more stories from sussex

This little felt needlecase was hidden away in the drawer at the lovely cottage we stayed at in Sussex last week. I loved it straightaway and wondered who had made it and when, and for whom? Long ago, when we all had less money and handmade was taken for granted, a needlecase was the go-to present for aunts, mothers and grandmothers. I would love to know who might have unwrapped this carefully worked labour of love on Christmas Day.

Anyway, the second half of our holiday followed much the same pattern as the first: more walks, more cream teas, and more beautiful gardens...

This lovely meadow and sweet smelling herb garden was at Clinton Lodge, where there was an amazing swimming pool garden surrounded by roses. It was such a hot day, I had a desperate longing to jump in, but luckily an embarrassing scene was avoided by the discovery of something else to be silly on...

Clinton Lodge garden is the sort of place where you find an antique wooden triptych in the loggia-style changing rooms. Rather a difference from our local pool.

I have no photos, as you were not allowed to take any, but one of the most interesting places we visited was Charleston Farmhouse, home of most of the Bloomsbury Group at one time or another. It is quite an ordinary and lovely farmhouse in the rolling hills of the South Downs, but is a truly extraordinary place. There is art everywhere, most famously the exuberant and colourful work of Vanessa Bell which decorates doors, walls, floors, fireplaces and furniture, but also beautiful paintings by Duncan Grant and others, and Quentin Bell's strange limbless stone figures in the garden. Like most of us I had seen many articles and photos of this unique place, but as is so often the case, a photograph cannot tell the whole picture. Some of the decorative work seems unsophisticated to the modern eye, yet overall the effect is amazing and somehow works. It is a craftsperson's delight: everywhere there are rugs, embroidery, fabric designs, ceramics and paintings. And it is full of life, full of stories. I realised perhaps for the first time how unconventional, brave and truly modern this group of people were.

Another interesting house we visited was Bateman's, the home of Rudyard Kipling. As I am so childish, it nearly killed me not to ask for 'an exceedingly good cake' at the cafe. Again, no internal photography allowed, but I sneaked this shot out of the window, hoping it wouldn't count.

As we left Batemans, there was quite a commotion going on in the car park. It was all about this:

Look carefully (click to enlarge) and you will see a large swarm of beautiful, healthy bees, busy protecting their precious queen high up in an oak tree as they look for somewhere new to set up home. As bees are under such terrible threat in Britain and indeed much of the world these days, I was thrilled to see them and cheered them on.

Hopefully they will now be settled down nicely in one of these. We were pleased to spot this one at a pretty little NGS garden called Town Place, where Rory proudly clocked up his sixth - and penultimate - cream tea of the holiday.

There are still a few more holiday tales to tell, but I will save them for another day. I've been inspired to make some more Mouse Bags and work on some packaging for my Pincushions, so more news soon.


Gigibird said...

I had to stifle hysterical sniggering when faced with Quentin Bell’s ‘ceramics’ – especially the lampshades….oh and Vanessa Bell’s macramé radiator cover….but you are right overall the look works….
I do hope the bees were collected by an experienced bee keeper…..not like a swan down here which the council destroyed because of health and safety reasons….

Lorenza said...

what beautiful photographs!! The gardens are so enchanting, I think only Britain has gardens like these :) I have bee enjoying bumble bees at the allotment, it's worrying to know numbers are so low, let's hope this sunny weather is doing them good!

Thank you for popping by my blog, it's always so nice to find your comments, wouldn't be lovely to bump into each other sometime?! it really is such a small world! Wish you a great start to the week.

L x

Bobo Bun said...

What a memory lane for me reading this post. With sadness we left Brighton to be nearer to family and only today were wondering if we could upsticks and move back soon. What a fantastice few days you've been having. Did you see the head in the wall at Batemans? It's where we wished for our girls.

Charleston is more than the what you see I found. I felt as if the whole place oozed with the intense joy of being creative. Did you visit the church which V.B and Grant decorated too?

Thanks so much for sharing.

Lisa x

Pipany said...

This sounds just my sort of holiday. I love visiting houses and gardens too. Hope the bees are now settled and happy x

Gilly said...

Those gardens look lovely - and you had real summer weather too!

And I still have, and use all the time, the needle case you made me many, many moons ago!! :)

PG said...

I have to say, I cannot abide Charleston or the look of it, (I get the feeling that if they were alive now they'd be doing some hideous makeover programme) but I have seen Kiplings house on some antiques programme and it loked lovely - lots and lots of 'stuff'. But I adore the needlecase, I hope it made its way home with you..

Sue said...

The little needlecase stayed safely in its drawer after the excitement of being photographed. I felt sure somebody else loved it too.

cocoa and blankets said...

I would love to go to Bloomsbury house what a shame you couldnt take pictures. i think you are a coward...i would have asked for an exceedingly good cake! dare you next and hugs H...I have missed you....

Lyn said...

We went to Batemans a few years ago, it made me feel sad thinking about the short film they made about his only son dying in the 1st World War. Beautiful place though.

Frances said...

Sue, it's great to have you back. Your holiday report on all those gardens and interesting houses makes me yearn for a trip to Sussex.

Unlike PG, I really did enjoy my visit to Charleston. I got there at a time when no official house tours were on, and luckily talked my way into having a solo tour with a very well informed and witty Charleston Trust volunteer.

She only told me what I asked, and basically let me wander around on my own.

Looking forward to seeing what you will be creating soon.


Lyn said...

I sort of followed Attic 24 where Lucy has done a tutorial, I did it wrong at first and it didn't look very 'rippley' but then it gets better the more you do!
or I could copy what I have-Lucy's has good photos too!

Ticking stripes said...

I'm certainly a Charleston lover - not necessarily every single item but its true to say that it is more than the sum of all its parts...

Cottage Garden said...

I have just discovered your lovely blog and website ... I'm smitten and have added you to my inspiring blogs list!
I love Charleston House too, its such a uniquely creative place - I'm definitely due for a return visit I think. Have you been to Monk's Cottage, Virginia and Leonard Woolf's country hideaway in East Sussex? Very pretty garden.
One of my favourite things is to visit houses and gardens and I recently posted on my blog our visit to Columbine House, a wonderfully restored medieval house in Suffolk.
I look forward to coming back to your lovely blog again.