06 June 2012

UKDay3: Driving to Sissinghurst


Let's just say I don't like driving in the UK. I had no problem with the left side drive, and I absolutely loved the roundabouts. But I hated, and I mean hated the narrow roads. M25, no problem, the larger A roads, a breeze, then suddenly I found us in our rather wide Passat feeling like every oncoming vehicle was going to smash right into my face. To make up for it I decided to let the left side of the car meet the curb a few times. So what would it be head-on collision or to spin out wildly because my wheels were up on the curb?

By the time we got to Sissinghurst I was a basket case. And since we had to drive again the next day, and the next, and the next, I had a hard time letting go of my anxiety. And, I had planned the driving part so carefully that I felt like I had let myself (and John) down by not being able to actually drive very well in England.  I should add that I am a very good and safe driver in the US. Anyhoo, all of this had me feeling more than a little stressed. As the day wore on I started to feel a bit better about it all, but I still had this underlying feeling of just wanting the whole week to be over. Not a good way to feel about a vacation.

Not to worry, the anxiety was remedied the next day. I started off thinking I would get used to the driving and everything would be okay. But I drove for about five minute and then just pulled over and had John take over. Having driven on a lot of twisty, narrow roads in California in his youth, John was much better at it than I was. As many of you know I am someone who always wants (needs) to be in control. So giving up the control of the car was a big thing, but I was in such a bad way that it felt so good to let someone else drive. And it wasn't too long before I actually started to enjoy myself.

But, back to Sissinghurst. We had been there once before in July of 2006 or so. The weather the day we arrived felt a lot like that hot, sunny, July day. It was great weather to be there, but the sun was so bright that it made taking pictures pretty difficult. Not to mention that the garden was only open from 11 to 5, which doesn't give one the opportunity to take advantage of morning or evening light for photos.

For those who might not know, Sissinghurst was the home of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson. The bought the place around 1937 and turned the wreck of a property into one of the most important and influential gardens in England, if not the world.


I chatted with Harvey a bit. He is cataloguing the 4,000 books at Sissinghurst.
Not only indicating title, author, publisher, etc. but  also noting when there are
handwritten notations and marginalia. Raise your hand if you would like this job.
Plus he sits in the middle of the main, cozy library at Sissinghurst. Although
I would hate to deal with tourists, unless they are informed, intelligent ones like myself.

Vita's study is half way up the tower and is so very cool.
I am the blue speck at the top right.

See, that's me.



The orchard meadow is my favorite part.

The guy on the bench has the right idea.

The building furthest back is the B&B we spent the night in.




Reading The Flame Trees of Thika in the orchard meadow overlooking the moat.








One of the nice things about staying on the estate was having the time to walk the trails. I love, love, love, the meadows.


Although we took this walk midday. We also went this way in the evening as we walked to a pub for dinner.

We should have taken our camera to dinner to take advantage of the evening light, but sometimes you just need
to leave it at home. The pub we went to was called The Three Chimneys and I had the most delicious
smoked haddock on a bed of creamy leeks. Probably my best meal of the trip.

So many things going on in these meadows.


Couldn't you just die? I felt like I was in a novel.
This was the view from our bedroom window.

Don't you just expect to see someone in a bonnet?


14 comments:

  1. You guys make everything look so beautiful! But this setting looks very sneezy too, I have to say. And yes, I especially love that last picture - what a setting for an unexpected (bonneted) tryst of some sort!

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  2. That is so beautiful. I've always wanted to go there. Sorry you don't like our English country roads though - personally I hate motorways and dual carriageways, so I always look for alternative routes that take us miles out of our way and add hours to the journey!

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  3. Oh how I love Vita Sackville-West and how I would love to go to Sissinghurst! I'm sure you've read 'The Heir,' her tale of a young man inheriting a large estate and restoring it, surely inspired from her own life...so good! also the memoir of Gordon Langly Hall, who grew up on the grounds, moved to NY took, managed to inherit a fortune from the Whitney's, moves to Charleston, SC, becomes one of the first transgenders and marries a black man. in the 60's. an entertaining read to say the least.

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  4. Oh, Thomas! You poor thing. If I had known you were coming I would have driven you to Sissinghurst - I have never been - despite it being 30 minutes or so from my mum's house! Your pictures have convinced me that I must go this summer.

    I'm so glad you had such a lovely time in Kent. It's the best county in all of England!

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  5. Lovely, lovely, lovely! I have just had the best time sipping my tea and reading the posts you have written about your travels in England, Thomas. You have no idea just how much time I spend daydreaming about these stunning places and yes, a laneway in Kent could absolutely make me swoon!

    My daughter is studying in Canterbury and keeps pinching herself over the beauty she keeps discovering in the surrounding areas.

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  6. Beyond jealous. What a fabulous place.

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  7. Color green with envy! I so want to go to Sissinghurst someday! And, yes, totally want Harvey's job!

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  8. Love these type of gardens -such a beautiful estate. Great photographs too!

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  9. Aim towards the middle of the road. the oncoming cars will move to accomodate you, the parked ones won't.

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  10. Love, love, love. I am heading to England in late June (after a week in Istanbul, yay!). And your posts are getting me primed for the trip.

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  11. Yeah, a trip to Sissinghurst probably *is* better if you go on a day when it's open... oops.

    I've never driven in any country but the UK, and I still find the narrow lanes a nightmare. But I am quite a nervous driver everywhere... and definitely prefer to be driven.

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  12. Jill: It was surprisingly non-sneezy.

    Christine: I had originally planned our drive from Kent to the Cotswolds all on back roads, turning the 3.5 hour trip into a 5.5 hour trip. But the flat tire kind of cancelled those plans.

    Daniel: I haven't read The Heir. It sounds great. You would love seeing Vita's study in the tower. It is so cozy and it looks like she has just been in it.

    Rachel: You are such an adventurer, I can't believe you haven't ventured to S'hurst.

    Darlene: Well, steep more tea because there are still more photos to come.

    Amy: It really is idyllic.

    Stefanie: I do think it funny how they had the sign in front of Harvey like he was an animal in the zoo.

    Stefan: John does a great job with the camera. Just wish the light had been better.

    Meg: That is exactly what John kept telling me, but my mind just kept seeing doom. That is why he was the better driver.

    Kim: Istanbul and England should be an interesting contrast.

    Simon: That must have been so frustrating to alight from the car only to find it closed.

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  13. RE: "This was the view from our bedroom window." Where were you staying?

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  14. Nancy: We stayed at the Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse B&B. The 9th picture from the top shows a view of the B&B itself.

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