Sunday, 10 July 2016

Sissinghurst; (A Whistle-stop Tour)

Kent is said to be "The Garden of England!" 

My Mum is from Kent and I retain many happy memories of long walks through the Kent countryside with family; across fields and along narrow lanes - the sun always shining. Where my lovely Aunty G found a small birds nest cradling a tiny speckled blue egg, tucked deep in the leafy hedge; and later as we rested and sat in the sunshine below the hedgerow she taught me how to whistle through a blade of grass.

Sadly those days are gone, but I have increasingly longed to return to Kent and in particular to visit Sissinghurst; the former home of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson.

As usual events appeared to conspire against it, (I shall gloss over the
details), but eventually although late in the day, only a short time before the official closing time and albeit a little stressed, we arrived - possibly the only place in the whole of the UK where the sun was actually shining. 

Although I had never visited Sissinghurst before, the surrounding Kent countryside was every bit as beautiful as I remembered.

 I was captivated by the wildflower meadow 

that has been planted in front of the Oast Houses.

A well and

a floral display marked the entrance to the castle

which leads through to a courtyard and on to the rose garden,

where I was transported to a rose lovers heaven 

and roses in every colour imaginable draped themselves over every wall, climbed through trees and tumbled through every bed and border.

Vita wrote about her vision for "a tumble of roses, and honeysuckle, figs and vines,"

and declared herself to be "drunk on roses". I understood how she felt as I wandered through this garden with it's sense of wild abandonment.

Vita relished the colours, scent, form and beauty of the old roses; and wrote,

"If you were born with a romantic nature, all roses must be crammed with romance,

 and if a particular rose originated on an island the romance must be doubled, for an island is romantic in itself."

Steps down to a brick path lined with ferns and softened with "mind your own business" and to a doorway in the wall 

brought us through


the White Garden:

and then to the quaint South Cottage.

To the North of the garden beside the castle

is The Priest House  

which dates from the Tudor period.

The Tower, 

built in the 1560s  

was once a prison (during the Seven Years War in the period 1756 - 1763).

Here Vita has left her mark and it is still possible to view Vita's personal study, although unfortunately no photographs were allowed.

The view from the top was breathtaking (as was the freshening wind), 

spanning the surrounding panorama of the Kent countryside 

and the garden rooms below.

In the surrounding farmland (a working farm), were sheep 

- the woolliest and most picturesque I have ever seen,

sleeping in the shade of a tree; 

their bodies a mound of fluffiness in the grass.

Further along the lane, the vegetable garden was a lot more organised and productive than my somewhat recently neglected allotment.

A boathouse

stands above a moat  

- all that remains of a small moated manor house (that was originally a Saxon pig farm)

and at the corner of the moat a gazebo.

Walking past the gazebo and along the moat, the path led down to the outer edge of the estate, 

to The Lake

around which we walked briskly, rather at odds with the tranquil and relaxed ambience, conscious of the clock ticking and the imminent end to our whirlwind visit to the wonderful Sissinghurst.


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