An Adventure in Gardens, the Weald of Kent
Of all the delectable islands, the Neverland is the snuggest & most compact…… not large and sprawling, you know, with tedious distance between one adventure & another, but nicely crammed.
J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan.
When it comes to gardens I like nothing better than to stroll, admire the collections of beautiful flowers, and imagine the inhabitants of the house and how they like to garden. I especially like the messy, scattered garden with vines dripping over the garden gate, and paths that invite you to explore. It’s even better if there is a flower box of riotous color haphazardly framing the window ledges of the small cottage, nestled in the garden, as if just plunked in, as an after thought. Pieces of art and sculpture placed in a specific spot draw your eye and add to the charm of the garden. I have just returned from several weeks in the United Kingdom, specifically in Kent and Sussex, traipsing through local gardens and visiting magnificent estate homes with acres and acres of gardens. Whew! We lodged in a barn in the middle of the weald, down a mile-long gravel road, wide enough for one car at a time, passing by the field of rabbit warrens and watching for the hop of a bunny on our daily treks into the countryside.
Planning our adventure was one of the fun “bits.” I love the “planning” part! Where to go, what to see? One thing leads to another. First, I looked for places I knew would be of interest. What about the Chelsea Flower Show? No, too crowded and I wanted more rural. Hever Castle during Rose Week? Closer, but not quite right. Then I read a wonderful book, called A Fine Romance, by Susan Branch. It’s about falling in love with the English countryside and her adventures when visiting England.
I loved it and the more I read the more I was drawn to Kent and the village of Tenterden. So, I set out to learn all about Kent and especially Tenterden. I also learned more about the National Trust. The National Trust, since 1895, has been preserving the countryside and hundreds of historic properties in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. I first heard of it when reading all about Beatrix Potter and her home in the Lake District, which was left to the National Trust. The properties restored include huge estates to the small and quirky. Just right up my alley. So our first priority was to join the National Trust, (it’s called the “Royal Oak Society “ in the U.S ) which allowed us to receive a handbook with maps of all the places to visit with the National Trust and a pass to get in all of them for a year and a pass for parking at the different locations.
What a must this is! You don’t realize all the places available to visit until to see them on the maps! So that was a reference point to start with. Where could we set up our “base camp” closest to the sites we wanted to see? Well it still remained Tenterden for us. Then I heard about the National Garden Scheme. What in the world was that? Had to research it before final decisions were made!
The National Garden Scheme was founded in 1927 to open “gardens of quality, character and interest to the public for charity.” Originally the admission fees raised money for district nurses. This was changed in 1948 with the formation of the National Health Service. The National Gardens Scheme has given more than 43 million pounds to nursing and care facilities since the time it opened. Since I am a retired RN this was near and dear to my heart. These are “local” gardeners and their gardens. No big estates, (but some seemed to me like they were!) One woman I was chatting with on our walk through a local garden invited me to her garden, as well, which was not on the list, but exclaimed, “it’s only 12 acres, of course.” So as you can imagine, we visited the “potager,” snuggled behind the small cottage, to large landscaped gardens with “rooms” of flowering blooms. All gardeners were proud of their gardens, more than willing to tell you about them and happy that they were able to do their “bit.”
In 2013 there were over 3700 gardens open, which were all vetted to make sure they are all of sufficient interest. Each gardener opens his garden (usually on a weekend), one or two days during the year. I was so excited! But, it takes some planning! “The National Garden Schemes, “Yellow Book”,” can be purchased each year, which lists all the gardens and when they will be open.
Maps, directions, type of garden, and particular interest are included. We were really in the thick of the countryside when directions would reveal, “just go down the gravel road for a mile and then when you get to the yellow mailbox turn right on that gravel road and proceed on to the canal road and windmill place. Light refreshments offered.”
This as going to be one of our best adventures! So after months of looking up gardens and coordinating them with places on the National Trust we were ready to make our way to the “Garden of England,” Kent. We were about to set off on a gardener’s dream! See you tomorrow on our way to the garden!
21 Responses to “An Adventure in Gardens, the Weald of Kent”
Thanks so much for your informative introduction to the Weald garden tour. Very enjoyable to be hearing about it as you go. Next best thing to being there. Thanks again.
Thanks Ron,I have been gone most of the summer and have lots of catching up to do!
Can’t wait for your next installment. I can imagine myself right there with you!
We only took 4000 pictures!
Lovely post and pictures CadyLuck. I bet you are glad of your digital camera: imagine having to develop and print 4000 photographs!
Denzil, so good to hear from you! Are you still walking and busy with church activities? Please keep me posted! I have been gone most of the summer so I am way behind on everyone’s activities. Where we were in the UK the WI-FI was slow. I would not be taking nearly as many pictures at all if I had to develop them! What a boon the digital camera is! I do take my camera everywhere and when in discussions about things or reading about something I find myself saying, “You know I think I have a picture of that!”
Hi there, I was wondering where you had got to and then after a few weeks of not much time for blogging I return to find all these wonderful posts from you about an area close to my heart. I was born in Hampshire and then my parents moved to West Sussex. I am going to enjoy reading this series. The National Garden Scheme is a great idea. I would love my garden to be good enough, but although my main herbaceous border is good for a few months a year, I don’t think I have sufficient interest elsewhere to merit a place just yet. Maybe given a few years I can improve the other parts. You did very well to plan a whole trip around visiting gardens which only open on certain days. Sounds my kind of holiday.
Annette, I have missed talking with you! Oh my the”English Garden Tour” was one of my favorite vacations! SB was dubious, but he really enjoyed it too! I knew nothing about the National Garden Scheme, but oh how I was impressed! I learned so much from visiting the gardens both on the Scheme and through the National Trust!!!! I am thinking about doing it again next year, but can’t decide if I should go back to Kent and Sussex or pick somewhere else. I found a GARDEN SHED to stay in, but they were booked up this year. Would love to go and stay in that! More later, I look forward to hearing from you!
A Garden Shed? I am intrigued. I am very impressed with your research and your spreadsheet. There are so many beautiful parts of this country that I would have to recommend trying somewhere else. Where have you been before? I would have to say come up to Scotland, but the weather can be very disappointing up here even though the scenery and gardens are as good as anywhere. If you stay down south you would love the Isle of Wight.
I will have to check out the Isle of Wight! I have been to Edinburgh, York, Bath, the Lake District, Wales and of course London. I was thinking of Devon and Cornwall. But I really liked Kent and Sussex and there were still lots I didn’t get to. I am sold on the National Garden Scheme and the National Trust.
Devon and Cornwall would be lovely too. I don’t know them well. The Isle of Wight is like going back in time. You take the ferry from Portsmouth. You would also love the Cotswold area south of Stratford on Avon. There are some beautiful villages there but it is rather popular with tourists. I don’t know why I am giving you advice, you have probably seen more of the UK than I have! We keep meaning to see more, but at the end of the day always choose to go abroad where the weather is more predictable.
Yes I have been to the Cotswolds too! There are just too many places to see! Did you get the email about the garden shed? I sent it to your email address this morning!
No – I will check now.
Lovely garden tour series. I’m finally getting time to go through all your posts. I intended to do this earlier when I first saw them, but now I’m catching up because I don’t want to miss these. The National Trust and National Garden Scheme was a really great idea, and I’m impressed with your travel planning. Also I like the idea of picking a base camp for your garden visits. I loved Cornwall where my grandparents were born, but didn’t get enough time to spend there when we visited England and Scotland in 2000.
Doug I was so impressed with the National Trust and the National Garden schemes that I have already booked next year. We will be going to Cornwall, base at St Ives, and then back to Kent,this time staying in Benenden. There was a Potting Shed I wanted to book last year to stay in and it was booked ALL summer, so I came home and booked it for next summer! Loved the trip, the driving, and all the beautiful gardens, and the estates!
Sounds great. You will love it. My grandfather was born in Pendeen, Cornwall (SW from St Ives). We visited there, Penzance, Mousehole, and Land’s End during our visit in 2000. I have a 2nd cousin who lives near St. Ives, near her father. I visited another 1st cousin (once removed) in Penzance and his sister in Mousehole.
I’m doing my research now so I know about Penzance, and Mousehole . I’m really wondering the real time it will take me to drive places. I always double the time no matter what the map says! Ha!
We have never been to Cornwall so I thought it was time to go! The driving will be interesting, I’m sure as a sideline!
I love the Open Gardens scheme. We’ve been lucky enough to visit a few in the past but nothing this year. It’s a bit late now but I’ll have a check. 🙂
We liked the gardens so much and the English countryside we are going back next year !
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