Sweetbriar Dreams

Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Gardens of Hever Castle - Part 2

And now are you ready for part 2 of my posts on Hever Castle in Kent?  A grey day to begin with, but the sun was kind to us by the end giving us a chance to see Hever Castle with blue sky behind it and warm sunshine on our faces.  Once again, a cup of English Breakfast Tea and let's see what's in the cupboard... a couple of Rich Tea Biscuits!  Let me take you by the hand around the stunning gardens of Hever Castle...

The gardens expand 125 acres and have William Waldorf Astor to thank for his amazing legacy on their creation and collections held within.  The views from the windows of the Castle an ever changing painting as the gardens flourish through the seasons.

The walk under the gate house and the oldest working portcullis in England inviting you to explore these beautiful well kept gardens.

Then over the bridge, filling the eyes with amazing late spring/early summer rich, lush greens.

The stone walls acting as bones for the living skin of the newly bloomed wisteria.  The colours so easy on the eye.

Of course, I have to capture old parts of architecture, so obviously hopper heads and down pipes need to be etched on my camera card!

I know blogs everywhere are full of the gorgeous wisteria blooms, but here's one more and I only wish you could smell the incredible scent that this is paired with.

The Astor Wing which I touched on in part 1, sits in the grounds, no doubt full of very lucky Bed and Breakfast guests. What a beautiful place to stay in.

The decoration, the chimney pots, the windows!  An incredibly romantic place and perfect for a Charles Dickens novel!

The Italian Garden with its perfect lawns and beautiful sculptures was somewhere that you could get lost in.  In fact, I did lose myself at one point!

The Pergola Walk with its grottos was my favourite part of the gardens, a little grey but little alcoves on the right with running water over ferns was so calming and peaceful.  A place to really stand quietly with your thoughts.

In the grottos, many carvings with worn out faces, but the ones where the features are very much plain to see are more up to date.  These are faces of gardeners who have worked for years here.  Casts are made to give a good likeness and once the gargoyles are placed in the grottos, the ferns will gradually cover their faces and the water will corrode.  What a beautiful way to leave your mark!

The day was especially grey until later and a little chilly, so when we got to the lake it was blowing a gale.  38 acres of water adding more of a chill factor to the wind!  Again, part of the reconstructive works ordered by William Waldorf Astor and created by 800 men who were told to work on this every day and night when ordered, apart from a Sunday.  It took them two years and finished in 1906.

The Nymph's Fountain was constructed in 1908 and was inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome.  We really felt for this stone carving as the wind blew in from across the lake!

The Blue Garden, for obvious reasons was another area of the garden which was just divine!  So perfectly manicured and a delight to walk slowly up through the levels.

Throughout the gardens there were pockets that took our imagination, one of the grey barked trees made me smile with the pink blossom surrounding it (I think the blossom is from a Judas Tree, correct me if I'm wrong).

But of course, the carvings produced even bigger smiles.  I could sit and look at these for hours!

The last throes of Spring apparent around the gardens, what a shame spring has to be so short lived.

The famous Hever Castle Maze of course had to be visited.  When I came here (last century!), my Nan thought it would be too scary for me.  Well, I've been in worse, so off we set and did really well and only reached three dead ends!

It could have been a whole lot quicker and just gone into the 'Exit' to walk straight to the centre, but where's the fun in that!!

And so, the beautiful and stunning visit to Hever Castle was at an end and more travelling beckoned us.  Smiles and laughter proving that the trip was perfect for all.

And... the sun eventually came out.  Perfection!

Have a wonderful Sunday and week ahead!

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Exquisite Hever Castle, Kent - Part 1

The trouble with having a blog break is the problem of how to start writing again.  I can't believe it's been nearly a month since my last post and yes, I relaxed and enjoyed a very impatiently awaited trip to Kent again.  With my camera card full to brimming with these latest trips it is time to start writing once more and gather my thoughts for this little corner of blogland along with showing you the amazing history I have captured.  So, let's start with a beautiful gem, Hever Castle.  The usual drill dear Readers, cup of good old English tea and a milk chocolate digestive, this is a picture heavy post, so maybe two biscuits as a treat!  Ready?  Let me take you by the hand to a place so important to the ill fated Anne Boleyn and of course, Henry VIII.

This was a place I visited when I was knee high to a grasshopper and certain parts made my memory jump into life with things that I thought were long lost.  The camera clicked with satisfaction once again and questions were raised in my mind of the history that surrounded me.  So, if you're ready, let's start inside.

Hever Castle was borne in the 13th century and the instantly recognisable family name of Boleyn lived in the house from 1462 to 1539.  In her early life, Anne Boleyn, the famous second wife of Henry VIII who was Queen for just 1000 days, lived in the Castle with her father and later, after Anne met her barbaric end and Jane Seymour (the third wife) had died, the castle passed to Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves after Anne Boleyn's father died in 1539 and was used as part of the settlement to annul the marriage to Anne of Cleves.

The gatehouse is the oldest part of the castle and dates back to 1270 and looking through the mullioned and transomed windows filled me with the romance of whether the lady herself had looked through this glass.  Probably not, but still filled my exploratory mind with these thoughts.

In one of the upstairs rooms, a room is described as Anne Boleyn's bedroom.  I felt it was maybe a little small, but maybe because this part of her bed was HUGE!

The carvings so tactile and the date... 1520.  Stunning but after trawling for more information it is thought that this is in fact 1600, but I like to think they have this wrong!

Another bedroom and we enter what could possible be Henry VIII's bedchamber where he stayed while courting Anne Boleyn.  The wood panelling again ancient and the bed itself dates from 1540.  This is a 'tester' bed due to the wooden canopy above it.

The ceiling above us is the oldest in the whole Castle and is reported to date from 1462.  Simple, unassuming, clean lines, historical and a place that makes my mind work overtime with the centuries of people that have walked and slept beneath it.

A recently discovered Panel stood proudly on display in one of the rooms.  The Anne of Cleves panel.  This is one of two that still exist with the other in the Museum of London and dates around 1544.  It is also seen to be the inspiration for her tomb in Westminster Abbey.  

Each room was full of incredible history and walking through each door made us feel comfortable.  Each room felt homely and calmly enriched our minds with our love of history.  The Dining Hall with its mid-17th century walnut chairs and 16th century oak table, the full set of armour and place settings all ready for a dinner party in stunning surroundings.

The Long Gallery was used in the 16th century to entertain the many and honoured guests, however the ceiling is 20th century due to the magnificent reconstructive work by Nathaniel Hitch.

Above the entrance hall is this beautiful gallery, the Staircase Gallery, which was by Thomas Boleyn.  It spans between the two wings of the Castle and is full of beautiful paintings and furniture.  Can you imagine the exquisite dresses sweeping across this wooden floor.

The patterned windows and the thickness of the stone walls keeping everything warm and weather tight.

In 1903 William Waldorf Astor (who was the richest man in America) started the restoration of the Castle and created the Astor Wing along with the lake and gardens.  This is now used as luxury bed and breakfast bedrooms!

The Astors' spent so much on the restoration, so it's only right that they had their own luxuries, something that we can only dream about, but for those who have been reading me for a while will know how much I love a booked lined room with comfort and calmness personified.  Imagine my absolute joy when walking into a room with my favourite coloured blooms and tidy lines of books adorning the sides.

The bookcases are taken from a design by those that adorned the home of Samuel Pepys.  I tell you what, just leave us here, curled up on the sofa, books, cup of tea, marmite on toast.  Sigh!

A close second in rooms that I adored was the Drawing Room where the oak panelling is bog oak and holly.  Beautiful!

And then, for you Winston Churchill buffs, a letter from the great man himself to John Astor.  Churchill loved painting and clearly wanted to use his time at Hever with the Astor's to pursue his hobby.

And so, that's the inside of the Castle and next time I will take you outside into the beautiful gardens, the last flush of tulips and the incredible displays.

This was one of those days that will remain in my mind forever, a perfect day, beautiful surroundings, incredible history and amazing, knowledgeable company.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and enjoy that history surrounding you.

Sunday, 16 April 2017


People say to me you need to RELAX, it's an easy word to say isn't it?  Everything will be fine, just relax.  For me to do this I need TIME, a luxury that I just don't have, but when I become snappy, over tired and feel as though my knuckles are dragging behind me as I walk, it's time to book time off and...


A week booked off after an exhausting time and deciding what to do sends my mind into a whirl.  With older teenagers that blissfully do not need me hanging around while they're both doing their own things, I have the luxury of having my own time off.  No offspring to entertain, just selfish me!

Long walks, catching up with old and new friends (bang goes the diet!) and retail therapy.  Things that make me happy along with planning to see historical buildings at the beginning of next month with incredible company.

Reading, photography, my pace.

Crossing bridges in my mind, some scary with no safety net.

This new found time in my life sees a new chapter, I was that feather in the wind that settled down and created a nest and now I'm rewarded with time that I can enjoy.

Don't get me wrong, I am a mother first and foremost and that will be my priority throughout my life, but I get reminded that "oh you have a BIG birthday coming up" again and again and then met with surprise when I say that I am REALLY looking forward to it.  Life is to be embraced no matter how young or old, we have one life and that should be full of colour, humour, positivity and company of people we really care for with the same outlook.

Yes life's not perfect, it can sting at times, but since the New Year I made a decision that from then, no matter what comes my way, I will embrace it, look at things as I always do, positively and with humour.  I am who I am, I will not change, not now.  

And so, this week I'm RELAXING, doing what I want to do, selfishly, happily, no stress.  Surrounded by positive people. laughter and things I enjoy.  I think I've earned it!  I'm also taking a mini blog break for a couple of weeks and come back with a few more trips.  Trips that are going to fill my mind with history, photography, humour, knowledge.  PERFECT!

Until then, have a wonderful Easter break along with capturing the growth of Spring or the onset of Autumn wherever you are in the world.

And remember...


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