Trip to Sissinghurst Castle & Gardens with Astrid

Trip Start Apr 25, 2012
Trip End May 12, 2012

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What I did
Sissinghurst Castle Garden Kent
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, May 13, 2012

Astrid's sofa bed was quite comfortable and the duvet very cozy.  I slept like a log but awakened with a jolt around 7 am.  I tried to get back to sleep for a bit to give Astrid time to lie in, but then decided to shower.  The only thing was that I was an hour early.   I tried to organize for the day.  When Astrid got up, I had breakfast but her stomach felt a little off so she didn't.  She saw her foxes in the garden below the window and we watched the kits play and saw the mama and papa foxes.  After taking a bunch of photos we started off for the Sissinghurst Gardens.

Astrid carefully took me on another bus to Charring Cross Station so I could see how it went.  From there we got tickets to Staplehurst on the train.  From the train station we got a cab to the gardens.  The woman cab driver was taking an older man to visit his 92-yr-old father who had just come back from the hospital after a fall.  She told him to make sure to make his father a proper meal.  After dropping him off, she told us what a bad son he was because he didn't take care of his father, didn't want to visit him more than 5-10 minutes in the hospital and didn't want to stay with him today because he had his own washing to do.  The cabbie was definitely on top of things here in Staplehurst.  She told us how we would get to the gardens so much faster than the group taking the bus..

Sissinghurst is in Kent and we saw the oast buildings for drying hops along the way.  There were fields of bright green grass (since there had been record rains this spring), bright yellow rape plants, some cows and every once in a while you could see some oasts.  Sissinghurst is famous for its former owners:  Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, both writers.  Vita's White Garden is also well-known and copied.

We were dropped off in the parking lot and somehow ended up in the gift shop first thing.  Astrid was buying some postcards so I had to as well.  While looking around, I saw some wool lap rugs on sale and was attracted immediately.  We went on to the entrance and started walking around the gardens.  I really loved the setting and the buildings - the tower and the cottages and the oasts there.  The gardens were very pretty and laid out in a variety of beds - a long allee, a maze-like section, some less formal ares, and some more grassy, wild areas going out to the moat.  There were the common cottage garden spring flowers, including some really beautiful columbines, dwarf iris, lilacs, wisteria, et al.  The roses hadn't really started yet.  And there were the English blue bells scattered under some trees.  And the gardens were complete with trillium and helebores.

The buildings included the tower - that was quite high.  The Priest's Cottage was where Vita and Harold's two sons lived.  Vita and Harold each did her or his own writing in a separate cottage on the grounds.  Wait, I thought at least one of them wrote in the tower - hmmm.  The estate had had a castle with buildings in a square in earlier times.  The estate had been rented for use as a prisoner-of-war camp in the 1700's after the 7 Years War and was ruined in the process.  It was restored to some extent but not all the buildings were rebuilt so the buildings were rather scattered and the family used different ones for different purposes.  The library was also open for viewing. 

After visiting all the nooks and crannies of the garden area, including a walk to the moat - now more a stream-like pond - I joined Astrid at the restaurant where I had a lovely coffee-walnut cake.  We had another pass at the gift shop where I bought the wool blanket for Candae and then checked out the vegetable garden and the hops exhibit in the oast buildings.  I took a lot of photos of the old photos of people gathering the hops.  The huge burlap bags of hops were brought to the oasts where they were dried.  The was a hops press in the exhibit as well and you could look into one of the strange, conical - witch hat-shaped buildings and see the netting that the hops lay on while the heat from the fire below dried them.  Hops apparently are strongly associated with the Kent landscape and London East-enders would come in the summer time to harvest the hops.  It was a sort of recreational work I guess. 

We had decided to avoid the expensive taxi ride back to the train station and take the bus.  First we had to walk to the Sissinghurst bus stop.  It was not a long walk but we weren't sure how long it would take and needed to catch the last bus back so it was a bit anxious.  The countryside here is very pretty with the hedges and fences and green fields AND bluebells.  We waited awhile for the bus and then found that it was over 3 pounds each to ride the 5 min to the train station.  We just missed the train and had to wait a half hour for the next one, but that wasn't bad.  This time Astrid decided to get off at the London Bridge Station and take a different bus back.  Now I could use my oyster card again and didn't have to pay extra.  We got off at the stop next to the park by Astrid's street.  It is a short walk to Astrid's flat.

Even though Astrid hasn't had much sleep since she got back from her trip to Jordan, she whipped up a lovely meal of rosti - a Swiss potato dish, fresh asparagus and a green salad.  I hung my washed clothes up on a rack in the living room - where I am settled in.  I can't believe I messed up again today.  Astrid needed to do some housekeeping stuff on the internet and was working on her laptop.  I turned over the router to get the code for the internet and disrupted the router and Astrid lost her connection.  Luckily, she was able to reconnect but passed some frustrating moments while she tried to get on and couldn't.   So now I am writing up my blog off-line so I won't mess her up again.  Then I will upload some photos.  Tomorrow I need to get a new adapter for US->UK because my UK adapter doesn't work here.  We substituted my EU adapter but it is the one that sparks so I won't use it here and so I can't charge anything until I get a new adaper.  Tomorrow hopefully.

I haven't exactly decided what to do tomorrow.  Today it started out sunny, but was quite cool.  Then it got cloudy while we were taking photos of the garden.  Most times the photos of gardens that I have taken in cloudy weather aren't that good.  Oh, well.


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