EVERY year many thousands of people are drawn to Kent, the “Garden of England,” to visit the world-famous jewels in the crown of Britain’s horticul-tural tradition: Sissinghurst, hallmarked by its spirit of intimacy and seclusion; and Scotney Castle Gardens, where drama and romance meet on a scenic stage. Look further afield, however, and you will find that Kent’s horticultural treasure chest brims with many more gems besides.
Sir Winston Churchill struck lucky near Sevenoaks in 1922. Although the house at Chartwell was dull and lack-lustre, Churchill recognised the value of its setting. A series of rock pools and channels, fed by the springs of the Chart Well, carried sparkling waters down to a pond-shaped swimming pool and trickled into two lakes nestling in a quiet combe. The priceless vista was further embellished by a gently upward sweep of surrounding woodland to the Weald of Kent, find out more about England and plan your tour by checking at this hotel price comparison website.
Architect Philip Tilden transformed the house into a bright and airy family home, where six large doors now link the house to its brilliant surroundings and nearly every window affords a quite panoramic view. However, it was Lady Churchill, ably assisted by her head gardener, Mr Vincent, who made the gardens sparkle.
The delicate pink and white Flori-bunda and Hybrid Tea roses, which pervade the walled rose garden beneath the north front of the house, illustrate her preference for simplicity, as does the stunning contrast of white foxgloves and royal blue anchusa in the Water Garden.
Solid gold gleams in the Golden Rose Walk, the Churchill’s golden wedding anniversary present from their children, where 32 yellow and golden roses, set amongst the fruits of Malus “Golden Hornet,” are offset by catmint and Stachys byzantina, backed by a beech hedge.Find more about Churchill’s wedding here. They present a dazzling sight from the terrace throughout summer and early autumn.
After Churchill’s death in 1965, the talented hands of Lanning Roper, in consultation with Churchill’s youngest daughter, Mary Soames, gave the jewel a final polish. Flowering shrubs and climbers now add lustre to the walled gardens, whilst crab apples, rowan and robinias punctuate the grass near the orchard. Churchill’s studio carefully guards an unfinished canvas, still propped on its easel, and his spirit seems
to linger in the empty chair beside his favourite view over the goldfish pond, as though he wished for one more glimpse of this precious garden.
Groombridge Place is a truly ancient treasure trove, where medieval mounds, a knights’ jousting field and a stream-fed moat survived the English Civil War which largely destroyed the feudal castle built by Baron William Russell. Philip Packer, inspired by his close friends Sir Christopher Wren and John Evelyn, rebuilt the estate after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and his classical mansion, set in 164 acres of breathtaking parkland, now forms a stunning back-drop to the 17th century walled gardens. Topiary and fountains add height to formal schemes, peacocks roam the lawns and great stone urns stand impor-tantly by neatly clipped yew hedges flanking the vista to an Enchanted Forest, where further delights have recently been uncovered. A glittering string of mystical pools, believed to be fed by the same clear waters which gush from the Spring of Life discovered by Lord North in nearby Royal Tunbridge Wells in 1606, now sparkle beneath the leafy canopy of this ancient forest.