Moat, which surrounds the Old Castle. The moat was formed when the small River Bewl was dammed.

We cross the bridge over the Lily-Moat, which surrounds the Old Castle. The moat was formed when the small River Bewl was dammed.

Our first up-close view of the Old Castle

Our first up-close view of the Old Castle

The garden designer Lanning Roper began in 1970 to remake the Old Castle's herb garden, which surrounds the carved Venetian well-head.

The garden designer Lanning Roper began in 1970 to remake the Old Castle’s herb garden, which surrounds the carved Venetian well-head.

Early morning, in Springtime, the wisteria is in its full glory. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Early morning, in Springtime, the wisteria is in its full glory. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Another view of the Venetian well-head

Another view of the Venetian well-head

A different view of the Herb Garden

A different view of the Herb Garden

Lush plantings in the Old Castle Gardens

Lush plantings in the Old Castle Gardens

A peek into the small garden that's contained inside the walls of the dismantled, 17th century wing of the Old Castle

A peek into the small garden that’s contained inside the walls of the dismantled, 17th century wing of the Old Castle

A peek OUT, from the same, small walled garden

A peek OUT, from the same, small walled garden

Inside the Old Castle's small, walled garden

Inside the Old Castle’s small, walled garden

Lawn behind the Old Castle

Lawn behind the Old Castle

A closer look at the magnificent tree on the Old Castle's Lawn

A closer look at the magnificent tree on the Old Castle’s Lawn

The walls of the Old Castle's 17th century wing, seen from the Lawn

The walls of the Old Castle’s 17th century wing, seen from the Lawn

Inside the small, walled Old Castle Garden

Inside the small, walled Old Castle Garden

Detail of Old Castle walls

Detail of Old Castle walls

Detail of Old Castle's sandstone...quarried on site.

Detail of Old Castle’s sandstone…quarried on site.

Dovecote behind the 14th century tower of the Old Castle

Dovecote behind the 14th century tower of the Old Castle

Detail of Dovecote...quite a Posh Perch for a Pigeon

Detail of Dovecote…quite a Posh Perch for a Pigeon

A view across the Moat, from behind the Old Castle's tower.

A view across the Moat, from behind the Old Castle’s tower.

Another view across the Moat, from the Old Castle

Another view across the Moat, from the Old Castle

We prepared to leave the Old Castle Gardens, via the bridge across the Moat

We prepared to leave the Old Castle Gardens, via the bridge across the Moat

Standing on the Chinese Bridge, we were afforded this spectacular view of the Old Castle.

Standing on the Chinese Bridge, we were afforded this spectacular view of the Old Castle.

We passed the gabled Boathouse, which is on the path that wends its way around the stewponds that surround the Isthmus where a sculpture by Henry Moore stands.

We passed the gabled Boathouse, which is on the path that wends its way around the stewponds that surround the Isthmus where a sculpture by Henry Moore stands.

The Isthmus

The Isthmus

THREE PIECE RECLINING FIGURE. 1977. By Henry Moore. Moore donated this piece, in memory of his friend, Christopher Hussey.

THREE PIECE RECLINING FIGURE. 1977. By Henry Moore. Moore donated this piece, in memory of his friend, Christopher Hussey.

Geese on the Isthmus, with rustic Chinese Bridge.

Geese on the Isthmus, with rustic Chinese Bridge.

From the path on the far side of the Moat, we had this view of the Old Castle.

From the path on the far side of the Moat, we had this view of the Old Castle.

A view toward the Old Castle Lawn, from across the Moat.

A view toward the Old Castle Lawn, from across the Moat.

We're behind the Old Castle, and headed toward the Ice House.

We’re behind the Old Castle, and headed toward the Ice House.

The Ice House was erected in 1841, and its roof is thatched with heather…which smells marvelous. The house hovers over a 13 foot deep pit, which was lined with straw. In wintertime, Ice was cut from the moat, and stored, and kept the Hussey family supplied with ice throughout the summer.

The tent-shaped Ice House is at the outer edge of the Moat, on the north-east corner.

The tent-shaped Ice House is at the outer edge of the Moat, on the north-east corner.

Ice House Sign

Ice House Sign

A view of the Old Castle, from near the Ice House

A view of the Old Castle, from near the Ice House

Yes, more Sheep. I do love 'em...but no, I don't eat lamb chops. These animals graze in a field with endless views of Kent's countryside in one direction, and spectacular view's of Scotney's gardens in the other direction.

Yes, more Sheep. I do love ‘em…but no, I don’t eat lamb chops. These animals graze in a field with endless views of Kent’s countryside in one direction, and spectacular views of Scotney’s gardens in the other direction.

See...the sheep DO have the Best View. This photo was taken from the sheep pasture. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

See…the sheep DO have the Best View. This photo was taken from the sheep pasture. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

After our garden-amble, I was delighted to learn that Scotney Castle’s grounds contain the National Trust’s only full-fledged hop farm. The Estate is also working toward complete self-sustainability: many of the buildings are already being heated by woodchips which are harvested on site.

The Castle's woodlands are being managed for sustainable fuel to feed the Scotney biomass boiler.

The Castle’s woodlands are being managed for sustainable fuel to feed the Scotney biomass boiler.

I look forward my next visit, when I’ll take time to better explore Scotney’s 770 acres, where wildlife abounds. I’ll admire the Estate’s flocks of sheep; herds of Sussex cattle; badgers; great crested newts (which are Britain’s largest and most threatened newts, for those of you who are salamander-watchers.); fallow and roe deer; and rare, brilliant emerald dragonflies. Ultimately, Scotney Castle’s voluptuous beauties speak for themselves; it’s a tranquil place, a place that soothes thoughts, and quiets speech. Whenever I feel frazzled by this interminable winter that we in the Northeast are currently enduring, I find myself returning to the pictures I took in August at Scotney. Gazing at the Old Castle—mirrored in a lily-filled moat—makes me serene, and I forget about the deep snow that lies, unmelted, outside of my windows.

My home in New Hampshire, on February 19, 2014

My home in New Hampshire, on February 19, 2014

Destination #4: Pashley Manor Gardens
Ticehurst
Near Wadhurst
East Sussex TN5 7HE

Open from April 1st until September 30th
Tuesday through Saturday, 11AM to 5PM

Phone: 01580-200888
Website: http://www.pashleymanorgardens.com

Pashley Manor Gardens, in East Sussex. Impeccably-planted gardens surround a Grade I timber-framed house, which was built in 1550, and enlarged in 1720. The gardens we see today were planted in 1981, on the bones of gardens which were begun in 1720. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor Gardens.

Pashley Manor Gardens, in East Sussex. Impeccably-planted gardens surround a Grade I timber-framed house, which was built in 1550, and enlarged in 1720. The gardens we see today were planted in 1981, on the bones of gardens which were begun in 1720. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor Gardens.

At many of the gardens I visited during my week-long ramble with Amanda and Steve, mention was made of the devastating changes wrought by the Hurricane of 1987. Tales about acres of trees felled, of rocks tumbled, and of soil eroded, were recounted by gardeners at Chartwell, and Great Comp, and Scotney Castle. Pashley Manor, which is just over the Kent border into East Sussex, suffered greatly during the 1987 storms when more than 1000 mature trees were destroyed. But, with her storms, Nature does her weeding, and so the owners of Pashley Manor, whose modestly-scaled borders had only just begun to be planted and expanded in 1981, came to regard their losses as blessings, and the tattered land as a canvas for a garden which could be much improved.

Angela and James Sellick explain: “Previously, the magnificent trees had formed a dense hedge around the garden, but now we have much better views over the surrounding countryside. The old Walled Garden seemed to contain beneath the brambles, weeds, tall grasses and nettles, nothing but tumbledown greenhouses and collapsed cold frames with their attendant shattered remains of flower pots and razor-sharp shards of glass. All these were dominated from outside the wall by large conifers grown for a long-past Christmas market, but fortunately these were blown down by the storm!”

“The series of picturesque and wild linked waterways seemed to constantly empty themselves; we wondered if we had taken on an insurmountable task. Very gradually, with enormous help and encouragement from the eminent landscape architect and author, Anthony du Gard Pasley, an old friend, we have worked our way out from the house, slowly uncovering a garden with great potential which has become one of the most handsome landscapes in Sussex.” In April of 2000, “Pashley was recognized by the Historic Houses Association … when it was voted Garden of the Year as the best HHA garden in the United Kingdom.”

Landscape Architect Anthony du Gard Pasley, who masterminded the gardens at Pashley Manor.

Landscape Architect Anthony du Gard Pasley, who masterminded the gardens at Pashley Manor.

We approach the Manor House

We approach the Manor House

Early afternoon had come, and my stomach was growling. Despite my curiosity about the Gardens, the first order of business had to be LUNCH ( I confess that I become crabby and irrational when I’m hungry ), and so I rejoiced at the deliciousness of the food that was served to us in Pashley’s Garden Room Café.

The Cafe's Terrace, which overlooks a broad lawn, and the Old Moat

The Cafe’s Terrace, which overlooks a broad lawn, and the Old Moat

In retrospect, as I recall the many meals I ate last August in England, I agree with SUSSEX LIFE MAGAZINE, whose food critic declared that Pashley has “arguably the best garden café in the country.” Our salad greens had just been harvested from the vegetable plots we’d strolled through. The zucchini (or Courgettes, as the English call them) on my plate had recently been cut from the vine. As I savored each bite, I could taste how tenderly Pashley’s gardeners had cared for their plants. Revived by veggie garden bounty, Amanda and I began our tour of the 11-acre Estate, where constantly-changing exhibits of whimsical pieces of sculpture add to the light-hearted atmosphere.

Plan of the Gardens at Pashley Manor. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor.

Plan of the Gardens at Pashley Manor. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor.

We begin our stroll through Pashley's Gardens

We begin our stroll through Pashley’s Gardens

Clouds temporarily darkened the day..but things soon improved. On the far hill is a sheep pasture.

Clouds temporarily darkened the day..but things soon improved. On the far hill is a sheep pasture.

At the base of the central path through the Herbaceous Border, this 8-foot-tall Lady exposes a shapely leg. Behind her is a Ha-Ha ditch, which keeps Pashey's flocks of sheep in their fields, and out of the Gardens

At the base of the central path through the Herbaceous Border, this 8-foot-tall Lady exposes a shapely leg. Behind her is a Ha-Ha ditch, which keeps Pashey’s flocks of sheep in their fields, and out of the Gardens

Per the Manor’s Guidebook, when the Pashley sheep are shorn, their fleece is then used as mulch, around the roots of the trees in the orchard. “The fleeces are then pinned down with hazel twigs. This was a traditional method of retaining moisture and preventing weed growth. The lanolin and nitrogen leach from the fleeces as they rot and feed the trees. This ancient method of mulching is also greatly appreciated by birds as it provides nesting material.” And the fruit of Pashley’s sheep is put to further use come winter, when the flower beds are “mulched with tons of Pashley’s own sheep manure.” Learning these things
has only increased my adoration for Sheep!

I waited for the clouds to disperse, and was rewarded with this delightful shadow.

I waited for the clouds to disperse, and was rewarded with this delightful shadow.

The lower reaches of the Herbaceous Borders and the Hot Gardens

The lower reaches of the Herbaceous Borders and the Hot Gardens

The Hot Gardens

The Hot Gardens

Another view of the Hot Gardens, in the Herbaceous Border section of the Garden. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor.

Another view of the Hot Gardens, in the Herbaceous Border section of the Garden. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor.

We enter the Walled Garden. The Walled Garden was established in 1720 and is historically listed in its own right. During WWII, while the House was a temporary home for soldiers from Canada and Poland, the gardens fell into disrepair.

We enter the Walled Garden. The Walled Garden was established in 1720 and is historically listed in its own right. During WWII, while the House was a temporary home for soldiers from Canada and Poland, the gardens fell into disrepair.

ABSTRACT DOVE, a marble by Ev Meynell, alights upon the main gate to the Walled Garden

ABSTRACT DOVE, a marble by Ev Meynell, alights upon the main gate to the Walled Garden

The Rose Garden, within the Walled Garden

The Rose Garden, within the Walled Garden

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden

In the Rose Garden

In the Rose Garden

Every year, for 10 days in the Spring, Pashley Manor holds a Tulip Festival, when over 20,000 blubs--and about 100 different varieties of Tulips--burst into bloom. This photo shows a corner of the Rose Garden, during 2013's Tulip Festival. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor.

Every year, for 10 days in the Spring, Pashley Manor holds a Tulip Festival, when over 20,000 blubs–and about 100 different varieties of Tulips–burst into bloom. This photo shows a corner of the Rose Garden, during 2013’s Tulip Festival. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor.

Lilies in the Rose Garden

Lilies in the Rose Garden

Perfection....

Perfection….

A rather intimidating Lady in the Rose Garden

A rather intimidating Lady in the Rose Garden

A bronze Door to Nowhere, on the Rose Garden Wall

A bronze Door to Nowhere, on the Rose Garden Wall

The Potager (aka Kitchen Garden) is opposite the Rose Garden, and also within the Walled Garden. This is where many of the veggies I ate at lunch were grown.

The Potager (aka Kitchen Garden) is opposite the Rose Garden, and also within the Walled Garden. This is where many of the veggies I ate at lunch were grown.

The Potager

The Potager

A Glass House, in the Potager

A Glass House, in the Potager

Scarlet Runner Beans clamber up the Potager's brick wall, which was built in 1720.

Scarlet Runner Beans clamber up the Potager’s brick wall, which was built in 1720.

In the Potager, with Pashley's Head Gardener. I thanked him for the wonderful food he grows. The Rose Garden is in the background.

In the Potager, with Pashley’s Head Gardener. I thanked him for the wonderful food he grows. The Rose Garden is in the background.

Suddenly...I wanted to swim!

Suddenly…I wanted to swim!

This greenhouse, a survivor from mid-Victorian times, abuts the Swimming Pool Terrace

This greenhouse, a survivor from mid-Victorian times, abuts the Swimming Pool Terrace

Another statue on the Swimming Pool Terrace

Another statue on the Swimming Pool Terrace

In the Pool Garden, yet another sculpture, this one by Kate Denton. Billowing against the brick of one of the original Elizabethan-era walls is a huge shrub: Ceanothus 'Puget Blue,' which is evergreen, and in early summer bursts into bloom with thousands of royal blue flowers. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor.

In the Pool Garden, yet another sculpture, this one by Kate Denton. Billowing against the brick of one of the original Elizabethan-era walls is a huge shrub: Ceanothus ‘Puget Blue,’ which is evergreen, and in early summer bursts into bloom with thousands of royal blue flowers. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor.

We approach the House. What Great Chimneys!

We approach the House.
What Great Chimneys!

On the Terrace, by the House

On the Terrace, by the House

In the largest photo: One of a pair of cast-iron 19th century vases is on the Terrace, filled to overflowing with fragrant summer flowers. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor.

In the largest photo: One of a pair of cast-iron 19th century vases is on the Terrace, filled to overflowing with fragrant summer flowers. Image courtesy of Pashley Manor.

Roses on the Main Terrace, by the old, half-timbered walls of the House

Roses on the Main Terrace, by the old, half-timbered walls of the House

A Black Swan waddles across the Lawn that overlooks the Old Moat

A Black Swan waddles across the Lawn that overlooks the Old Moat

And now Mister Swan shows us his elegant profile

And now Mister Swan shows us his elegant profile

The arched, wrought-iron bridge leads to the Island in the Moat where the original house, built in 1262, once stood.

The arched, wrought-iron bridge leads to the Island in the Moat where the original house, built in 1262, once stood.

On the Island: a Classical Temple, and a statue of Anne Boleyn. The Boleyn family owned Pashley in the 16th century, and used it as a hunting lodge.

On the Island: a Classical Temple, and a statue of Anne Boleyn. The Boleyn family owned Pashley in the 16th century, and used it as a hunting lodge.

A closer look at the Island's Temple

A closer look at the Island’s Temple

ANNE BOLEYN, by Philip Jackson. This is one of the sculptures that's permanently mounted in Pashley's gardens.

ANNE BOLEYN, by Philip Jackson. This is one of the sculptures that’s permanently mounted in Pashley’s gardens.

A closer look at Anne.

A closer look at Anne.

Anne, in profile.

Anne, in profile.

A Stag, on the lawns behind the Island

A Stag, on the lawns behind the Island

As we pass the dam at the far end of the Old Moat, a swan requests breadcrumbs.

As we pass the dam at the far end of the Old Moat, a swan requests breadcrumbs.

The Old Moat

The Old Moat

As we returned to the car park field, we were Bee-Warned.

As we returned to the car park field, we were Bee-Warned.

The gardens at Pashley Manor are comprehensibly small, and sweet, and friendly. And the mostly light-hearted sculptures that dot the Estate give the place a good-humored vibe. While the landscapes at Scotney Castle demonstrate gardening, ramped up to highest, Grand-Opera volume, the lovingly-cared for little plots at Pashley Manor show how charming short, light works of gardening at Operetta-level can also be.

Destination #5: Merriments Gardens
Hawkhurst Road
Hurst Green
East Sussex TN19 7RA
Display Gardens open from early April to mid October
Monday through Saturday, 9AM to 5PM
Sunday, 10:30AM to 4:40AM

Phone# 01580-860666

Website: http://www.merriments.co.uk

Merriments--one of the BBC's favorite garden centres.

Merriments–one of the BBC’s favorite garden centres.

Our route between Pashley Manor and Sissinghurst Castle—which would be the final garden-of-note on the day’s itinerary—took us past Merriments, one of England’s most acclaimed and elaborate garden centers. At Merriments, even the most inexperienced gardener can ramp up his gardening-game. After a stroll through the 4-acre display gardens, where color-themed borders, woodland groves, and separate gravel, rock, parterre, and water gardens pique the imagination, one needs only to consult with Merriments’ staff about how to achieve similar results in one’s own backyard. Pots of greenery are produced from Merriments’ nurseries, and planting instructions are provided. And if you’re feeling extra-lazy, Merriments will send their crew of landscapers to your home…PRESTO-CHANGO….Instant Garden-Gratification!

Plan of the display gardens at Merriments, in East Sussex.

Plan of the display gardens at Merriments, in East Sussex.

Here are some of my favorite vignettes, from the Merriments gardens.

An elegant Rill, surrounded by grasses. I'd actually like to lift this in its entirety, and transplant it into my New Hampshire garden.

An elegant Rill, surrounded by grasses. I’d actually like to lift this in its entirety, and transplant it into my New Hampshire garden.

Oriental Lilies

Oriental Lilies

A recently-planted Boxwood parterre

A recently-planted Boxwood parterre

The Blooms of high summer.

The Blooms of high summer.

Verbena Bonariensis

Verbena Bonariensis

Want a tree for your yard? They'll dig one up!

Want a tree for your yard? They’ll dig one up!

Or perhaps you'd like an entire birch grove? No problem....

Or perhaps you’d like an entire birch grove? No problem….

Towers Tassels

Towering Tassels

More perfect Lilies

More perfect Lilies

Merriments Garden Centre

Merriments Garden Centre

Destination #6: Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Biddenden Road
Near Cranbrook
Kent TN17 2AB

Gardens best seen from April through October
Open Daily, 11AM to 5PM

Phone# 01580-710700

Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle/

The gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, which were planted in the 1930s, are among the most famous gardens in England. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, which were planted in the 1930s, are among the most famous gardens in England. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Of all the renowned gardens in England, the place whose name is most familiar—even to NON-garden-aficionados—must certainly be Sissinghurst, the home of the writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband, the diplomat Harold Nicolson. First and foremost, “Sissinghurst” conjures up serene visions of boxwood-edged beds of pale-hued flowers, which bloom unendingly around the base of an Elizabethan tower. For years, like any other gardener worth her salt, I’d dreamed of visiting Vita’s White Garden.

Harold Nicolson (born 1886, died 1968) and Vita Sackville-West (born 1892, died 1962) in the Tower Sitting Room at Sissinghurst Castle, circa 1930. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Harold Nicolson (born 1886, died 1968) and Vita Sackville-West (born 1892, died 1962) in the Tower Sitting Room at Sissinghurst Castle, circa 1930. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

As is usually the case in Life: reality falls short of dreaming. Thus far in my garden-questing I’ve found only a few places where reality EXCEEDS dreams. Scotney Castle qualifies for this very-short-list, as do the hillside gardens at Villa d’Este, in Tivoli, just northeast of Rome. I’ve written about Villa d’Este in the past, and will do so again at greater length: I’ve scheduled my third visit to those Italian Renaissance gardens for this coming May, and a long article will appear in late summer. The Chinese-scroll-painting-come-to-life at Innisfree Garden, in Millbrook, New York, which I extolled in “Part One: Hudson River Valley Gardens,” certainly belongs in this rarefied company. And the little-known gardens at Sezincote, in Gloucestershire, where conservatories capped by turquoise onion domes, and parklands dotted with statues of elephants and sacred cows (along with some REAL cows) nestle into Cotswold hills, will also be the centerpiece of a future Diary.

But Sissinghurst is on the verge of being loved to death. Along with the equally-famous gardens at Hidcote — which I visited in September of 2012, and which I wrote about in my Armchair Diary titled “Major Ramblings Across the English Countryside” — Sissinghurst is straining at its seams. Bus-load after coach-load of garden-gawkers tumble onto the grounds for a spot of cream tea, followed by a tower-climb, and then by a trot through the series of modestly-scaled garden “rooms” that Harold Nicolson laid out to hold his wife’s painterly combinations of plants.

Of course, for anyone to whom garden-history matters, paying a call to Sissinghurst IS a must. Just be prepared for the gardens to become periodically inundated by waves of people. You’ll have to queue for your turn to climb the Tower (where traffic jams happen as the steep, winding steps cause out-of-shape visitors to do a lot of staggering and huffing and puffing), and you’ll have to wait patiently to snatch quiet moments on the Lime Walk, and in the Rose, and Herb, Gardens.

My greatest photographic challenge during Tuesday afternoon’s waning hours was to take pictures that did NOT include the same lady in a white sweater who would reappear, like Zelig, around every corner, whenever I’d waited until I thought the coast was clear enough to take an un-peopled shot of the gardens.

Ultimately, I make my own little gardens here in New Hampshire, and then travel the World to learn from my Gardening-Betters, for a single reason. Gardening—and Gardens—calm me….but only when I have the high privilege of spending quiet and nearly-private time in the contemplation of my surroundings. Worldwide fame hasn’t yet robbed Sissinghurst of her beauty, but the tranquility that Vita Sackville-West described in the following passage is no more:

“The heavy gold sunshine enriched the old brick with a kind a patina, and made the tower cast a long shadow across the grass, like the finger of a gigantic sundial veering slowly with the sun. Everything was hushed and drowsy and silent, but for the coo of the white pigeons sitting alone together on the roof…
They climbed the seventy-six steps of her tower and stood on the leaden flat, leaning their elbows on the parapet, and looking out in silence over the fields, the woods, the hop gardens, and the lake down in the hollow from which a faint mist was rising.”

Try to keep that lost tranquility in mind, as our garden tour begins.

The garden at Sissinghurst sits within some 470 acres of the Kentish Weald. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The garden at Sissinghurst sits within some 470 acres of the Kentish Weald. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The Castle, which was at one time much larger than the complex that we see today, began to be constructed in the 1530s, when the entrance and long front range were built by Sir John Baker. Eventually, a huge series of enclosed courtyards were in place. During the Seven Years War (1756--63) Sissinghurst  Castle was used as a prison camp.  This postcard shows the camp. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The Castle, which was at one time much larger than the complex that we see today, began to be constructed in the 1530s, when the entrance and long front range were built by Sir John Baker. Eventually, a huge series of enclosed courtyards were in place. During the Seven Years War (1756–63) Sissinghurst Castle was used as a prison camp.
This postcard shows the camp. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Plan of the Gardens at Sissinghurst Castle. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Plan of the Gardens at Sissinghurst Castle. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Welcome to the Garden-Section of the Estate

Welcome to the Garden-Section of the Estate

We approach the front range of the Main House. The twin roofs of the Tower--which is a separate structure--are in the distance.

We approach the front range of the Main House. The twin roofs of the Tower–which is a separate structure–are in the distance.

Detail of wall of Main House

Detail of wall of Main House

We're headed toward the tunnel that bisects the Main House. The Top Courtyard, and the Tower are dead ahead.

We’re headed toward the tunnel that bisects the Main House. The Top Courtyard, and the Tower are dead ahead.

Detail of overhead beams, dating from 1530, in the tunnel through the Main House

Detail of overhead beams, dating from 1530, in the tunnel through the Main House

The Tower. We'll wait until later to make our climb...

The Tower. We’ll wait until later to make our climb…

We headed to the southern corner of the Top Courtyard, looking for an entry to the Rose Garden.

We headed to the southern corner of the Top Courtyard, looking for an entry to the Rose Garden.

Before entering the Rose Garden, we detoured into the southern end of the Tower Lawn

Before entering the Rose Garden, we detoured into the southern end of the Tower Lawn

We passed through the wall that separates the Tower Lawn from the Rose Garden

We passed through the wall that separates the Tower Lawn from the Rose Garden

At the west end of the Rose Garden, a Lutyens Bench settles into an apse-like curve in  the clematis-covered wall.

At the west end of the Rose Garden, a Lutyens Bench settles into an apse-like curve in the clematis-covered wall.

Rose Garden Bench, during a rare moment when it's not occupied.

Rose Garden Bench, during a rare moment when it’s not occupied.

From the Rose Garden, the southern end of the Main House, and the upper stories of the Tower can be seen.

From the Rose Garden, the southern end of the Main House, and the upper stories of the Tower can be seen.

A portion of the Rose Garden

A portion of the Rose Garden

Slightly off-center in the Rose Garden is the  Rondel, a circular space enclosed by high hedges. My omnipresent Lady In The White Sweater now makes the only guest appearance that I'll allow her!

Slightly off-center in the Rose Garden is the Rondel, a circular space enclosed by high hedges. My omnipresent Lady In The White Sweater now makes the only guest appearance that I’ll allow her!

The Rondel: momentarily people-free.

The Rondel: momentarily people-free.

View from the Rose Garden, toward the Tower Lawn

View from the Rose Garden, toward the Tower Lawn

Another corner of the Rose Garden

Another corner of the Rose Garden

Amanda, by the Rose Garden wall, with a view down the narrow Yew Walk, which extends along the long, Eastern side of the Tower Lawn

Amanda, by the Rose Garden wall, with a view down the narrow Yew Walk, which extends along the long, Eastern side of the Tower Lawn

Leaving the Rose Garden, we entered the small Cottage Garden, which is always planted with rich orange, red and yellow flowers.

Leaving the Rose Garden, we entered the small Cottage Garden, which is always planted with rich orange, red and yellow flowers.

We're in the Cottage Garden. The South Cottage is a fragment of the Elizabeth complex of buildings.

We’re in the Cottage Garden. The South Cottage is a fragment of the Elizabeth complex of buildings.

Mixed Dahlias in the Cottage Garden, with the Tower in the distance. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Mixed Dahlias in the Cottage Garden, with the Tower in the distance. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

After the Cottage Garden, we entered the Lime Walk, in the Spring Garden. Since the 1930s, when Harold Nicolson designed the Lime Walk, the trees have been replaced two times.

After the Cottage Garden, we entered the Lime Walk, in the Spring Garden. Since the 1930s, when Harold Nicolson designed the Lime Walk, the trees have been replaced two times.

Maintaining the trees on the Lime Walk is a labor-intensive process.

Maintaining the trees on the Lime Walk is a labor-intensive process.

One side of the far end of the Lime Walk has been pruned; much clipping still to do.....

One side of the far end of the Lime Walk has been pruned; much clipping still to do…..

At the far end of the Spring Garden's Lime Walk, a statue marks the beginning of The Nuttery

At the far end of the Spring Garden’s Lime Walk, a statue marks the beginning of The Nuttery

The Nuttery is a plantation of Kentish Cobnuts--a variety of Hazelnut. The entire Nuttery is underplanted with drifts of Spring-blooming bulbs. This is a view of The Nuttery, in April. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The Nuttery is a plantation of Kentish Cobnuts–a variety of Hazelnut. The entire Nuttery is underplanted with drifts of Spring-blooming bulbs. This is a view of The Nuttery, in April. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

At the Eastern end of The Nuttery, a Herb Garden is nearly hidden behind tall yew hedges. We're on the outside of the Herb Garden.

At the Eastern end of The Nuttery, a Herb Garden is nearly hidden behind tall yew hedges. We’re on the outside of the Herb Garden.

Between the Herb Garden and the Moat Walk is a Thyme Lawn, first planted in 1946. Sissinghurst's gardeners say maintaining the Thyme Lawn has always been difficult. When the thyme isn't flowering, people trample it. Happily, when the thyme is in flower, the Lawn is abuzz with bees....which keeps toes away from the tender plants.

Between the Herb Garden and the Moat Walk is a Thyme Lawn, first planted in 1946. Sissinghurst’s gardeners say maintaining the Thyme Lawn has always been difficult. When the thyme isn’t flowering, people trample it. Happily, when the thyme is in flower, the Lawn is abuzz with bees….which keeps toes away from the tender plants.

The modestly-sized Herb Garden, which contains 160 different varieties of herbs.

The modestly-sized Herb Garden, which contains 160 different varieties of herbs.

I held my breath, and waited for a rare, tranquil moment to click the camera shutter....

I held my breath, and waited for a rare, tranquil moment to click the camera shutter….

A Byzantine Stone Bowl supported by lions is the centerpiece of the Herb Garden, which was planted in 1933-34.

A Byzantine Stone Bowl supported by lions is the centerpiece of the Herb Garden, which was planted in 1933-34.

Detail of tiles in terrace, which are installed with narrow ends up. This same use of tiles--with narrow ends up-- can also be seen in the gardens at Hidcote.

Detail of tiles in terrace, which are installed with narrow ends up, under the Byzantine Bowl. This same use of tiles–with narrow ends up– can also be seen in the gardens at Hidcote.

Garden Bench, planted with Chamomile

Garden Bench, planted with Chamomile

The Herb Garden's Byzantine Bowl, and Chamomile Bench. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The Herb Garden’s Byzantine Bowl, and Chamomile Bench. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

We left the Herb Garden, and ambled down the Moat Walk, which is planted with a long bank of Azaleas along one side.

We left the Herb Garden, and ambled down the Moat Walk, which is planted with a long bank of Azaleas along one side.

In Springtime, the Moat Walk is abloom with wisteria, azaleas and bluebells. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

In Springtime, the Moat Walk is abloom with wisteria, azaleas and bluebells. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

We passed into the wide expanses of The Orchard, which is contained on two sides by the Moat.

We passed into the wide expanses of The Orchard, which is edged on two sides by the Moat.

At the far corner of The Orchard, where the northern and eastern courses of the Moat meet, Nicolson built a Gazebo, which has windows overlooking the water, and the distant fields.

At the far corner of The Orchard, where the northern and eastern courses of the Moat meet, Nicolson built a Gazebo, which has windows overlooking the water, and the distant fields.

At the Northwestern edge of The Orchard, a narrow opening in the Yew Walk hedge leads us into the White Garden.

At the Northwestern edge of The Orchard, a narrow opening in the Yew Walk hedge leads us into the White Garden.

We enter the White Garden

We enter the White Garden

The White Garden was the last of the gardens at Sissinghurst to receive its identity. Until 1950, it had been filled with a miscellaneous collection of flowers, in mixed colors. It was Vita's idea to plant a garden where white flowers would glow in the moonlight.

The White Garden was the last of the gardens at Sissinghurst to receive its identity. Until 1950, it had been filled with a miscellaneous collection of flowers, in mixed colors. It was Vita’s idea to plant a garden where white flowers would glow in the moonlight.

A Pergola is at the center of the White Garden

A Pergola is at the center of the White Garden

Ideally, the White Garden should look like this, with white climbing roses covering the Pergola. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Ideally, the White Garden should look like this, with white climbing roses covering the Pergola. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

A lushly-planted corner of the White Garden

A lushly-planted corner of the White Garden

To the West of the White Garden is the Delos, which is planted as a carpet of woodland flowers. The Delos was designed in the mid-1990s by head gardener Sarah Cook, long after Vita and Harold had exited the scene. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

To the West of the White Garden is the Delos, which is planted as a carpet of woodland flowers. The Delos was designed in the mid-1990s by head gardener Sarah Cook, long after Vita and Harold had exited the scene. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

We leave the White Garden through the Bishop's Gate, then turn right, and head toward the Top Courtyard's Purple Border.

We leave the White Garden through the Bishop’s Gate, then turn right, and head toward the Top Courtyard’s Purple Border.

The Purple Border extends along the Northern edge of the Top Courtyard. The Library Wing of the Main House is directly ahead.

The Purple Border extends along the Northern edge of the Top Courtyard. The Library Wing of the Main House is directly ahead.

Vita planted the Purple Border with a clever mix of pinks, blues, lilacs and...yes, purples.

Vita planted the Purple Border with a clever mix of pinks, blues, lilacs and…yes, purples.

FINALLY....it was time for us to climb The Tower. This is The Tower, when the mobs have gone home. As you can see, the lawn in the Top Courtyard is precisely mowed, in a diagonal pattern--to conceal the fact that the Courtyard isn't perfectly rectangular--and in double width, to make a bolder impact, when viewed from above. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

FINALLY….it was time for us to climb The Tower. This is The Tower, when the mobs have gone home. As you can see, the lawn in the Top Courtyard is precisely mowed, in a diagonal pattern–to conceal the fact that the Courtyard isn’t perfectly rectangular–and in double width, to make a bolder impact, when viewed from above. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Vita Sackville-West, after WWII, on the Tower Steps, with Rollo. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Vita Sackville-West, after WWII, on the Tower Steps, with Rollo. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

View through the Tower Arch, toward an opening in the Yew Walk. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

View through the Tower Arch, toward an opening in the Yew Walk. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Vita in her Workroom, in the Tower. The Tower was essentially Vita's domain, from which she could survey all of the Gardens.

Vita in her Workroom, in the Tower. The Tower was essentially Vita’s domain, from which she could survey all of the Gardens.

We're on the roof of The Tower.

We’re on the roof of The Tower.

This sign is displayed on the Tower roof. Harold was underplaying his very considerable role in the making of the Gardens.

This sign is displayed on the Tower roof. Harold was underplaying his very considerable role in the making of the Gardens.

Finally, as the sun grew lower in the sky, and the crowds dispersed, we’d climbed to the roof of the Tower! From on high, Harold Nicolson’s orderly garden-layout revealed itself.

Here are my best photos of Sissinghurst, which I’ve saved for last. Beginning by looking due North, I began to take a series of pictures, moving in a clockwise direction.

Looking North. The White Garden. Just to the right of the high hedge is a Boathouse, which is placed on the Northwest corner of the Orchard, at the end of the Moat.

Looking North. The White Garden. Just to the right of the high hedge is a Boathouse, which is placed on the Northwest corner of the Orchard, at the end of the Moat.

Looking Northeast. The Orchard, with the Gazebo at the farthest corner. The tall, double hedges of the Yew Walk are directly below the Tower.

Looking Northeast. The Orchard, with the Gazebo at the farthest corner. The tall, double hedges of the Yew Walk are directly below the Tower.

Looking East. The Tower Lawn is directly below.

Looking East. The Tower Lawn is directly below.

Looking Southeast. The Orchard, with the South Cottage to the right. The Yew Walk is directly below.

Looking Southeast. The Orchard, with the South Cottage to the right. The Yew Walk is directly below.

Looking further to the Southeast. The South Cottage with the Cottage Garden, and then the Lime Walk.

Looking further to the Southeast. The South Cottage with the Cottage Garden, and then the Lime Walk.

Looking South. The south end of the Tower Lawn is at the base of the Tower. Beyond that are the circular hedges of The Rondel, and then the trees of the Lime Walk.

Looking South. The south end of the Tower Lawn is at the base of the Tower. Beyond that are the circular hedges of The Rondel, and then the trees of the Lime Walk.

Looking Southwest. The western-most end of the Rose Garden, with the southern wing of the Main House, to the right.

Looking Southwest. The western-most end of the Rose Garden, with the southern wing of the Main House, to the right.

Looking further to the Southwest. The Main House, with a view of outbuildings.

Looking further to the Southwest. The Main House, with a view of outbuildings.

Looking West. The inner side of the front range of the Main House, with the Central Entry Arch.

Looking West. The inner side of the front range of the Main House, with the Central Entry Arch.

Looking Northwest. Past the front range of the Main House, which contains the Library at the northern end, is a complex of Oast Houses.

Looking Northwest. Past the front range of the Main House, which contains the Library at the northern end, is a complex of Oast Houses.

Looking further to the Northwest. The Purple Border is directly below. Behind the tall brick wall is the Delos, the wild, woodland garden. To the right of the Delos is the Priest's House. Farther to the left is the Elizabethan Barn.

Looking further to the Northwest. The Purple Border is directly below. Behind the tall brick wall is the Delos, the wild, woodland garden. To the right of the Delos is the Priest’s House. Farther to the left is the Elizabethan Barn.

Amanda and I had completed our Sissinghurst visit, and we exited through the Main House's Archway.

Amanda and I had completed our Sissinghurst visit, and we exited through the Main House’s Archway.

We rejuvenated ourselves with strong tea and sweet scones, and then took a last look at the beautiful countryside...framed by this arch in the Elizabethan Barn.

We rejuvenated ourselves with strong tea and sweet scones, and then took a last look at the beautiful countryside…framed by this arch in the Elizabethan Barn.

This is the image of Sissinghurst I’ll most fondly remember…

My Tower-top view of the Rose Garden's Rondel, taken late in the afternoon, after the crowds had gone away.

My Tower-top view of the Rose Garden’s Rondel, taken late in the afternoon, after the crowds had gone away.

….Harold’s sure-handed geometries hold sway. The late afternoon light becomes golden, and shadows begin to stretch themselves across the carefully-mown checkerboard patterns in the lawns. On the Tower roof then…for me, for a moment…the drowsy hush of her gardens that Vita had so loved had returned.

The private lives of the creators of the gardens at Sissinghurst were complex, to say the least. Hundreds of thousands of words have been spent explaining Vita and Harold’s unusual and fraught…and yet enduring…partnership. If you’re curious about them, the best resource is their son Nigel’s astonishing biography of his parents, “Portrait of a Marriage: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson.”

Nigel's biography of his parents.

Nigel’s biography of his parents.

With this article, we’ve completed 60 percent of our Kent-adventures.
In Kent-#4 we’ll visit Christopher Lloyd’s anarchic but gorgeous garden at Great Dixter. We’ll walk up cobbled streets in the ancient, coastal town of Rye. We’ll drive across the forlorn expanses of Romney Marsh. We’ll marvel at
Derek Jarman’s anarchic but gorgeous garden on the shingle beach at Dungeness. (Yes…there’s a theme here: next time around we’ll see the creations of two of the Bad Boys of the Gardening World.) And we’ll explore the oldest rooms in Leeds Castle, another moat-encircled jewel.

Derek Jarman's garden at Prospect Cottage, on the shingle beach at Dungeness. This image courtesy of garden designer, Anne Guy.

Derek Jarman’s garden at Prospect Cottage, on the shingle beach at Dungeness. This image courtesy of garden designer, Anne Guy.

Copyright 2014. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers.
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Part Two. Rambling Through the Gardens & Estates of Kent, England

Penshurst Place and Gardens. Tonbridge, Kent, England.  Photo taken on August 5, 2013. The Gardens at Penshurst are of the same age as the original building—over 600 years. This makes them one of Britain’s oldest privately owned gardens. The Sidney family has been in continuous occupation of the house for the last 462 years. In 1554, the most illustrious Sidney of them all was born there—Sir Philip: who became a poet, soldier and courtier

Penshurst Place and Gardens. Tonbridge, Kent, England. Photo taken on August 5, 2013. The Gardens at Penshurst are among Britain’s oldest privately owned gardens. The Sidney family has been in continuous occupation of the house (the main portions dating from 1341) for the last 462 years. In 1554, the most illustrious Sidney of them all was born there: Sir Philip, who became a poet, soldier and courtier

February 2014. Although not by design, some days of my Kent-Garden-Touring also became days of Finding-the-Haunts-of-Famous-Authors. Kent has always been a fertile place: its beautiful landscapes have nurtured the growing of plants, and the assembling of words, in equal measure. Although I won’t officially get to Jane Austen until my fifth in this series of Kent travel diaries, I kept one particular Austen-ian sentence in mind, throughout my entire week in “The Garden of England.” On a Wednesday in 1798 (December 19th, to be exact), Jane Austen penned yet another long and delightfully bitchy letter to her beloved sister Cassandra.Jane’s temporary address was at Godmersham Park—Faversham, in Kent— where she and her parents were enjoying an extended visit with her brother, Edward Knight. [About the difference in their surnames: Edward was Jane’s third eldest brother. In Edward’s teens, he hit the proverbial jackpot when his childless relatives, the very wealthy Catherine and Thomas Knight, took a shine to him and decided to adopt, thus making him their only heir. Ka-chiiinnggg…at least ONE of the Austens needed no longer to squeeze his coins till they bled!]

Godmersham Park, in  Kent. Home of Jane Austen's brother,  Edward  Knight. This building is not open to the public.

Godmersham Park, in Kent. Home of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward
Knight. This building is not open to the public.

Austen’s missive had begun slyly : “My dear Cassandra. Your letter came quite as soon as I expected, and so your letters always do, because I have made it a rule not to expect them till they come….”After several pages of reporting about bonnet trimmings (a black feather was to be replaced by a silk poppy), the weather (Jane had enjoyed a long walk on a crisply cold day), a horse-riding accident (not hers, thank goodness) a forthcoming Ball (“There will be nobody worth dancing with.”), and what sounds very much like Mrs. Austen’s hypochondria (Mother’s unsettled “Bowels, an Asthma,a Dropsy, Water in her Chest, and a Liver Disorder”…all of which smack of the complaints of Mrs. Bennet, in “Pride and Prejudice”), and then of getting down to Really Serious Business—which was Jane’s exhaustive analysis of the financial status of everyone she’d recently met—Austen’s tone relaxed, with these words: “KENT IS THE ONLY PLACE FOR HAPPINESS.” To the traveler who is immersed in the sheer beauty of Kent, to be Un-Happy there would indeed take some doing. But of course, Austen immediately tempered her glowing words: “Everybody is rich there.” Since we know that Jane Austen’s lack of financial resources weighed heavily upon her–for her entire life– this qualification speaks volumes about how difficult it must have been for her to have always been dependent upon the hospitality of wealthy hosts for the Kentish sojourns that she so loved. I’ll have more to say about Jane in forthcoming articles, when Amanda and I stroll through the gardens at Goodnestone Park (which was the home of Edward Knight’s in-laws, the Bridges family… who often entertained Jane Austen), and later on, when Anne and David Guy and I spend a day in Lyme Regis (where Austen often vacationed, and where she set a pivotal scene of PERSUASION).

Goodnestone Park, in Canterbury, Kent. In 1791, Elizabeth, the third daughter of Sir Brook Bridges married Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight. Jane Austen was frequently entertained at Goodnestone Park by the Bridges family. I visited the beautiful gardens surrounding the Manor House of August 8, 2013.

Goodnestone Park, in Canterbury, Kent.
In 1791, Elizabeth, the third daughter of Sir Brook Bridges married Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight. Jane Austen was frequently entertained at Goodnestone Park by the Bridges family. I visited the beautiful gardens surrounding the Manor House on August 8, 2013.

So, to further demonstrate why Jane Austen Had It Right—that Kent IS indeed a place for happiness—please continue to travel with me and Amanda Hutchinson (Blue Badge Guide, par excellence http://www.southeasttourguides.co.uk ) and Steve Parry (Chauffeur, par excellence http://www.snccars.co.uk ). On that Monday, August 5, 2013, the works of Kent’s gardeners and writers seemed especially and closely bound.

Our destinations on Monday, August 5, 2013

Our destinations on Monday, August 5, 2013

Destination #1: Chartwell, the Family home of Winston Churchill Mapleton Road, Westerham, Kent TN16 1PS Open from early March through October, 11AM to 5PM Telephone: 01732-868381 Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell/

Chartwell, where Winston and Clementine Churchill lived for over 40 years. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Chartwell, where Winston and Clementine Churchill lived for over 40 years. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Our day’s tour began with an Historical Bang: promptly at 10AM, we arrived at Chartwell. HOW on Earth does one summarize the life of a polymath like Winston Churchill? A hybrid-child—the product of a wealthy and footloose American mother and an unhealthy English father who was descended from the Dukes of Marlborough—Churchill was born prematurely: two months before his time. But Winston ultimately became a man exactly FOR his times. As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, from 1940 to 1945, he was Britain’s inspiring wartime leader; the orator who stiffened the resolve of his countrymen through the sheer power of his words. However, the prime times of every man must always pass: during his second term as Prime Minister, from 1951 to 1955, Churchill unwillingly presided over what he called the “dismemberment” of the British Empire, as the impossibility of continuing the colonial rule of far-off lands was made violently apparent. During his long life (born—1874, died—1965) Churchill was a neglected child, and an indifferent student…and then a challenging husband, and a doting father. He was a wild-eyed war correspondent, a fortunate soldier, and a dominant and wily politician…even though he never escaped the jaws of his “black dog”: the serious depressions that tormented him. As an historian, and author of countless speeches and articles, he wrote at least 10 million words, some of which caused him to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Winston decompressed from his frantically active life by gardening and bricklaying…and by painting and drinking. When the fame of a man has become as formidable as Churchill’s, we either assume that we know all there IS to know…or we shrug and say that pulling aside the trappings of fame to find the truth about a person is impossible. But, to make a few steps beyond hagiography, there’s nothing so helpful as taking a peek at a public figure’s home. We speculate: without Chartwell’s modestly-appointed rooms, without the orderly gardens, without the mundane concerns of managing the care of his dairy herd, along with Chartwell’s mother sow and her piglets, might Winston Churchill have been less able to temper his wild swings between brilliance and despair? I think the answer is clear: without his retreat in the Kentish hills, Churchill would certainly have been far less functional—and thus less useful— when England’s extreme circumstances demanded his very special skills.

Winston Churchill in 1939. In the background, exterior renovations of Chartwell are underway. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Winston Churchill in 1939. In the background, renovations are underway. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Amanda and I had an hour to spare until the House opened, and so began our amble through Chartwell’s extensive gardens. Guidebook in hand, I paused to read its Introduction, written by Mary Soames, the youngest of the four Churchill children. As they did for her father, words also sprang gracefully from Mary’s pen, as she described this House which her father had bought, over the objections of her long-suffering mother! “Chartwell was Winston and Clementine Churchill’s home for 40 years. My father bought it in September 1922, in the week that I, their last child, was born, and until I was 17 it was to be my whole world.” “While Winston and his children loved Chartwell unconditionally, Clementine from the first had serious practical reservations about the whole project. Her prudent Scottish side judged the renovations (involving largely rebuilding the house), and the subsequent cost of running the whole property, would place a near intolerable strain on the Churchills’ somewhat fragile financial raft. She was to be proved right, and over the years her pleasure in the place was seldom unalloyed by anxiety. Clementine, however, never stinted thought or effort in making Chartwell a delightful, comfortable home for her family. My mother imprinted the stamp of her lovely, and always unaffected, taste on both house and garden.” “Winston had been captivated by Chartwell from the moment he set eyes on the valley, protected by the sheltering beech woods (sadly devastated by the 1987 gales), and by the house set on the hillside, commanding sweeping views over the Weald of Kent. The Chart Well, which rises at the top of the property, nourished the existing lake, and Winston saw at once the possibilities it provided for yet another lake, dams, swimming pools and water gardens. In all of these projects over the ensuing years, he himself would play the role of creator and artisan.” “The walls enclosing the vegetable garden (built very largely with his own hands), and the dear little cottage he made for me, bear witness to his skill and assiduity as a brick layer. Chartwell also provided countless scenes—still lifes and interiors—for Winston’s brush. The Studio at the bottom of the orchard was the place (apart from his Study) where he spent the greater number of ‘indoor’ hours.”

Winston Churchill, at home, during the 1930s. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Winston Churchill, at home, during the 1930s. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

“But if Chartwell was his playground, it was also his ‘factory.’ Throughout the twenties and thirties, in or out of office, Winston Churchill was immersed in politics. The lights in the beamed Study upstairs gleamed late through the night and into the small hours, as, padding up and down the long room, he dictated for hours on end to his secretary the ceaseless stream of speeches and newspaper articles through which he waged his political campaigns. Likewise there flowed from his pen the continuous procession of books which kept his family nourished, and Chartwell from foundering.”

Map of the Grounds at Chartwell.

Map of the Grounds at Chartwell.

On the path from the Visitor Centre to the House, we passed a herd of dairy cows. Visitors enter the property at its northern end.

On the path from the Visitor Centre to the House, we passed a herd of dairy cows. Visitors enter the property at its northern end.

Winston Churchill's favorite outdoor perch: by his Goldfish Pond.

Winston Churchill’s favorite outdoor perch: by his Goldfish Pond.

In the 1930s, Winston painted the scene

In the 1930s, Winston painted the scene. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

We enter Charwell through this Gate, which leads into Lady Churchill's Rose Garden.

We entered Chartwell through this Gate, which leads into Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden.

Once through the Gate and into Lady Churchill's Rose Garden, this was our first view of the House. Four standard wisterias grow where the garden paths meet.

Once through the Gate and into Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden, this was our first view of the House. Four standard wisterias grow where the garden paths meet.

Lady Churchill's Rose Garden is divided into four beds that contain hybrid tea roses.

Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden is divided into four beds that contain hybrid tea roses.

Mixed Borders of plants with pastel blossoms hug the inner perimeters of Lady Churchill's Rose Garden.

Mixed Borders of plants with pastel blossoms hug the inner perimeters of Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden.

Leaving the Rose Garden, we followed a path to a Pergola, which leads to the Marlborough Pavilion.

Leaving the Rose Garden, we followed a path to a Pergola, which leads to the Marlborough Pavilion.

The Marlborough Pavilion was built in the mid 1920s, and decorated in 1949  by Churchill's nephew, John Spencer Churchill. The theme of the decoration is Churchill's greatest ancestor, John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough.

The Marlborough Pavilion was built in the mid 1920s, and decorated in 1949 by Churchill’s nephew, John Spencer Churchill. The theme of the decoration is Churchill’s greatest ancestor, John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough.

The frieze around the ceiling evokes the Marlborough wars. One panel shows the defense of the village of Blenheim; the climactic moment of the Duke's most famous victory. The Duke's grand palace in Woodstock, Oxforshire, is named after this battle. Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace...but not by plan. As mentioned, his arrival came a bit ahead of schedule.

The frieze around the ceiling evokes the Marlborough wars. One panel shows the defense of the village of Blenheim; the climactic moment of the Duke’s most famous victory. The Duke’s grand palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, is named after this battle. Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace…but not by plan. As mentioned, his arrival came a bit ahead of schedule.

This is just one wing of the enormous Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire. As you can see, it's a BIT grander a place than Chartwell is. Winston was born here in 1874. I took this picture during on Sept. 24, 2008...which seems like a million years ago.

This is just one wing of the enormous Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire. As you can see, it’s a BIT grander place than Chartwell is. Winston was born here in 1874. I took this picture on Sept. 24, 2008…which seems like a million years ago.

We're back now to the more modest charms of Chartwell. A terra cotta medallion of the First Duke of Marlborough adorns an inner wall of the Marlborough Pavilion.

We’re back now to the more modest charms of Chartwell. A terra cotta medallion of the First Duke of Marlborough adorns an inner wall of the Marlborough Pavilion.

The First Duke's wife, Sarah, keeps him company

The First Duke’s wife, Sarah, keeps him company

On the north wall of the Pavilion are the First Duke's coat of arms, and the family's Spanish motto: "Fiel Pero Desdichado"..."Faithful but Unfortunate." Seeing how things turned out for Marlborough, that motto was IN-Accurate!

On the north wall of the Pavilion are the First Duke’s coat of arms, and the family’s Spanish motto: “Fiel Pero Desdichado”…”Faithful but Unfortunate.” Seeing how things turned out for Marlborough, that motto was IN-Accurate!

Just south of the Pergola and Marlborough Pavilion is the Terrace Lawn. From this lawn one can enjoy the long view south, over the Weald of Kent. Churchill bought the House for this View.

Just south of the Pergola and Marlborough Pavilion is the Terrace Lawn. From this lawn one can enjoy the long view south, over the Weald of Kent. Churchill bought the House for this View.

Below the Terrace Lawn, acres of grass extend down to two lakes and a swan pen. Further afield are broad meadows, and  forests of Chestnut trees.

Below the Terrace Lawn, acres of grass extend down to two lakes and a swan pen. Further afield are broad meadows, and forests of Chestnut trees.

Another lake view. Although the lakes appear natural, they are almost entirely Churchill's creations. By damming a stream, Winston transformed what had been a silted-up bog into two lakes.

Another lake view. Although the lakes appear natural, they are almost entirely Churchill’s creations. By damming a stream, Winston transformed what had been a silted-up bog into two lakes.

The view from the Terrace Lawn, up toward the back of the House. After Churchill bought Chartwell, his architect Philip Tilden built a new wing, which extended out into the garden. The 3 stories of this addition contained a Dining Room on the garden-level basement, a Drawing Room on the ground floor, and a barrel-vaulted bedroom for Clementine on the first floor. Ever-dramatic, Churchill called his addition "my promontory."

The view from the Terrace Lawn, up toward the back of the House. After Churchill bought Chartwell, his architect Philip Tilden built a new wing, which extended out into the garden. The 3 stories of this addition contained a Dining Room on the garden-level basement, a Drawing Room on the ground floor, and a barrel-vaulted bedroom for Clementine on the first floor. Ever-dramatic, Churchill called his addition “my promontory.”

Another view of the back of the House, from the Terrace Lawn.

Another view of the back of the House, from the Terrace Lawn.

A terrace at the juncture of the old and new portions of the House. The arched window is one of the many windows that extend around 3 sides of the Dining Room.

A terrace at the juncture of the old and new portions of the House. The arched window is one of the many windows that extend around 3 sides of the Dining Room.

View from the terrace below the Dining Room, out toward the Studio.

View from the terrace below the Dining Room, out toward the Studio.

View of the rear of the House from the southernmost point on the Terrace Lawn. Clementine planted a Magnolia grandiflora, which has reached a substantial height, against the trellis-work attached to the House.

View of the rear of the House from the southernmost point on the Terrace Lawn. Clementine planted a Magnolia grandiflora, which has reached a substantial height, against the trellis-work attached to the House.

The Butterfly House Walk begins at the southwest corner of the Terrace Lawn, and is lined on the right by a high yew hedge. To the left, the land slopes away to the Orchard. Clementine planted these borders with buddleias to lure the butterflies that Churchill loved to see in the garden. Worried about the decline in Britain's native species, Winston called in a butterfly breeding expert for advice on converting the summer-house at the end of this walk into a place to incubate butterfly larvae.

The Butterfly House Walk begins at the southwest corner of the Terrace Lawn, and is lined on the right by a high yew hedge. To the left, the land slopes away to the Orchard. Clementine planted these borders with buddleias to lure the butterflies that Churchill loved to see in the garden. Worried about the decline in Britain’s native species, Winston called in a butterfly breeding expert for advice on converting the summer-house at the end of this walk into a place to incubate butterfly larvae.

At the end of the Butterfly House Walk is the Croquet Lawn. During the 1930s Clementine's tennis court occupied this space....she was the athlete in the family. After WWII, it became the Croquet Lawn.

At the end of the Butterfly House Walk is the Croquet Lawn. During the 1930s Clementine’s tennis court occupied this space….she was the athlete in the family. After WWII, it became the Croquet Lawn.

Clementine Churchill. Portrait done in 1946, by Douglas Chandor. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Clementine Churchill. Portrait done in 1946, by Douglas Chandor. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

View from the Butterfly House Walk.

View from the Butterfly House Walk.

Buttressed brick walls enclose the Orchard. A row of Kentish-tile-hung cottages is behind the wall. Clementine referred to these as "her village."

Buttressed brick walls enclose the Orchard. A row of Kentish-tile-hung cottages is behind the wall. Clementine referred to these as her ” village.”

These borders are just uphill from the Kitchen Garden, and the Golden Rose Avenue.

These borders are just uphill from the Kitchen Garden, and the Golden Rose Avenue.

Amanda and I looked down over the precisely-groomed beech hedges that enclose the Golden Rose Avenue. The Avenue was created in 1958 as a golden wedding present to the Churchills from their children.

Amanda and I looked down over the precisely-groomed beech hedges that enclose the Golden Rose Avenue. The Avenue was created in 1958 as a golden wedding present to the Churchills from their children.

We're inside the Golden Rose Avenue, which runs east-west in the garden. The beds contain yellow and gold flowering roses, planted on each side in two parallel rows. Lambs ears and lavender billow out across the paving stones.

We’re inside the Golden Rose Avenue, which runs east-west in the garden. The beds contain yellow and gold flowering roses, planted on each side in two parallel rows. Lambs ears and lavender billow out across the paving stones.

Yellow roses along the Gold Rose Avenue

Yellow roses along the Gold Rose Avenue

Midway along the Golden Rose Avenue is a circular terrace with a sundial. Below the sundial is buried a pet dove that Clementine brought home from a cruise to Bali in 1935. The dove survived for 2 or 3 years at Chartwell. Chartwell's gardens are full of personal touches.

Midway along the Golden Rose Avenue is a circular terrace with a sundial. Below the sundial is buried a pet dove that Clementine brought home from a cruise to Bali in 1935. The dove survived for 2 or 3 years at Chartwell.
Chartwell’s gardens are full of personal touches.

The extensive Kitchen Gardens surround the Golden Rose Avenue

The extensive Kitchen Gardens surround the Golden Rose Avenue

Boots--definitely not Winston's--are recycled as planters for lettuce.

Boots–definitely not Winston’s–are recycled as planters for lettuce.

A clay-pot Scarecrow....not very scary.

A clay-pot Scarecrow….not very scary.

The Edges of the Kitchen Garden

The Edges of the Kitchen Garden

Drifts of flowers for cutting, in the Kitchen Garden

Drifts of flowers for cutting,
in the Kitchen Garden

This wall in the Kitchen Garden was built by Winston, who could lay down 90 bricks an hour. In 1928 he took out a card as an adult apprentice in the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers. Oh...THAT Winston!

This wall in the Kitchen Garden was built by Winston, who could lay down 90 bricks an hour. In 1928 he took out a card as an adult apprentice in the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers. Oh…THAT Winston!

Garden by the Studio

Garden by the Studio

From 1915, painting was Churchill's principal form of relaxation from the stresses of politics. The Studio was built in the 1930s, and became his favorite hideaway.

From 1915, painting was Churchill’s principal form of relaxation from the stresses of politics. The Studio was built in the 1930s, and became his favorite hideaway.

As 11AM opening time approached, we walked around to the Lawn by the front entry of the House. At the core of the present Chartwell are the remains of a substantial 16th century house. Henry VIII is said to have slept here in a room (now gone), while courting Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle. The unusually tall, thin and narrow building was probably designed as a hunting lodge. Over the centuries it grew, in higgledy-piggledy fashion.

As 11AM opening time approached, we walked around to the Lawn by the front entry of the House. At the core of the present Chartwell are the remains of a substantial 16th century house. Henry VIII is said to have slept here in a room (now gone), while courting Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle. The unusually tall, thin and narrow building was probably designed as a hunting lodge. Over the centuries it grew, in higgledy-piggledy fashion.

A majestic tree on the Entrance Lawn

A majestic tree on the Entrance Lawn

The architect Philip Tilden, who oversaw all of Churchill's renovations and additions at Chartwell, found this elegant 18th century wooden doorcase at an antique shop in London.

The architect Philip Tilden, who oversaw all of Churchill’s renovations and additions at Chartwell, found this elegant 18th century wooden doorcase at an antique shop in London.

Detail of wooden doorcase at Front Entry to Chartwell.

Detail of wooden doorcase at Front Entry to Chartwell.

Chartwell: Plans of the House. Visitors are not allowed to take photos of the interiors, which are decorated in a comfy and low-keyed manner. After Winston's death in 1965, Clementine gave the House to The National Trust, with the furnishings of its principal rooms virtually intact. She also bequeathed a collection of about 60 of Winston's own paintings to the Trust. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Chartwell: Plans of the House. Visitors are not allowed to take photos of the interiors, which are decorated in a comfy and low-keyed manner. After Winston’s death in 1965, Clementine gave the House to The National Trust, with the furnishings of its principal rooms virtually intact. She also bequeathed a collection of about 60 of Winston’s own paintings to the Trust. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Churchill's first floor Study is the most important room at Chartwell, and is one of the few recognizable, surviving parts of the original house. At first, Churchill slept here in a four-poster bed, but during the 1930s, he used an adjacent room as his bedroom. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Churchill’s first floor Study is the most important room at Chartwell, and is one of the few recognizable, surviving parts of the original house. At first, Churchill slept here in a four-poster bed, but during the 1930s, he used an adjacent room as his bedroom. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Churchill's desk, in his Study. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Churchill’s desk, in his Study. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Lady Churchill's Bedroom is on the top floor of the 3-storey addition, on the south side of the House. The barrel-vaulted ceiling is painted the same duck egg blue color that coats the walls. Churchill called this room his wife's "magnificent aerial bower." Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Lady Churchill’s Bedroom is on the top floor of the 3-storey addition, on the south side of the House. The barrel-vaulted ceiling is painted the same duck egg blue color that coats the walls. Churchill called this room his wife’s “magnificent aerial bower.” Image courtesy of The National Trust.

I adored the basement-level Dining Room, which has windows on three sides. The sea-grass carpet is woven specially for this space and the room is suffused with the fresh aroma of that grass. This rug is regularly replaced, so as to maintain the clean smell that Winston enjoyed. The vivid glazed chintz covering the chairs is the same pattern--"Arum Lily"--that has always decorated the room.

I adored the basement-level Dining Room, which has windows on three sides. The sea-grass carpet is woven specially for this space and the room is suffused with the fresh aroma of that grass. This rug is regularly replaced, so as to maintain the clean smell that Winston enjoyed. The vivid glazed chintz covering the chairs is the same pattern–“Arum Lily”–that has always decorated the room.

Our house-inspection ended, we exited through the basement level kitchen, onto this south-facing terrace.

Our house-inspection ended, we exited through the basement level kitchen, onto this south-facing terrace.

Plaque, on the kitchen terrace

Plaque, on the kitchen terrace

As we concluded our visit, we passed once again through Lady Churchill's Rose Garden. Our last look at Chartwell was as beautiful as the first had been.

As we concluded our visit, we passed once again through Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden. Our last look at Chartwell was as beautiful as the first had been.

Destination #2: Hever Castle & Gardens Hever, Near Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7NG Open from April through October, Daily, 10:30AM—5PM Telephone: 01732-8652244 Website: http://www.hevercastle.co.uk

Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn's childhood home. A castle has occupied this site since 1270. The current Castle, which is surrounded by a moat, dates from the 15th century. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home. A castle has occupied this site since 1270. The current Castle, which is surrounded by a moat, dates from the 15th century. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Very likely following the same route as did King Henry VIII in 1525, when he rode from Chart Well to Hever Castle, Amanda and Steve and I then made the short journey to the moated dwelling that, during the 15th and 16th centuries, was home to the Bullens (known today as the “Boleyns”), one of the most powerful families in England. I cannot say the words “Anne Boleyn” without feeling a tinge of sadness…which is then followed by a simmer of outrage. For those who know the rhyme, “Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived,” which helps history buffs remember the fates of Henry VIII’s six wives in their proper order, Anne Boleyn has the gruesome distinction of being the first “Beheaded.”

The six wives of King Henry VIII. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

The six wives of King Henry VIII. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

In his incessant and desperate quest for a male heir, Henry consumed women. No lady who fell under Henry’s hungry gaze fared well. The Hever Castle guidebook summarizes Anne Boleyn’s short-and-UN-sweet life this way: “In 1509, eight years after Anne Boleyn’s birth, Henry Tudor, then aged 18, succeeded to the throne of England a Henry VIII. He secretly married Catherine of Aragon, the 24-year-old widow of his elder brother, Arthur. Their marriage produced only one child out of eight pregnancies: a daughter, who became the future Queen Mary I.” “Anne Bullen spent much of her time as a child at Court, pushed forward by her ambitious father, Thomas. At the age of 13 she joined the household of Margaret of Austria in the Netherlands before becoming maid-of-honour to Henry’s sister Mary Tudor, who was to marry King Louis XII. Anne then became maid-of-honour to Queen Claude of France and stayed with her for nearly seven years. It was in France that Anne Bullen became known as Anne Boleyn. There were no set spellings in Tudor times as few people could read or white, so Anne chose to sign herself Boleyn, probably for the more sophisticated sounding French pronunciation.” “In 1522 Anne returned to England, where her sister, Mary, had become mistress to Henry VIII. Anne was by now a sophisticated young woman she found Hever quite dull in comparison. She was soon appointed lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, during which time she fell in love with the young Lord Henry Percy.This did not please the King, who had other plans, so she was banished to Hever; lovesick and furious.” “By 1525 King Henry was desperate for a male heir. Bored with his former mistress, Mary, he fixed his attentions on 25-year-old Anne and began to make frequent visits to Hever.” “Anne was striking to look at: intelligent, sophisticated and fashionable. By that time, Henry was 32 years old, over 6 feet tall, handsome, extremely athletic and well educated.”

Henry VIII in his Rampant Prime. Painting by Hans Eworth, after the famous portrait by Hans Holbein. Image courtesy of Chatsworth House.

Henry VIII in his Rampant Prime. Painting by Hans Eworth, after the famous portrait by Hans Holbein. Image courtesy of Chatsworth House.

“Despite a relentless courtship, Anne refused to become his mistress, saying ‘Your wife I cannot be, because you have a Queen already. Your mistress I will not be,’ thus forcing Henry to take action in order to be able to marry her. As a Catholic, Henry had to seek the approval of the Pope to divorce Catherine. Henry was furious when the Roman Catholic Church refused his petition; thwarting his plans. He then announced that his marriage had not been legal in the first place, due to Catherine’s previous marriage to Henry’s brother, Arthur. Declaring himself head of the Church of England, he married Anne in secret and pronounced his marriage to Catherine null and void. Many years of religious upheaval followed his dramatic actions; monasteries were dissolved, English Catholics rose up against the King and prominent men refused to take an oath of allegiance to Henry. Thus, the Reformation was set in motion—all for the love of Anne Boleyn of Hever.” “When the pregnant Anne was crowned Queen in London in June 1533, there were few cheers. Her child, a girl, was born in September and named Elizabeth. Anne went on to miscarry in 1534 and again in 1536 and Henry began to believe that this marriage was cursed and Anne’s lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, was moved into new quarters at Henry’s palace. By May 1536 Anne was a prisoner in the Tower of London, accused of incest with her brother, adultery with several gentlemen, witchcraft and treason. She was found guilty and sentenced to death by burning; but her sentence was commuted to beheading.”

Anne Boleyn, before Henry VIII's false charges (I mean, really: incest?? witchcraft???...Anne was too smart to have indulged in either!) deprived her of her head. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Anne Boleyn, before Henry VIII’s false charges (I mean, really: incest?? witchcraft???…Anne was too smart to have indulged in either!) deprived her of her head. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

“Although Anne only reigned for 1000 days and failed to provide Henry with a male heir, it was her daughter, Elizabeth I, who became one of the longest-reigning monarchs that England has ever had.”

Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, was England's last Tudor monarch. She ruled from 1558--1603, and her reign is generally considered one of the most glorious in English history.

Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, was England’s last Tudor monarch. She ruled from 1558–1603, and her reign is generally considered one of the most glorious in English history.

No wonder Elizabeth I chose to remain unmarried for all of her 45 years as Queen; she’d learned, in the most brutal manner possible, how deleterious marriage could be to a woman’s well-being. Despite the specter of uxoricide that hangs over Hever Castle, it’s a historically significant spot that all Kent-explorers should visit. Before we embarked on our Castle tour, Amanda and I wandered through the extensive gardens, most of which were constructed in the early 1900s, when the American-born William Waldorf Astor (only son of the financier and philanthropist John Jacob Astor III) purchased Hever, and began pouring vast sums of money into the property, which had fallen into decline.

William Waldorf Astor

William Waldorf Astor

Not content with simply renovating the Castle, Astor attacked his garden-building chores with almost fanatical zeal. 800 men were given the task of digging the 38 acre lake that today’s Visitors to Hever Castle pass as they enter the grounds. 125 acres of classical gardens and natural-looking landscapes were built and planted. A rambling, ersatz Tudor Village, which adjoins the Castle and is incongruously named the “Tudor Wing” was constructed. All of Astor’s additions are so massively over-the-top that they threaten to swallow the Castle, which seems refreshingly tasteful and delicately scaled in comparison. The skies darkened, and the air became dense with moisture. Despite heavy rain in the offing, we stepped lively and began our explorations of William Waldorf Astor’s Gardens.

Plan of Hever Castle & Gardens

Layout of Hever Castle & Gardens

Aerial view of Hever Castle & Gardens. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Aerial view of Hever Castle & Gardens. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Landing Stage at the east end of the Lake. One of the rowboats is christened "Anne of Cleves," to honor Henry VIII's fourth wife. This Anne can perhaps be considered to be the most fortunate of Henry's spouses; their union was annulled after 6 months because Henry found her, his "Flanders Mare," unappealing. As part of the divorce settlement, she was given Hever Castle. Eventually, Anne of Cleves and Henry enjoyed a platonic friendship: he called her "sister."

Landing Stage at the east end of the Lake. One of the rowboats is christened “Anne of Cleves,” to honor Henry VIII’s fourth wife. This Anne can perhaps be considered to be the most fortunate of Henry’s spouses; their union was annulled after 6 months because Henry found her, his “Flanders Mare,” unappealing. As part of the divorce settlement, she was given Hever Castle. Eventually, Anne of Cleves and Henry enjoyed a platonic friendship: he called her “sister.”

The Nymphs' Fountain, by the Loggia, at the east end of the Lake.

The Nymphs’ Fountain, by the Loggia, at the east end of the Lake.

The Nymphs' Fountain was made in 1908 by W.S.Frith

The Nymphs’ Fountain was made in 1908 by W.S.Frith

The Nymphs have expressive faces.

The Nymphs have expressive faces.

Our view from the Loggia, over the Lake, on a cloudy August morning.

Our view from the Loggia, over the Lake, on a cloudy August morning.

Our view from within the Loggia, across the central green of the Italian Garden

Our view from within the Loggia, across the central green of the Italian Garden

We knew that, when it finally came, the rain would be heavy. Here's a view of the Loggia, from the Lakeside end of the Italian Garden. William Waldorf Astor decorated this Garden with hundreds of ancient statues and urns and miscellaneous ornaments.

We knew that, when it finally came, the rain would be heavy. Here’s a view of the Loggia, from the Lakeside end of the Italian Garden. William Waldorf Astor decorated this Garden with hundreds of ancient statues and urns and miscellaneous ornaments.

A cross-wise path bisects the long green of the Italian Garden

A cross-wise path bisects the long green of the Italian Garden

The Italian Gardens have a collection of enormous earthenware jars...which are my favorites among all the garden decorations.

The Italian Gardens have a collection of enormous earthenware jars…which are my favorites among all the garden decorations.

More Giant, 2000-year-old Urns, in the Italian Garden

More Giant, 2000-year-old Urns, in the Italian Garden

What the Gardens look like, on sunnier days. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

What the Gardens look like, on sunnier days. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

The north, inner edge of the Italian Garden is called The Pompeiian Wall. These borders are decorated with garden antiques and bright plantings of annuals.

The north, inner edge of the Italian Garden is called The Pompeiian Wall. These borders are decorated with garden antiques and bright plantings of annuals.

Another vignette along The Pompeiian Wall

Another vignette along The Pompeiian Wall

A Gardener's work is never done: maintaining a small stretch of The Pompeiian Wall borders.

A Gardener’s work is never done: maintaining a small stretch of The Pompeiian Wall borders.

This round terrace is half-way along The Pompeiian Wall

This round terrace is half-way along The Pompeiian Wall

From the round terrace, one can exit the Italian Garden, for a view of the Sixteen Acre Island

From the round terrace, one can exit the Italian Garden, for a view of the Sixteen Acre Island

Detail of marble rings on Urn

Detail of marble rings on Urn

A canal separates the Italian Garden area from the Sixteen Acre Island, where private events are held in elaborate tents.

A canal separates the Italian Garden area from the Sixteen Acre Island, where private events are held in elaborate tents.

Having taken a peek at Sixteen Acre Island, we reentered the Italian Garden

Having taken a peek at Sixteen Acre Island, we reentered the Italian Garden

A Half Moon Pond is at the western end of the Italian Garden

A Half Moon Pond is at the western end of the Italian Garden

We began to work our way down the opposite, long side of the Italian Garden

We began to work our way down the opposite, long side of the Italian Garden

Rustin wooden Loggias extend along the length of the southern side of the Italian Garden

Rustic wooden Loggias extend along the length of the southern side of the Italian Garden

By the wooden Loggias, against the stone wall, are a series of Grottoes

By the wooden Loggias, against the stone wall, are a series of Grottoes

Massive stone arches support the Grotto walls

Massive stone arches support the Grotto walls

Statues in the Grottoes are nearly swallowed up by greenery.

Statues in the Grottoes are nearly swallowed up by greenery.

Fountain-Heads in a Grotto

Fountain-Heads in a Grotto

Borders adjacent to the Italian Garden

Borders adjacent to the Italian Garden

Astor's extensive Rose Gardens are on the southeastern side of the Italian Garden

Astor’s extensive Rose Gardens are on the southeastern side of the Italian Garden

Astor's Rose Gardens contain over 4000 bushes...in a for a penny, in for a pound.

Astor’s Rose Gardens contain over 4000 bushes…in a for a penny, in for a pound.

Perfection

Perfection

Another view of Astor's Rose Garden

Another view of Astor’s Rose Garden

A Rose Garden Satyr

A Rose Garden Satyr

More sunny-day Garden views. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

More sunny-day Garden views. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Finished with our inspections of Astor’s Italian and Rose Gardens, we approached Hever Castle itself. In its 1270 incarnation, Hever was a simple motte-and-bailey castle; a structure built primarily to protect its occupants. A stone keep would have been perched on a raised earthwork (the motte), surrounded by an enclosed courtyard (the bailey), and finally encircled by a ditch.

A typical Motte-and-Bailey Castle

A typical Motte-and-Bailey Castle

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Bullens transformed Hever Castle into the refined Tudor dwelling that we see today.

The Gardens directly adjacent to Hever Castle. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

The Gardens directly adjacent to Hever Castle. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

An outer moat separates the Castle from the pathway that leads to Astor's Italian Gardens

An outer moat separates the Castle from the pathway that leads to Astor’s Italian Gardens

An outer-moat garden, with one of the many swans we saw that morning.

An outer-moat garden, with one of the many swans we saw that morning.

Egad! PEOPLE!!! These were the first "crowds" we'd encountered on our Kent-touring days.

Egad! PEOPLE!!! These were the first “crowds” we’d encountered on our Kent-touring days.

We skirted the edge of the inner moat, as we headed toward the Tudor Garden.

We skirted the edge of the inner moat, as we headed toward the Tudor Garden.

A Giant Topiary Chess Set adorns the Tudor Garden

A Giant Topiary Chess Set adorns the Tudor Garden

Astor installed the Chess Set

Astor installed the Chess Set

A profusion of Ballerina Shrub Roses within the Tudor Garden

A profusion of Ballerina Shrub Roses within the Tudor Garden

View of Hever Castle, from the Tudor Garden

View of Hever Castle, from the Tudor Garden

The outer moat, behind the Tudor Garden

The outer moat, behind the Tudor Garden

Hedge-Arch in the Tudor Garden

Hedge-Arch in the Tudor Garden

Gnarled Wisteria Stem in the Tudor Garden

Gnarled Wisteria Stem in the Tudor Garden

Topiary Fantasies decorate the lawn in front of Hever Castle

Topiary Fantasies decorate the lawn in front of Hever Castle

Another example of How to Have Fun With Hedge Clippers

A closer look at How to Have Fun With Hedge Clippers

Topiary Piglet

Topiary Piglet

Finally, we prepared to enter the Castle itself:

Bridge spanning inner moat

Bridge spanning inner moat

Welcome to Hever Castle

Welcome to Hever Castle

After the Castle Courtyard, interior photo-taking is prohibited.

After the Castle Courtyard, interior photo-taking is prohibited.

Hever Castle, Plan of Ground Floor

Hever Castle, Plan of Ground Floor

The Entrance Hall to Hever Castle. This was added to the Tudor manor house in 1506 by Thomas Bullen, Anne's father. Thomas, First Earl of Wilshire, and later Earl of Ormond, was a gifted linguist and a trusted diplomat. The furnishings that today adorn the space include a 1480 choir stall (on the right), and a 1565 Italian refectory table (on the left). Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

The Entrance Hall to Hever Castle. This was added to the Tudor manor house in 1506 by Thomas Bullen, Anne’s father. Thomas, First Earl of Wiltshire, and later Earl of Ormond, was a gifted linguist and a trusted diplomat. The furnishings that today adorn the space include a 1480 choir stall (on the right), and a 1565 Italian refectory table (on the left). Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

The Inner Hall. The splendor of the reception room that greets visitors to Hever today is a complete contrast to its original use in Tudor times, when this was the Great Kitchen, complete with a large fireplace for cooking and a well for water. Between 1903 and 1908, William Waldorf Astor redid the space with Italian walnut paneling and columns. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

The Inner Hall. The splendor of the reception room that greets visitors to Hever today is a complete contrast to its original use in Tudor times, when this was the Great Kitchen, complete with a large fireplace for cooking and a well for water. Between 1903 and 1908, William Waldorf Astor redid the space with Italian walnut paneling and columns. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

The Staircase Gallery is the smaller of two galleries in the Castle and was created in 1506 by Thomas Bullen over the Entrance Hall to give access between the two wings of the house and his newly-built Long Gallery. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

The Staircase Gallery is the smaller of two galleries in the Castle and was created in 1506 by Thomas Bullen over the Entrance Hall to give access between the two wings of the house and his newly-built Long Gallery. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

The Long Gallery is more than 98 feet long and runs the entire width of the building. This was added by Thomas Bullen in 1506, and was used for entertaining, displaying art, and taking exercise during inclement weather. The paneling is Elizabethan, and the ceiling is a 16th century style reproduction made for Astor. Tradition says that  Henry VIII held Court in the alcove at the far end of the Long Gallery when he visited Hever Castle. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

The Long Gallery is more than 98 feet long and runs the entire width of the building. This was added by Thomas Bullen in 1506, and was used for entertaining, displaying art, and taking exercise during inclement weather. The paneling is Elizabethan, and the ceiling is a 16th century style reproduction made for Astor. Tradition says that
Henry VIII held Court in the alcove at the far end of the Long Gallery when he visited Hever Castle. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Stained Glass Windows in the Long Gallery. These commemorate the different owners of Hever Castle. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Stained Glass Windows in the Long Gallery. These commemorate the different owners of Hever Castle. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

More Stained Glass Windows in the Long Gallery. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

More Stained Glass Windows in the Long Gallery. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

What Hever Castle's moat-side garden probably looks like, right now. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

What Hever Castle’s moat-side garden probably looks like, right now. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Overall, Hever Castle is more a place of historical significance, than a garden of enchantments. To my eyes, William Waldorf Astor’s gargantuan landscaping efforts, while impressive, are hard to love. The outdoor constructions are grandiose but devoid of a unified personality. Astor’s collections of Garden-Caboodle seem random…a disciplined curator’s eye isn’t evident in his hodgepodge of decorative elements. But the Castle itself–modestly-sized and quite cozy, as castles go—still seems as if it could be a Home, and so as I peered out of its windows and down into the water of the moat, and walked through its humanely-scaled rooms, it was easy to imagine that someone REAL named Anne Boleyn had once enjoyed the same views, and trod upon those same creaky floorboards. Just as our Hever-Tour came to a close, the skies finally released the torrent they’d been promising, and so Amanda and I took lunch-time refuge in the Guthrie Pavilion Restaurant (which is adjacent to the Rose Garden), where we enjoyed some very tasty comestibles. Amanda–bless her–made very sure that our intensive touring was fueled by frequent food-stops!

Destination #3: Penshurst Place & Gardens Penshurst Road, Penshurst, Near Tonbridge, Kent TN11 8DG Open from April through October. Daily. 12Noon-4PM Telephone: 01892-870307 Website: http://www.penshurstplace.com

Penshurst Place & Gardens. The House was completed in 1341, and much of it remains in its original state. It was built of local sandstone, in the typical medieval manor style, with two wings joined by a central great hall. A large part of the historic Grade I Listed Garden has survived...just as it was constructed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

Penshurst Place & Gardens. The House was completed in 1341, and much of it remains in its original state. It was built of local sandstone, in the typical medieval manor style, with two wings joined by a central great hall. The principal sections of the historic Grade I Listed Garden retain the same shapes as those which were laid out during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

Think of the times in your life when your heart’s been broken; of the times when your devotion to someone has not been returned. Of life’s miseries, loving while being unloved is one of the greatest woes. Of course, the greatest woe of all comes at the death of a loved one. But unrequited love is right up there on the pain-scale. Now—even if you’re not of a poetic bent—take a moment to read the following sonnet. And read it aloud: poetry is better heard than seen.

SidneyCoatOfArms

Astrophel and Stella, Sonnet 1, by Sir Philip Sidney “Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
 That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain, 
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
 Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain, —
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
 Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain,
 Oft turning others’ leaves, to see if thence would flow
 Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburned brain. 
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention’s stay: 
Invention, Nature’s child, fled step-dame Study’s blows,
 And others’ feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
 Thus great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
 Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:
 ‘Fool’ said my Muse to me, ‘look in thy heart and write.’ “

SidneyCoatOfArms

Sir Philip Sidney’s Lover’s-Lament-and-Artist’s-Introspection, written in the voice of Astophel, about his beloved Stella, who is married, is a poem that (…pardon my sort-of French) seriously kicks-ass…and on so many levels. I can describe my reaction to Sidney’s work in no other way! So, who was this poet, who is so closely identified with Penshurst Place?

Sir Philip Sidney (1554--1586) was born at Penshurst Place. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586) was born at Penshurst Place. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

The Penshurst guidebook explains: “Philip was born at Penshurst Place on 30 November 1554, and named after his godfather Philip II of Spain, husband of the then British monarch Mary I.” [Note: First-born daughter of Henry VIII, by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Mary, as Queen, was assigned the adjective “Bloody,” as she restored Roman Catholicism as the official religion of England.] “Intelligent and politically aware, he was to become a brave soldier and patron of the arts. Being a writer himself, he was intent on raising the standards of literature in England.” “Philip was only human—he was said to have a fierce temper and apparently capable of being recklessly extravagant, impetuous and inclined to be difficult. However, as a great figure of the English Renaissance, Sir Philip Sidney, Elizabethan heir to Penshurst Place, and nephew of the Queen’s favourite Robert Dudley, is justifiably praised for his literary work.” “Following his years at Christ Church, Oxford, Philip traveled extensively in Europe, mixing with many of its leading figures, poets and artists. On a later trip overseas, canvassing support for the formation of the Protestant League of Princes to oppose Catholic powers, he was to meet William, Prince of Orange, on whom Philip made a deep impression. He also spent considerable time at Penshurst and at court, waiting on Elizabeth I. Finally he gained the Queen’s reluctant permission to fight for the Protestant cause in the Low Countries, in a rebellion against Spain. In September 1586, on the battlefield at Zutphen, he was hit in the leg by a musket blast. As Philip lay mortally wounded he is said to have ignored his own thirst and passed his water bottle to one of the other soldiers, with the words: ‘Thy necessity is yet greater than mine,’ a phrase which has become immortalized in the English consciousness. In a matter of weeks, in Arnhem in the Netherlands, he had died from his wounds.” “Sir Philip was afforded the honour of a State funeral at St.Paul’s Cathedral, where he is buried. He was the first commoner to receive such a tribute, and it was not repeated until the death of Nelson, and later, Sir Winston Churchill, who had Sidney blood in his veins.”

Sheep Heaven at Penshurst Place. It's impossible for me to NOT get excited, every time I see an English field full of these creatures. At the end of our 5 days of touring, Steve Parry gave me a book titled KNOW YOUR SHEEP. I confess I haven't yet memorized its contents, but someday, when I do indeed Know My Sheep, you'll have to endure a travel article about nothing BUT the many varieties of sheep in England! Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

Sheep Heaven at Penshurst Place. It’s impossible for me to NOT get excited, every time I see an English field full of these creatures. At the end of our 5 days of touring, Steve Parry gave me a book titled KNOW YOUR SHEEP. I confess I haven’t yet memorized its contents, but someday, when I do indeed Know My Sheep, you’ll have to endure a travel article about nothing BUT the many varieties of sheep in England! Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

As Amanda led me into the Gardens at Penshurst, I could sense her excitement. For all of the places she’d taken me thus far in Kent, her enthusiasm and knowledge had been great, but as Amanda told me about the Baron’s Hall that we’d soon see at Penshurst, and which the writer John Julius Norwich has described as “one of the grandest rooms in the world,” I understood that Amanda has a special emotional attachment to Penshurst Place. As our time there passed, I began to feel the same affection for the elegant but comfortably understated gardens, and for the ancient House. And it was at Penshurst that Amanda introduced me to “The License to Crenellate” (more about this in a bit). HOW, as an architecture-buff, had I existed, for all my years, without knowing about such a Thing?

Layout of Penshurst Place & Gardens.

Layout of Penshurst Place & Gardens.

We entered the grounds via the Lime Walk, an avenue of large-leaved lime trees (planted with Tilia platyphyllos & Tilia vulgaris)

We entered the grounds via the Lime Walk, an avenue of large-leaved lime trees (planted with Tilia platyphyllos & Tilia vulgaris)

The Porcupine on the Sidney Family Crest is embodied in this large sculpture, which was commissioned to celebrate the millennium, and made by Robert Rattray. The stone base bears a Pheon, or Broad Arrow, which is the Sidney Coat of Arms

The Porcupine on the Sidney Family Crest is embodied in this large sculpture, which was commissioned to celebrate the millennium, and made by Robert Rattray. The stone base bears a Pheon, or Broad Arrow, which is the Sidney Coat of Arms

Detail of the Sidney Coat of Arms' Pheon

Detail of the Sidney Coat of Arms’ Pheon

The Sidney Coat of Arms also finds its way into boxwood hedges, throughout the Gardens.

The Sidney Coat of Arms also finds its way into boxwood hedges, throughout the Gardens.

Lawn walks run around all four sides of the still-invisible Union Flag Garden (which is to the left, behind the hedge). Although the gardens at Penshurst are laid out as grids, of various sizes, it's still easy to become pleasantly lost while exploring wandering from garden "room" to garden "room." One would not anticipate such a four-square layout to yield a constant sense of mystery; it's almost as if the entire Garden is a Maze.

Lawn walks run around all four sides of the still-invisible Union Flag Garden (which is to the left, behind the hedge). Although the gardens at Penshurst are laid out as grids, of various sizes, it’s still easy to become pleasantly lost while wandering from garden “room” to garden “room.” One would not anticipate such a four-square layout to yield a constant sense of mystery; it’s almost as if the entire Garden is a Maze.

We penetrate deeper into the Gardens. A series of yew hedges, which subdivide 11 acres of ground into a series of small garden "rooms," and which total a mile in length, were planted in the 19th century.

We penetrate deeper into the Gardens. A series of yew hedges, which subdivide 11 acres of ground into a series of small garden “rooms,” and which total a mile in length, were planted in the 19th century.

A peek at the picnic grounds, in the fields beyond the Gardens. The estate originally consisted of 4000 acres.

A peek at the picnic grounds, in the fields beyond the Gardens. The estate originally consisted of 4000 acres.

A Pedestrian's view of the Union Flag Garden, which is (obviously) a contemporary addition to the Penshurst landscape. The plantings: Lavandula 'Hidcote Blue' ; white 'Kent' Roses; red 'Chilterns' Roses. This is my least favorite part of the Gardens.

A Pedestrian’s view of the Union Flag Garden, which is (obviously) a contemporary addition to the Penshurst landscape. The plantings: Lavandula ‘Hidcote Blue’ ; white ‘Kent’ Roses; red ‘Chilterns’ Roses. This is my least favorite part of the Gardens.

A Sparrow's-eye view of the Union Flag Garden. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

A Sparrow’s-eye view of the Union Flag Garden. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

Kent is renowned for its fruit. Here, pears are espaliered against a brick wall.

Kent is renowned for its fruit. Here, pears are espaliered against a brick wall.

A heroic but over-ambitious attempt to create a Topiary Porcupine.

A heroic but over-ambitious attempt to create a Topiary Porcupine. A Porcupine was a symbol of invincibility: porcupines throw spines at their enemies!

A more successful topiary effort: this one a Bear With Ragged Staff, which is the heraldic symbol of the Dudley family. Sir Henry Sidney married Mary Dudley in the 16th century.

A more successful topiary effort: this one a Bear With Ragged Staff, which is the heraldic symbol of the Dudley family. Sir Henry Sidney married Mary Dudley in the 16th century.

An other-worldly and perfectly-pruned corridor of large globes of Irish Yew, and Hedges, with a glimpse of the House.

An other-worldly and perfectly-pruned corridor of large globes of Irish Yew, and Hedges, with a glimpse of the House.

Diana's Bath, which was formed from an Elizabethan Stew Pond. These Tudor pools were stocked with fish, and provided handy, fresh food for the kitchens of great houses.

Diana’s Bath, which was formed from an Elizabethan Stew Pond. These Tudor pools were stocked with fish, and provided handy, fresh food for the kitchens of great houses.

Hedges enclosing Diana's Bath

Hedges enclosing Diana’s Bath. Look carefully at the top of the arch in the hedge. The bottom of the distant gate in the stone wall looks almost like an eye, which is suspended from the arch. I’m sure this marvelous effect was unintended, but it’s wonderful, nonetheless!

Steps down to Diana's Bath. The water jet in the Bath marks the center of the only view that can be had, right through the middle of the Gardens.

Steps down to Diana’s Bath. The water jet in the Bath marks the center of the only view that can be had, right through the middle of the Gardens.

A bench in the Grey & White Garden, crowned with the Sidney Coat of Arms...and a hydrangea corsage.

A bench in the Grey & White Garden, crowned with the Sidney Coat of Arms…and a hydrangea corsage.

The Grey & White Garden is adjacent to Diana's Bath. This area was designed by John Codrington in the 1970s, with a mix of white, grey and silver plants, all of which were chosen for their drought-resistant qualities.

The Grey & White Garden is adjacent to Diana’s Bath. This area was designed by John Codrington in the 1970s, with a mix of white, grey and silver plants, all of which were chosen for their drought-resistant qualities.

A sunnier view of the Grey & White Garden. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

A sunnier view of the Grey & White Garden. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

The Grey & White Garden's elegant geometry is softened by billowing flowers and foliage.

The Grey & White Garden’s elegant geometry is softened by billowing flowers and foliage.

The Stage Garden, a green amphitheater, is near the Grey & White Garden.

The Stage Garden, a green amphitheater, is near the Grey & White Garden.

The Orchard (which is next to the Stage Garden) is planted with apple trees that are pruned in an umbrella shape, for optimum cropping and picking. In Springtime, thousands of daffodils and other bulbs bloom beneath the trees. Sir Henry Sidney's son, Sir Robert, established the Orchard, where peaches and apricots were grown, along with apples.

The Orchard (which is next to the Stage Garden) is planted with apple trees that are pruned in an umbrella shape, for optimum cropping and picking. In Springtime, thousands of daffodils and other bulbs bloom beneath the trees. Sir Henry Sidney’s son, Sir Robert, established the Orchard, where peaches and apricots were grown, along with apples.

Prime Magnolia-bloom time was past by August, but this one blossom held on, in the nearby Magnolia Garden.

Prime Magnolia-bloom time was past by August, but this one blossom held on, in the nearby Magnolia Garden.

Green Columns along the perimeter of the Magnolia Garden

Green Columns along the perimeter of the Magnolia Garden

The Jubilee Walk was added to the gardens in 2012, and designed by George Carter, a RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallist. The Walk is 236 feet long, and planted as a double herbaceous border, with each of the five bays planted in a dominant color, the sequence moving from red through orange, yellow, and pink to blue.

The Jubilee Walk was added to the gardens in 2012, and designed by George Carter, a RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallist. The Walk is 236 feet long, and planted as a double herbaceous border, with each of the five bays planted in a dominant color, the sequence moving from red through orange, yellow, and pink to blue.

Another look at The Jubilee Walk. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place

Another look at The Jubilee Walk. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place

The Heraldic Garden abuts The Jubilee Walk. The Heraldic Garden's edge beds are partitioned by box hedges containing sage and lavender. The painted poles, always the focus of heraldic gardens, are topped with various beasts...all symbols of the Sidney family.

The Heraldic Garden abuts The Jubilee Walk. The Heraldic Garden’s edged beds are partitioned by box hedges containing sage and lavender. The painted poles, always the focus of heraldic gardens, are topped with various beasts…all symbols of the Sidney family.

Another view of The Heraldic Garden

Another view of The Heraldic Garden

Serene swathes of green flank the Heraldic Garden

Serene swathes of green flank the Heraldic Garden

By August, the blossoms in the Lanning Roper Border had faded, but the view of the spire of the church of St. John the Baptist was magical.

By August, the blossoms in the Lanning Roper Border had faded, but the view of the spire of the church of St. John the Baptist was magical.

From the Rose Garden: a different view of the church of St. John the Baptist. In 1744, thousands of Dutch box roses were planted here.

From the Rose Garden: a different view of the church of St. John the Baptist. In 1744, thousands of Dutch box roses were planted here.

Another view of the Rose Garden, with church to the left, and the House to the right.

Another view of the Rose Garden, with church to the left, and the House to the right.

We're looking down the Long Border. The Jubilee Walk begins at the Garden Gate in the wall that contains the Long Border. Beyond the hedgerows the Orchard can be seen.

We’re looking down the Long Border. The Jubilee Walk begins at the Garden Gate in the wall that contains the Long Border. Beyond the hedgerows the Orchard can be seen.

Detail of Paving on the Long Border

Detail of Paving on the Long Border

View from the base of The Jubilee Walk, from the main Garden Gate

View from the base of The Jubilee Walk, from the main Garden Gate

Our first view of the Italian Garden, or Parterre Garden, and the south face of the House. Sir Henry Sidney built the Italian Garden in the 1560s.

Our first view of the Italian Garden, or Parterre Garden, and the south face of the House. Sir Henry Sidney built the Italian Garden in the 1560s.

The fountain at the center of the Italian Garden. The statue is of a young Hercules, and was moved to Penshurst from Leicester House, in London. The gabled roofs of similarly-named Leicester Square, which include a 14th century Guildhouse, are visible to the left, behind the high wall.

The fountain at the center of the Italian Garden. The statue is of a young Hercules, and was moved to Penshurst from Leicester House, in London. The gabled roofs of similarly-named Leicester Square, which includes a 14th century Guildhouse, are visible to the left, behind the high wall.

The Italian Garden, as seen from the highest floor of the House. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

The Italian Garden, as seen from the highest floor of the House. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

A portion of the much-crenellated House, as seen from the Italian Garden.

A portion of the much-crenellated House, as seen from the Italian Garden.

OK now…time for a bit of Crenellation-Explanation. In medieval England, before a homeowner could add crenellations to his roof line…

Crenellation

Crenellation

…his King (or a County ruler) had to grant him permission to fortify his battlements with crenellations. This granting of a Licence to Crenellate wasn’t done to raise money for the King. Rather, crenellations were conferred upon those knights, nobles, wealthy commoners, and clergymen whom the King thought worthy of his approval. Thus, crenellations became more the architectural symbols of high social status than the actual, defensive features of a building. The House at Penshurst was built in 1341 by Sir John de Pulteney, one of the wealthiest men in England…due to his being a moneylender to King Edward III. By the late 1330s, the Crown was up to its eyeballs in debt to de Pulteney, and so I imagine that Sir John’s request to crenellate was granted with great speed; even a king understands that it’s wise to keep one’s creditors happy! But Penshurst’s crenellation wasn’t always simply cosmetic. In 1401, Sir John Devereux, who’d inherited the estate through marriage, was so alarmed by his memories of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 that he ordered the construction of an actually EFFECTIVE wall to enclose his entire House. The Manor was barricaded behind a high series of crenellated curtain walls and turrets, with a total length of 1310 feet. All that’s left today of that defensive wall is the Garden Tower, which serves as entry-point to the House.

The full expanse of the south side of the Manor House, as seen from the Italian Garden. The Garden Tower is to the far right in this photo. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

The full expanse of the south side of the Manor House, as seen from the Italian Garden. The Garden Tower is to the far right in this photo. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

The Paved Garden hugs a corner of the House. The small pool is filled with water hawthorne, and the terrace is shaded by a mature Acer palmatum.

The Paved Garden hugs a corner of the House. The small pool is filled with water hawthorne, and the terrace is shaded by a mature Acer palmatum.

Another view of the Paved Garden

Another view of the Paved Garden

We climbed steps to the South Lawn, for a higher view of the Italian Garden. Water shortages were afflicting Kent in August, as the parched lawns indicate.

We climbed steps to the South Lawn, for a higher view of the Italian Garden. Water shortages were afflicting Kent in August, as the parched lawns indicate.

A view across the Italian Garden, from the South Lawn

A view across the Italian Garden, from the South Lawn

The Blue & Yellow Border runs along the length of the South Lawn. The Garden Tower looms...

The Blue & Yellow Border runs along the length of the South Lawn. The Garden Tower looms…

As we prepared the enter the House, we admired its ancient sandstone walls. They've worn VERY well, haven't they?

As we prepared the enter the House, we admired its ancient sandstone walls. They’ve worn VERY well, haven’t they?

The Dudley's heraldic symbol of a Bear With Ragged Staff is carved into stone, high on a wall.

The Dudley’s heraldic symbol of a Bear With Ragged Staff is carved into stone, high on a wall.

Main Entry to House

Main Entry to House

In we go! Once inside, photo-taking is...per usual...prohibited.

In we go! Once inside, photo-taking is…per usual…prohibited.

Well, WELL! Now within the cavernous Baron's Hall, I understood what all the fuss was about! Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

Well, WELL! Now within the cavernous Baron’s Hall, I understood what all the fuss was about! Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

Even on that warm, August afternoon, the air inside the Baron’s Hall was chilly, and I pulled on my sweater. Here’s what the Penshurst guidebook has to say about the space: “The Baron’s Hall is the very heart of Penshurst Place. Belonging to the original part of the house, the Hall was completed in 1341 by the owner Sir John de Pulteney. It measures 62 feet long by 39 feet wide and soars 60 feet high. The architect chose chestnut for the roof design, as it is stronger and lighter than the usual oak. Crown posts rest on collar beams, held in place by huge arched supports, with ten life-size wooden figures hanging down, believed to be satirical representations of peasants and workers at the manor. The tall, arcaded windows reach almost to the floor, flooding the hall with light. Traces of the original 14th century glass can be seen in the top row window above the Minstrels’ Gallery; the Gallery itself was added later in the 16h century. At the dais end of the Hall, the original windows have been blocked by later additions to the house. In the centre of the floor, which was originally earth strewn with rushes, is a unique octagonal hearth. From here, smoke from the fire escaped through a vent in the roof.”

A closer look at the Minstrels' Gallery in the Baron's Hall. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

A closer look at the Minstrels’ Gallery in the Baron’s Hall. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

From the Baron’s Hall, we proceeded up a series of stairways, to de Pulteney’s West Solar—which is now the State Dining Room.

The Solar, or The State Dining Room. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

The Solar, or The State Dining Room. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

To continue the Guidebook’s history lesson: “The Solar [now the State Dining Room] was the withdrawing room of the medieval house. There is a little window—a squint—opposite the fireplace, useful for keeping an eye on what was happening in the Baron’s Hall below. Originally the room would have been lit from three sides rather than one—the reveals on the wall facing the entrance door and the archway at the far end show where the original windows would have been. The fireplace is the 14th century original, albeit with a surround and hood from the mid 19th century after refurbishment. The fine dinner service with the Royal Coat of Arms was given to Philip Sidney and Sophia FitzClarence by her father, later King William IV, on the occasion of their marriage.”

The Queen Elizabeth Room. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

The Queen Elizabeth Room. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

And more from the handy Guidebook: The Queen Elizabeth Room, “and the next, the Tapestry Room, are the first additions to the original house made by the Duke of Bedford, who lived here in the early 15th century. It was built as one large room, a first-floor hall or Great Chamber much like the Baron’s Hall downstairs. Sir Henry Sidney had the room divided in two and also halved the height by the installation of the present ceiling and the building of another set of rooms above. Queen Elizabeth I would have used it to give audiences on one of her many visits. The set of daybed, winged armchair, and six high-backed chairs with their original rose damask and green silk embroidery, have matching hangings. These date from the late 17th century and are a particularly luxurious, and indeed unique, survival from the period. The harpsichord, formerly owned by Queen Christina of Sweden, was purchased by the then owner of Penshurst Place, William Perry, in the 18th century.”

Detail of a 16th century Tournai Tapesty in the Tapestry Room. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

Detail of a 16th century Tournai Tapesty in the Tapestry Room. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

The Long Gallery. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

The Long Gallery. Image courtesy of Penshurst Place.

We wrap up our House tour with the Guidebook’s description of the spectacular Long Gallery: “The wing that includes the Long Gallery was started in 1599 and built by Sir Robert Sidney and his wife Barbara Gamage. Long galleries were very fashionable at the time and were used for taking exercise and showing off portraits, tapestries and furniture. It is unusual in being lit by windows on three sides. The fine paneling is original-—painted dark brown in the 19th century and then bleached as it was stripped. The paintings are arranged to illustrate the history of the house and of the family during the first two centuries after Sir William Sidney came to Penshurst in 1552. Over the door, as you enter the room, hangs a portrait of King Edward VI, who gifted Penshurst Place to the Sidney family in 1552. The costumes on display are from the film adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s historical novel THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, filmed at Penshurst.”

Another Dudley family Bear With Ragged Staff, this one carved atop a doorway.

Another Dudley family Bear With Ragged Staff, this one carved atop a doorway.

All these symbols of Bears brandishing tree trunks puzzled me, so I did a bit of heraldic-research. Upon the death of our Poet, Sir Philip Sidney, ownership of Penshurst went to his brother, Sir Robert Sidney, who was also heir to two Dudley family uncles, the Earls of Warwick, and Leicester. The Bear and Ragged Staff is a heraldic sign, normally referring to Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick (1428—1471) who was known as the “King-Maker.” Bear-baiting was considered manly sport… and apparently the First Earl slew a bear by strangling it. But the Second Earl went one better: he brained a bear with a ragged staff—a young tree that had been stripped of its branches—and so chose this delightful memento of his boldness and courage as the Dudley family’s Symbol. A final, delicious, it’s-a-Totally-Small-World note about Penshurst Place. Just as Anne of Cleves was granted Hever Castle as part of her divorce settlement with Henry VIII, so too was she given Penshurst Place. Anne of Cleves was a VERY-finely-propertied former Queen…and one upon whom Fortune ultimately smiled, as she managed to outlive Henry’s other wives. We should all enjoy such lucrative divorces as the “Flanders Mare’s!” Eventually, Henry VIII’s son, King Edward VI, chose to bestow Penshurst upon his valued tutor and household steward, Sir William Sidney, and thus began the Sidney family’s ownership of Penshurst, which still continues, as Philip Sidney, 2nd Viscount De L’Isle, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for the County of Kent (what a mouthful!) lovingly cares for his house and gardens. The present-day Philip Sidney tends his treasure with reverence, but his role isn’t merely custodial, as is evidenced by his many, inspired additions across the grounds. My photographs of Penshurst’s predominately-green gardens cannot convey the sense of peace that my wanderings there gave me. And the awe that I felt, as I stood on the cold paving stones of the floor in the Baron’s Hall and gazed up at the 674-year-old chestnut roof trusses—which, miraculously, haven’t succumbed to fire, as so many ancient, wooden roofs do—was beyond description. Yes, sometimes even I, who can chatter on and on, am struck dumb by the magnificence of England’s cultural heritage!

Destination #4: Groombridge Place Groombridge Hill Groombridge, Near Tunbridge Wells Kent TN3 9QG Open April through October. Daily, 9:30AM—4PM Phone: 01892-861444 Website: http://www.groombridgeplace.com

The moated, 17th century Manor House at Groombridge Place. Image courtesy of The Danewood Press Ltd.

The moated, 17th century Manor House at Groombridge Place. Image courtesy of The Danewood Press Ltd.

After all of Monday’s Historical Gravitas—what with our visits to the homes of Winston Churchill, and Anne Boleyn, and Sir Philip Sidney—the day’s final destination sounded like it would be quite….ORDINARY! How spoiled I’d already become, that I could consider the merely-350-year-old Groombridge Place, where nobody in particular apart from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had lingered, to be Ordinary! Sigh….clearly, the glories of Kent had sent me a bit off my rocker. God knows how much three MORE days of Kent-touring would skew my perceptions. But I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan (during the summer of 2010, I reread all of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock-stories), and so as Amanda explained that Conan Doyle set scenes from THE VALLEY OF FEAR at a manor house based upon Groombridge, my traveler’s eyes started to become UN-jaded. Ever since 1239, a moated house of some sort or other has been on the site of the present manor at Groombridge Place. Today’s visitors look across the moat at the house that was built in 1662 by architect Philip Packer, with input from his young friend, Christopher Wren (who would eventually become THAT Christopher Wren). Amanda had brought me to see the gardens, the oldest parts of which have the same vintage as Packer’s house (the house isn’t open to tourists, and looks as though it’s been suffering from neglect). Directed by the noted horticulturalist John Evelyn, Philip Packer laid out the Grand Allee of 12 pairs of drum yews that we see today, the expanse of grass that’s now called Draughtsman Lawn, the White Rose Garden, and the Secret Garden.

John Evelyn (1620--1706) : Garden Designer, Diarist, and Man-About-Town.

John Evelyn (1620–1706) : Garden Designer, Diarist, and Man-About-Town.

Map of the grounds at Groombridge Place

Map of the grounds at Groombridge Place

We began our garden ramble with a stop at the little Arthur Conan Doyle Museum that’s been erected on the grounds. Conan Doyle lived in nearby Crowborough (which is just over the border, in East Sussex), and sometime before 1914 became friends with Groombridge Place’s sisters Louisa and Eliza Saint, who shared his loopy convictions about fairies and spiritualism. The Sainted-Sisters often invited Conan Doyle to their séances, and Conan Doyle swore he’d seen—and spoken to—a ghost, who hovered alongside the Groombridge moat.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859--1930): creator of Sherlock Holmes...and a believer in fairies and ghosts.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930): creator of Sherlock Holmes…and a believer in fairies and ghosts.

Arthur Conan Doyle was a frequent visitor to Groombridge Place

Arthur Conan Doyle was a frequent visitor to Groombridge Place

The Arthur Conan Doyle Museum at Groombridge Place

The Arthur Conan Doyle Museum at Groombridge Place

No...we're not in London.

No…we’re not in London.

Sidney Paget's illustration of Doctor Watson and Sherlock Holmes

Sidney Paget’s illustration of Doctor Watson and Sherlock Holmes

THE VALLEY OF FEAR was first published in THE STRAND MAGAZINE in 1914

THE VALLEY OF FEAR was first published in THE STRAND MAGAZINE in 1914

Arthur Conan Doyle used Groombridge Place as the setting for THE VALLEY OF FEAR, but renamed the house Birlstone Manor

Arthur Conan Doyle used Groombridge Place as the setting for THE VALLEY OF FEAR, but renamed the house Birlstone Manor

Dr.Watson....in Groombridge Place's Drunken Garden (and yes..."Drunken Garden" is an Official Gardening Term.

Dr.Watson….in Groombridge Place’s Drunken Garden (and yes…”Drunken Garden” is an Official Gardening Term).

The Drunken Garden, at Groombridge Place

The Drunken Garden, at Groombridge Place

As Especially Tipsy Topiary, in The Drunken Garden

An Especially Tipsy Topiary, in The Drunken Garden

A glimpse of the House, from within the Drunken Garden, where even the spouting water seems a bit off-kilter.

A glimpse of the House, from within the Drunken Garden, where even the spouting water seems a bit off-kilter.

The Narrow Path that separates the Drunken Garden from the Oriental Garden. The House is in the distance.

The Narrow Path that separates the Drunken Garden from the Oriental Garden. The House is in the distance.

Lichen-covered stone, of a garden wall's buttress.

Lichen-covered stone, of a garden wall’s buttress.

The Oriental Garden is centered upon a pool, with an unusual grass fountain.

The Oriental Garden is centered upon a pool, with an unusual grass fountain.

The Cottages adjacent to the Oriental Garden offer excellent examples of Kentish tile-hung walls. This method of covering the exteriors of timber-framed houses first appeared in the late 17th century. The tiles are hung on oak laths, with the upper part of each tile bedded into a lime and hair mortar known as "torching." The laths are hung overlapping to give a triple lap, which results in a weathertight wall.

The Cottages adjacent to the Oriental Garden offer excellent examples of Kentish tile-hung walls. This method of covering the exteriors of timber-framed houses first appeared in the late 17th century. The tiles are hung on oak laths, with the upper part of each tile bedded into a lime and hair mortar known as “torching.” The laths are hung overlapping to give a triple lap, which results in a weathertight wall.

We look down over the upper reaches of Draughtsman Lawn, and then further toward the 12 pair of ancient drum yews.

We look down over the upper reaches of Draughtsman Lawn, and then further toward the 12 pair of ancient drum yews.

As we approach Draughtsman Lawn, I’m reminded that Peter Greenaway’s 1982 film THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT was filmed entirely at Groombridge Place. The film’s premise: an artist is hired to make 12 drawings of the grounds at a manor house. The lady of the house, who cannot afford the artist’s services, insists, however, that the artist MUST find a way to for her to pay for his work. Of course, the contract that’s eventually agreed upon involves both the lady of the house and her daughter: they’ll provide their sexual services, in exchange for the artist’s drawings. And of course, there’s a surprise twist at the end.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT, after one of the 12 "payments" has been made to the Artist. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT, after one of the 12 “payments” has been made to the Artist. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

I’ve just watched the movie, and, although it’s not a stunning piece of drama, it does pose interesting questions about the difference between SEEING things, as opposed to KNOWING things. But because Greenaway filmed in the most painterly fashion imaginable, watching his little manor-house-mystery gave me great pleasure. Every scene is composed and lit with an artist’s eye, so if you want to experience the gardens at Groombridge without an Atlantic flight, all you need to do is order the film from Amazon.com.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT. The Artist is set up, on the same Draughtsman Lawn that Amanda and I walked across. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT. The Artist is set up, on the same Draughtsman Lawn that Amanda and I walked across. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT, with actors on the Draughtsman Lawn. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT, with actors on the Draughtsman Lawn. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Draughtsman Lawn, in Reality, on August 5, 2013.

Draughtsman Lawn, in Reality, on August 5, 2013.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT. The Artist has set up this frame, to help with his perspective drawing. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT. The Artist has set up this frame, to help with his perspective drawing. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT. This is the drawing of the Yew Allee that the Artist produced for his client. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT. This is the drawing of the Yew Allee that the Artist produced for his client. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

The Reality of the Grand Yew Allee. This time, we're looking toward the House. Picture taken on August 5, 2013.

The Reality of the Grand Yew Allee. This time, we’re looking toward the House. Picture taken on August 5, 2013.

We're looking down into the White Rose Garden, with the Statue of Flora.

We’re looking down into the White Rose Garden, with the Statue of Flora.

Urn on the balustrade of the White Rose Garden

Urn on the balustrade of the White Rose Garden

Our first look at the Knot Garden

Our first look at the Knot Garden

The Knot Garden, which is between the inner and outer moats. The House is encircled by the much wider inner moat.

The Knot Garden, which is between the inner and outer moats. The House is encircled by the much wider inner moat.

Another view of the Knot Garden

Another view of the Knot Garden

View from the Knot Garden, up toward the Grand Yew Allee

View from the Knot Garden, up toward the Grand Yew Allee

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

Wall detail in the Secret Garden

Wall detail in the Secret Garden

Topiary Buttresses along Paradise Walk

Topiary Buttresses along Paradise Walk

Statue on Paradise Walk

Statue on Paradise Walk

Front Bridge across Moat

Front Bridge across Moat

Side Bridge across Moat

Side Bridge across Moat

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT, with actors on the Side Bridge. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT, with actors on the Side Bridge. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

View of the House, over the Side Bridge

View of the House, over the Side Bridge

View from the Front Bridge, to the House

View from the Front Bridge, to the House

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT. In the front court, an al fresco dinner, lit only by candles. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Scene from the film THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT. In the front court, an al fresco dinner, lit only by candles. Image courtesy of Peter Greenaway.

Front Gate Post

Front Gate Post

Front Gate Alcove

Front Gate Alcove

View of Gardens, from the Front Bridge

View of Gardens, from the Front Bridge

View across Front Moat

View across Front Moat

I wouldn't dare to swim in this water, but this is apparently where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's ghost-acquaintance liked to hang out.

I wouldn’t dare to swim in this water, but this is apparently where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ghost-acquaintance liked to hang out.

My final look at the forlorn but charming Manor House, at Groombridge Place...but it DOES look a bit haunted, doesn't it?

My final look at the forlorn but charming Manor House, at Groombridge Place…but it DOES look a bit haunted, doesn’t it?

Having reached the end of our second day of Power-Touring-Through-Kent, I was more certain than ever that Jane Austen hadn’t misled anyone. “The Garden of England” may not be the ONLY place for happiness, but, in terms of density-of-marvels-per-square-mile, and judging from Kent’s ability to inspire its residents to concoct all sorts of wonders—gardens, and castles, and poems, and histories, and stories, and films— I’d say that there are few other spots on Earth where so many treasures are so closely packed. Get some rest now, because Kent-Part-Three is in the works. We’ll visit a tiny country church, with stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. We’ll get a fast tutorial in hops farming from Steve Parry. We’ll explore Scotney Castle, which seems to be a fairytale, made real. We’ll delight in the eccentric collection of garden sculpture at Pashley Manor. And we’ll elbow our way past the tour-bus crowds, and climb the Tower at Sissinghurst.

Sissinghurst. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Sissinghurst. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Copyright 2014. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express & written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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Rambling Through the Gardens & Estates of Kent, England. Part One.

Titsey Place House & Gardens, which is is Surrey, just a hop and skip over the western border between Kent and Surrey. Titsey is one of the largest surviving historic estates in Surrey, dating back to the mid-16th century. The Main House has a long view across the Darent Valley, which extends to the beginnings of the South Downs. Photo taken on Sunday afternoon, August 4, 2013.

Titsey Place House & Gardens, which is is Surrey, just a hop and skip over the western border between Kent and Surrey. Titsey is one of the largest surviving historic estates in Surrey, dating back to the mid-16th century. The Main House has a long view across the Darent Valley, which extends to the beginnings of the South Downs. Photo taken on Sunday afternoon, August 4, 2013.

January 2014. As we in Northeastern America endure our most violently cold winter of the past 40 years, I’m finding it therapeutic to begin considering my August 2013 perambulations through Kent, the southeastern-most peninsula in England which is often—and accurately– called “The Garden of England.”

I’d never been to Kent, and so it had behooved me to find myself a Leader. After a bit of pre-trip web-sleuthing, I’d engaged Blue Badge Guide Amanda Hutchinson to take me on an intensive, five-day trek. My mandate was simple: show me the best, most significant estates and gardens in southeastern England. Since Amanda’s areas of expertise (gardens, architecture, history, literature and geology) match my areas of curiosity, I gave her carte blanche to devise our itinerary. I long ago learned to trust my gut about people, and after a few emails with Amanda, my gut told me I should defer to her. My trust was rewarded…and beyond my wildest hopes. Here now, my recollections about how Amanda, and our superb chauffeur Steve Parry (who, as the days progressed, became an esteemed co-guide) led me down back roads, across broad valleys, up wooded hills, and along rocky beaches in southeastern England.

Because we’ve an enormous amount of ground to cover, I’ll try to be fleet of foot as I retrace the paths of our daily expeditions. Each of my five days of touring will be covered in a separate Armchair Traveler’s Diary. These Summer-time Diaries will be mostly picture albums and—I hope— sensual and warming balms for your Winter-Chapped- Selves. I’ll try to curtail my pontificating: there are simply too many sights now to reveal. This coming June, after I’ve made a return visit to Kent—and when Amanda and Steve will once again shepherd me—I’ll publish articles which will delve into Kent’s cities and grand cathedrals (Canterbury, and Rochester) and history (England’s southeastern peninsula has ever been the favored entry-point for invaders: Julius Caesar, in 55-54 B.C.; William of Normandy in 1066, at the Battle of Hastings …but the locals laugh, snort, and deride him as William the VISITOR; the Luftwaffe were engaged in combat by English pilots during the Battle of Britain, which was fought largely in the skies over Kent during the summer and autumn of 1940.) .

I’d chosen The Spa Hotel, in Royal Tunbridge Wells (which sits on the western edge of Kent, adjacent to the counties of Surrey, and East Sussex) as home base for my Kentish-week. Frequent Readers have probably observed that my method of traveling is (ahem) rather intense. No matter how wonderful the places that I visit are, or how pleasant my companions may be, during each hour when I’m on the road I’m listening, questioning, looking, map-studying, thinking, note-taking, hiking, and picture-taking. Such intensity means that, by day’s end, I can do nothing more than devour a healthy supper, unwind with a hot tub-bath, and then collapse into a comfortable bed. The Spa Hotel quite handily took care of my food-bath-sleep requirements. Simple, elegant plates of their chef’s salmon and veggies nourished me each evening. The bathtub in my suite was almost deep enough to drown in. And the hotel’s parkland location was so tranquil that I was able to leave my room’s windows open throughout the nights while I soundly slept. (But…a necessary qualification: The Spa Hotel is a major venue for weekend-weddings, which invariably result in some noise from joyful, tipsy guests. If you’re not a night-owl, be sure to AVOID staying at the Hotel on Saturday and Sunday nights.) The Spa Hotel. Mount Ephraim. Royal Tunbridge Wells. Kent TN4 8XJ. England. http://www.spahotel.co.uk

The front of The Spa Hotel. My suite was in the bay, on the second floor, to the right of the front entry portico.

The front of The Spa Hotel. My suite was in the bay, on the second floor, to the right of the front entry portico.

The rear elevation of The Spa Hotel, which looks out over many acres of private parkland.

The rear elevation of The Spa Hotel, which looks out over many acres of private parkland.

The Spa Hotel's private parklands.

The Spa Hotel’s private parklands.

View of distant hills, from .The Spa Hotel's parklands

View of distant hills, from The Spa Hotel’s parklands

My quiet and comfy room at The Spa Hotel.

My quiet and comfy room at The Spa Hotel.

August 4, 2013. Early on Sunday morning, I instantly liked the touring-companions who collected me at my Hotel. Allow me to introduce Blue Badge Guide, Amanda Hutchinson ( Certified Guide for South East England,
& for all of London http://www.southeasttourguides.co.uk) :

Guide Extraordinaire: Amanda Hutchinson, by Winston Churchill's koi-pond, at Chartwell, on August 5, 2013.

Guide Extraordinaire: Amanda Hutchinson, by Winston Churchill’s koi-pond, at Chartwell, on August 5, 2013.

…and Expert Driver, Steve Parry ( http://www.snccars.co.uk ) :

Driver Extraordinaire: Steve Parry, with his trusty Mercedes, at the edge of a Hops farm, on August 7, 2013. More about Steve and Hops-farming in a future article!

Driver Extraordinaire: Steve Parry, with his trusty Mercedes, at the edge of a Hops farm, on August 7, 2013. More about Steve and Hops-farming in a future article!

Our destinations on Sunday, August 4, 2013

Our destinations on Sunday, August 4, 2013

As Steve drove us toward our first destination, Amanda explained that, although the day’s excursion would be not long in miles, the time-frame for the gardens and estates we’d visit would be vast, ranging from ancient, to brand-spanking new. Parts of Ightham Mote date back to the early 1300’s; Titsey Place was established in the mid-16th century; the Gardens at Great Comp were begun in 1957; and the Lullingstone World Garden was planted in 2005. In a single day, I’d be able to see the fruits of 700 years of English-place-making! Not a bad beginning for my Total-Kent-Immersion.

Destination #1: Ightham Mote. Mote Road, Ivy Hatch, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 0NT
Open from Mid-March through December, 11 AM to 5PM

Telephone: 01732-810378
Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ightham-mote

A Dove's-eye view of the inner courtyard at Ightham Mote. Image courtesy of The National Trust

A Dove’s-eye view of the inner courtyard at Ightham Mote. Image courtesy of The National Trust

Our first stop that Sunday was a tongue-twister :“Ightham” is pronounced “ITEM.” After Amanda had schooled me in pronunciation, we began our walk down a steep path, toward the moated House and Gardens, which have been owned by Medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII, high-society Victorians, and, finally, a millionaire bachelor from Portland, Maine (who, in 1985, bequeathed his home to The National Trust). The National Trust, which can always be depended upon to publish first-rate guides to their properties, summarizes Ightham Mote as: “one of the oldest and loveliest of medieval manor houses to survive in England. It has stood for over 650 years, immune to tempest, war and riot. It was never grand. There is a feeling of self-sufficiency about it. It fits together solidly and discreetly within the confines of its moat. Its hidden site at the foot of a wooded cleft of the Greensand Ridge in the Kentish Weald must have made it almost unapproachable in winter before the lane surfaces were hardened. One of the legends that clings to the place is that Cromwell’s soldiers, intent on looting it, lost their way in the tangled countryside, and ransacked another house of lesser interest instead.”

Map of the Grounds at Ightham Mote

Map of the Grounds at Ightham Mote

We approach Ightham Mote

We approach Ightham Mote

The northeast end of the East Front, with its early 16th century gable

The northeast end of the East Front, with its early 16th century gable

Per the National Trust: “The East Front is the most complex of the 4 fronts: constructed and reconstructed at many periods. To the far left of the front is a group of 7 early 17th century chimneys. Then comes a range of half-timbered walling, partly jettied out on stone foundations, with much patching. The window nearest the water is that of the 14th century Crypt, and above it are mullioned windows of different periods arranged haphazardly. Gables of different shapes and dates extend the staggered roofline, leading to the corner, which is surmounted by an early 16th century gable.”

The North Front

The North Front

“The North Front is more regular than its eastern neighbor, because much of it was constructed all of one piece in about 1480. At the far end an 18th century Venetian window was inserted, a little incongruously, to light the Drawing Room.”

Sunken Lawn, opposite North Front of House

Sunken Lawn, opposite North Front of House

On the West Front, “we have the most formal face of the Mote, as befits its main entrance. With its central Gatehouse tower, it has a closed and castellated appearance, as if it had never been altered since first constructed in the Middle Ages. In fact its history is complicated. The lower part of the tower is thought to have been built in 1330-40, at the same time as the Great Hall….but the nail-studded oak door at the far end of the bridge cannot be dated on stylistic grounds earlier than 1520, and the first floor windows of armorial glass dated in the early 16th century. The turret top is late 19th century, and the gilt weathercock was erected in the 1960s. The stone walls to south of the tower probably originated in the late 1480s.”

The Gatehouse Tower and West Front

The Gatehouse Tower and West Front

“The South Front of the main house was built in the late 15th or early 16th century to complete the closure of the courtyard on all four sides. It is the most photographed of them all, because it looks the most genuine, when in fact its attractiveness is partly due to a 20th century fake. The upper storey was built with a smooth rendering of plaster covering the timber frame-work. The remodelers evidently considered its appearance too bleak, and about 1904 attached the upright Elizabethan timbers or studding, which had no structural purpose whatever.”

The South Front

The South Front

The National Trust explains that: “this country-house landscape has provided the backdrop, setting, food and raw materials for life at Ightham Mote over seven centuries. As with the House, 700 years of history have left their mark on the landscape, to which changes in the status of the owners, garden fashion, agricultural methods, and the needs of wood and timber supply have all contributed. The earliest surviving estate map was prepared in 1692.”

The Lake separates the manicured gardens that surround the House from the woodlands. The huge, leafed plants at waters-edge are Gunnera Manicata...VERY Jurassic Park!

The Lake separates the manicured gardens that surround the House from the woodlands. The huge, leafed plants at waters-edge are Gunnera Manicata…VERY Jurassic Park!

The raised Broad Walk, on the west side of the Sunken Lawn

The raised Broad Walk, on the west side of the Sunken Lawn

Border along the raised Broad Walk

Border along the raised Broad Walk

Ancient Brick Wall, behind Broad Walk Border

Ancient Brick Wall, behind Broad Walk Border

Exuberant Plantings along the Broad Walk

Exuberant Plantings along the Broad Walk

This Formal Garden, by the West Front of the House, leads to the Orchard, and to the Walled Cuttings--or Kitchen--Garden.

This Formal Garden, by the West Front of the House, leads to the Orchard, and to the Walled Cuttings–or Kitchen–Garden.

Another view of the Formal Garden

Another view of the Formal Garden

The Walled Cuttings--or Kitchen--Garden, with the Cottages in the background.

The Walled Cuttings–or Kitchen–Garden, with the Cottages in the background.

Sweet Peas bloom in the Walled Cuttings Garden

Sweet Peas bloom in the Walled Cuttings Garden

Amanda strolls in the Cuttings Garden, as the fragrances of Sweet Peas and Lavender mingle.

Amanda strolls in the Cuttings Garden, as the fragrances of Sweet Peas and Lavender mingle.

Espaliered fruit trees are interplanted in the Cuttings Garden

Espaliered fruit trees are interplanted in the Cuttings Garden

Ancient Steps in the Cuttings Garden

Ancient Steps in the Cuttings Garden

The Lawn opposite the West Side of the House

The Lawn opposite the West Side of the House

Per The National Trust: “Well clear of the moat is an attractive range of half-timbered cottages, whose timbers have now dated them to about 1475. These buildings once formed a complete outer courtyard, primarily for stabling, and were converted into staff quarters in Victorian times. The whole range, currently five cottages, now consists of staff cottages, private lets and a holiday cottage.”

Detail of The Cottages

Detail of The Cottages

Garden Wall, near The Cottages

Garden Wall, near The Cottages

The Walled, Pool Garden, adjacent to The Cottages

The Walled, Pool Garden, adjacent to The Cottages

Fountain in the Walled, Pool Garden

Fountain in the Walled, Pool Garden

View toward the Main House, from the Walled Pool Garden

View toward the Main House, from the Walled Pool Garden

Diagram of the development of the Main House at Ightham Mote. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Diagram of the development of the Main House at Ightham Mote. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Bridge over moat, by Gatehouse Tower

Bridge over moat, by Gatehouse Tower

We cross the Gatehouse Tower Moat

We cross the Gatehouse Tower Moat

The Moat, seen from the Gatehouse Tower Bridge

The Moat, seen from the Gatehouse Tower Bridge

Entry tunnel to the Courtyard, from the Gatehouse Tower Bridge

Entry tunnel to the Courtyard, from the Gatehouse Tower Bridge

In the cobblestoned Courtyard, a well-head is used as a base for decorative topiaries. The large kennel, built in 1891
for Dido, the Colyer-Fergussons’ St.Bernard dog, is the only Grade One dog kennel in England!

Where Dido lived

Where Dido lived

The House Clock, in the Courtyard

The House Clock, in the Courtyard

Another view of the Courtyard

Another view of the Courtyard

Detail of wall in Courtyard. The red tiles are Kentish Peg Tiles, which are commonly used in place of shingles throughout Kent. This was the first of many Tile-Hung-Walls I saw that week.

Detail of wall in Courtyard. The red tiles are Kentish Peg Tiles, which are commonly used in place of shingles throughout Kent. This was the first of many Tile-Hung-Walls I saw that week.

Plan of Main House, at Ightham Mote. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Plan of Main House, at Ightham Mote. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

View through window, from upstairs in the Main House

View through window, from upstairs in the Main House

The Great Hall. This room was built in the 1330s and still forms the heart of the House. The roof, rising 11.3 metres above the floor, is the original. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The Great Hall. This room was built in the 1330s and still forms the heart of the House. The roof, rising 11.3 metres above the floor, is the original. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The New Chapel was added in 1470-80. It was not intended as a chapel, but seems originally to have been a grand guest chamber. The room was probably consecrated as a chapel in 1633. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The New Chapel was added in 1470-80. It was not intended as a chapel, but seems originally to have been a grand guest chamber. The room was probably consecrated as a chapel in 1633. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The early 16th century Painted Ceiling of the New Chapel is decorated to honor the Rich and Powerful of the Land: with the Tudor red rose, the Beaufort portcullis of Henry VIII's grandmother, and the castle of Castille for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The early 16th century Painted Ceiling of the New Chapel is decorated to honor the Rich and Powerful of the Land: with the Tudor red rose, the Beaufort portcullis of Henry VIII’s grandmother, and the castle of Castille for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Back out into the Courtyard after our House Tour, we admired this Sweet Pea Trellis

Back out into the Courtyard after our House Tour, we admired this Morning Glory Trellis

Masonry wall detail, in Courtyard

Masonry wall detail, in Courtyard

We pass the Courtyard's North Exit. The Sunken Lawn is in the distance.

We pass the Courtyard’s North Exit. The Sunken Lawn is in the distance.

We leave the Courtyard, and head outside over the West Bridge. The Cottages are in the distance.

We leave the Courtyard, and head outside over the West Bridge. The Cottages are in the distance.

The South Front Moat

The South Front Moat

The Kitchen Chimneys, on the East Front

The Kitchen Chimneys, on the East Front

As we climbed the path back to the parking lot, and to Steve, we passed this impenetrable hedge of Holly. Amanda enlightened me about Holly Hedges. Gardeners everywhere: ALWAYS plant hedges of Holly to repel Witches…because witches will spoil the milk!

Witches HATE Holly Hedges!

Witches HATE Holly Hedges!

And so, having edified me with this tidbit of gardening lore, Amanda directed us toward our next stop…to a true Plantsman’s Paradise: to Great Comp.

Destination #2: Great Comp Garden
& Dyson’s Nurseries
Comp Lane, Platt – Borough Green
Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 8QS
Open from early April to late October, 11AM to 5PM

Telephone: 01732-885094
Website: http://www.greatcompgarden.co.uk

In 1957, when Roderick Cameron and his wife Joy moved into the early 17th century house named Great Comp [Note: As we arrived, Amanda exclaimed “Nan, this is a VERY modern house”… which is yet another reminder of how differently British and Americans gauge modernity.], they also took possession of the bones of a formerly-good garden. Mrs. Heron Maxwell, who’d occupied the estate for fifty years—until the day when she expired while scavenging for gentians in Switzerland (what a way to go!!!)—had been a Dynamo.

She died for a Gentian Blossom.....

She died for a Gentian Blossom…..

Mrs. Maxwell sang in the Bach Choir; established a women’s center at her home (with Cricket! Hockey! Spinning! Weaving! Beekeeping! Pottery! & Gardening!); ran a flower shop in London; marched as a Suffragette; was a great friend of Vita Sackville-West. But the 4 and a half acres of gardens that she left behind her had been worn threadbare by time (and probably also by too many cricket bats and hockey sticks) and so Cameron and Joy—utter babes in the woods, horticulturally speaking—began to weave an entirely new garden into the fabric of the mature trees and hawthorne hedges that had been the centerpieces of Mrs. Maxwell’s landscape. In Great Comp’s seven acres (over the years, Cameron acquired more land), today’s Visitor experiences a garden that feels unstudied, eccentric and utterly personal…it’s almost as if Mr.Cameron, who died in 2009 at the impressive age of 91, might toddle around the next corner, trowel in hand.

The venerable Roderick Cameron, at 91...who kept gardening until the Very End.

The venerable Roderick Cameron, at 91…who kept gardening until the Very End.

Brick walls and terraces, paths paved with bathroom tiles, and “Ruins” made of tons and TONS of ironstone, and then gussied up with bits of pottery and architectural fragments, impose height and humor (yes…humor…you’ll see…) and structure upon the grounds; most of these were built by Roderick and Joy themselves. I imagine them working side-by-side, eternally digging foundations, and stirring up batches of mortar. The Camerons’ constructions feel unstudied but are graceful, and serve as backdrops for the more than 2500 varieties of plants that the industrious couple set into the soil. In the most densely-packed portions of Great Comp, it’s easy to forget that the luxuriant drifts of perennials, long borders of annuals, mounds of heathers, precisely-pruned coniferous shrubs, profusions of azaleas and rhododendrons and magnolias, and great clouds of be-tasseled grasses haven’t looked this way forever. Despite the great care and forethought of the Camerons, everything about their placement of paths, ornaments, and plantings at Great Comp feels intuitive; one never senses a place that sprang exclusively from graph paper and tape measure. Instead, as with all things which have come into being as labors-of-love, there’s a frisson of the creators’ excitement, still lingering.

Plan of Great Comp Garden

Plan of Great Comp Garden

Upon Cameron’s death, his long-time assistant William Dyson became Curator of The Great Comp Charitable Trust. In addition to overseeing the Garden, Dyson runs his own on-site nursery, which specializes in Salvias, and also carries hardy and half-hardy plants. For British garden lovers, the goings-on at Great Comp continue to be newsworthy. Just this January 9th, THE TELEGRAPH reported about the aftermath of the latest bout of severe wind and flooding in Kent:

“At Great Comp in Kent, the curator William Dyson has lost six huge conifers. Two of them crushed treasures that include a prized witch hazel and a magnolia. He is also mourning four large specimen trees, including a mature Mexican weeping pine (Pinus patula). ‘Compared to the 200 trees we lost in 1987, it’s nothing,’ he says. He’s still upbeat, despite six days without electricity over Christmas. In fact, he’s grateful that the mild weather allowed his beloved salvias to survive without any heating, otherwise it would have been a disaster for the nursery. It’s the sandy soil at Great Comp that makes it difficult for plants to develop deep roots. There are often losses but, on the bright side, it dries out quickly.”

Join me now, and enjoy this record of our meanderings through the Camerons’ gardens, as they were last August, before this Winter’s Weather-Insults arrived.

The front of the House, seen from the Top Terrace, which the Camerons planted in 1970.

The front of the House, seen from the Top Terrace, which the Camerons planted in 1970.

Approaching the House, from the walk below the Top Terrace. The Leyland Cypress on the left was cut in half by a windstorm in 1970, but still has considerable height.

Approaching the House, from the walk below the Top Terrace. The Leyland Cypress on the left was cut in half by a windstorm in 1970, but still has considerable height.

As we entered the Garden, we were engulfed by tall grasses, blooming lavender, and majestic agapanthus.

As we entered the Garden, we were engulfed by tall grasses, blooming lavender, and majestic agapanthus.

I have Serious Agapanthus-Envy

I have Serious Agapanthus-Envy

Bathroom Tiles are re-purposed, as Paving on a path

Bathroom Tiles are re-purposed, as Paving on a path

A Lavender Walk leads us to the Nursery Tables, where gorgeous plants are for sale.

A Lavender Walk leads us to the Nursery Tables, where gorgeous plants are for sale.

Scarlet Dahlias jostle for a foothold in the Grasses Garden

Scarlet Dahlias jostle for a foothold in the Grasses Garden

Woodland paths radiate from behind the Doulton Urn, which was the first garden ornament that Joy Cameron bought. The yew tree (Taxus baccata) on the right is over 150 years old.

Woodland paths radiate from behind the Doulton Urn, which was the first garden ornament that Joy Cameron bought. The yew tree (Taxus baccata) on the right is over 150 years old.

We come upon the first of many Ruins. All of the ironstone in the Garden was dug on-site.

We come upon the first of many Ruins. All of the ironstone in the Garden was dug on-site.

More Ruins

More Ruins

There's always a place in the Garden to sit one's self down.

There’s always a place in the Garden to sit one’s self down.

What someone with muscles can do, with a ton or two of ironstone, and a bit of rebar....

What someone with muscles can do, with a ton or two of ironstone, and a bit of rebar….

Many-layered ruins, with luxuriant plantings

Many-layered ruins, with luxuriant plantings

One man's abandoned heraldic shield is another man's garden-treasure

One man’s abandoned heraldic shield is another man’s garden-treasure

The Camerons clearly had a lot of fun...and got alot of exercise... making their Ruins

The Camerons clearly had a lot of fun…and got alot of exercise… making their Ruins

Towering Columns of Ironstone, and a miniature Kirk Hill War Memorial, as recycled by the Camerons

Towering Columns of Ironstone, and a miniature Kirk Hill War Memorial, as recycled by the Camerons

Window Fragments top a wall...

Window Fragments top a wall…

...and provide the perfect perch for a Butterfly.

…and provide the perfect perch for a Butterfly.

Faux Bois, and a Garden Sprite, mortared into a Ruin Wall

Faux Bois, and a Garden Sprite, mortared into a Ruin Wall

The only piece of figurative statuary that I saw in the Garden

The only piece of figurative statuary that I saw in the Garden

The Best Bench in the Garden

The Best Bench in the Garden

We leave the Ruins-Section of the Garden. This is the straight path, by Pope's Urn

We leave the Ruins-Section of the Garden. This is the straight path, by Pope’s Urn

We're on the Crescent Lawn, which is at the base of the Tower, which the Camerons began building in 1976.

We’re on the Crescent Lawn, which is at the base of the Tower, which the Camerons began building in 1976.

The Tower...more a Lookout, than an actual tower.

The Tower…more a Lookout, than an actual tower.

Tower Steps

Tower Steps

View, from atop the Tower

View, from atop the Tower

View from atop the Tower, over Crescent Lawn, toward the back of the House

View from atop the Tower, over Crescent Lawn, toward the back of the House

Gorgeous Borders, at base of the Tower

Gorgeous Borders, at base of the Tower

Borders below the Tower

Borders below the Tower

Tasseled Grasses, below the Tower

Tasseled Grasses, below the Tower

The Crescent Lawn below the Tower

The Crescent Lawn below the Tower

View from the Crescent Lawn: a majestic California Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens 'Cantab'...which originated in the Cambridge Botanic Garden) seems to dwarf the House.

View from the Crescent Lawn: a majestic California Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens ‘Cantab’…which originated in the Cambridge Botanic Garden) seems to dwarf the House.

We're heading toward the very back of the Garden. The billowing Smoke Trees make this one of the loveliest spots at Great Comp.

We’re heading toward the very back of the Garden. The billowing Smoke Trees make this one of the loveliest spots at Great Comp.

Precisely-clipped Conifers in the rear portion of the Garden

Precisely-clipped Conifers in the rear portion of the Garden

We approach the Italian Garden

The Italian Garden

Inside the Italian Garden, which the Camerons began in 1995. The Corinthian Column is a hybrid of Chilstone and Haddenstone.

Inside the Italian Garden, which the Camerons began in 1995. The Corinthian Column is a hybrid of Chilstone and Haddenstone.

Fountain in the Italian Garden

Fountain in the Italian Garden

Dense plantings in the Italian Garden

Dense plantings in the Italian Garden

A grumpy emperor on the Italian Garden wall

A grumpy emperor on the Italian Garden wall

We leave the Italian Garden

We leave the Italian Garden

Woodlands behind the Italian Garden. The two acres on the eastern edge of the garden were purchased in 1962.

Woodlands behind the Italian Garden. The two acres on the eastern edge of the garden were purchased in 1962.

The Temple is in the farthest reaches of the eastern woodlands of the Garden.

The Temple is in the farthest reaches of the eastern woodlands of the Garden.

Having become quite peckish, we start thinking about Lunch, and point ourselves toward the Old Dairy Tearooms.

Having become quite peckish, we start thinking about Lunch, and point ourselves toward the Old Dairy Tearooms.

After their Herculean Labors, Joy and Roderick now rest peacefully, in the Memorial Garden, near the Tearoom.

After their Herculean Labors, Joy and Roderick now rest peacefully, in the Memorial Garden, near the Tearoom.

We enjoyed a very tasty meal, in the Tearoom. The Camerons built the Tea Terrace in 1970.

We enjoyed a very tasty meal, in the Tearoom. The Camerons built the Tea Terrace in 1970. Image courtesy of Great Comp Garden.

All the Tearoom pots and cups are different.

All the Tearoom pots and cups are different. Image courtesy of Great Comp Garden.

Halfway down the Memorial Garden Walk, this Moon Gate frames a view of the Square Walled Garden, which was built in 1840.

Halfway down the Memorial Garden Walk, this Moon Gate frames a view of the Square Walled Garden, which was built in 1840.

Standing dead-center on the Lawn of the Square Walled Garden, we look toward the Crescent Lawn, at the base of the Tower.

Standing dead-center on the Lawn of the Square Walled Garden, we look toward the Crescent Lawn, at the base of the Tower.

From the center of the Square Walled Garden's Lawn, we look back through the Moon Gate. This Square contains the main herbaceous border, and the annual borders.

From the center of the Square Walled Garden’s Lawn, we look back through the Moon Gate. This Square contains the main herbaceous border, and the annual borders. The peculiar-looking, cone-shaped roof in the background is an Oast—or a hop-drying kiln—about which MUCH more in a future Kent-article!

Hot Colors, on the Long Border in the Square Walled Garden

Hot Colors, on the Long Border in the Square Walled Garden

The Impeccable Plantsmanship at Great Comp Garden.

The Impeccable Plantsmanship at Great Comp Garden.

When Amanda and I had returned to the car and to Steve, he remarked of Great Comp: “It’s a touchy-feely garden, isn’t it?” Steve and his wife often visit Kent’s gardens, and so he knows a thing or two about what’s growing in the neighborhood. Remembering how I’d been stooping to inhale the scents of flowers and herbs, and stretching to fondle the foliage of choice trees and shrubs, I had to agree. As Steve drove us to the next garden on Amanda’s List, I thought back to the many gardens I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. I realized that, when I’m in a formal garden, I unthinkingly go into Museum-Visiting-Mode, which means “Hands Off!” How nice, instead, that the easy elegance of Great Comp invites touching and sniffing!

After each of our stops, Steve and Amanda would confer about the most direct route to the next garden. Invariably, their combined knowledge overrode the Mercedes’ GPS, and so each of our little commutes became an entertainment unto itself as we sped along twisty Kentish back-roads that seemed hardly broader than cow paths.

The Kentish road were were on was even narrower than this English lane

The Kentish road we were on was even narrower than this English lane

Our Sunday drive between Great Comp and Lullingstone Castle and The World Garden was especially memorable. A couple of miles down a barely-single-lane-wide road, Steve zipped around a 45 degree bend and was met by the front grille of an enormous fire truck…a truck so wide that its side-mounted-ladders forced the high hedges on each side of the road to bend outwards. In such instances, Might clearly makes Right. Without batting an eye, Steve began backing up his car …and he did it speedily, for nearly a mile, all the while looking into his rear view mirror; he didn’t deign to turn his head to look over his shoulder as he reversed around the sharp curves. The firemen followed close upon us, and applauded Steve’s dexterous efforts to remove us from their path. Perhaps it’s just that I’m Easily Entertained…but watching a superb driver do a bit of Showing Off is Very Fun! [Note: once I complete my Kentish articles, and proceed to the English Midlands, I’ll introduce you to Roger Aldridge (another adept driver) and his vintage MG racing cars.]

Destination #3: Lullingstone Castle & The World Garden
Eynsford, Kent DA4 0JA
Open between April and September,
on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Noon to 5PM

Telephone: 01322-862114 (leave a message)
Website: http://www.lullingstonecastle.co.uk

Imagine this: You’ve been tromping through the rainforest on the border between Panama and Columbia…minding your own business, foraging for plant specimens, as is your wont. The wild orchids you’ve found have been exquisite. Suddenly, you’re set upon by AK-47 brandishing bandits, who, after bickering amongst themselves about whether to shoot you today or tomorrow, come to an uneasy compromise: they’ll keep you prisoner while they determine your value as a hostage. For the next nine months, while the likelihood of execution grows and your health dwindles, you send your mind to a better place. You begin to dream of making a garden…a HUGE garden, one whose beds will be formed into the shapes of the continents. And in each of those Continent-Beds….in Asia, and Australia, and America, and the Rest….only plants indigenous to those places will be rooted. And this Little World of yours will be built in England, at Lullingstone Castle, on the grounds of your beloved, ancestral home.

Sparrow's-eye view of Lullingstone Castle. The Manor house was built in 1497, with a new west-facing front erected in the early 18th century. The Church  of St.Botolph stands on flint walls that were built in the early 14th century. The Lake is fed by the River Darent. Image courtesy of Lullingstone Castle.

Sparrow’s-eye view of Lullingstone Castle. The Manor house was built in 1497, with a new west-facing front erected in the early 18th century. The Church of St.Botolph stands on flint walls that were built in the early 14th century. The Lake is fed by the River Darent. Image courtesy of Lullingstone Castle.

From Tom Hart Dyke’s loopy and life-affirming daydreaming, which helped him to remain sane as he dealt with the terrifying fix that he and his plant-scavenging friend Paul Winder found themselves in during most of 2000, The World Garden sprang. Following their release, Tom retreated to Lullingstone Castle to rest and mend, and, once healed, he wrote “The Cloud Garden,” a book about his ordeal. Late in 2004, the physical work of preparing the infrastructure of Tom’s World Garden commenced, and planting began in the Spring of 2005.

Tom Hart Dyke at the Moon Gate Entrance to The World Garden

Tom Hart Dyke at the Moon Gate Entrance to The World Garden

Per the Lullingstone Castle guidebook: “Did you know that almost 80% of the plants commonly grown in British gardens are not native to these islands? The World Garden of Plants celebrates the achievements of plant hunters who traveled the world, quite often risking life and limb, searching for the plants and flowers which we now cherish and grow in our gardens. The aim of The World Garden is to show where these plants originate from and to tell some of the amazing stories surrounding their discovery, collection and introduction.”

“The World Garden is contained within the 500-year-old brick walls of Lullingstone’s two-acre walled garden. At different times over the past five centuries this garden has been used to grow peaches, vegetables for the table, cut flowers for decorating the House and Church, as an orchard, for growing mulberry trees for Lullingstone’s silk industry, and as an herb garden. When complete, the whole World Garden will contain 10,000 different plants, many of which have been collected as seed by Tom on his travels around the globe.”

Unless you’re hang-gliding, the shapes of the various Continent-Beds in Tom’s garden aren’t apparent. At ground-level, one only knows “where” one is because of the helpfully placed signage about what’s growing. In botanical gardens made by academics, the World’s horticultural bounty is usually organized in neat, rectangular beds (witness the Chelsea Physic Garden, or the University of Oxford Botanic Garden). But Tom Hart Dyke’s approach combines scholarly plantsmanship with exuberant, good humor. This is a marching-to-his-own-drummer garden that’s been made by a man who is clearly delighted to be alive!

Hawk's-eye view of Lullingstone Castle, The Church of St.Botolph, and the World Garden...as it appeared in 2007. Image courtesy of Lullingstone Castle.

Hawk’s-eye view of Lullingstone Castle, The Church of St.Botolph, and the World Garden…as it appeared in 2007. Image courtesy of Lullingstone Castle.

Map of Garden Beds at The World Garden

Map of Garden Beds at The World Garden

While we’re still fluttering about and visualizing what the birds see as they circle over The World Garden, I’ll take a moment to digress about a garden-design puzzle that fascinates me. I ponder the ancient, human compulsion to design a landscape that forms a geometric shape or picture that’s only visible in its entirely from high above. For thousands of years before Wilbur and Orville fired up their airplane, people who haven’t had the slightest expectation of being able to fly have fashioned such places. Such earth-works tell us that human beings have always been capable of great leaps of imagination…witness the Late-Prehistoric Great Serpent Mound, in Southern Ohio.

Southern Ohio's Great Serpent Mound is 1349 feet long. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal discovered within the mound indicates that people worked on the mound circa 1070 CE.

Southern Ohio’s Great Serpent Mound is 1349 feet long. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal discovered within the mound indicates that people worked on the mound circa 1070 CE.

Since only the designers can comprehend the true appearance of landscapes that are fashioned to be seen from the sky, does this hiding-in-plain-sight characteristic of such gardens mostly serve the vanity—or spiritual needs— of the artists who’ve carved patterns upon the ground? Is inducing the rest of us to walk through these creations, while we remain ignorant of the actual shape of the spaces we’re inhabiting, the ultimate, gardening-prank? Or do such places remind us that, no matter how much we think we perceive, there’s always a bigger picture, which is framed by yet another, larger picture…ad infinitum? Let me know what you think. Before we return to Tom’s Earth, here are other examples of contemporary British landscape-daydreaming, writ large:

Crop Circle in England. Image courtesy of The Daily Mail

Crop Circle in England. Image courtesy of The Daily Mail

Another Crop Circle in England. Image courtesy of The Daily Mail.

Another Crop Circle in England. Image courtesy of The Daily Mail.

English Crop Circle. Image courtesy of Sunday Times Magazine

English Crop Circle. Image courtesy of Sunday Times Magazine

Back now to Terra Firma, and photos of The World Garden, which, although not a conventionally photogenic garden, is definitely an enlightening, friendly (well, friendly to everyone EXCEPT the rabbits) and “touchy-feely” place.

This way to The World Garden!

This way to The World Garden!

At the Moon Gate Entrance to The World Garden: Beware the Hungry Rabbits. The United Kingdom is just inside the Gate. The British Isles beds contain Scottish Caledonia Pine and Butcher's Broom

At the Moon Gate Entrance to The World Garden: Beware the Hungry Rabbits. The United Kingdom is just inside the Gate. The British Isles beds contain Scottish Caledonia Pine and Butcher’s Broom

The Moon Gate serves as the North Pole of The World Garden

The Moon Gate serves as the North Pole of The World Garden

A Pineapple Sculpture anchors plantings from The Americas

A Pineapple Sculpture anchors plantings from The Americas

At the entry to The World Garden is an even smaller World Garden; this one mapped out with Alpine Plants

At the entry to The World Garden is an even smaller World Garden; this one mapped out with Alpine Plants

Another view of The World of Alpines

Another view of The World of Alpines

These towering Blue Globe Thistles are native to Southern Europe.

These towering Blue Globe Thistles are native to Southern Europe.

The Hot & Spikey Greenhouse is just west of The World Garden beds, and contains plants that wouldn't have a prayer of surviving outside, over England's winters.

The Hot & Spikey Greenhouse is just west of The World Garden beds, and contains plants that wouldn’t have a prayer of surviving outside, over England’s winters.

Another view of The Hot & Spikey Greenhouse

Another view of The Hot & Spikey Greenhouse

A metal grasshopper, atop a cactus in The Hot & Spikey Greenhouse

A metal grasshopper, atop a cactus in The Hot & Spikey Greenhouse

Amid the cactus collection, this display looks very much like the volcano I made for my third grade science project...but I didn't have the sense to add a lizard.

Amid the cactus collection, this display looks very much like the volcano I made for my third grade science project…but I didn’t have the sense to add a lizard.

Adjacent to The Hot & Spikey Greenhouse is the Cloud Garden Greenhouse, which contains 500 species of plants that are too frost-sensitive to grow outside in The World Garden. Image courtesy of The World Garden.

Adjacent to The Hot & Spikey Greenhouse is the Cloud Garden Greenhouse, which contains 500 species of plants that are too frost-sensitive to grow outside in The World Garden. Image courtesy of The World Garden.

The Cloud Garden's plants have been collected in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and S.E.Asia. Image courtesy of The World Garden.

The Cloud Garden’s plants have been collected in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and S.E.Asia. Image courtesy of The World Garden.

Blooming vines in The Cloud Garden

Blooming vines in The Cloud Garden

Back outside, we run our fingers through The World Garden's grasses.

Back outside, we run our fingers through The World Garden’s grasses.

We've traveled to Australia

We’ve traveled to Australia

One of Tom's many tutorials...which are almost as much fun as if he were right there, explaining his Garden.

One of Tom’s many tutorials…which are almost as much fun as if he were right there, explaining his Garden.

What the Tutorial was about...

What the Tutorial was about…

Eucalyptus in Australia. Tom has collected around 100 different provenances of eucalyptus. On hot days in summer, a blue haze develops around these trees, caused by the release of volatile oils from the leaves and bark. The red rock represents Ayers Rock, which is in the middle of the Actual Australia.

Eucalyptus in Australia. Tom has collected around 100 different provenances of eucalyptus. On hot days in summer, a blue haze develops around these trees, caused by the release of volatile oils from the leaves and bark. The red rock represents Ayers Rock, which is in the middle of the Actual Australia.

In 2009, The World Garden was recognized as having England's National Collection of Eucalyptus. Image courtesy of The World Garden.

In 2009, The World Garden was recognized as having England’s National Collection of Eucalyptus. Image courtesy of The World Garden.

The Saga of The Chusan Fan Palm, which is planted in Asia.

The Saga of The Chusan Fan Palm, which is planted in Asia.

The Car-Roof-Rack-Crushing-Chusan-Fan-Palm itself!

The Car-Roof-Rack-Crushing-Chusan-Fan-Palm itself!

A bamboo grove engulfs the Chusan Fan Palm

A bamboo grove engulfs the Chusan Fan Palm

A Birch Bark Cherry Tree, from China

A Birch Bark Cherry Tree, from China

An Asian Jungle

An Asian Jungle

Back out into the sunshine, we find  these angelic-looking blossoms.

Back out into the sunshine, we find these angelic-looking blossoms.

This one-ton steel sculpture of a Baobab Tree anchors the continent of Africa. Every October, over 500 of the plants here in Africa are lifted and taken to winter quarters in greenhouses. And throughout the entire World Garden, over 2000 plants must be lifted before wintertime.

This one-ton steel sculpture of a Baobab Tree anchors the continent of Africa. Every October, over 500 of the plants here in Africa are lifted and taken to winter quarters in greenhouses. And throughout the entire World Garden, over 2000 plants must be lifted before wintertime.

In Africa, orange and yellow spires of Kniphofia uvaria 'Nobilis' are in bloom. Image courtesy of Gardens-Guide.

In Africa, orange and yellow spires of Kniphofia uvaria ‘Nobilis’ are in bloom. Image courtesy of Gardens-Guide.

Amanda does some fast World-Traveling.

Amanda does some fast World-Traveling.

Peter the Pine Tree, in North America.

Peter the Pine Tree, in North America.

Europa on her Bull anchors the Mainland Europe garden.

Europa on her Bull anchors the Mainland Europe garden.

Another Little Seminar

Another Little Seminar

Europa: ready for her close-up.

Europa: ready for her close-up.

Dahlia Border, along the North Wall.  At the edges of the garden, against red-brick walls, are the Man's Influence Borders. These are gradually being cultivated, not with true species, but with "improved" cultivars.

Dahlia Border, along the North Wall.
At the edges of the garden, against red-brick walls, are the Man’s Influence Borders. These are gradually being cultivated, not with true species, but with “improved” cultivars.

During World War II, Canadian troops who were barracked at Lullingstone Castle entertained themselves by firing upon this wall. The many pockmarks in the brick are from their buckshot blasts.

During World War II, Canadian troops who were barracked at Lullingstone Castle entertained themselves by firing upon this wall. The many pockmarks in the brick are from their buckshot blasts.

Garden Gate near what I have now taken upon myself to rename the Buckshot Border.

Garden Gate near what I have now taken upon myself to rename the Buckshot Border.

View of the Chapel, from within The World Garden

View of the Chapel, from within The World Garden

Another glimpse of the Chapel, from inside The World Garden

Another glimpse of the Chapel, from inside The World Garden

A broad view over The World Garden. The original, Tudor walls of the Manor House's east side are visible in the background. Image courtesy of The World Garden.

A broad view over The World Garden. The original, Tudor walls of the Manor House’s east side are visible in the background. Image courtesy of The World Garden.

We exit The World Garden, back through the Moon Gate

We exit The World Garden, back through the Moon Gate

This ancient cedar tree grows behind the Chapel.

This ancient cedar tree grows behind the Chapel.

Wall detail of The Chapel/The Church of St. Botolph.

Wall detail of The Chapel/The Church of St. Botolph.

Detail of wall made with flintstone fillers, at back corner of Chapel.

Detail of wall made with flintstone fillers, at back corner of Chapel.

The Gate House (built in 1497), as seen from the inner lawn. On these extensive lawns the earliest rules for Lawn Tennis were drawn up, in 1873.

The Gate House (built in 1497), as seen from the inner lawn. On these extensive lawns the earliest rules for Lawn Tennis were drawn up, in 1873.

The West Front of Lullingstone Castle is opposite the Gate House. The facade, done in the Queen Anne style, was added in the mid 18th century. The Manor House was originally surrounded by a moat.

The West Front of Lullingstone Castle is opposite the Gate House. The facade, done in the Queen Anne style, was added in the mid 18th century. The Manor House was originally surrounded by a moat.

As we walked back toward our car, a stiff breeze rose from the Lake...'twas a beautiful afternoon.

As we walked back toward our car, a stiff breeze rose from the Lake…’twas a beautiful afternoon.

Our next stop was to be a brief one. Amanda directed us toward Castle Farm, a busy, working lavender farm set in the meadows of the River Darent. Although the Farm’s Hop Shop is a major coach-stop (and thus a place I’d usually avoid), my August visit to Kent coincided with Lavender-in-Bloom-Time, and Steve and Amanda agreed that giving me to opportunity to ogle the North Kent Downs fields, and to get a deep snoot-full of lavender-fragrance, would be worthwhile….and it was.

Destination #4: The Hop Shop at
Castle Farm
Shoreham, Sevenoaks
Kent TN14 7UB

Telephone: 01959-523219
Website: http://www.hopshop.co.uk

I obeyed, and did not advance into Castle Farm's lavender fields.

I obeyed, and did not advance into Castle Farm’s lavender fields.

Things were hopping at the Hop Shop!

Things were hopping at the Hop Shop!

Looking down across the lavender fields at Castle Farm.....SWOON!

Looking down across the lavender fields at Castle Farm…..SWOON!

For our final garden pilgrimage that Sunday afternoon we ventured over the border, from Kent into eastern Surrey…to an historic tract of estate-land that dates back to 1534, when it was bought by Sir John Gresham, of the famous London merchant dynasty.

Destination #5: Titsey Place House & Gardens
Titsey Hill, Oxted
Surrey RH8 0SD

Open from mid-Mid until late September
Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 1PM—5PM

Website: http://www.titsey.org

As we entered the grounds of Titsey Place, Amanda asked me to look uphill, toward the vast stretch (210 acres, to be exact) of beech trees that hug the slopes of the North Downs. She told me that, within Titsey Place’s tree plantation lies the original path of the Pilgrims’ Way, a path that’s been continually trodden upon for at least 3000 years. At this news, my Traveler’s Scalp began to tingle: I like nothing better than setting my feet down near ancient pathways! What is today called the Pilgrims’ Way was heavily used during Roman times: numerous traces of the villas built when this part of England was a province of the Roman Empire (from 43AD to 409AD) are still being unearthed by Kent’s archaeologists.

The Pilgrims' Way passes through the Park at Titsey Place. This is no doubt that this is a very ancient track, made before the coming of the Romans, but used by them, as would appear from the numerous traces of villas near its course.

The Pilgrims’ Way passes through the Park at Titsey Place. This is no doubt that this is a very ancient track, made before the coming of the Romans, but used by them, as would appear from the numerous traces of villas near its course.

And, more recently—at the end of the 14th century—Geoffrey Chaucer’s CANTERBURY TALES pilgrims followed various paths across Kent, as they traveled to the shrine of Thomas Becket, in Canterbury.

The Pilgrims' Way, as Geoffrey Chaucer told the tale.

The Pilgrims’ Way, as Geoffrey Chaucer told the tale.

Before our Titsey-Tour, we refueled in the Tea Room, with strong tea and excellent scones. All these months later, I’m still kicking myself for NOT keeping a record of English-Scones-I-Have-Loved. During my August in England I ate my way through an encyclopedic array of afternoon baked goods, and Titsey’s scones would certainly have made the cut, had I been assembling a Teatime-Guide.

Map of the Grounds at Titsey Place. Image courtesy of Titsey Place & Gardens

Map of the Grounds at Titsey Place. Image courtesy of Titsey Place & Gardens

The Walled Garden, which is the sexiest kitchen garden you’ll ever encounter, was completely restored in 1996. Per the Titsey Place Guidebook, the garden, which occupies a sunny slope from which long views over the Weald can be enjoyed, was done…

“…as an illustration of Victorian horticultural techniques. The garden paths were remade, the glasshouses rebuilt, and the garden planted with a wide range of fruit including pears, apples, cherries, quince and figs. Annual flowers are grown amongst a wide range of unusual vegetables. Triple cordon redcurrants and gooseberries are trained on the northern aspect of the southern wall. Peaches, nectarines, bananas, tomatoes, kiwi fruit and grapes are grown in the new glasshouses, and two camellias grow up the eastern greenhouse wall.
The central conservatory houses a wide range of colorful exotic plants and orchids. Box hedging was used to quarter the two upper compartments. Two wrought iron gazebos, covered in climbers, stand at the centre of each. The door through the southern wall leads to the wide grass lawn, from which spectacular views can be seen across the park and to the house. The south facing walls are used to grow roses, clematis, honeysuckle as well as more unusual climbers.”

WHEW! Although I adored the Walled Garden, I don’t think I’ll ever recover from the feeling of Gardener’s-Inferiority that the excellence contained therein inflicted upon me. My own New Hampshire veggie-and-flower plot will ever after seem meager and sorrowful in contrast.

We entered the Walled Garden at its highest poing, where tall lilies were just beginning to shed their blossoms.

We entered the Walled Garden at its highest point, where tall lilies were just beginning to shed their blossoms.

A central Urn and Gazebo

A central Urn and Gazebo

A Twig Trellis

A Twig Trellis

You can see from the contours of the box hedge how sloped the Walled Garden is.

You can see from the contours of the box hedge how sloped the Walled Garden is.

View from the higher reaches of the Walled Garden

View from the higher reaches of the Walled Garden

Luscious Kentish Pears grow alongside flowers and veggies.

Luscious Kentish Pears grow alongside flowers and veggies.

Espaliered trees in a glasshouse

Espaliered trees in a glasshouse

Perfect Fruit

Perfect Fruit

Another Urn and Gazebo

Another Urn and Gazebo

Corn grows tall under August skies

Corn grows tall under August skies

Gorgeous Gladioli

Gorgeous Gladioli

Totally Slug-Free Cabbage: how do Titsey's gardeners do it?

Totally Slug-Free Cabbage: how do Titsey’s gardeners do it?

A view uphill, toward the glasshouses

A view uphill, toward the glasshouses

A different view uphill, toward glasshouses

A different view uphill, toward glasshouses

A cutting garden

A cutting garden

Redcurrants adorn a wall

Redcurrants adorn a wall

We then proceeded toward the Main House. In the far distance, we saw the famous Titsey Herd of Sussex cattle, grazing contentedly. The poor beasts have NO idea that their flesh is available in a range of prime cuts (supplied fresh!)…through Titsey Place’s BEEF BOX SCHEME. Forgive me: that’s my Almost-Vegan-Self wincing…

The Lawn below the Walled Garden

The Lawn below the Walled Garden

An inviting gate, along the path to the Main House

An inviting gate, along the path to the Main House

We approach the House. The main part--5 windows wide--was built of redbrick in 1775...and is thus, in Amanda-Terms, Quite a Modern Edifice. It was resurfaced with Roman cement in 1826. The tower to the left was added in 1856.

We approach the House. The main part–5 windows wide–was built of redbrick in 1775…and is thus, in Amanda-Terms, Quite a Modern Edifice. It was resurfaced with Roman cement in 1826. The tower to the left was added in 1856.

The much-eroded Gresham Crest is over the front door.

The much-eroded Gresham Crest is over the front door.

A window decoration

A window decoration

View from the front of the House, down over the Arboretum, toward the Spring and the Lakes

View from the front of the House, down over the Arboretum, toward the Spring and the Lakes

Another magnificent specimen in the Arboretum

Another magnificent specimen in the Arboretum

The fountain at the center of the Lower Terrace is a copy of one in the Cloisters at Eton College

The fountain at the center of the Lower Terrace is a copy of one in the Cloisters at Eton College

Alliums adorn the Lower Terrace, in early June. Image courtesy of Titsey Place & Gardens

Alliums adorn the Lower Terrace, in early June. Image courtesy of Titsey Place & Gardens

Another view of the Lower Terrace

Another view of the Lower Terrace

The Box Link Beds next to the House were planted over 150 years ago.

The Box Link Beds next to the House were planted over 150 years ago.

The Golden Jubilee Rose Garden

The Golden Jubilee Rose Garden

View from the top of the Golden Jubilee Rose Garden

View from the top of the Golden Jubilee Rose Garden

Ancient tree near the base of the Rose Garden

Ancient tree near the base of the Rose Garden

Tree-Heaven

Tree-Heaven

Peeking back at the Main House, from the Old Rose Garden

Peeking back at the Main House, from the Old Rose Garden

We approach the be-fountained Top Lake

We approach the be-fountained Top Lake

A Grassy Bridge spans the Top Lake

A Grassy Bridge spans the Lower Lake, just below the High Cascade

A High Cascade made of Bath Stone is at the end of the Top Lake

A High Cascade made of Bath Stone is at the end of the Top Lake

Naturally-formed limestone deposits form a lacy curtain at the High Cascade

Naturally-formed limestone deposits form a lacy curtain at the High Cascade

Koi swim in the Lower Lake

Koi swim in the Lower Lake

A Stone Temple is the focal point at the southern end of the Lower Lake

A Stone Temple is the focal point at the southern end of the Lower Lake

Stone Temple

Stone Temple

View from the Stone Temple

View from the Stone Temple

Titsey's Herd of pedigree Sussex cattle enjoys a perfect summer afternoon.

Titsey’s Herd of pedigree Sussex cattle enjoys a perfect summer afternoon.

Having circled the Lower Lake, we walk back toward the Top Lake

Having circled the Lower Lake, we walk back toward the Top Lake

An early 19th century Ha-Ha divides the gardens and lawns around the House from the pastureland.

An early 19th century Ha-Ha divides the gardens and lawns around the House from the pastureland.

View of the House, from the Lower Lake. A more serene setting I cannot imagine. Image courtesy of Titsey Place & Gardens.

View of the House, from the Lower Lake. A more serene setting I cannot imagine. Image courtesy of Titsey Place & Gardens.

So, Gentle Reader. I hope this first day’s tour of Kent has invigorated rather than exhausted you, because on Day Two of our adventures, we will once again be VERY busy.

We’ll visit Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home. We’ll explore Hever Castle,
Anne Boleyn’s family seat. We’ll marvel at Penhurst Place, birthplace of
Sir Philip Sidney. And we’ll amble through the gardens at Groombridge Place,
which Arthur Conan Doyle featured in a Sherlock Holmes tale. Get some rest…you’ll need it!

Hever Castle (built in 1462): the birthplace of the unfortunate Anne Boleyn. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Hever Castle (built in 1462): the birthplace of the unfortunate Anne Boleyn. Image courtesy of Hever Castle.

Copyright 2014. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express &
written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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Hudson River Valley Gardens–Part Two: Stonecrop, & Kykuit

Kykuit: The Rockefeller family home. Entrance Forecourt, with the Oceanus Fountain, on a rainy morning in June.

Kykuit: The Rockefeller family home. Entrance Forecourt, with the Oceanus Fountain, on a rainy morning in June.

December 2013. The impulse to collect–whatever one happens to want to accumulate—is powerful. As one hunts for treasure, each discovery, rather than satisfying, seems instead to whet the appetite; after all, treasures exist most properly in troves. Humans are greedy souls.

At first glance, the shaggy, encyclopedic collection of plants at Stonecrop Gardens (which perch upon rocky ledges and around deep ponds in the wilds of Cold Spring, New York State), and the spit-polished and densely-decorated gardens at Kykuit (which cap a manicured hill near a wide point in the Hudson River), seem to have little in common. But in each garden we see the results of passionate collecting: of the horticulturalist Frank Cabot’s 52-year-long lust to acquire and grow aquatic and alpine plants, herbaceous perennials and bulbs, and rare trees and shrubs; of the Rockefellers’ three-generation-long hunger to amass sculpture—both classical and modern—along with all the other garden trappings befitting a world-class family seat.

I am not immune to this Collecting-Mania. But instead of piling up Property, I travel to beautiful, built environments…where I gather sensations, and ideas, and images. I have faith that, by temporarily inhabiting these places, I’ll somehow hear whispers from the people who created them; that the trees and terraces and landforms and lakes and follies and fountains and gardens and grottos in each spot I discover will have vestigial voices which will reveal to me the reasons, and more-interestingly, the passions, that drove their makers to plant and to build. My hope is always that each of these destinations will feed my eyes, and my brain, and my imagination. I want to be reminded that, despite mankind’s propensities for destructive behavior, we are also an inherently creative, and thus redeemable, species. Such is the nature of MY greed. But merely amassing these International-Catalogues-of-Gorgeousity for myself would be an empty exercise. I’ve discovered that the deepest pleasures from my travels come later, when I’m home again, in my office (where I’m nearly overwhelmed by my thousands of photos, and piles of books, and sheaves of notes), as I try to make sense of the wonders I’ve seen, so that I might share them.

In early June, after visits to two gardens in Western Massachusetts (Naumkeag, and The Mount), and then a stroll through the sublime Innisfree Garden (in Millbrook, New York), I drove southward, on the Taconic Parkway. Darkening skies and a predicted torrent meant that my camera would capture no more postcard-pretty photos during the final days of my journey, but I continued on into the Hudson Highlands, toward Stonecrop Gardens, with my raincoat and boots at the ready. For dirt-gardeners here in the Northeast, visits to Stonecrop are not so much pleasure-jaunts as plant-pilgrimages.

Stonecrop Gardens, on the rocky hills to the east of the Hudson River. In Cold Spring, Putnam County, New York State

Stonecrop Gardens, on the rocky hills to the east of the Hudson River. In Cold Spring, Putnam County, New York State

In 2011, when Francis (Frank) H. Cabot died, his obituaries identified him, first and foremost, as “86, and an extraordinary gardener.” Born wealthy, into a family who specialized in investment banking, Cabot was never completely at ease with his role as a venture capitalist. In 1959, stressed by work,(he considered himself a great promoter, but not a particularly great picker, of start-up businesses) he threw himself into gardening, where he found his true calling.

Frank Cabot, with his ever-present knee pads. Image courtesy of Garden Design Magazine.

Frank Cabot, with his ever-present knee pads. Image courtesy of Garden Design Magazine.

Cabot is most famous for his ambitious landscape at Les Quatre Vents (The Four Winds), where he fashioned highly formal gardens on 28 acres that lie alongside the St. Lawrence River. Those gardens in Quebec are open to the public for only four days each summer, but can be vicariously enjoyed by reading Cabot’s book about his decades-long modeling of the land at his Canadian retreat: “The Greater Perfection: The Story of the Gardens at Les Quatre Vents.”

A tiny bit of Frank Cabot's garden in Quebec: Les Quatre Vents (The Four Winds)

A tiny bit of Frank Cabot’s garden in Quebec: Les Quatre Vents (The Four Winds)

But for those of us who haven’t time to get to Quebec, or the wherewithal to fund our little reproductions of corners of those dauntingly-lovely gardens, the gardens that sprang up willy-nilly around his summertime home in Cold Spring, New York, can offer Normal Human Gardeners the consolations of buying Stonecrop’s quite-affordable plants, which are grown on the premises.

Map of Stonecrop Gardens, in Cold Spring, New York.

Map of Stonecrop Gardens, in Cold Spring, New York.

The steep, twisting, rutted, gravel road that leads up to Stonecrop Gardens made me very glad for my vehicle’s all-wheel-drive. There’s nothing flashy about Stonecrop; this is a place where the well-being of plants takes precedence over the coddling of visitors. At the edge of the car park, an Entrance Pavilion pointed the way, and I clattered over a wooden boardwalk, into deep woods.

Entrance Pavilion

Entrance Pavilion

Wooden Boardwalk

Wooden Boardwalk

At the end of the Boardwalk, the charming scene of a Pond Garden unfolds.
Iris, Petasites and Ligularia dominate the waterside plantings.

Pond Garden

Pond Garden

Pond Garden, with Potting Shed in the distance

Pond Garden, with Potting Shed in the distance

And then, framed by white birches, a Conservatory hovers, reflected in the water.

Pond Garden, with Conservatory

Pond Garden, with Conservatory

The Conservatory spans the pond, and serves as bridge into the Gardens proper. As is so often the case in my wanderings, I had this place to myself. I was far outnumbered by Stonecrop’s gardeners, who were quietly eradicating weeds, and pruning perennials. All I could hear were birds twittering, horses whinnying, and the sound of a gentle rain, shooshing down over the dense foliage.

I'm about to pass through the Conservatory. This building was completed in 1997. In winter and spring it is used as a display house for a winter garden of non-hardy blooming bulbs, trees and shrubs, many of them native to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (Frank Cabot has a sheep station, in New Zealand, and thus collect many plants there.)

I’m about to pass through the Conservatory. This building was completed in 1997. In winter and spring it is used as a display house for a winter garden of non-hardy blooming bulbs, trees and shrubs, many of them native to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (Frank Cabot had a sheep station in New Zealand, and thus collected many plants there.)

The Conservatory, in Wintertime. Image courtesy of Stonecrop Gardens.

The Conservatory, in Wintertime. Image courtesy of Stonecrop Gardens.

View of the Conservatory, from the other side of the Pond.

View of the Conservatory, from the other side of the Pond.

Rock Garden Plants, near the Potting Shed

Rock Garden Plants, near the Potting Shed

Alpine Plants in Raised Hypertufa Troughs, near the Potting Shed

Alpine Plants in Raised Hypertufa Troughs, near the Potting Shed

On the Left: The Potting Shed, which is the heart of Stonecrop. Most of the Garden's propagation work occurs here, throughout the year.

On the Left: The Potting Shed, which is the heart of Stonecrop. Most of the Garden’s propagation work occurs here, throughout the year.

Their love of all-things-French influenced the design of Frank and Anne Cabot’s Main House.

Approaching the Main House at Stonecrop. The grass island in front of the house features a Pin Oak, underplanted with a sheet of Crocus, which blooms in early April.

Approaching the Main House at Stonecrop. The grass island in front of the house features a Pin Oak, underplanted with a sheet of Crocus, which blooms in early April.

The Main House

The Main House

West of the Main House, a broad vista unfolds.

View from the West Terrace of the Main House

View from the West Terrace of the Main House

A Friendly Fellow (well...I assumed he was a Fellow) at the Stable

A Friendly Fellow (well…I assumed he was a Fellow)
at the Stable

Getting EVEN friendlier.

Getting EVEN friendlier.

View up toward the Main House, from the Pasture

View up toward the Main House, from the Pasture

A long hedge of rose bushes festoons the edge of the Pasture

A long hedge of rose bushes festoons the edge of the Pasture

To the south of the Main House is the Enclosed Flower Garden, which contains a jungle of flowers and veggies. When the Cabots built their home in the early 1950’s, the gardens began simply: Frank made raised stone containers for his alpine plants, and Anne tended flowers and vegetables. But soon, tons and tons of flint stone began to be extracted from the woods. With that stone, walls rose. And ponds were dredged, and streambeds formed. Very rapidly, Stonecrop became much more than a plaything for its summer residents.

But the Stonecrop that’s evolved into the place we see today is as much the creation of Caroline Burgess, as it is of Cabot. In 1985, Burgess, an Englishwoman who cut her horticultural teeth as an apprentice in Rosemary Verey’s Cotswolds garden, and then became a professional plant-wrangler at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, was hired by Frank Cabot, who gave her carte blanche to develop his tree and shrub collection. By 1992, Cabot admitted, “It’s really hers now.”

Per Stonecrop’s guide to their gardens, the Enclosed Flower Garden, has “a series of color-themed square and triangular beds. These beds, together with the surrounding enclosures and permanent plantings of hardy perennials, roses, grasses, tress and shrubs, create a formal framework in which to display intermingled informal plantings and annuals, biennials, and half-hardy and tropical plants. Constant experimenting with color and plants yields new combinations every year. Four of the square beds have steeple trellises on which grow annual and perennial vines, giving vertical accent to the garden. The walls surrounding the enclosed garden are planted with …espaliered shrubs and climbers. A vegetable garden fills the largest bed in the middle of inner sanctum, and is watched over by Miss Gertrude Jekyll, who is keeping an eye on the color theories. Behind Miss Jekyll, linked by a circular path, curved beds represent the colors of the rainbow.”

CLAIR VOIE: a grille set into a wall, which allows a "clear view" of the Enclosed Flower Garden.

CLAIR VOIE: a grille set into a wall, which allows a “clear view” of the Enclosed Flower Garden.

Main Gate to Enclosed Flower Garden

Main Gate to Enclosed Flower Garden

Enclosed Flower Garden

Enclosed Flower Garden

Miss Jekyll, at the center of the Enclosed Flower Garden

Miss Jekyll, at the center of the Enclosed Flower Garden

Another Entry Gate to the Enclosed Flower Garden

Another Entry Gate to the Enclosed Flower Garden

A Jolly Jumble of Plants in the Enclosed Flower Garden

A Jolly Jumble of Plants in the Enclosed Flower Garden

Giant Alliums bloom, after Iris blossoms have withered.

Giant Alliums bloom, after Iris blossoms have withered.

Blowsy-and-Beautiful Peonies

Blowsy-and-Beautiful Peonies

What a Perfect Flower looks like (Hmmmm....mine never look this good, and are always infested with ants).

What a Perfect Flower looks like (Hmmmm….mine never look this good, and are always infested with ants).

Miss Jekyll guards her Asparagus and Lettuce.

Miss Je