Autumn Colours of Kent & Sussex
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The gardens of Kent & Sussex are a joy to behold throughout the year but in the autumn many of them present a particularly glorious spectacle, due to the vast collections of both native and exotic trees and shrubs to be seen at places like Lullingstone Castle, Sheffield Park and Wakehurst Place. Leaves turn from green to yellow, gold, red, brown and every shade in between, to provide a bewitching display in the weeks before Halloween.
At Sissinghurst, one of the most admired gardens in the whole of England, there are even areas that were especially designed with autumn hues in mind. At this time of year it’s not just leaves and grasses that provide colour, many herbaceous plants are still in full flower, with Salvias in particular putting on a wonderful display at gardens such as Great Comp.
9 October 2020: Itinerary
We depart from our pick-up points in London and Gatwick and head towards Kent and our first visit, Great Comp Garden – a beautiful seven-acre garden with many beautiful and rare shrubs, perennials and other hardy plants. This Kent garden is a plantsman’s haven and at this time of year the huge collection of Salvias is a notable feature. There are areas of formal and informal plantings linked with meandering grass paths and ruins homing in on an Italian Garden.
From here we continue to the magnificent Lullingstone Castle. A historic family mansion dating back to the time of Domesday, frequented by Henry VIII and Queen Anne, the manor house and garden are set in the beautiful Darent Valley. The garden was designed by horticulturist Tom Hart Dyke, a modern day plant hunter who follows in the traditions of plant hunters who used to risk their lives and limbs in pursuit of fantastic blooms and plants, having been held captive for nine months by Colombian guerrillas in 2000. In the autumn hundreds of varieties of Dahlia, Salvia, Penstemon, Rudbeckia and Kniphofia (red hot pokers) are in full flower and present an uplifting sight.
We continue to our hotel, the 4-star Donnington Manor Hotel, Sevenoaks. Dinner will be served in the evening.
Meals include: Dinner
Hotel: Donnington Manor Hotel
This morning after breakfast, we are privileged to visit the magnificently manicured gardens of Sissinghurst. This famous garden was created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson from 1930 onwards and became the most admired English Garden of its time. Few great gardens live up to their reputations so effortlessly as this. Sissinghurst is a large connoisseurs’ garden consisting of a series of small romantic areas enclosed by the surviving parts of an Elizabethan mansion. Some of these areas were deliberately planted with autumn colours in mind, once such being the Cottage Garden which displays rich tones of golden yellows and fiery oranges. The Purple Border also comes into its own in early autumn while the woodland adds further splashes of colour.
We continue to another classic English Country Garden – Great Dixter. The distinguished garden writer Christopher Lloyd (who died in January 2006 at the aged of 84) was the genius behind Great Dixter, with its timbered 15th century house. Restored by Edwin Lutyens who also planned the garden, Mr Lloyd has firmly put his lively stamp on it. At this time the dahlias and other annuals are still in full flower and the exotic garden is at its best.
We return to the hotel in time for dinner.
Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner
Hotel: Donnington Manor Hotel
This morning after breakfast we will leave the hotel and head for the gardens of Sheffield Park, Uckfield. There is something dream-like about Sheffield Park and it is certainly one of the most memorable of all gardens. The house sits on an eminence at the head of a broad valley, with a series of four descending lakes extending far into the distance, attributed to a plan devised by Capability Brown in 1776. The appearance of the garden today is due to Arthur Gilstrap Soames who bought the estate in 1910 and embarked on a great programme of planting, especially rhododendrons, but also vast numbers of trees which in October provide a vivid spectacle. Look out for Acers, whose leaf colours range from lime green to bright red; Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo) with spectacular early autumn colour, and Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree), which turns from pale yellow to a smoky dark pink.
We conclude at Wakehurst Place Gardens, near Haywards Heath, which are managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. Wakehurst Place boasts a walled garden with cottage style garden plantings, a water garden with a mixture of plants growing in and around the water and the Himalayan Glade with a collection of azaleas and rhododendrons. However the main feature is the collection of trees and shrubs, meaning a dazzling array of autumnal colour can be expected, set off by herbaceous plants such Kniphofia, Penstemon, Dahlia and Aster still flowering strongly.
We will return to your original pick-up points early evening.
Meals include: Breakfast
9 October 2020: Additional Info
9 October 2020: Accommodation
Donnington Manor Hotel is located just 10 minutes’ drive from Sevenoaks. It offers a fitness suite, access throughout the hotel, an and complimentary .
The super king bedrooms at the 4-star Donnington Manor Hotel offer satellite TV, hairdryers, tea/coffee-making , a media hub and feature rain showers in the bathrooms.
The hotel's 15th-century beamed Osteria Chartwell Restaurant serves , including pastas and pizzas prepared with toppings and sauces made from a selection of meats and fish, cheeses and vegetables, herbs and olive oil.