I have a friend on the Rust who is addicted to the TV hospital programme Holby even though he has a phobia of hospitals. It’s much the same with me and gardens.
I could not name you a single flower nor plant but like nothing better, especially in summer, than to roam in gardens.
In their later years a trip to gardens was one of the few things my parents could manage. These visits were organised months in advance and I would tag along. I had always wanted to visit Sissinghurst Castle, the home of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville West, and yesterday did so.
I am interested in diaries and diarists and Harold Nicolson was one of the best chronicler of the times still frequently cited in any history of the 1930s. “Keep a diary …” said Mae West “and one day that diary will keep you.” I suspect Harold Nicolson did not have a financial motive. He was a supreme writer – as was his wife Vita – and their son Nigel and his son Adam have continued the literary tradition.
Vita’s most famous lover was Virginia Woolf. Vita could not inherit Knole the home of the Sackville Wests because she was a woman. This always rankled with her.
So in 1932 she and Harold acquired Sissinghurst Castle, an Elizabethan manor owned by Sir Richard Baker, and built a magnificent garden there.
Because of the crowd as it was a warm summer’s day this was not that easy to navigate.
So I was pleased to find myself in more open land by a stream which led to a gazebo with breathtaking views over the Kentish Weald.
It must have been a wonderful spot to write. Despite passing my annual medical which included a cardiogram I decided not to risk the 78 stairs of the Tower where Vita wrote.
My strategy is the first time to get the lay of the land with a view to future visits. It would be a lovely place for a picnic.
Knole and Winston Churchill’s home Chartwell are not that far. With its gift shops some may say that the National Trust is too commercial I would argue that it has saved spectacular homes and gardens for the nation.