A gardener’s cottage built in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West, which overlooks Sissinghurst Castle, makes a tranquil retreat for National Trust gardener Claire Abery, whose ‘make-do-and-mend’ approach is perfectly fitting for this former Land Girls’ billet.

A fireplace which was once home to a kitchen range now acts as the focal point of the front room. A large bay window bathes the room in natural light

A fireplace which was once home to a kitchen range now acts as the focal point of the front room. A large bay window bathes the room in natural light

A rustic farmhouse table overlooking the kitchen garden is the perfect place to sit down and enjoy a meal made from home-grown vegetables

A rustic farmhouse table overlooking the kitchen garden is the perfect place to sit down and enjoy a meal made from home-grown vegetables

Bloomsbury-inspired wallpaper in the living room

Bloomsbury-inspired wallpaper in the living room

A much-loved teddy sits guard on the upstairs landing, next to Claire’s bedroom, which looks towards the castle and was once the bedroom of a Land Army matron

A much-loved teddy sits guard on the upstairs landing, next to Claire’s bedroom, which looks towards the castle and was once the bedroom of a Land Army matron

Chunky knits and bright fabrics hint at Claire’s love of sewing and making, while a Lloyd Loom chair looks perfectly at home

Chunky knits and bright fabrics hint at Claire’s love of sewing and making, while a Lloyd Loom chair looks perfectly at home

A vintage ‘Make do and Mend’ poster decorates the spare bedroom, and sits above the homemade quilt and alongside Claire’s much-used sewing area

A vintage ‘Make do and Mend’ poster decorates the spare bedroom, and sits above the homemade quilt and alongside Claire’s much-used sewing area

A shelving unit painted in muted, vintage green is used to keep Claire’s collection of buttons, ribbon and other sewing items tidy. Claire made the patchwork quilt herself and has filled another unused fireplace with Chinese Lanterns to add some colour and a sense of warmth to the room

A shelving unit painted in muted, vintage green is used to keep Claire’s collection of buttons, ribbon and other sewing items tidy. Claire made the patchwork quilt herself and has filled another unused fireplace with Chinese Lanterns to add some colour and a sense of warmth to the room

Flowers from the garden complement the ‘mood board’

Flowers from the garden complement the ‘mood board’

A galley kitchen continues in the retro theme

A galley kitchen continues in the retro theme

There is no shortage of flowers for the dining table in this cottage

There is no shortage of flowers for the dining table in this cottage

Patterned quilts are folded up on a bedside chair, ready for use when the weather gets cold

Patterned quilts are folded up on a bedside chair, ready for use when the weather gets cold

Colour-blocking with cushions keeps things simple, in front of the vibrant zig-zag wallpaper. The bookshelf is made from scaffolding boards and was inspired by a version that Claire saw in a high street store.

Colour-blocking with cushions keeps things simple, in front of the vibrant zig-zag wallpaper. The bookshelf is made from scaffolding boards and was inspired by a version that Claire saw in a high street store

Mismatched chairs complement the informality of the rustic table

Mismatched chairs complement the informality of the rustic table

One look in the porch, and it’s clear this is the home of a gardener; bulbs, seed packets, vegetables and herbs – and the essential pair of wellies – stand at the ready. A gift of ornamental rose hips from a friend lie ready for use in the house as decoration, and logs are stacked to take in for the fire

One look in the porch, and it’s clear this is the home of a gardener; bulbs, seed packets, vegetables and herbs – and the essential pair of wellies – stand at the ready. A gift of ornamental rose hips from a friend lie ready for use in the house as decoration, and logs are stacked to take in for the fire

The view from upstairs in the cottage

The view from upstairs in the cottage

“As soon as the garden shuts at the end of the season we get stuck in pruning roses, hedge-cutting, clearing herbaceous beds. There’s lots of preparation to do before we get ready to open again in March.”

“As soon as the garden shuts at the end of the season we get stuck in pruning roses, hedge-cutting, clearing herbaceous beds. There’s lots of preparation to do before we get ready to open again in March.”

Corners of Claire’s informal garden, including a pair of her old work boots planted with sempervivums

Corners of Claire’s informal garden, including a pair of her old work boots planted with sempervivums

Pears in the drizzle

Claire is unperturbed by the drizzle — the sign of a proper gardener

  • words:
  • pictures: David Merewether
  • styling: Jennifer Stuart-Smith

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