Friday, 25 September 2015

Grand tour - second phase!

While I was staying with cousins in North Yorkshire we visited Beningborough Hall.  It's a grand house, with a lovely walled garden.  They have an impressive vegetable garden within the walls, and a long, colourful border on the outside.  September is a great month for vivid colour in the garden.
Apart from catching up with family and friends, my trip down south was built around a two day event organised by gardener and wonderful flower lady, Sarah Raven.  We were to visit Sissinghurst Castle, Great Dixter and her own garden, Perch Hill.  All these gardens are within a few miles of each other, on the East Sussex and Kent border.  

On my way to check in to my B&B in Battle, I visited Charleston Farmhouse, not far from Lewes.  I have been there twice before.  The first time I visited was in 1986, when the house first opened to the public.  It's all changed a bit since then.  Much more geared towards visitors, a shop, and cafe - all that stuff.  

We were shown around by a delightful Japanese lady!  Essentially Charleston was the country home for core members of the Bloomsbury Group, back in the early years of the 20th century. They were a Bohemian bunch - Vanessa Bell, her children, Duncan Grant, and regular visits from Vanessa's husband, Clive Bell.  Visitors included Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes, T S Eliot, E M Forster, Virginia Woolf, amongst many other legendary names.  The dynamics were far too complicated to even begin to explain here!  If you saw the recent television serial Life in Squares, you will have gleaned some idea of the complicated web of relationships.  
It is not a big building, just a very average looking Sussex farmhouse, but walk through that front door and you enter another world.  Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were painters.  In the house, they painted everything that didn't move - door panels, window shutters, fireplace surrounds - everything.  They designed fabrics and wallpapers, and painted furniture and pictures too.  An unusual household, and artistically very productive! 
We were not allowed to take photographs inside the house (a bit of a bummer, to put it mildly) but you can see their handiwork if you follow the link below.  The house has a wonderful atmosphere.  It has been carefully restored, and you have the feeling its eccentric inhabitants could have just left the room.  http://www.charlestoncollection.org.uk/index.asp?page=section&mwsquery={Category}={decorations} 

Charleston's garden is small and not dissimilar to the house - slightly chaotic and very colourful!  It's a fabulous place.
I saw these two in the car park as I was leaving.  I couldn't resist taking the photo - in my early twenties I had a Morris 1000.  A green one, called Valerie. And when our children were small, we had a succession of three 2CVs.  Brilliant cars, both.




1 comment:

  1. Those grapes are so juicy I want to eat them all now! Yum!
    East Sussex is the quiet cousin of West Sussex.....my grandparents lived in Bexhill On Sea, and many happy holidays were spent down there.
    Your photos of Sissinghurst and Great Dixter are the Garden Tour favourites and just how I think everyone imagines an English garden to look. Busy, full, slightly haphazard and colourful in a neglected cared for kinda way!! Superb!!! :-)

    Sarah Raven is a favourite of mine in CL magazine!

    Wonderful trip, brilliant photos and my weekly, sometimes, daily dose of all things English...thanks A, a real treat.

    Your photo of the neat beautifully kept border does so remind me of my grandmother's garden. Ernie her gardener would be proud to think his work matched that of an 'open' garden.

    Oh happy days, happy memories!

    Love as ever
    S xxx

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