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Sunday, June 19, 2011


Sunday morning, following a 'bang up' English breakfast, we drove just a few miles down the road to Batemans, the former home of Rudyard Kipling, given to the National Trust in 1939 following the death of his American wife, Carrie. I have always loved Kipling's verse from the time I learnt 'The Glory of the Garden", at the age of eight and which I can still recite word for word today. George Orwell wrote about " the powerful seduction of his colorful and most rhythmic verse"


Before we venture into the gardens let me first take you into the Jacobean house, which Kipling purchased in 1902.

Yes, the house really was built that long ago.

The front door leads into a large entrance hall with well used fireplace.

Kipling's study is just as he left it on his death in 1936. It is filled with memories of his colorful life in India and the things that inspired him to write so many books.

A portrait of Carrie hangs over the fireplace.

The Kiplings entertained many guests and this bedroom would have been used by guests during the visit. They would have to take notice of these rules pinned on the bedroom door! And woe betide if they overstayed their welcome. Kipling would then take them out into the garden to show them the sundial, which bore the words, 'It's later than you think'

When in 1907, he received the Nobel prize for literature he spent the 7,700 pound prize money on building the rose garden and pond.

On the right you can see the pleached lime allee which was in place when the Kiplings bought the house.

The pear arch is over 80 years old. I read somewhere that the pears were no longer producing so I think they must have replanted. They would, of course, have to be the same variety as planted originally.

View looking towards the old oast houses.

Oast house with one cowl converted into a dovecote. Many oast houses in the Sussex and Ket countryside have been converted into homes.
Twice a year the National Trust visit the property to make sure that all the plantings are contemporary to the time the Kiplings lived there. I'm sure this is a little frustrating for the head gardener.


There are really two houses at Scotney; the one at the top of the hill built in 1837 and the medieval moated, ruined castle. We toured the upper house first but were really more interested to see the old castle and the gardens which surround it.

A path leads down the hill through enormous banks of rhododendrons.

We had missed the height of the bloom but there were still some later flowering varieties to enjoy. England had an unusually warm spell in April which brought on flowering rather early.

When the gardens were being designed the old castle was selectively ruined to produce a more romantic scene.

A sky had looked threatening for some time and a sudden downpour made everyone run for cover.

A perfect time to use the camera.


Here I am looking to capture that perfect shot before we head off to Sissinghurst.


You might expect that one of the most popular gardens in the country would be busy on a Sunday. After all Sunday lunch is a big event in Britain with restaurants all over the country offering great prices on their carvery. Then, what better thing to do than to take the family along to one of the Trust properties. There are hundreds of them, from stately homes to castles, abbeys, churches, coastlines and of course gardens. Sissinghurst is a favorite. We arrived around 3:30pm when many people were leaving and a sudden rain shower had people running for cover indoors.

It is really magic to walk past the row of oast houses and in through the arch way.

This part of the main house and the tower are all that remain of a manor house that was built in 1480. For the time it was unusual for houses to be built of brick. The estate had many lives and owners until it fell into serious decay. It wasn't until 1930 that Vita Sackville-West and her husband Sir Harold Nicholson, bought the estate to fulfill Vita's desire to build a garden. The couple had different ideas about design, Harold preferring the more classical , structured look and Vita the flamboyant and romantic planting. Harold designed the layout of the garden which Vita then planted.

Here is a plan of the property. After the deaths of Vita and Harold the Nicholson sons decided that the property would best be cared for by the National Trust. Ownership was transferred in 1967.

The best overview of the property is from the top of the tower.

Vita's white garden.

The herb garden.

I left with the impression that this property must have a big endowment. Everything was immaculate.
We had dinner plans with an old college friend in the evening so we did rather rush around the garden. We had to drive down to Eastbourne for dinner.


  1. What a sensible fellow Rudyard Kipling was, to spend his Nobel prize money on his garden! Your photos make me feel I understand these gardens so much better. Unfortunately, I now want to live in all of these houses!

  2. Once again, thanks for sharing your lovely photos!

  3. I've been watching Monty Don's series Around the World in 80 Gardens, and it's so neat to see some of the English gardens he featured through your 'eyes'. I'm enjoying your trust visit posts so much, thank you!

  4. Thanks! Even the house rules are good, but nice garden views. Inspiring!

  5. Thanks again, for such a great tour.
    It's wonderful to see houses and gardens that are so old still cared for.
    I do think Kipling's prize money was well spent.

  6. Sissinghurst is magnificent. I heard in an NPR interview (or perhaps it was on Marketplace?) that the son has gotten back involved in management of the place; now food for the restaurant is being grown on site, and he has other plans he wants to convince the trust to implement as well.

  7. Thanks for sharing yet again!!! What beautiful pictures. The one with the castle and the pond is simply beautiful. I also love the photo from tower looking down - how stunning the gardens are. The shot of the pathway looking straight ahead is a great shot as well. ALL of them are! I laughed at the rules posted on the door. That is funny. Again, thanks for sharing was was obviously an incredible and memorable trip!

  8. One of these days I will stroll those hedged paths. Thanks for the preview.

  9. Wonderful collection of photos. It's not just the garden,but the buildings and the story of the Nicholson family makes it fascinating.Sissinghurst is on my "must visit" list as long as I get a private viewing. It can get incredibly busy!
    I'm very tempted to spend more of my waking hours visiting other gardens.

  10. Loved your photos and commentary! Have been to Sissinghurst twice, a marvelous garden,as several other gems in Kent but never to Batemans or Scotney Castle. You had quite a full day! I would be interested in how you planned you trip ,what resources you used, etc.

    Gale from Penna. 2013


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