Sissinghurst on Leap Day

The last day of February brings more squalls from the west with intervals of piercing blue sky and pristine spring sunshine. The castle garden is subdued with the plants starting to grow but needing a run of warmer, gentler days; white magnolias are bursting; the crocus, iris, squill and summer snowflake are out; and aContinue reading “Sissinghurst on Leap Day”

Knole Park

The huge sweet chestnut, beech and oaks at Knole are turning to rich golds and reds.  The sky this evening is clear and clean but the sun drops quickly; long shadows fall behind the avenues of great trees, pierced by blinding shafts of brilliant sunlight that fall on the dying bracken and grasses. The fallowContinue reading “Knole Park”

The Dart Estuary

The Dart Estuary is a sinuous flooded valley, lined with ancient oak woodlands that run down to, and hang over, the water. The influence of the Atlantic creates a damp, dark understorey of holly, birch and butcher’s broom with a ground flora rich in ferns and mosses. Between Dartmouth and Totnes, there are a handful of villagesContinue reading “The Dart Estuary”

Sissinghurst’s Rite of Spring

The gardeners continue to create colour wheel harmonies; bright and gaudy; cool and relaxed; the garden compartments have diverse compositions.  The spring bulbs, like brass, shout the loudest with purple and red fanfares everywhere. More muted arrangements in spring greens and whites are often simpler tunes in minor keys. All the many troughs, large and small, haveContinue reading “Sissinghurst’s Rite of Spring”

Ightham Mote

The rich afternoon light of autumn lifts the ancient, dark-tiled manor house out of the deep shade within the narrow, wooded valley. A dammed lake feeds a black mote around the richly patterned square of stone and half-timbered buildings within which is hidden a small, beautiful, cobbled quadrangle. On a dull dead winter’s day, the place is rheumy; drippingContinue reading “Ightham Mote”

Cobham Wood and Darnley Mausoleum

October 9th A father and son are up in a walnut tree wobbling and stretching, chasing a rich harvest of green nuts. A little owl calls from a huge oak and two kestrels hang about. We walk up the track to the ancient woodland that is still not autumn gold but remains stubborn green andContinue reading “Cobham Wood and Darnley Mausoleum”


In the Spring of 1939, my mother accompanied her mother on a visit by the Hildenborough Women’s Institute to Sissinghurst Castle Garden.  The group alighted from a charabanc and were shown round the gardens by the owner, Vita Sackville-West. My mother, not quite in her teens, remembers a vibrant, kind woman with an easy manner.Continue reading “Sissinghurst”

St John’s Jerusalem

On a July afternoon, a cock blackbird sunbathes in the hot sun splayed on the dry grass. I hope to see flat flies run for the cool shade of the adjacent copse or perhaps feather lice fried but no such luck.  The pair are nesting in the copse somewhere and both appear from time to time butContinue reading “St John’s Jerusalem”