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.