We had been to Sissinghurst twice before. The first time was on a day trip from London during a rather dry July. The second time was at the start of a late-May driving tour that included Rye, Great Dixter, Hidcote, the Cotswolds, and Oxford. On that second trip we stayed overnight at the very nice B&B that is immediately adjacent to the gardens on the estate grounds. Staying there we saw how nice it was to be in the garden toward closing time at 5:30 when the bulk of the tourists had left for the day. So a few years ago when John came across something online that said that you could rent the Priest’s House and have after-hours access to the garden it seemed too good to be true. It didn’t take long before we decided we must give it a go.
Given that we wanted to stay there in June, a very popular month for gardens, we thought it might be a little hard to get a reservation. When I called the National Trust they told me we could book up to two years in advance. And that is exactly what we did. I waited until it was exactly two years before the dates we thought would work and made the reservation and put down a 50% deposit.
And then suddenly, two years later, there we were. There were many moments over those two years where I was convinced that there was a typo somewhere and we wouldn’t really have after-hours access to the garden. But then we got there and I happily discovered that I had been worried over nothing.
We. Had. The. Whole. Place. To. Ourselves.
Yes, there appeared to be a caretaker couple who lived on site, and some of the Nicolsons still have a weekend home in part of the main building and use the South Cottage in the month of June, but, with very little exception, these folks were invisible during our stay. And yes, in the morning there were gardeners on site, but they also didn’t get in our way and were super helpful and friendly when we had questions.
I should also mention at this point that England in June has really long days. We are talking sun up at 4:40 AM and sunset close to 10 PM. Since the garden is only open to the public from 11:00 to 5:30, this meant we had about 10 hours of daylight in the garden pretty much all to ourselves. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but it is still amazing to me that we had such an amazing opportunity to experience Sissinghurst as if it were ours (without all the work).
More details and photos in the coming days, but I thought I would post a few snaps to give you a sense of our living conditions for the week.