Sissinghurst Castle, Kent

ACTA has completed a conservation management plan for the whole of the National Trust's Sissinghurst Estate. Developing a better understanding of Vita Sackville-West's design of the building interiors, of her garden in its heyday in the 1930s to 1950s and the way that it has changed under the National Trust's management is central to this work. Despite all that has been written about Vita and her garden, these have proved to be rich topics for original research. Using diaries, contemporary photographs, her writings and radio broadcasts descriptions of the garden have been developed for its pre-war peak in 1938 and post-war peak in 1954. In addition her relationships with her favourite nurseries and with gardening friends and advisers such as Norah Lindsay were established. The changes made in the 1960s to accommodate large numbers of visitors and extend seasonal interest have been traced and the contrast between Vita's garden and the one developed by the outstanding National Trust head gardeners Pam Schwerdt and Sibylle Kreutzberger from the 1960s to the 1980s has been identified. The National Trust is now considering the best way to ensure that the spirit of Vita Sackville-West's Garden is maintained while ensuring good visitor access and year-round interest.

The project has explored the extent to which Vita Sackville-West was establishing a romantic setting for the ruins of Sissinghurst Castle.

Detailed analysis of photographs dating back to the 1930s has enabled reconstruction of the style of the South Cottage garden.

The development of the main borders and of Vita Sackville-West's very subtle approach to colour has been traced.