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Posts Tagged ‘The National Trust’

Visit Sissinghurst Castle Gardens this April

Monday, March 17th, 2014

By Tim Sykes

It was interesting to watch on BBC’s Countryfile recently the feature about Vita Sackville-West and her upbringing at Knole. As the daughter she unfortunately didn’t inherit Knole but with her husband Harold in the 1930′s she went onto buy Sissinghurst Castle and began a transformation of the gardens. Harold mainly planned the garden structure, whilst Vita turned her attention to the planting schemes.

Today the house and grounds are looked after by The National Trust. It’s only a short drive (half an hour) from Tunbridge Wells, along the Biddenden Road, near Cranbrook.

The gardens are open from 11am – 5.30pm. The Castle and Grounds are surrounded by a working farm, ancient woodlands and parkland of c 450 acres. The house dates back to the Middle Ages. It was bought by Sir John Baker ( one of Henry V111′s Privy Councillors) in 1530, when it was greatly enlarged by him and his son.

The Castle and Gardens are well worth a visit and during April are bursting with colour.

A brilliant vantage point is to climb the Tower and see the structure and beauty of the garden, then plan your tour accordingly. You will see from the Tower that the garden is split up into a whole series of rooms, all with their own unique planting schemes.

The Lime Walk is among my favourites, but you must spend time in The White Garden. The White Garden was originally planted as a rose garden in 1931, but later altered in 1950. Vita referred to it as her grey, green and white garden. There is no escaping the brilliance of her focus, and the end result is a captivating space, that’s very romantic.

For a good lunch, nearby Biddenden is a picturesque Kentish Village with pleasant pubs. Alternatively stop off at Goudhurst on route. I’m reliably informed that The Vine, Goudhurst has just undergone a restoration and offers excellent fare. I must treat myself to a visit!

You can see more about Sissinghurst Castle and Grounds at

Further details about The Vine at Goudhurst can be found at

For further information about Gardenproud please contact Tim Sykes, on 07725 173820,  or via email at

Lamb House – Home of Henry James

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Lamb House was built in 1723 by James Lamb, an important citizen of Rye and 13 times mayor. The house remained in the family until 1864.

The author Henry James who fell in love with the house then took on a lease in 1898 and lived there until his death in 1916. The house and gardens were to provide the quiet and peaceful retreat from which he wrote many of his novels from a garden house in the grounds (this was destroyed in an air raid on 18th August 1940), including The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl.

The writer E.F.Benson, an admirer of James, came to live in the house after Henry James died. He shared the tenancy with his brother (also a writer) famous for having written the words to Elgar’s ” Land of Hope and Glory”. E.F. Benson went onto live in the house until his death in 1940.

Today the house and gardens are looked after by The National Trust. If you are staying at The Mermaid or one of the other superb hotels and guest houses in Rye, Lamb House is conveniently placed and definitely worth a visit!

Despite having no prior knowledge ( ” I am hopeless about the garden, which I don’t know what to do with and shall never, never know – I am densely ignorant.”), Henry James secured the help of a friend Alfred Parsons – a landscape gardener, to help create a beautiful walled garden, leading from a pair of french doors on one side of the house.

The layout of the garden is much the same as in James’s time with a large sweeping lawn, various flower beds, shrubs and a rose garden and kitchen garden situated behind an attractive trellis supporting climbing roses.

Various attractive benches adorn the grounds acting as resting and focal points…

Other features added by Henry James to the house and garden help give a unique perspective and charm..

At the back of the shrubbery, in the South-West corner of the garden, you can still see the dog cemetery where he buried many of his favourite dogs.

James’s favourite Mulberry tree was blown down in a gale, this has now been replaced and he’d be very pleased to note is bearing lots of fruit!

The gardens were a delight…

When you consider this oasis sat within the beauty of Rye, you can easily understand how the setting gave Henry James so much inspiration for his great works.

Lamb House, house and gardens are open from 24th March to 27th October, Tuesday and Saturdays, 2 – 6pm ( last admissions 5.30pm). For further information see The National Trust website at and

Smallhythe Place Gardens

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

A beautiful little cottage garden run by The National Trust in Smallhythe, Kent situated close to Tenterton.

We were fortunate enough to visit Smallhythe Place today as part of a weekend away in Rye ( we treated ourselves to a stay at The Mermaid Inn, which I can well recommend).

Smallhythe Place is the home of the late Dame Ellen Terry GBE (1847 – 1928).

Dame Ellen Terry sitting with friends and relatives at the back door of the Priest House at Smallhythe from a painting by Clare Atwood.

Dame Ellen Terry was probably the most famous Victorian actress of her day, from an acting perspective she might be seen as a sort of latter day Dame Judy Dench! From a personal perspective she married three times, had numerous affairs and two illegitimate children and was associated with the rich, talented and famous. For the last thirty years of her life she lived at Smallhythe Place, a timbered, medieval house on the edge of Romney Marsh.

Thanks to The National Trust the house has retained it’s charm.

The house is surrounded by pretty cottage garden style borders…….

There are a number of different compartments to the garden including a rose garden, a lawned area and 2 large ponds that surround the barn theatre, an orchard, and a small nuttery.

I had never seen such an interesting nuttery. Planted in a unique pattern ” The Platt” featuring Cobnuts and Filberts.

So the story goes the plants are grown for their shoots which are strong and straight and these are harvested to be used in the garden as sticks that can support roses or be weaved, hence the proximity to the Rose Garden. At Smallhythe Place the nuts are also harvested and sold in the Autumn.

It’s probably the Rose Garden that attracts most avid gardeners……

The Rose Garden is split into four main beds with lawned pathways running between and bordering each section. There are a whole host of wonderful rose specimens planted among other cottage garden plants. We were seeing the end of the flowering but there were still many fine examples…

Among the varieties is the “Ellen Terry Rose”. We were shown a photograph of the rose, but saw no flowering evidence. However the bud below seems to be from a plant that is standing on the very spot that the Ellen Terry Rose is supposed to stand! So who knows it could be the very thing!!

The “Ellen Terry Rose” was produced by W.E.Chaplin in their Waltham Cross nursery in 1925. It is a pale yellow, sweetly scented tea rose.

The closest example of a similar tea rose I could find is this rather beautiful example….

As you can see Smallhythe Place is well worth a visit. It is cared for by The National Trust and the house and gardens are open from 3rd March – 31st October, Saturday to Wednesday (closed Thursday and Friday), 11am – 5pm or dusk if earlier.

Further information can be found on the National Trust website at and also at