Future Events

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Capability Brown at Leeds Abbey – 26th March 2019 at 11:00

Location: 10.30am in the car park of the Leeds Village sports ground, Lower Road,
Leeds, ME17 1TL

Cost: £15.00 (Does not include lunch but reservations will be made at The George Inn, Leeds, for those that would like some restorative refreshment!)

Book online. There are currently 7 places available for this event.

This is an opportunity to explore part of the very overgrown grounds of Leeds Abbey and experience the setting of the house and garden where little has happened in the 250 years since Capability Brown worked there. Please be aware that the ground is very rough and the whole site covered with scrub and nettles (which is why a winter /spring visit is best). Suitable clothing and footwear will be necessary.

Leeds Priory dates from 1119. The priory church was the size of a small cathedral and, during the dissolution of the monasteries, was dismantled on the orders of Henry VIII. A house was built on the foundations of the nave of the church around the end of the 1500s and this was known as Leeds Abbey. In 1765 the estate was bought by John Calcraft, the owner of Ingress near Dartford, who asked Capability Brown to re-landscape the grounds, in particular the water features. The dam and lake are still there but the house, of which nothing remains, was pulled down in 1790 and the grounds gradually became a wilderness. The remains of the priory were excavated in the 1970s but then re-covered again to protect them. The pigeon house which became the eye catcher on the hill, and the slype, the only remaining medieval building, are still there.

This walk is led by our trustee Dr Hugh Vaux, who was responsible for the chapter Leeds Abbey: A Hidden Brown Landscape in our book Capability Brown in Kent. The tour will finish at about 12.30pm.

KGT contact: Hugh Vaux (hughvaux@btinternet.com)

Leeds Abbey lake

Ordnance Survey map c1790




Spring Lecture - Head Gardeners by Ambra Edwards – 31st March 2019 at 14:30

Location: The Millenium Village Hall, Egerton TN27 9DS

Cost: £15.00 (includes afternoon tea)

Book online. There are currently 74 places available for this event.

What is Britain’s greatest contribution to world culture? Writer and garden historian Ambra Edwards suggests it is the garden. It is an art form we have made peculiarly our own, and which we have been exporting to the rest of the world for the last three centuries. It expresses important ideas about what we value, what we believe in, what we dream of, and what we think is beautiful.

So gardens are hugely important to us. Yet by their very nature, they are mutable, making them at once more interesting, and more fragile, than other forms of art. What makes them - and keeps them - special, is the input of the people who look after them. These are the Head Gardeners. If these individuals, who bring such pleasure to so many, were, say, singers, or footballers, we would be following their every move in celebrity TV shows or Hello Magazine. Yet, with a very few exceptions, we don’t know who they are.

Ambra introduces us to some of the most interesting gardeners working in Britain today – wondering why these people are so little known and so under-appreciated, particularly when their jobs demand such an extraordinary
variety of skills. She also looks at the critical role head gardeners have played in Britain’s history – not just as artists, designers and engineers, but in underpinning the social fabric of their times. Her talk is illustrated with many wonderful photographs taken by Charlie Hopkinson.

Ambra Edwards studied garden history at Birkbeck College, London, was an early champion of community gardening in Britain, and is now one of our foremost garden writers. She has been voted Journalist of the Year by the Garden Media Guild in 2015, 2009 and 2006, and writes regularly for the The Telegraph, The Guardian, The
Garden, Gardens Illustrated, Country Living and Hortus. Head Gardeners was published to widespread acclaim in 2017 and named Inspirational Garden Book of the Year. This was followed in 2018 by The Story of English Garden, an accessible and richly illustrated history published by The National Trust. She is currently working with Penelope Hobhouse on The Story of Gardening, a world history of gardening, due for publication in Autumn 2019.

KGT contact: Richard Stileman (richstileman@btinternet.com)

Ambra Edwards




Great plantsmen’s gardens north of the Thames – 16th April 2019 at 09:30

Location: Myddelton House, Hertfordshire, and Warley Place, Essex (travel by coach - meet 9.30am at the Mercure Hotel, J.8 of the M20, and approximately 10.15am at Swanley)

Cost: £55.00, Members £50.00 (includes coach, lunch and garden tours)

Book online. There are currently 20 places available for this event.

E A Bowles (1865 to 1954) was a great late nineteenth and early twentieth century plantsman who created a famous garden at Myddelton House, Enfield. He grew an amazing range of plants and wrote about them in his books My Garden in Spring, Summer and Autumn and Winter (1914-1915). He pioneered plantsman’s rockeries and loved snowdrops and crocus. The recently restored garden should have a superb display of spring flowers.

After Myddelton we move on to Forty Hall, (where Bowles’ brother Henry lived) for a lunch of local produce in the stable block of the 17th century house. We loosely use the term ‘plantsman’, but perhaps the greatest of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was the plantswoman Ellen Willmott (1858 – 1934), who devoted her life to her gardens at Warley Place and later on the French and Italian Rivieras. Our journey ends at Warley Place which is now run by the Essex Wildlife Trust. The house has gone but EWT maintains the remaining outdoor fabric. We will have a guide from EWT who will tell us about Ellen’s 100,000 different plants and 100 gardeners and its value as a nature reserve.

Please note that we are organising a coach for this trip so that we all arrive at Myddelton House together! The pick up points will be the Mercure Hotel at J.8 of the M20, and Swanley (details will be advised nearer the time). Return approximately 4.30pm.

Please book by April 1st so that we can confirm the coach booking.

KGT contact: Tom La Dell (tom@tomladell.co.uk)

Myddleton House

Warley Place




Smiths Hall and Nettlestead Place – 24th April 2019 at 10:30

Location: 10.30 am at Smith’s Hall, West Farleigh, ME15 0PE, and then Nettlestead Place, ME18 5HA

Cost: £55.00, Members £50.00 (includes lunch and tea)

Book online. There are currently 18 places available for this event.

Smiths Hall was rebuilt by John Brewer, and dated 1719 on a rainwater head and Kip’s engraving in Harris’s History of Kent. The garden layout still follows the engraving, although it has been considerably extended in recent years. Its distinct compartments display varied plantings of year-round lushness - extensive iris beds, peony and rose walks, herbaceous borders,a formal rose garden, a sunk garden and pond and some 5,000 young specimen trees, half of these forming an American arboretum in the park. The pavilion, copied in 1961 by Sir Albert Richardson, PRA from the 1719 engraving, overlooks the swimming pool at the north end of the original bowling green. We will be welcomed by Stephen Norman whose family has lived at Smiths Hall since 1949.

Lunch will be at the nearby Tickled Trout pub.

Centred on the magnificent C13 manor house of the de Wahull family, Nettlestead’s 10 acres of varied gardens cover many levels down to the River Medway with panoramic views beyond it. The range of plants and trees is breathtaking, giving year-round interest. Notable features include the sunken pond garden and the rose garden, both dating from major restoration of the house and gardens in the 1920s; an 80 metre terraced gravel garden planted with rock plants and dwarf bulbs; a formal herb and kitchen garden; a striking herbaceous border; and a glen garden in the valley, fed by a natural stream and planted with shade- and damp-loving plants, with a small forest of bamboos beyond it. Since 1978, Nettlestead has been the home of Roy and Annabel Tucker who have enthusiastically redeveloped and extended the gardens and will welcome members and kindly provide tea.

KGT contact: Andrew Wells (andrewwells@mere-house.co.uk)

Smiths Hall




Hush Heath Estate and Winery Tour – 16th May 2019 at 11:15

Location: Hush Heath Estate, Five Oak Lane, Staplehurst, TN12 0HT

Cost: £55.00, Members £50.00 (includes wine-tasting and lunch)

Book online. There are currently 18 places available for this event.

Join us for a guided walking tour of the Hush Heath Estate of vineyards, apple orchards and ancient woodland. Situated just outside Staplehurst, Hush Heath estate sits in 400 acres of Wealden clay and is home to the Balfour-Lynn family. During our walk, we will learn about the gradual development of the now fifty acres of vineyards which produce award-winning still and sparkling wines. Another twenty acres of Hush Heath is devoted to the growing of apples for the production of very popular ciders. We will return to the winery through the woodland and hope that our visit will coincide with the appearance of ancient bluebells which have carpeted these woods for centuries. The process of still and sparkling wine-making will be explained during our tour of the state-of-the-art winery which was built in 2010 and will be followed by a tutored tasting of six award-winning wines and ciders.

Lunch will be served in the newly-opened visitors’ centre and we will then have the opportunity to buy some of the wines and ciders made at Hush Heath. The tour ends at about 2.30pm.

KGT contact: Alison Philip (alison@thephilips.co.uk)

Hush Heath estate

Wine-making at Hush Heath




Two Sussex Gems - Town Place and Clinton Lodge – 5th June 2019 at 10:30

Location: 10.30 at Town Place, Ketches Lane, Danehill, RH17 7NR, then Clinton Lodge, Fletching, TN22 3ST

Cost: £55.00, Members £50.00 (includes lunch with wine at Clinton Lodge)

Book online. There are currently 18 places available for this event.

Serendipitously, these exceptional private gardens are within a few miles of each other, and just round the corner from Sheffield Park. We will start at Anthony and Maggie McGrath’s Town Place, and then move on to lunch at Lady Collum’s Clinton Lodge. Full details of the day will be sent at a later date for those who book.

Artist Maggie McGrath and her husband Anthony have, over the past 30 years, been turning the pastures surrounding their 17th century Sussex farmhouse into a 3 acre garden that has achieved an international reputation for the quality of its design and planting (see in particular Gardens Illustrated, July 2012). The structure is defined by extensive topiary using yew, box as well as hornbeam, and includes shapes inspired by the sculptures of Henry Moore, as well as a unique ‘priory church and cloisters’. The topiary is the backdrop to exuberant herbaceous planting, and a collection of more than 600 roses.

Similarly developed over the past 30 years or so, the 6 acre garden at Clinton Lodge surrounds the Caroline and Georgian House with formal and romantic features and planting, and a spectacular view over parkland. Lady Collum, who will be giving us a tour, continues to develop the garden and oversees an utterly enchanting cornucopia of features that include extensive topiary, double white and blue herbaceous borders, a pleached lime walk, water features, a medieval style potager, a 17th century herb garden, and more….

KGT contact: Richard Stileman (richstileman@btinternet.com)

Town Place

Clinton Lodge




Godinton Revisited – 11th July 2019 at 11:00

Location: Godinton House, Godinton Lane, Ashford TN23 3BP

Cost: £45.00, Members £40.00 (includes tea/coffee on arrival and a ploughman's lunch)

Book online. There are currently 18 places available for this event.

Standing in a parkland setting, Godinton House has survived for six hundred years with only two major changes of ownership. It now comprises a fascinating combination of medieval, Jacobean and Victorian architecture and we will be treated to a private, guided tour where we will learn about the people who lived there and the collections of porcelain, musical instruments and furniture they have left behind. Following a ploughman’s lunch we will then have a guided tour of the beautiful twelve acre gardens, lead by the Head Gardener. After four hundred years of changing fashions, the gardens are now mainly laid out to the 1898 designs of Reginald Blomfield. We will see the wonderful walled garden with its ornamental greenhouse, the rose gardens and herbaceous borders as well as the lily pond and Italian garden and learn about the continuous programme of conservation and restoration involved in a garden such as this.

KGT contact: Alison Philip (alison@thephilips.co.uk)

House and garden at Godinton

Garden at Godinton




All in a Garden Green - a special summer concert – 25th July 2019 at 19:00

Location: Mount Ephraim, Faversham, ME13 9TX

Cost: £35.00, Members £30.00 (includes pre-concert drinks and canapes)

Book online. There are currently 40 places available for this event.

Broadening our programme of summer events, we have commissioned a concert of songs about gardens and nature from world-renowned Kent musicians soprano Kate Semmens and Steven Devine (harpsichord).They have put together a unique collection of beautiful pastoral songs including favourite works by Purcell, Handel, Arne, Monteverdi and Caccini.

KGT contacts: Lesley Dawes (Lesley@mountephraim.plus.com) and Tom La Dell (tom@tomladell.co.uk)

Kate Semmens and Steven Devine

Topiary at Mount Ephraim




King's Cross transformed – 14th September 2019 at 10:30

Location: to be advised

Cost: £55.00, Members £50.00 (includes coffee and lunch)

Book online. There are currently 13 places available for this event.

If you haven’t been to King’s Cross recently you will be amazed and delighted at how much has changed. This walk, led by the inestimable blue badge guide Diana Kelsey (who has recently led us on two sold-out tours of the Olympic Park and Hidden Gardens of the City), will show how London’s once seediest area has been transformed into one of its most stimulating and vibrant areas. The famous gas holders have become both apartments and a park, the granary has become the new home of Central St Martins, and Thomas Heatherwick has turned the old coal drops into a shopping arcade. The massive ‘hip’ businesses Google and Facebook have each decided to have their new UK headquarters buildings in the area. Our focus will be on the imaginative ‘garden greening’ of the whole area, especially the work of Dan Pearson in the beautiful informal gardens and open spaces. The tour will conclude at a lunch venue and in the afternoon you will be free to explore the wider reaches of the area which include The British Library, The Francis Crick Institute, the St Pancras Hotel, and The Wellcome Institute…or just take the train home!

KGT contact: Richard Stileman (richstileman@btinternet.com)

Kings Cross - Handyside Gardens

Kings Cross - Gas Holder apartments




Great Comp and its Salvias – 24th September 2019 at 11:30

Location: Great Comp Garden, Comp Lane, Platt, TN15 8QS

Cost: £40.00, Members £35.00 (includes tea/coffee on arrival and lunch)

Book online. There are currently 18 places available for this event.

Surrounding a 17th century farmhouse, Great Comp Garden was created by Roderick and Joyce Cameron in the 1950s and has, since their deaths, been run by the Great Comp Charitable Trust and is now managed and curated by William Dyson. We will be guided by William around the seven acres of garden as he explains the history of the planting of the garden which specializes in Azaleas, Hellebores and Dahlias and thirty different varieties of Magnolia as well as exotic trees and shrubs. There is also an Italian Garden complete with ruins and temples, all hand-built by Roderick Cameron. William will also talk about his own area of particular expertise in Salvias, developed over twenty years as Manager of the Salvia nursery within the garden and his successes in exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show. After our tour we will have a light lunch in the Old Dairy Tearoom and are then free to continue to wander in the garden at leisure.

KGT contact: Alison Philip (alison@thephilips.co.uk)

House and garden at Great Comp

The borders at Great Comp




Eltham Palace and Kevington Hall – 15th October 2019 at 10:15

Location: Eltham Palace, Eltham, London SE9 5QE and then Kevington Hall, Orpington, BR5 4EP

Cost: £55.00, Members £50.00 (includes lunch at Eltham Palace and tea at Kevington Hall. English Heritage and Arts Fund members will receive a £10 discount - follow instructions when booking online.)

Book online. There are currently 18 places available for this event.

Eltham Palace, a rare surviving moated medieval royal palace and deer park, was acquired in 1305 by Edward II, whose successors enclosed another 1,300 acres of park. Edward IV built the great hall by 1480; Henry VIII added gardens beyond the moat. Considerably damaged during the civil war, Eltham was granted by Charles II in 1663 to his financier Sir John Shaw, who built Eltham Lodge and sublet the palace as a farm. The Shaws left Eltham in 1839. Stephen and Virginia Courtauld became Crown tenants in 1933, reversing a century of decline and restoring and extending the garden. Mawson & Partners, then Seely & Paget (architects of the Cortaulds’ Art Deco Eltham Court) created gardens on the terraces surrounding the Palace and the lower dry sections of the moat, including a Japanese-style rockery, cascade and sunken garden around a pond, all within the medieval framework of buildings, remaining walls, two arms of the moat and substantial earthworks beyond this from which St Paul’s Cathedral can be seen to the west. Since 1995 English Heritage have been custodians of Eltham Palace.

Kevington Hall was bought in 1768 by a London merchant, Herman Berens. He immediately engaged Robert Taylor, the Bank of England’s architect, to design a new house. His son Joseph added the full-height bow to the south elevation and built the Doric west portico and stables after 1795. Use by troops and a primary school for some 50 years from 1940 wrought havoc to the garden, but Jonathan Jackson, whose family bought Kevington in 1987, has reinstated the southern main drive and is planting many trees to recall the views and appearance of the landscaped 18th-century park. We are grateful to him for allowing a rare visit to his family’s home.

KGT contact: Andrew Wells (andrewwells@mere-house.co.uk)

Eltham Palace

Kevington Hall