16 June 2018

English Country Garden

A Visit to Titsey Place
Garden of Edenbridge

"How many kinds of sweet flower grow in an English country garden?
I'll tell you now of some that I know and those I miss you'll surely pardon!"  ………………..(With apologies to Jimmie Rodgers) 

A midsummer meander took us around Titsey Place, Limpsfield.  An "English country garden" if ever there was. Within sound but not sight of the M25, this magical house and garden is something of a secret, tucked away as it is in a stunning, rolling landscape between Oxted, and Westerham.

Titsey Place is a fine manor house dating back to the Tudors and at the heart of one of the largest surviving historic estates in Surrey.  We enjoyed a tour of the house which has a colourful and fascinating history dominated by the Leveson Gower and Gresham families.  The Titsey Crest shows the meeting of these familes with the Leveson Gower wolf and Gresham grasshopper (hence the two "Grasshopper" pubs in Westerham). The curious motto "Frangas non Flectes" means "you may break me but you shall not bend me" - a good maxim for some stubborn folk I suppose but personally one I would reverse.  Two knowledgeable guides took turns to describe each room, but occasionally corrected one another which became unintentionally amusing.  A highlight of the tour included four exceptional paintings of Venice by Canaletto of all people - which rather made us worry about the apparent lack of security. Surely they have this covered!? The Innings family still live in the house which is only open on 3 days of the week when I guess they must hide in the basement away from all the plebs.

We walked the grounds, visiting the lake, lawns and shrubby borders accompanied by a low flying kite (the birdy variety) with buzzards soaring as they were mobbed by jackdaws and a cheeky sparrowhawk. Parts of the grounds are left untended to create wildflower meadows buzzing with bees and butterflies (meadow brown, peacock and small white). 

There is an exceptional walled kitchen garden at Titsey which was apparently restored in 1996 as an illustration of Victorian horticultural techniques. We did quite a bit of ooohing and aaahing over rhubarb patches,  artichokes, exceptionally bright blue delphiniums and an unusual gooseberry espalier as we indulged in some vigorous sniffing at old fashioned roses and sweetpeas.  On this cool afternoon we were drawn to the heat of the greenhouses where we admired gerbera daisies, palms, lillies and some exceptional anthuriums.  These rather exotic plants are placed all over the old house to great effect.

After a couple of hours in "paradise" we wandered up to the tea rooms.  There we indulged in our usual exchange of views on suitably reliable plumbers; where to buy bedroom furniture and local gossip over a very welcome cuppa and cake.

Thursday, 19th July
This will be our next outing - to the uncultivated and wild banks of the River Eden starting at Edenbridge and heading towards Marsh Green.  Naming the range of wild flowers that shoot up in July along the river edge should be challenging.  Haven't quite worked out the route yet, but we will start at 10 am. and aim to stop after a couple of hours for refreshments.  So a morning-only event.

Then at some point I will be organising a trip to the White Cliffs Experience at Dover to spot the prolific chalk downland flora and fauna there and to gaze across the channel.  Watch out for a date to be confirmed in July or August. 

Happy days.