A gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon on Leith Hill and a climb up to the top of the tower, over 1000 feet above sea level.
Looking north from the summit of the tower to our local stomping ground of Ranmore common and the steep escarpments of the North Downs.
And south over the Weald to the South Downs. On a clear day you can see a glimmer of sea through the Shoreham Gap.
Leith Hill Place has an interesting history. Originally an “H” shaped Elizabethan house it was remodelled in Palladian style in the 1760s by Richard Hull who built the tower. It was bought in 1847 by Josiah Wedgwood III, the grandson of the famous potter, who married his cousin Caroline, the sister of Charles Darwin. Josiah and Caroline had four daughters including Margaret who married the Rev. Arthur Vaughan Williams. Margaret was widowed when very young and returned to her family home with her two-year old son Ralph who grew up to become the famous composer. Ralph eventually inherited the house and gave it to the National Trust in 1944. The house was subsequently tenanted, most recently by a boarding school, but the NT is now running it as a visitor attraction with concerts given by young musicians from the Royal Academy of Music held in the beautiful south-facing drawing room, the most amazing sound scape up in the attic rooms and tea and scones baked in the old kitchen and served by volunteers on summer weekends.
Monday morning and we’re packed and ready to take our daughter back to her new student digs at Canterbury.
Monday afternoon we stopped at Sissinghurst for an ice cream and a walk around the estate. There is plenty to explore outside the garden including lakes and wood pasture and fields of ripening crops.
We walked through orchards of apples, damsons and cherries, tasting the latter for ripeness and later buying a kilo of cherries from the farm gate to enjoy at home.
In the kitchen garden the salads looked so attractive in their orderly rows and hundreds and thousands of sweet peas scented the air. We discovered the garden isn’t irrigated and the soil is enriched by tons of composted green waste from the local council.
We had a pot of tea and went into the garden after 4 o’clock when most of the visitors had left for the day. We climbed the tower and marvelled at the gardens laid out below. The meadow grass in the orchard was being cut by motorised scythe and raked up by hand. Hard work on a hot day. This year the meadow is being harrowed, the first time in 70 years, to break up the thick mat of perennial grasses and allow better seed distribution and germination of the meadow flowers.
I have a weakness for roses and clematis growing together.
The White Garden was at its magical best. I planted Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ in my garden in 1991 and often wonder if I’m brave enough to acquire a piece of modern sculpture to peer out from beneath its branches. I’m not sure, but I can copy growing white sweet peas as a counterfoil to my usual ‘Cupani’ and I have already bought a packet of seed of white Nigella ‘African Queen’ to sow now at the allotment.
The Cottage Garden was a complete contrast.
I especially liked this view through a wicket gate across the overflowing laundry copper to the cottage door.
My favourite plant combination of the day was Lilium martagon (Turk’s cap lily) growing through Astrantia in the Nuttery. I’m going to try to copy this at home, maybe even growing the lilies from seed as suggested by Dan Pearson.
Hollyhocks are the plant of the moment. The dark plummy-purple (H. Rosea Nigra) complementing the purple tones from Clematis Ville de Lyon and C. Perle d’Azur, Geranium psilostemon and deep purple opium poppies. So simple but so effective.
The two flanks of the original Tudor buildings house the main house and the library and provide a wonderful lesson in clothing walls.
Coming home to an empty house on Monday was very strange and unsettling, but I know from my experience last September that I will soon get used to an empty nest again. I have a day or two when I feel inconsolably sad but then life kicks in and it’s business as usual. I started this blog partly as a way of helping to keep the children in touch with home and partly to have a record of home and garden and allotment over the course of a year and so far I think it’s working.
Of course with no children at home it is very easy to slip away for a night or two and that’s just what we did at the end of last week. Our destination was Rathfinney wine estate near Alfriston, East Sussex and it was so good it deserves a post to itself.