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

Peach Tart On A Warm Summer's Day / Ian Baldwin

Such a warm summer day. Hot, but not so blistering as to make your cheeks melt on the sidewalk. 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 is whether to have the grape, the orange, or the pink Popsicle, and then slurping it as fast as you can so it won'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 was known to 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)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Chartwell and Churchill

Roses from the Golden Rose Walk, Chartwell

Today I'm excited to share my visit to Chartwell with you. As a long-time admirer of Sir Winston Churchill, I was so happy to finally be in the place where he and his wife, Clementine, once walked and lived their lives. I just knew this would be one of those highlight days.

Be forewarned ... it's a long post so you might want to have something near to hand like a cup of tea or maybe a rose lemonade.

Speaking of rose lemonade, I first tasted this refreshing drink seated in the outdoor cafe at Chartwell. That first sip and I knew I was experiencing something quite wonderful. A sparkling lemonade lightly flavoured with rose oil, it was a refreshing drink most sublime. A perfect way to end a visit to this beautiful place.

Aside... On our way home at the end of our trip I tucked one bottle into my bulging suitcase. Since then, I've been informed that it's available in certain places on this side of the pond -- so Google it for more info.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day when we visited Chartwell, the beloved family home of Sir Winston Churchill. Chartwell was purchased in 1922 and remained the family home until his death in 1965, at which time the house was willed to the National Trust. I think the NT does a wonderful job of taking care of this and many other wonderful historic places.

When Churchill first saw Chartwell he fell in love with the situation and the view, and Clementine his wife once wrote she could 'think of nothing but that heavenly tree-crowned Hill'. Although now it's not quite like what they first saw all those years ago, there is still so much that makes it quite lovely.

Sir Winston once said, "A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted." Now I totally understand why he felt thus -- with those tranquil, beautiful gardens, lush green lawns, clusters of towering trees, and a view that spans the countryside, it would have been hard to tear oneself away to go do his Prime Minister duties up in London.

Churchill's preference was always strongly for Chartwell but, as Anthony Montague Browne related in his book Long Sunset (Cassell: 1995), the permutations of domestic arrangements became something of a trial for Clementine. He recalled one conversation at Downing Street during the early 1950s:

    Winston: "I shall go to Chartwell next weekend."

    Clementine: "Winston, you can't. It's closed and there will be no-one to cook for you."

    Winston: "I shall cook for myself. I can boil an egg. I've seen it done."

    Churchill's threat was received in dumfounded silence on all sides but it was not carried out. His gastronomic priorities clearly prevailed!

That last line of his makes me chuckle: he can boil an egg, he's seen it done.   hahaha

A popular feature of the Chartwell garden is the walled rose garden, and running in the centre is the  Golden Rose Walk. With yellow roses and purple lavender planted all along this walkway leading to the sundial, it truly is the most romantic of spots.
Both Winston and Clementine had a long standing love of roses. Did you know that, as a young man, Winston proposed to her in the rose garden at Blenheim Palace, the place of his birth? And, as a young officer in India during the 1890s he once wrote home to his mother saying how much he enjoyed tending roses around the officers' living quarters. No wonder Clementine fell in love. By the way, their love for each other lasted their whole lives, through the thick and thin of it all.

The Golden Rose Walk dates from 1958, the year of Winston and Clementine's golden wedding anniversary. Its beginning was an anniversary gift from their children with twenty-eight varieties chosen for planting in an east-west avenue. At the centre sat a sundial flanked by the 'Peace' and 'Lydia' varieties. Today, more modern varieties with greater durability and disease resistance are used in the garden.

Isn't this yellow rose a beauty? I was so smitten, I forgot to look for her name. As I'm not sure, I shall call her the Chartwell Beauty.


I'm including a two-minute video I found online. Many of my own photos are close-ups so the video allows a broader look of Chartwell. Below are pictures of what I saw and loved that sunny, blue skied day.

I hope you get a sense of the graceful texture and feeling of this lovely home and garden which once offered Sir Winston Churchill refuge and inspiration during some of the hardest days of his life, and brought so much joy to him and his family during the more peaceful and good times.

The house as it looks today

My first glimpse of Chartwell
as we walked into the grounds

A corner pavilion that might have been a shady nook
on a hot summer day or a shelter on rainy one

The other side of that wall
-- doesn't that brick corner look inviting?

A sweep of lawn inside a low brick wall
overlooking the river and wooded area

Flowers, glorious flowers!

Inside the walled garden -- don't you just love that doorway
arch all covered in climbing roses?

And doesn't that winding walkway
invite you to walk forward?

Can you pick a favourite? I'm hard-pressed to choose one over another.  After the yellow rose photo, I think I'd pick the arched wall and gate with the white climbing rose over it. How about you? Any favourites?

Some other interesting and fine qualities that I appreciate so much about this great man:

His wit and sense of humour...

"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."

"I could not live without champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it."

"Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."
(Having been, as a young man, in the thick of real battles either as war correspondent or combatant in pre-World War battles. I don't think I'd want to be that exhilarated!)

His strength of character, statesmanship, and powerful leadership during the Second World War...

His love for painting and beauty. We took a walk down to the Studio, which was filled with many of his wonderful paintings. Oh goodie, goodie! A small crowd of people all waiting for the little lecture on Churchill's work. It was fascinating.

Years ago I bought a wonderful memoir by Mary Soames, Sir Winston's daughter. It was titled Winston Churchill, His Life As A Painter. I wouldn't wonder if after reading that book that I didn't fall just a little bit in love with the man. He obviously loved what he was doing when he painted. Such zest and appreciation for colour and beauty. He did not begin to paint until he was forty, but from that moment painting became a passion that endured for the rest of his life.

I'm not an artist with paints, but I can so appreciate the creativity as expressed through the lives of other artists. The creativity of individuals like Sir Winston makes me excited to go paint ... with words. And to maybe gather up coloured pencils in a jar to feast my eyes upon as I sit at my desk.

"Just to paint is great fun. The colours are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out. Matching them, however crudely, with what you see is fascinating and absolutely absorbing. Try it if you have not done so -- before you die." ~ Churchill

Photo from the souvenir catalogue

We weren't allowed to take photos inside the studio, but I found a picture in the souvenir catalogue that gives a good idea of what it looks like ... still set up as if he'd just left for the day.

His enjoyment of and love for his pet poodles and a marmalade cat named Jock. Jock had been a gift to him from Sir John 'Jock' Colville, Churchill's joint principal private secretary during his second premiership. Jock outlived his master by nine years.

"Only one thing lack these banks of green --
The Pussy Cat who is their Queen."
~ Churchill

When Chartwell was left to the National Trust in 1966, the family of Sir Winston requested "that there always be in comfortable residence a marmalade cat named Jock, with a white bib and four white socks." And, yes, we caught sight of him! Or, rather Rick did; I must have been looking at something else when he was spotted.

Sorry, I don't have a photo but here is a greeting card I bought in the gift store of Jock sitting in the tulips. It's from a painting by artist Celia Pike.

Finally, did you know Sir Winston had a passion for books? Now for sure he's a man after my own heart. We toured the house, and most rooms had shelves of books in them. I wanted to browse -- to see what books he read. Of course proudly sitting were all the books he'd written over his lifetime. Mrs. Churchill's sitting room was also stocked with books -- I was amazed to find a few with titles and by authors I recognized.

"Churchill had a library in every house he owned. It was among the priorities whenever he drew up plans for alterations and improvements; and Chartwell is no exception. As a young man, he devoured English literature and history with a voracious appetite and invoices from booksellers accounted for a significant part of his spending."

 "Nothing makes a man more reverent than a good library."

One such book was a slim volume called Painting As A Pastime. I was thrilled when I found a copy years ago in a lovely secondhand shop. But now it's been reprinted and is available through places like Amazon. I bought a new copy in the gift shop at Chartwell to pass along to painterly friends. Here's an excerpt from the Amazon site:
"The perfect antidote to his 'Black Dog', a depression that blighted his working life, Churchill took to painting with gusto. Picking up a paintbrush for the first time at the age of forty, Winston Churchill found in painting a passion that was to remain his constant companion. This glorious essay exudes his compulsion for a hobby that allowed him peace during his dark days, and richly rewarded a nation with a treasure trove of work."

There is just so much more that I could say, but the time is now creeping into late afternoon and I so wanted to get this up today. Let's call it done then, shall we? I do hope you've enjoyed the bits and pieces I've shared about Chartwell and about the man who loved the beautiful place on God's green earth called England.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

With hugs,

PS. I'll try to get the next chapter up sooner next time.