Last Sunday was cold, damp and dreary and faced with another day of staying in the house or getting out, we decided to spend the afternoon at Sissinghurst. The property is owned by the National Trust, and one of their most famous properties. Previously owned by Vita Sackville West and her husband Harold Nicolson, and bought in 1930, the property was transformed into an internationally influential garden. This tradition of gardening continues today and even in the winter, the garden has lots to offer.
I’ve been to Sissinghurst many times, but it is only in recent years that they have allowed the garden to be open in winter. There are a number of flowers that were popping through the winter soil, including Aconites, Snowdrops, Crocuses and Viburnum. In the formal beds, Hellebores added colour to the still sleeping earth. At times we had the garden to ourselves, which is always joyful at a National Trust property.
After a tour of the garden, we made our way up to the top of Vita’s tower. I love to stand by the gate of her creative sanctuary, that she used as her writing room. The shelves lined with books and her desk stood against a wall. Few were allowed to enter the room when she was alive, and still very few are able to enter. There is still an air of mystery in the room. It’s filled with feminine touches, there are paintings on the wall and flowers adorn the small table in the middle. Oh to be able to have such a space. At the top of the tower, there are also great views across the Kent countryside and it allows an aerial view of the garden. Also, a look at the new garden being installed at Priest’s House, a Mediterranean dry garden.
Of course, no visit to a National Trust property is complete without a trip to the Tea Shop. On this particular day, there was lots of seating and, of course, we had a Cream Tea, it would be rude not to. I really enjoy visiting NT properties in the Winter. They are usually less crowded, and you are able to wander at your leisure, rather than feeling pressured to move when people want to be where you are.
- There is free parking at Sissinghurst if you are a member. If not, then it costs £3 for the day
- The site is mostly level and therefore good for the less abled, although to gain access to the tower there are a number of stairs to be climbed.
- There is a great little teashop, which is reasonably priced. They also use over six tonnes of their own produce in the cafe.
- Sissinghurst is drenched in history and there is now more research being undertaken around the 1700s when the property was a rather brutal prison for French Soldiers. Also its use during WW2 and home to the Women’s Land Army.
- It’s a site that all ages will enjoy. There are flowers, gardens, history, and superb walks around the Castle grounds.
- Throughout the year, Sissinghurst put on exhibitions which range from International Garden Photographer of the Year to smaller ones, such as the marvellous Beatrix Potter exhibition last year. But more on her soon.
So, grab your wellies, put on a coat and enjoy the wonders of Sissinghurst. A great day out in both Winter and Summer.