Friday, August 26, 2016

A Private Tour: Goddards Green Garden In Kent

Goddards Green Garden

The day our small Flora Garden tour group visited a private garden and family home, it turned out to be one of our favourite outings of our trip. Having bounced and woven along narrow country lanes to get there (it's about five minutes from Sissinghurst which we also visited),with a sharp turn into the entrance and there we were ... looking at this ancient, timber-framed house sitting in the midst of a three-acre setting, surrounded by gardens, a meadow and an orchard of apples, plums and cobnuts (a type of hazelnut traditionally grown in Kent).

The setting of the garden is quite rural, looking over fields to woods in the distance. As the brochure says, "The various parts of the garden are in contrasting styles, among them: rural informality around the pond; a traditional long border in front, shading into a meadow and birch grove."

Originally this house, more than 400 years old, belonged to one of the principal clothier families of Cranbrook, Kent. It was sold in the 1920s to the novelist and playwright, Temple Thurston. Later a family called Pearson owned the property for many years; it is believed they planted many of the scented roses which remain in the garden today. The present design of the garden has evolved since John and Linde Wotton bought Goddards Green in 1992.

It was John Wotton who was our amiable host the day our group arrived for a private tour. We were first served tea and cakes, freshly baked, and we sat outside at round garden tables. Although the cakes were delicious (I had a slice of Victoria Sponge) and the tea refreshing, no one lingered as we were all eager to see the gardens. And we were not disappointed.

One small lament:  Why didn't we bring or buy a book on the local flora
so we could have identified these dazzling blossoms?
We won't forget next time we visit.

Through the garden gate up into the grassy fields
which also boasted young fruit and nut trees growing in the midst.

A person could have spent hours wandering along these mowed pathways
listening to the insects and watching the breezes skim across this grassy pastoral view.

Besides the more natural areas,
we walked through that narrow entry at the back of the photo --

up from the house into a lovely laid out water garden and pond
surrounded by large hedges.

Long herbaceous borders at the front of the house

Even the driveway was gorgeous
with old stone buildings and ferny patches.

* * *

It was hard to say goodbye to this beautiful English country garden. So tranquil a place and we saw it in the late afternoon sunshine -- I think I felt its quiet beauty settling on the petals of my own soul and I didn't want to leave and scatter the peace that was enveloping me. But it was time to go.

♥  ♥  ♥

Now, for next time, I've already been working on a post. There are some lovely cakes we met during our visits to various tea shops, and we'd like you to meet them ... the cakes, that is. :) So a post about the English tradition of tea and cakes.

Wishing you a beautiful weekend,

With hugs,

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn, and Judi Dench

Hever Castle & Gardens. Talk about a romantic, fairy tale-like spot to visit. Dating back more than 700 years, Hever Castle used to be a medieval defensive castle, complete with gatehouse, water-filled moat, portcullis, AND drawbridge. See, I told you, it's fairy-tale stuff.

It's located in the village of Hever, Kent, 30 miles south-east of London, England. It began as a country house, built in the 13th century. From 1462 to 1539 it was the seat of the Boleyn, originally 'Bullen', family. It was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the fated woman who would eventually become King Henry VIII's second wife. Did you all see Wolf Hall, the six-part television drama where 'Thomas Cromwell helps Henry VIII overcome opposition to his fervent desire to marry Anne Boleyn'? If you are interested, that drama will fill you in with all the details.

It didn't take long for Anne once she was Queen to fall into disfavour with the King -- for she failed to provide a male heir. Accused of all manner of crimes, including treason, she was eventually beheaded. There is a prayer book on display inside the castle that is believed to be the one Anne took with her to her execution at the Tower. It bears the following inscription: Remember me when you do pray that hope doth lead from day to day. Anne Boleyn

That part is definitely not romantic; talk about Prince Charming turning into a big Toad!

Hever Castle later passed into the ownership of Anne of Cleves, one of Henry's later wives. The nerve of him! Over the ensuing centuries the castle fell into decline, but in the early 20th century a wealthy American, William Waldorf Astor, bought it and used his fortune to restore the castle and turn it into a lavish family home. Spectacular gardens were designed, and what a person sees today when she comes to visit is the result of his amazing vision. Not to mention the hard work of around 1,800 men over the span of four years to bring the designs and plans into reality. It's said that the garden is only now reaching its full maturity, all these decades later. I'm so glad to have seen it now.

While we were here, taking in the grand gardens and beautiful vistas, I tried imagining Anne Boleyn  running around and playing as a little girl.

It wouldn't be long before she was a pawn used to further her father's ambitions. Can you imagine it, at the tender age of 13, she joined the household of Margaret of Austria in the Netherlands before she became maid-of-honour to King Henry VIII's sister, Mary Tudor. From there she became maid-of-honour to Queen Claude of France, where she lived for nearly seven years until she returned to England to be lady-in-waiting for Queen Catherine.

Henry by now desperate for a male heir, turned his attentions to Anne and visited her often at Hever. She was to have said to him, "Your wife I cannot be, because you have a Queen already. Your mistress I will not be,"  which in turn started the chain of events that is a well known part of English history.

The day Rick and I visited, our tour only included the gardens. I was a little disappointed but there wasn't time for both the gardens and the castle. The gardens were quite spectacular, and in the end, I felt quite satisfied. So many beautiful spots to wistfully dream over.


Before we go any further, I want to tell you about a short video I found online where Dame Judi Dench talks about her personal attachment to Hever Castle and how she visits it often. The video was a segment of the Visit Britain television campaign broadcast.

I do encourage you to take 2-3 minutes to watch. The footage gives a wonderful overview and includes some sights I never captured with my own camera -- you'll see for yourself just how spectacular it all is.  You will find the clip HERE.

"There is a place very dear to my family and me
not far from where we live. We come to it in all weathers,
all seasons, and this is where we recharge our batteries: Hever Castle."
~ Dame Judi Dench

And, so it's time for a few photos of the gardens themselves.  The pictures can never do them justice; one only captures tiny glimpses of it all. But I hope you will still enjoy what I did manage to get.

"Nothing is more quintessentially English than a rose garden in full bloom, and the roses at Hever are particularly admired, with more than 4,000 beautifully displayed bushes creating a kaleidoscope of colour and wonderfully perfumed aromas." ~ excerpt from the Hever Castle souvenir guidebook

It's so true. Roses and England do go together like tea and biscuits (also so very English). I could be seen so often bent over the roses stealing yet another whiff. Their fragrance ... well, I hope you can just imagine it because it's not transferable in camera yet.



This area is called the Loggia and it is at the far end of the Italian Garden. It overlooks the 38-acre lake of which you catch a glimpse in the photos above and below. An interesting tidbit is that it took 800 men two years to dig that lake back in the early 1900's. That's a a lot of men digging a lot of dirt! But, oh! the view now!

Hundreds of trees grow in clusters around the banks,
while ducks and swans swim calmly past.

By the time I got my camera ready,
this one was moving on.

The photo above is from the Sunken Garden -- a walled garden within a garden. I did a small video, and though it's not the best, I hope it gives you an idea of what it looks like. A person could sit in this garden, just relaxing or sharing a little chat with a friend, even reading a book. It's so pretty and peaceful (except when the planes fly overhead). As you watch, you'll catch a glimpse of my hubby chatting with another member of our garden tour by the water lily pond.


There ... our visit to Hever Castle. I can see why Judi Dench loves to come here. Wouldn't it be amazing to see it in the autumn, and what about the Spring, when the daffodils are breaking out everywhere. We have to go back!

On that note, I'm off. It's Friday afternoon.Time to go sit out in my own garden and enjoy the beauty of the afternoon breezes and sunshine. It may not look like Hever's but it's my little corner of God's green earth where many good memories happen too.

  Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Something Light and Yummy For A Hot Day

 Found on my Facebook page today

Such a warm summer day. Hot, but not so blistering as to make your cheeks melt on the sidewalk like this fellow's. Perhaps that's what they mean when they say 'the dog days of summer'.

But there is something in the air that reminds me of being a kid on such a day. The kind of summer afternoon when the hardest decision was whether to have the grape, the orange, or the pink Popsicle, and then slurping it as fast as you can so it wouldn't dribble down your arm. Or, eating huge slices of watermelon, making happy faces with your slice, and then engaging in a seed spitting contest with your siblings. Outside! My mom would say, don't let that drip on the floor.

Oh, the sweetness of those carefree, old memories.

On such a day then, it certainly needs a little something special for supper to celebrate the day. Chops on the BBQ, dilled baby potatoes roasted in foil, salad with a cilantro-onion dressing. And, something cool and refreshing for dessert. What about heaps of fresh peaches on a cream cheese base and a graham wafer crust?

Don't tell anyone but we had a little mishap earlier this afternoon while making the dessert. Needing to bake the graham crust in the oven for a few minutes, when I took it from the oven the pie dish slipped out of my hands and dumped out onto the floor. Yikes! We got that hot pile of crumbs cleaned up and then started over; the second time was a success. And, no, we did not consider the five second rule to scoop it back into the pie plate.

Peach Tart
Makes one 8-inch pie


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon butter, melted

Combine crumbs and melted butter. Press mixture into an 8-inch pan.
Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 cup icing sugar
grated zest of one lemon

In large bowl, whip together cream cheese, heavy cream, icing sugar, and lemon zest.
Spoon into prepared crust. Cover and chill for several hours.

3 or 4 ripe peaches or nectarines

Thinly slice peaches. Layer fruit on top of the chilled cheese filling.
Sprinkle lightly with lemon zest and a hint of cinnamon (optional).

Serve without delay.

♥♥♥  This is a keeper! ♥♥♥

I hope you've had a wonderful day. It's dusk as I write this.
Here's wishing you a pleasant summer's eve.

( Original recipe from Good, Cheap Eats by Jessica Fisher)