Thursday, September 7, 2017

Finally Sissinghurst Gardens

One final and very belated blog about my trip to the UK in July. The day after Great Dixter, we made the journey to Sissinghurst Castle. The day started badly as our journey was spoiled by a school mini bus that collided with us, leaving us a little jumpy. I have been to Sissinghurst before but not recently and the beautiful gardens soon took away the bad taste of the accident.


 My first visit was probably in 1969 - yes I am that old! It was a student trip, from Writtle College, organized by John Sales (we called him Freddy for some unknown reason!) John eventually became Gardens Advisor for the National Trust for many years.  On this particular day we had visited somewhere in the morning and then stopped at a pub for lunch. In those days I was very naive and rather puritanical and I, along with a few other like-minded students decided we wouldn't waste time in the pub but would walk to the gardens and get started. As you can imagine, it caused chaos when it was discovered that we were missing! Freddy was not pleased!


The gardens at Sissinghurst surround the remains of an ancient manor house. There is still a lovely old 16C house and a splendid Elizabethan tower  but its the garden that makes Sissinghurst iconic.  The property was derelict when bought by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson in 1930 and they proceeded to create a garden that is even today one of the most spectacular in the UK. Vita and Harold were married and had a son but their committment was not exactly the norm! Both had extramarital liaisons with members of the same sex yet maintained a loving relationship. Vita was a writer and was very influenced by the author Virginia Wolfe. The garden is based on a series of 'rooms' each with a different theme or style. There is a rose garden, herb garden, cottage garden, lime walk and the famous white garden.  This was very much the fashion in the mid 20C and shows the influence of Gertrude Jekyl and the architect Edwin Lutyens.  Hidcote Garden in Gloucestershire was created at the same time in a similar style. Both properties are owned and managed by the National Trust.




















And finally I was fascinated to see Vita's writing room in the tower and this  amazing old printing press. As a kid at school I was taught how to set type the traditional way and then had to print school programs on a press just like this. All powered by me on the treadle - slave labor when I think back now!