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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4 thoughts on “Rambling Through the Gardens & Estates of Kent, England. Part One.

  1. Spectacular delightful and fascinating! Garden photographs beautifully composed in stunning perspectives. Wonderful stories and vignettes, captions and historical references and maps. The blog post is a fabulous work of garden art in itself. Gardening hats off to Nan!

  2. Thank you Nan for brightening up a grey day in Worcestershire! I realise that I have plenty of new gardens to explore in my own Country and a couple of those mentioned are definitely on my to visit list!

  3. Nan – a beautiful and informative blog – oh! what a blessed place this is, and your trip illustrates the English obsession with gardens (we call them ‘gardens’, Americans call them ‘yards’ – can you feel the difference?) Sorry to be nationalistic, but here’s a poem I wrote several years ago, celebrating this little island, called ‘England’:

    Who would not love this place,
    This small island race?
    Woodland bluebells in the spring,
    Warm summer fields which bring
    The inevitable damp autumn, the dropping of leaves,
    As we hunker down in front of open fire, and winter’s freeze.

    This ancient and historic land,
    This temperate isle
    Called Engla-lond

    Andrew Hutchinson (Amanda’s husband)

    PS cant wait to read Day 2 of your blog and more! Hope you’ll come and visit our Tudor house this summer on your next visit
    PPS thanks for your nice comments about my wife – I’m very proud of her!

  4. Absolutely marvelous blog post and collection of pictures. Well done. Will look forward immensely to your subsequent posts and will share them with all who will be interested.
    When you have explored this part of the world do come to the Cotswolds where I think you will be equally delighted in the rich treasures this region has to offer. Perhaps you will consider my book as a guide and some of my blog posts will give you a glimpse of the wonderful treats in store for you.
    Diz White – Author of COTSWOLDS MEMOIR: Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage (Available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback) Read more on my web site http://www.DizWhite.com

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