Sissinghurst Castle

Yesterday Stephen and I went to visit Sissinghurst, which is not a castle at all and never was, whilst Eversley was catching up a friend in London. It was owned by Vita, famous these days for having an affair with Virginia Woolf, though she was a writer and published books.

Vita’s writing room in the tower. It was very dark inside, partly to protect furniture and books from sun damage, but also because it is as she would have seen it when she came in from working in the garden to do her writing.

This shot was taken from the top of the tower. The odd white chimneys are seen all over this area and were used as part of drying hops.

I enjoyed walking around the gardens taking photos of flowers.

The property consists of a farm and some buildings which include remnants of an Elizabethan manor house. Vita and her husband set out to creat beautiful gardens and these are maintained for National Trust visitors. We were also able to see through the cottage occupied by Vita and her husband. They had an odd way of,living, Vita had a writing room in the tower, they slept at the cottage where the husband had a study and they ate in a third cottage where their sons lived when not at boarding school. They also renovated an old stable into a huge living room.

There was a National Trust shop, restaurant and cafe.

The journey there involved a train to London Bridge, then a train to Staplehurst, then a bus to Sissinghurst and a 20 minute walk. For our journey home we ordered a taxi to the station, then caught the two trains. We stayed until things closed at 5.30 and the journey home was quite easy. We are now getting home in the dark, which feels strange because when we first came to England it was light until 9.00 pm.

We arrived at about 12.30 and had a nice lunch at the restaurant before beginning to explore. We climbed the tower and had a guided walk through the cottage, checked out the shop and had coffee at the little coffee shop. I found another little gift for Matt.

We went for a walk in a field before we left and checked out the huge fungi.

We had some sunshine, but in this photo taken later in the day it’s getting a bit dark.

London: British Library and ‘Little Venice’

The British Library is a relatively modern library (1973) incorporating the old British Museum Library as well as some other collections. Red bricks are used to blend in with the other buildings in the area such as St Pancras International Station, which is across the road. Inside, it is a very interesting place, with a collection of very old books and a copy of the Magna Carta, a shop, bookshop and what appeared to be cafes on every floor. There are seating areas everywhere with tables and plug in facilities and they were just about all occupied by young people with mostly Apple laptops.

On the left, St Pancras, on the right, the British Library

After we left, we realised that we didn’t actually see the reading rooms. It is not a lending library, but a place to do research like our WA State Library. Although the building is relatively stark on the outside, the interior has enough curves to make it feel a delightful place to be.

We caught the Thameslink train which takes us straight from East Croydon Station to St Pancras and had tickets that allowed us to catch buses as well. The bus to Little Venice took about 30 minutes. The area is a bit disappointing. We have been to canal areas in other cities and they are usually picturesque, but there was something a bit neglected about the area that mean that despite the willows, bird life and beautiful surrounding townhouses, it just missed being lovely. The houses mostly appear to have been converted into flats, as evidenced by TV aerial cords snaking up the outside of buildings. They are not even confined to back of the houses.

I had hoped to get a photo of these swans, which were a sort of motley colour in stead of pure white. But you can see that they made their escape before I could, and the camera wasn’t able to keep up with the action enough to get a non blurry photo.

Stephen had read about a historic pub in the area where we hoped to have afternoon tea, but we found it not very hospitable and found a tiny cafe nearby.

It was a grey day, as you can see from the photos, but we didn’t have any rain and the temperature was pleasant for walking, cool but not cold.

Our journey home on a different bus seemed very long, but there was interest in going through different residential areas of inner London, some more posh than others. Of course, it is all very expensive, but some areas seemed run down and others very vibrant, with interesting shops and cafes.

Our train tickets also allowed us to take the tram home for the same price. We enjoyed leftovers, followed by fruit and ice cream for tea.

Croydon Minster

Today we went out to pick up a new remote for the Apple TV and to see Croydon Minster. It is impressive, especially for what is basically a parish church. It was destroyed in a fire and rebuilt using some of the older features rescued from the rubble, but basically restored as it was. We had packed a lunch and as it was cold and a bit windy we ate some of it in the relative comfort of this centrally heated church. We sat just under a CCTV camera, but no one came rushing in to make us stop.

We walked back towards the main shopping area, taking in the local market, which focuses on fruit and vegetables. We noted a couple of butchers’ shops nearby.

And after a toilet stop at the town hall we ambled home to a quiet afternoon of reading, etc. In the evening we went to a talk on a section of the canal system on the River Wey in and around Guildford. Quite interesting, especially to see how much the National Trust depends on volunteers and donations to preserve these waterways for recreational use and historical interest. Especially after reading the Bill Bryson book, where he also talks about the preservation of Britain’s rich historical heritage.