Prospect Cottage – An unexpected day out

Over Christmas 2022, I read ‘Derek Jarman’s Garden’, as a result of an unexpected visit to Prospect Cottage earlier in the year. One of the best things about staying in a holiday cottage is ploughing through the leaflets left behind by former occupants. You make interesting discoveries, which may not always be on the general radar of ‘things to do.’ One such leaflet led to an unexpected adventure across Romney Marshes in search of St Thomas à Becket Church in Fairfield. I was drawn to the unusual church exterior in a remote location, intrigued that the village it served, no longer existed. I imagined it shrouded in mist, with grazing sheep on nearby pastures leaping across the watercourses – perhaps an ideal photo opportunity?

St Thomas à Becket Church

The leaflet led to other churches, one of those being St Clement in Old Romney. The interior was not your standard church – for a start it had box pews painted pink. This was due to a Walt Disney film – ‘Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow,’ which was filmed here in 1964. It starred the actors Patrick McGoohan (of ‘The Prisoner’ fame) and George Cole (of ‘Arthur Daley – Minder’ fame).

Following a brief wander around the graveyard, I noticed a rather unmissable grave – that of Derek Jarman. Very simply, his signature was scrawled across a very large headstone. It was decorated with shells and pebbles, then I realised that Dungeness was nearby and therefore Derek Jarman’s garden and cottage, which I’d heard of, but knew nothing about. I decided it was perhaps worth a visit.

The pink pews of St Clement

Derek Jarman’s gravestone

Prospect Cottage

The location of Prospect cottage in Dungeness is otherworldly. The landscape, like the marshes is flat, bleak and remote. It is exposed to the elements – the ‘easterlies bring salt spray which burns everything.’ It is an unusual place. Chugging behind the cottage are trains from the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. Then there is the ominous silhouette of the (decommissioned) Magnox nuclear reactor. In the book Derek Jarman’s Garden, the power station is described as being akin to an ‘ocean liner at night, or a small Manhattan ablaze with a thousand lights of different colours.’ Jarman talks about ‘the mysterious shadow that surrounds it, making it possible for the stars still to glow in a clear summer sky.’ It is somewhat a surreal place, but unforgettable, as is Prospect Cottage and its garden.

 The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway and Dungeness B nuclear power station

A bleak landscape illuminated by a Broom plant

The book by Jarman is interesting. It explains how he found the cottage on a bluebell hunt with Tilda Swinton. He discusses the challenges of growing plants in such a difficult area – shingle with no soil, local flora and fauna, the changing weather and how it affects the landscape, as well as poetry and his battle with HIV.

Beachcombing collections by Jarman

Flowerbed plantingIn his book, Jarman mentions Sea Kale as being the most prevalent plant in the area, in fact more grows here than anywhere else in England.

Jarman’s circle of stones

The Sunne Rising – John Donne


Jarman paid a remarkable price for his property and the surrounding land with no walls or boundaries. You’ll have to read the book to find out much!

View from the back garden

The black and yellow colour scheme with daffodils in the foreground.


A visit to Kew Gardens


The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London is a spectacular place. It is the largest botanical garden in the world – 300 acres of it to be precise. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and houses some 50,000 plants. It is a beautiful oasis of calm in a busy city and is also home to a lot of wildlife. There are many attractions and you can never see it all in a day. We decided just to go with the flow and wander, taking in a few ‘must sees.’

We started with the Rhododendron Walk or Dell. There are colours of rhododendrons in every conceivable colour and size, but interspersed along the walk are all manner of plants. Here the soft light emerges through the canopy of a large acer tree.

Among the damp, coolness of the dell were these beautiful yellow irises.

What I really like are the little paths leading off the main one, where you can have an adventure and make new discoveries. It is like a giant secret garden. There are many areas that have wildflowers too. Such as this cow parsley meadow.

The Giant Pagoda was built for the founder of the gardens – Princess Augusta and was completed in 1762.

In the Japanese Garden, there was a Peacock strutting about enjoying the attention.

I think my favourite place has to be the Temperate House. There are all kind of beautiful plants inside. We didn’t go into the Palm House on this visit, but that too is an amazing place if you can stand the heat!

The Temperate House was looking more established than our last visit. Here is a view of part of the giant glass house from the inside.

Did you know that ferns appeared on earth over 360 million years ago? Long before the dinosaurs...

A beautiful Bird of Paradise flower.

Back in the garden, a Eucalyptus tree grows lazily across a path at a 45 degree angle.

More cow parsley.

The tulips were still out at the end of May, following the coldest May in 25 years.

One of two lions overlooking a lake.

A view of the lake.


The Waterlily House contains the giant Amazon waterlily. In Victorian times, children were photographed sitting on them.

Finally, this sculpture caught my eye. It is called Leaf Spirit by Simon Gudgeon. It almost seems to merge with the trees when the light shines.

We walked almost 6 miles. If you are a keen garden enthusiast or botanist and want to look in detail at everything, you probably need to spend a few days there!

Experimenting with photography

I have a new lens. It is a manual one but attaches to my normal, automated camera. I am still figuring it out… It does not record normal camera data, such as aperture etc, which feels strange, because unless you write it down, you will never know what combination of settings you used for a particular shot! However, you do have to set the ISO on the camera beforehand. I experimented with it yesterday in the countryside after a rain storm and also in a garden. I think it helps you to visualise using manual settings and what they can do, more so than just moving a small dial on the camera, it is more clunky and solid.

I have an old camera which uses film and I am hoping that it will improve my understanding of that. I must also remember to use my tripod with it for extra sharpness! How funny that photography is taking me in a backward direction with old technology.

In terms of post-processing, there was very little to do, other than perhaps resize images.

Cow parsley.
Pink campions in the evening sunlight.
A leaning tree with young leaves.
Pink geraniums
White lilac
Pale purple lilac

Late Winter Colour

The sun was shining this weekend, so it was time to get out into the great outdoors and see what was growing.

Witch hazel.
Pink flowers.
Witch hazel.
Sunlight on a plant.

Sissinghurst Revisited

A bit of colour and sunshine to lift the spirits in the depths of Winter, some photographs from earlier in the year.

A bee foraging.
Plants in the shade.

Green flowers – Ixia viridifloria. Introduced by Vita Sackville-West to Sissinghurst, from South Africa.


Several fields are growing this crop of beautiful blue and purple flowers.
Hoverflies feeding on the pollen of blackberry flowers. Blackberries are already beginning to form, a sign that Autumn is not far away.
Pink flower with cow parsley.
The curious peacock.
The last of the pink peonies.
A small meadow with cow parsley.

Steppe Planting

The Big Sky Meadow at RHS Hyde Hall is a 46 acre project to convert land to a perennial meadow. The plants are those common to the Eurasian steppes, North American prairies and African grasslands.

Blue Eryngium planum and yellow Galium verum. When dried, the yellow flowers smell of freshly mown hay. These were once used to stuff straw mattresses. A yellow dye was also made from these flowers.

Berkehya purpurea from South Africa is a drought tolerant plant, suited to areas with poor soils.

Red clover – in herbal medicine, was used to treat skin disorders.


Vita Sackville-West on Sissinghurst: ‘The heavy golden sunshine enriched the old brick with a kind of patina, and made the tower cast a long shadow across the grass, like the finger of a gigantic sundial veering slowly with the sun. Everything was hushed and drowsy and silent but for the coo of the white pigeons.’
Sunshine lighting up flowers.
Chamomile flowers.
Delicate flowers.
Sunlight highlighting a flower in the shade.
Meadow flowers and grasses swaying in the wind, in the wilderness of the Orchard area.
Light and shadow.

Gardens & Woodland

Bluebells, azaleas, rhododendrons and red campions.

Young leaves growing on an Acer tree.

A close-up of a bluebell.

A close-up of a Rhododendron flower.

Young Acer leaves with sunshine behind them.

A Bluebell close-up.