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.

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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.’ ”

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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.

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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.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express &
written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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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 makin