When in Doubt Add Twenty More Colours! Kaffe Fassett at The American Museum in Bath


Kaffe himself

Last year I read ‘Dreaming in Colour : an autobiography’ by Kaffe Fassett. I’d always been aware of his knitting books and collaboration with Rowan Yarns of Holmfirth and vaguely knew that he had created some veggie designs for cushions for Ehrman but had been unaware of the person behind these enterprises and the prolific output and inspiration of the man. The Amazon Book Description sums it all up :

Kaffe Fassett has led an extraordinary life and is a captivating storyteller with a vivid memory. Born in 1937 in San Francisco, he spent much of his youth in Big Sur, where his parents bought a log cabin from Orson Welles and transformed it into the world-famous Nepenthe restaurant, a gathering place of artists of all sorts. After attending a boarding school run by the disciples of Krishunamurti, an Indian guru, he studied painting on scholarship at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but left after less than one year and travelled to England, where he ultimately made his home. After struggling to make a living as a fine artist for several years, Fassett met the fashion designer Bill Gibb and began designing knitwear for his collection. He went on to design knitwear for Missoni and for private clients and to revolutionise the hand knitting world with his explosive use of color. Further explorations led him to needlepoint, mosaics, rug-making, yarn and fabric design, set design and quilting. Now in his 70s, Fassett continues to produce new work in his studio in London and to travel worldwide to teach and lecture. This intimate autobiography is lavishly filled with Fassett’s amazing stories about his bohemian childhood, his hard-earned rise to fame, and all of his creative pursuits. It includes photos of him throughout his life, his home (which is an artwork in itself), his work (everything from childhood drawings to pencil sketches, to oil paintings, to massive tapestries and set designs, to hand knits and quilts) as well as the people and places around the world that have inspired him.”

Opening display

The Display that hits you as you enter the show!

So, inspired by this book and the riot of colour in Kaffe’s designs when I decided to drive down to Cornwall I thought it would be a good opportunity to see his work for myself. It’s currently on display at The American Museum in Bath until 2nd November 2014.

Colourful breakfast

My Colourful Breakfast Table (I’m reading about Port Eliot in Waitrose Kitchen magazine)

It was a day of colour, really, which began with a lovely breakfast : a combination of fruits and Cath Kidston tableware, moved on to meeting a friend at the Galleries Cafe at Freshford with its colourful herb garden and culminated with the exhibition and gardens at The American Museum.

Herbs

Herbs at The Galleries – A Magnet for Butterflies

Museum, Bath

The American Museum at Bath

artist reminder

A Reminder that Kaffe was initially an artist

Red quilt

Red Quilt

VEGGIE THAME

Veggie Theme Garden Bench

Teapot and cosy

Teapot and Cosy

On a garden theme

Tea and Gardens Theme

Knitted blocks

Muted Knitted Blocks Hanging and Cardy

Tea at American Mus

Period Room Setting with 1750s Tea Table – Connecticut or Massachusetts

G Washington garden

George Washington Mount Vernon Garden

K Fassett hare

Remember the Kaffe Fassett Hare from Yesterday?

 

Sweet Pea Week at Easton Walled Garden, Lincolnshire

‘A Dream of Nirvana – Almost too good to be true’ – President Roosevelt on a visit to Easton, summer 1902

Easton Garden 1

Easton Walled Garden

It’s a long old drive from Felixstowe in Suffolk up to Leeds. I was in no hurry to leave the comfortable and welcoming rectory in Alderton and join the busy A14 west and then the A1 north. The weather had taken a distinct turn for the better so I checked my list of possible stops en route and decided on Easton Walled Garden in Lincolnshire just a minute or two from the A1. By then I’d have more than half of the journey behind me. According to the website the gardens are open Wednesdays to Fridays and Sundays throughout the season. Dash it! I was travelling on a Monday. But wait. What’s this? The gardens had some additional opening days – daily for a week in February for the snowdrops and daily for a week 30 June to 6 July (this year) for Sweet Peas! My luck was in.

The gardens are at least 400 years old. They cover 12 acres of a beautiful valley just off the A1. Home to the Cholmeley family for 14 generations, the gardens were abandoned in 1951 when Easton Hall was pulled down. The revival of these gardens has been ongoing since late 2001.

Easton Hall 19C

Easton Hall in the 19th century

There had been a house on this site since at least 1592 when Sir Henry Cholmeley (1562-1620) came to live in Lincolnshire on the death of his Uncle, Robert Cholmeley, in 1590 … Sir Henry built his house on a site overlooking the River Witham and this is believed to have survived until the beginning of the 19th Century …In 1805 the house was altered and enlarged by Sir Montague Cholmeley, first baronet (1772-1831). … In 1872 [the hall was described] as ‘large and handsome, with large and elegantly furnished apartments, containing many valuable paintings and other works of art’. … [The Hall] was requisitioned at the start of the Second World War. It became home to units of the Royal Artillery and and of the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (of Arnhem fame) for four years, in which time it suffered considerable damage both to the fabric of the building and to the remaining contents. In 1951 the Hall was demolished. … The family still own the estate and have been the driving force behind the gardens revival.” [From the website]

gatehouse

The Gatehouse

remaining buildings

The remaining buildings from the orchard site now a wildflower meadow

 

Canalised R Witham

River Witham canalised by the Elizabethans …

ornamental bridge

… shored up and bridged by the Victorians

Easton Garden

Easton Garden. In the middle is the Yew Tunnel.

Yew Tunnel

The Yew Tunnel

Birds from hide

Bird Feeders from the Viewing Area

Having stretched my legs and inspected the extensive gardens I returned to the cottage garden, the pickery and the history and information rooms to look at the sweet peas and learn more about them and Easton Hall and Gardens.

Pick your own

Pick Your Own

Sweet pea inspections

Sweet Peas in the Cottage Garden

SP display 2

Sweet Pea Specimens

Even the worst flower arranger cannot fail to make a decent fist of arranging sweet peas. To start they usually look best on their own, they will look good in a wide-necked or a narrow container and whatever you do, the scent will make up for any artistic shortcomings. The only rule to be aware of is to make sure your container is in proportion to the size of the stems. Short grandiflora peas look good in little vintage medicine bottles. Large flowers for exhibition can be placed in traditional vases up to about 10 inches high.” [Information Board]

Display

Beautiful! – And smell even better.

 

Two Henrys : The Fourth Part Two and Moore

From Renishaw Hall on the eighteenth of June we made our way to Stratford upon Avon where we checked in at our hotel in time to wash and brush up before heading on foot (only a few minutes distant) to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre by the River Avon. It was a lovely warm evening and there were lots of people about enjoying relaxing by the River and the Canal.

RST

We were booked for supper at The Rooftop Restaurant followed by a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part Two by the Royal Shakespeare Company. This was no dull, boring history play rather it seemed to me dominated by comedy. Anthony Sher played Falstaff and the whole performance was being filmed and relayed simultaneously to a greater audience in cinemas throughout the country. This meant that the director, Greg Doran, came on stage at the beginning to introduce the play.

Swans of Avon

The Swans of Avon and Clopton Bridge from The Rooftop Restaurant

HT Church

River Avon and Spire of Holy Trinity church from The Rooftop Restaurant

Shakespeare Hotel

The Shakespeare Hotel – one time I stayed here

Grammar School

The Grammar School, Stratford upon Avon

Birthplace

The Birthplace

The next morning after a leisurely breakfast and opportunity to take a walk in Stratford we headed off to nearby Compton Verney where we had a full programme of tours, a sandwich lunch and time also to walk in the park, visit the chapel and spend time (and money) in the attractive gift shop.

Approaching CV

CV and 3 piece

CV House

“10.30am Depart for Compton Verney. Set in a park designed by the ubiquitous ‘Capability’ Brown, this long-derelict house of the Willoughby de Broke family is now resurgent under the inspiration of the [Peter] Moore’s Foundation. The collections are numerous and varied. The morning will be given over to the current display of sculptures by Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin, while the afternoon will feature a guided tour of salient points of the main collection which encompasses British Portraits, Chinese Ceramics and Bronzes, British Folk Art and for Textile-buffs The Marx-Lambert Collection. You will be free to visit those parts of the collection which are your particular interest. www.comptonverney.org.uk” [Our Programme]

Moore Rodin

Moore – Rodin

Calais Burghers

Rodin’s Burghers of Calais

Exhibition
Moore Rodin
15 February 2014 to 31 August 2014
10th Anniversary Year – Moore Rodin at Compton Verney

This ground-breaking international exhibition compares the work of two giants of modern sculpture: Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin. This is the first exhibition to be devoted exclusively to these artists, with major works being displayed in our ‘Capability’ Brown landscape as well as in our exhibition spaces.

Fallen Caryatid

Fallen Caryatid by Rodin

Bunched figure

Reclining Figure : Bunched by Henry Moore

In the grounds
Enjoy eleven large scale works which complement, challenge and create new perspectives to vistas ‘Capability’ Brown formed in the 1760s. Amongst these amazing pieces is one of Rodin’s most famous works, Monument to the Burghers of Calais (usually on display outside the Houses of Parliament), Moore’s magnificent monumental Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae and The Arch.

Walking man on column

Rodin’s Walking Man on Column

Upright Motive No. 9

Henry Moore Upright Motive No. 9 with Chapel

Inside the galleries

Gain an amazing insight into the works of these two artists. Explore the parallels between their treatment of the figure through a beautiful collection of drawings and models made for larger works. See a special display curated by Moore’s daughter Mary which reveals both artists as keen collectors of antiquities and found objects which profoundly influenced their work. The final treat is a display of rarely seen archival documents and photographs taken by Henry Moore revealing that … ‘as time has gone on, my admiration for Rodin has grown and grown’.

After our sandwich lunch I wandered round the grounds and visited the Capability Brown Chapel.  This was built in 1776 as part of the relandscaping of the site and is one of the few surviving Georgian chapels in Britain, and one of the very few remaining architectural works by ‘Capability’ Brown. It is currently undergoing a restoration project and more funds are needed to support this work as it’s hoped to use the building in future for music and learning.

CB's chapel

The Chapel Interior

And in the afternoon we had a tour of the permanent collection – British Portraits

Beautiful display

Beautiful Displays

and British Folk Art. Currently there is an exhibition of British Folk Art at Tate Britain and this will then come to Compton Verney  from 27 September 2014 to 14 December 2014.

British Folk Art

British Folk Art

Weather vane

Weather Vane

Quilt

Quilt

And finally, the Marx-Lambert Collection.

Marx Lambert collection

Enid Marx (1902-1998) was one of the brightest design stars to emerge from the Design School of London’s Royal College of Art (RCA) during the interwar years. She was an author and illustrator of children’s books, a book designer, a printmaker, a textile designer and a painter.
The Marx-Lambert collection at Compton Verney features both work produced by Marx and a large number of pieces of folk or popular art which were collected by Marx and her friend Margaret Lambert (1906-95). These then inspired Marx’s own work -sometimes directly, as seen in the pair of ceramic wall-mounted cornucopia cases which inspired her ‘Cornucopia’ textile design.”

Canal art and wallpaper

Canal Art and Wallpaper

A wonderful trip full of interest and variety marred only by a 3 hour delay on the M1 due to a lorry on fire.

 

 

 

 

English Eccentricity Lives On at Renishaw Hall

On Thursday I returned from a two-day Art Fund Expedition to Compton Verney and Stratford. I never need asking twice to go to Stratford to see world class Shakespeare being performed live before my very eyes. I have made several visits over the years. So, when a flyer arrived advertising the expedition to Stratford and to include a tour of Renishaw Hall (generally very limited access) and visit to Compton Verney House in Warwickshire I was ready to sign up and go.

Renishaw

Our band of 25 set of from Leeds at 9.30 on Wednesday arriving at Renishaw about 10.45. Our visit began with tea (or coffee) in the Gallery Cafe followed by a personal tour of the house.

Thought for the day

Thought for the Day in the Courtyard Cafe

After a brief introduction outside we ventured inside to see the fabulous interior. Definitely the former home of eccentrics and eclectic collectors. It is a Sitwell descendant’s home. Here’s a potted introduction to the famous Sitwell siblings from the Renishaw Hall website :

Edith oversees luncheon

Edith Sitwell overlooked our luncheon. The throne is still to be seen in the ballroom.

The Sitwells

The current owner of Renishaw is Alexandra Sitwell, daughter of the late Sir Reresby and Lady Sitwell. Her extraordinary family have lived at Renishaw for nearly 400 years.

The Sitwells have always been avid collectors and patrons of the arts and the history of the family is filled with writers, innovators and eccentrics.

Perhaps the most famed of the Sitwells were the prolific writers Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell:

Dame Edith Sitwell (1887 – 1964) was a grandly eccentric poet and novelist, described by one observer as “an altar on the move.” Perhaps better known for her poetry, two of her most important works were the books English Eccentrics and Fanfare for Elizabeth

Sir Osbert Sitwell (1892-1969) wrote prose, poetry and also many short stories and novels, including Before the Bombardment (1926). He is probably best known for his five volume autobiography Left Hand Right Hand

Sir Sacheverell Sitwell (1897-1988) was well known for his work on art, architecture, ballet and travel and arguably his greatest book was Southern Baroque Art which secured him a reputation as author and art historian.”

But they were by no means the only family members to have influenced the Hall over the centuries.

Main Entrance

The Main Entrance of the original house still used as such today

The house was built in 1625 by George Sitwell (1601–67). The Sitwell fortune was made between the 17th and 20th centuries from iron nails, coal, land and through marriage.

Between 1793 and 1808 Joseph Badger of Sheffield made additions and alterations to the original and in 1908 Sir Edwin Lutyens made some changes; about some of which our guide was rather scathing. Lutyens was a good friend of Sir George Sitwell and forty of his notebooks were found in the attics. But he apparently did very little – Christine pointed out the black pillars, the garden doors and the ceiling of the Old Billiard Room plus the recycling of piano keys as surrounds for tapestries in the ballroom.

Sir George Sitwell (1860-1943) who had succeeded to the baronetcy in 1862  was responsible for laying out the stunning Italianate gardens in the late 19th Century. For many years he lived in Scarborough where he was the town’s MP. A Blue Plaque at Woodend his home in Scarborough now  commemorates his children Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell. He bought a castle in Tuscany and assembled the largest private collection of John Piper’s paintings.

Woodend

Woodend, Scarborough

Blue Plaque Scarboro

Blue Plaque at Woodend commemorating the famous Sitwell siblings

Woodend garden

The Woodend Garden in March 2009

Besides the Pipers there was a host of other paintings including a Sir John Singer Sargent of Sir George Sitwell Lady Ida Sitwell and Family. 

[wallcoo]_Sargent_John_Singer_Sir_George_Sitwell_Lady_Ida_Sitwell_and_Family

Here is Ida in a gown by … Madam Clapham of Hull

The library was somewhere I could have stayed for the rest of the day – comfy sofas and chairs and with a beautiful view of the gardens; plus walls of books including lots of first half of the 20th century volumes. There are 30,000 books in the house altogether. What’s wrong with that? I say.

Several years ago whilst staying in Northamptonshire I visited the church and graveyard at Weedon Lois where Edith and her brother Sacheverell are buried. Interestingly, her gravestone is the work of Henry Moore. Weston Hall nearby was another family home of the Sitwells.

Weedon Lois

The ‘new’ churchyard at Weedon Lois in June 2009

Headstone by Henry Moore

Edith Sitwell Headstone by Henry Moore

Sitwell wording

 

Sitwell wording

I have always suspected that the editor of the Waitrose Kitchen free magazine William Sitwell is a member of that illustrious and eccentric family … and indeed he is cousin of the present owner of Renishaw, Alexandra Sitwell.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of Dame Edith Sitwell and I see from the website of the Sitwell Society that some interesting events are planned to coincide with this including :

1st November 2014, Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) Remembered by Chris Beevers, archivist at Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire, the present day home of Lady Alexandra Sitwell (Edith Sitwell’s great-niece).
‘Edith Sitwell Remembered (1887-1964)’ commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of her death by looking back over the public and private lives of this extraordinary woman. She was not only a key 20th century literary figure but also a much loved sister, aunt and great aunt to the Sitwell family. Using material from Alexandra Sitwell’s family archive, along with published biographical information, Chris Beevers will present the life of Edith, illustrating key milestones in her personal and professional life. A complex individual, the talk attempts to reveal the ‘real’ Edith, and what lay behind her public ‘facade’ as an avant garde poet, performer and fashion figure, often labelled ‘eccentric’, as well as highlighting the literary significance of her work. It will also represent another Edith, a kind, generous and loyal friend who did much to help others in private, as well as supporting new, undiscovered talent.
Friends of the Library event. 1st November, 2014, 11.15am-midday (tea & coffee served from 10.30am) Cost: Free to members of Friends of the Library, £1 to non-members. Contact: Karen McCabe, 01723 367009 or Colin Langford, 01723 375602

After the House Tour we returned to the Courtyard where we had our soup and sandwich lunch in a separate dining room. We then had a further hour or so to inspect the gardens and courtyard shop before continuing down to Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Renishaw Shop

Inside the Renishaw Shop

Gothic Aviary

Gothic Aviary in Renishaw Garden

Renishaw and garden

Renishaw Hall and Garden

Rear of Renishaw

Rear of Renishaw Hall

Flower beds and hall

Flowerbeds and hall

A Sussex Tea Garden, a Long Man and a Landmark Priory : Litlington and Wilmington

Last year Simon over at Stuck-in-a-Book lent me his copy of  ‘Tea is so Intoxicating’ by Mary Essex which is one of several pen names of romantic novelist (and my brother-in-law’s Godmother!) Ursula Bloom.

One thing I especially loved about the book was the choice of chapter headings. Shall I quote them all here?

1. Tea for Two,and Two for Tea

2. I do like a Nice Cup of Tea

3. For all the Tea in China

4. The Cups that Cheer but not Inebriate

5. Everything Stops for Tea

6. Cold Tea may be Endured, but not Cold Looks (Japanese Proverb)

7. Tea and Scandal

Written in 1950 it is basically the story of a London couple who set up a Tea Garden in the South of England but the marriage is not a success.

P1130717

Anyway, when Fran told me that Tea Gardens were a particular feature of the East Sussex countryside around Laughton I knew, should the weather remain sympathetic, that I would have to take my Swiss friends to one of these minor Sussex institutions. So, after the walk on Sunday at Firle Beacon and the visit to Firle village we headed for Litlington Tea Garden.

Litlington tea garden

In the Tea Garden – there are a few sheltered places should the weather turn inclement

We were in luck – the day remained warm and dry. We ordered cucumber sandwiches to be followed by scones and jam and accompanied by plenty of tea.

cucumber sandwiches

From Litlington it was just a short drive to Wilmington. Here is the famous Long Man carved into the chalk hillside many centuries ago. Here also is Wilmington Priory another Landmark Trust property.

The Long Man Info

Wilmington Long Man

After tea and scones and jam we were ready for a little exercise so parked up in the small car park on the edge of Wilmington and walked about the half mile or so to the bottom of the hillside upon which he is marked out. The nearer you get to him the less of him there is to see. Still, it was a nice walk.

Approaching the Long Man

Approaching the Long Man

Close up

We Reach The Long Man

The enigmatic Long Man of Wilmington attracts many theories but provides little evidence to back them up. Now outlined in stone, he was formerly carved in the chalk of the hill. His first definite mention was as late as 1710, but the monument was old then. A picture drawn by bored monks, commemoration of the Saxon conquest of Pevensey, a Roman soldier or Neolithic god opening the gates of dawn. The ‘Long Man asking the traveller – like the Sphinx – to solve the dark mystery of its own origins’.” [Wealden Walks]

Wilmington Priory

Wilmington Priory

“The remains of a once highly regarded Benedictine Priory Wilmington Priory was a cell of the Benedictine Abbey at Grestain in Normandy. It was never a conventional priory with cloister and chapter, the monks prayed in the adjoining parish church where the thousand-year-old yews are testimony to the age of the site. The Priory has been added to and altered in every age and some of it has been lost to ruin and decay, but what is left shows how highly it was once regarded.” [Landmark Trust website]

Rear of Wilmington Priory

Rear of Wilmington Priory

Ruined Priory

The Ruined Priory

WP garden

Wilmington Priory Gardens

1000 year old yew

The 1,000 Year Old Yew Tree in the Churchyard

Great Dixter : A Visit to the Garden and House

Arriving at Great Dixter

We arrive at Great Dixter

Our Saturday excursion in Sussex was intended to be to Sissinghurst former home of Vita Sackville-West : a kind of continuing of the Bloomsbury trail. However, word must have reached the Swiss Alps to the effect that the house and garden at Great Dixter must not be missed. Thus we wended our way across county to near the Kent border to visit this wonderful house and its almost overpowering garden.

Gt Dixter

Great Dixter recently featured in a one hour presentation on the BBC TV series British Gardens in Time.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01wjd2t

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01wjcl2

I’d seen the programme and therefore knew a bit about Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006) whose parents moved to Great Dixter in 1910. He was born here; the youngest of 6 children. In 1954, after attending Rugby School and King’s College, Cambridge and studying and later teaching horticulture at Wye College, he moved back to Dixter to live with his mother Daisy. They shared their love gardening until 1972 when Daisy died. He lived here until his own death in 2006 gardening and writing and encouraging students of gardening to stay at the house and study. His work continues today under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett and the Great Dixter Charitable Trust.  Read more about Christopher Lloyd here.

GD Nursery

Great Dixter Nursery Garden

You can only visit the House in the afternoons between 2 and 5pm so we spent the morning in the Nursery Garden, walking in the Wild Flower Meadows and Orchard, visiting the shop and refreshment area and generally the more informal garden areas. After a (disappointing) lunch we visited the House and the more formal parts of the garden nearer to the house.

GD shop and cafe garden

Shop and Picnic Garden

GD Potting shed

The Potting Shed

GD Seeds Packet

Great Dixter Seeds

Wild flower meadow and house

Wild Flower Meadow, Topiary and House

Meadow path

Meadow Path

Just three rooms in the Great Dixter House are open to the public : The Great Hall, The Solar and The Parlour. No photography is allowed inside. There were knowledgable room stewards in each room. None of these rooms were part of the Edwin Lutyens ‘extension’ as this is used still today to accommodate GD’s horticulture students. I learned that a barn had been spotted by Lutyens some miles away and bought and removed to Great Dixter beam by beam. The ‘Benenden’ House and the Lutyens features are described here :

As you face the entrance side of Great Dixter, the porch and everything to the right is 15th or early 16th-century, while the left hand side of the house, containing service quarters below and bedrooms above, is by Edwin Lutyens.

The extraordinary sweep of the tiled roof, particularly when seen from the upper garden, punctuated by tall chimneys and small dormer windows, is the most dramatic element of Lutyens’ otherwise self-effacing work at Great Dixter.

Following the path to the right, the huge chimney breast on the end wall of the house was a substitution by Lutyens for the miserable small flues then serving the Parlour and Solar.

The ground on the garden side of the house falls away quite steeply, so a terrace was built where additions to the south side of the Great Hall were destroyed, and the reconstructed house from Benenden was erected on a high brick base (containing the Billiard Room).

As you begin to walk along the Long Border, look back at the east side of the house. On the right on the first floor is a small window on a different level from all the others. This was a characteristic touch of Lutyens’ and is a floor level window in the Day Nursery. He called it the Crawling Window. Few great architects would have bothered to ensure that the smallest inhabitant, unable to reach a conventional window sill, could also see out.

The doorway (now blocked) in the end of the Benenden house is original.” [Source]

Benenden House extension

Benenden House Wing

I was intrigued to learn that the exterior of the ‘Benenden House’ wing is reflected in the two Lutyens garden seats strategically placed at the end of the Long Border and by the Topiary Lawn.

Lutyens Garden Seat

Lutyens Garden Seat at the Long Border

Topiary Garden

Topiary Garden

It was such a beautiful day that we didn’t go into the Oast House and White Barn exhibitions. Great Dixter is not just a place to visit and although it is the gardening students who stay here there are courses for everyone.

Hurdle workshops

A miniature hurdle

Miniature Hurdles ‘in action’ in the garden

Oast house

Oast House

The only disappointment as far as we were concerned was the refreshment ‘kiosk'; I suppose it was just meant to be a place to obtain a minimal amount of sustenance and the intention was not to turn it into a destination in its own right. My advice would be – take your own picnic!

Our journey to and from Great Dixter took us through Herstmonceux and on our way we noticed the Sussex Truggery and decided to call in on our return journey. Unfortunately The Truggery closes at 1pm on Saturdays but we did stock up with fruit and vegetables at a nearby country farm shop.

Truggery

The Sussex Trugggery

Trug window

 

 

 

 

Charleston Farmhouse : An Artists’ Home and Garden

Welcome to CF shop

Welcome to Charleston Farmhouse Shop

In some ways very different from Monks House but in other ways similar; on the Friday of our stay we headed to Charleston Farmhouse just a few miles from Laughton Place. It’s a rather more slick presentation in that tickets are sold and one is booked on one of the timed tours which take place at twenty minute intervals throughout the opening hours (just Wednesday to Sunday during the season). No photography is allowed in the house. But like Monks House there is colour inside and out and the garden is relaxed and colourful and again reflected the atmosphere of the house itself.

Chareston

Charleston Farmhouse

“Charleston is a property associated with the Bloomsbury group. It was the country home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and is an example of their decorative style within a domestic context, representing the fruition of over sixty years of artistic creativity.

In 1916 the artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant moved to Sussex with their unconventional household. Over the following half century it became the country meeting place for the group of artists, writers and intellectuals known as Bloomsbury. Clive Bell, David Garnett and Maynard Keynes lived at Charleston for considerable periods; Virginia and Leonard Woolf, E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry were frequent visitors. Inspired by Italian fresco painting and the Post-Impressionists, the artists decorated the walls, doors and furniture at Charleston. The walled garden was redesigned in a style reminiscent of southern Europe, with mosaics, box hedges, gravel pathways and ponds, but with a touch of Bloomsbury humour in the placing of the statuary.

Statuary

… humour in the placing of the statuary

“It’s most lovely, very solid and simple, with … perfectly flat windows and wonderful tiled roofs. The pond is most beautiful, with a willow at one side and a stone or flint wall edging it all round the garden part, and a little lawn sloping down to it, with formal bushes on it.” — Vanessa Bell

Charleston Pond

The pond is beautiful

The rooms on show form a complete example of the decorative art of the Bloomsbury artists: murals, painted furniture, ceramics, objects from the Omega Workshops, paintings and textiles. The collection includes work by Auguste Renoir, Picasso, Derain, Matthew Smith, Sickert and Eugène Delacroix.” [Adapted from here]

We arrived by 12 noon, when tickets go on sale, and our tour was booked for 1.20pm. In the meantime there was a delicious shop to mooch around and a video to watch. There is a cafe but it’s very limited in what it serves.

Our House Tour with Meg focused on A Day in the Life of Charleston, taking us on a journey of daily life in the house which included the Charleston kitchen not normally visited on other days. In fact the gardener actually lives in the house and it is his private kitchen.

From Charleston we headed for the nearby village of Berwick where we had lunch at Cricketers Arms and afterwards visited the Church of St Michael and All Angels where Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell decorated the walls with murals. The church itself had a rather unusual feel not just because of the famous murals but because in contrast to so many churches the windows are plain glass.

All the scenes are set in the local Sussex countryside and they were painted, for the most part, during the Second World War and they used members of their families and their Bloomsbury circle as models.


Nativity

The Nativity by Vanessa Bell

A Sussex trug

The Nativity Close-up : A Sussex Trug

P1130644

Christ in Majesty by Duncan Grant

Annunciation

The Annunciation by Vanessa Bell

 

 

A Room of One’s Own at Monk’s House, Rodmell

A Room of one's own

‘A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf in the Library at Laughton Place

The moment my Swiss friends stepped off the London train at Lewes Station the sun came out and this set the scene for the next few days. We stuffed the cases in the boot and I whisked them straight off down shady narrow lanes to the quiet village of Rodmell just a few miles from the town centre of Lewes. We parked up in the Monk’s House (NT) car park and ambled back up the lane past wisteria covered cottages and pretty gardens to the Abergavenny Arms for lunch where, wonder of wonders, we were able to sit outside in the garden.

MH Quote VW Diaries

Description of Monk’s House by Virginia Woolf

Monk’s House is the former 17th century summer cottage home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf. They lived here together from 1919 until Virginia’s death in 1941 and Leonard continued to live here permanently with his companion, Trekkie Parsons, until his death in 1969. The house was left to Trekkie but before she died in 1995 she had sold the house in 1972 to The University of Sussex. Visiting lecturers and researchers stayed here until 1980 when the National Trust took on the property.

Monk's House

Leonard Woolf had the Conservatory added when he was too frail to walk to the Greenhouses

VW Writing Garden House

The Writing Lodge

Here Virginia Woolf wrote in the small wooden lodge at the bottom of the garden. Jacob’s Room was published in 1922, Mrs Dalloway in 1925, To The Lighthouse in 1927, Orlando in 1928, The Waves in 1931, The Years in 1937 and Between The Acts, published posthumously, in 1941. This latter is, apparently, steeped in references to Rodmell and the traditions and values of its villagers.

VW burial

Both Virginia and Leonard’s ashes are buried beneath the magnolia tree in the garden.

LW Burial

 

Beneath the tree

The tree beneath which the ashes are buried

It’s a wonderful house. You can wander around as your fancy takes you and the garden is very pretty. Photography is not restricted and friendly local volunteers are on hand to answer questions as best they can.

Garden and church

Garden and Rodmell Parish Church

Leonard was the gardener, despite the recently published ‘Virginia Woolf’s Garden‘ by Jacqui Zoob who for ten years from 2000 lived at the house as a tenant of the National Trust. However, we were able to visit Virginia’s bedroom which is very much a garden room in an extension which they had added to the house.

VW Garden room

Virginia Woolf’s Garden Bedroom Exterior

VW Garden Room Interior

Virginia Woolf’s Garden Bedroom Interior

Originally proposed as the sitting room it was given over to VW when they realised that the view from the room above would be more suited to a sitting room. This room, which we didn’t see, is now let by the Trust as holiday accommodation.

Stay at MH

Room to Let

On leaving the house we walked the same route to the River Ouse that Virginia took on that fateful day 28 March 1941.

River Ouse

R Ouse

The River Ouse near Rodmell

More pictures inside Monk’s House :

Woolf sitting room

Sitting Room MH

Garden from sitting room MH

 Bloomsbury style

Kiplin Hall : Country Seat of the Founder of Maryland USA

Kiplin leaflets

For many years I have picked up the leaflet describing Kiplin Hall and tempting me to visit. My interest was even more piqued when I read fellow blog poster nilly hall‘s description of her visit to the house and garden last October. Then earlier this year I was lucky enough to join friends to attend The History Wardrobe Premiere : Women and The Great War. Although organised by Kiplin Hall the performance was presented in nearby Scorton Village Hall. Finally last week I visited the hall itself.

Kiplin Hall

We arrived nice and early in good time to give the tea room a try and have a walk around the gardens and estate before lunch. The house was not due to open until 2pm. During the process of deciding on a day to visit Kiplin we pondered as to why the opening hours were rather unusual: generally Sunday to Wednesday 2 – 5pm. The grounds and tea room being open on the same days between 10am and 5pm. Could it be that they host weddings on Fridays and Saturdays? As we ate our delicious salad lunch we soon realised the reason for this. The volunteers began to stream in, greeting each other, checking the rotas and signing their attendance book. Of course, a house like this cannot operate successfully without the generous assistance of a host of local volunteers. Sunday to Wednesday must be their preferred days of working so it’s Sunday to Wednesday that Kiplin Hall is open. I should add that in each room we talked to the volunteer room stewards who added much to our enjoyment of the day.

Kiplin topiary

 On arrival at Kiplin Hall you are greeted by giant topiary peacocks

White garden and topiary

Our walk started at the White Garden

Arriving at lake walk

Walking through several gardens you eventually arrive at the Lake Walk

Lake and folly

Grassy paths lead round the lake to The Folly or ‘eyecatcher’ which, until the 1990s gravel extraction work which brought much-needed to funds to the hall and created the artificial lake, originally stood in the west parkland. The lake provides a habitat for many aquatic birds and wild flowers.

The Folly

The Folly

Lake and Hall

Kiplin Hall from the Lake Walk

We didn’t have time before lunch to complete all of the garden/estate walk nor even touch on the Woodland Trails, although we managed to fit in the Walled Garden and the Garden Museum where we learned more about the house, gardens and owners. Kiplin Hall and Gardens definitely warrant a return visit.

Beautiful blooms

Beautiful blooms near the Walled Garden

Kiplin 1780

Kiplin in 1780 by George Cuit The Elder

Christopher Crowe

Christopher Crowe bought the house and estate in 1722

Crowe bought the estate from Charles Calvert, the 5th Baron Baltimore, whose ancestor in the late 1620s set sale for America and later founded the state of Maryland.

After several years of negotiation over both the land and Calvert’s proposed charter, on 20 June 1632 Charles I put his seal to the patent for land to the north of Virginia, to be called Terra Mariae or Maryland in honour of Queen Henrietta Maria. Sadly, George Calvert had died in April that year and his son Cecil, 2nd Lord Baltimore, became the first Proprietor of Maryland. Cecil appointed his younger brother, Leonard, the first Governor.” [Source]

Maryland flag

Maryland maintains connections with Kiplin Hall (or rather, they have been re-instated) through the Maryland Study Centre near the main entrance to the grounds. When students from Maryland University are staying at the Centre and involved in helping or research at the Hall the Maryland flag is always flying. As it was on the day of our visit.

Maryland Study Centre

The Maryland Study Centre

Dog Graves

The ubiquitous Doggie Graves in the Kiplin Woodland

 No photography was allowed in the house. The excellent website has links to each room with photos and descriptions. The theme of the exhibition and trail throughout the hall this year is “Kiplin Hall in times of War”. Various paintings, pieces of furniture and other artefacts connect the Hall with British fighting campaigns throughout the ages from the English Civil War (1642-1651) to The Crimean War (1853-1856). A further two rooms on the second floor have been preserved from the time when the hall was requisitioned by the Army during the Second World War and these two rooms were part of a flat later occupied by RAF officers.

Lake from house

The Lake from The Hall

A very satisfying day out!

 

In a Quiet Corner of Rome – The Aventine

Cemetery sign

We’d both visited Rome before so I decided to book us at a hotel in an area slightly out of the main hustle and bustle of the centre of Rome and in a leafy residential area within walking distance of a certain cemetery that was brought to my attention on my first visit. The highlight of that trip, although we visited The Forum and The Coliseum and the Trevi Fountain and The Spanish Steps and The Pantheon and I had my picture taken at the Bocca della Verita, turned out to be the peaceful and tranquil Keats-Shelley House.

Keats House

John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are both buried at The Non-Catholic Cemetery in Testaccio and the more I have read about the place the more I have wanted to visit what sounds like a peaceful rural idyll so close to the centre of Rome.

K and S graves

The Keats and Shelley Graves in the Protestant Cemetery [postcard]

What I had failed to take into account – and I could have done nothing about it anyway – was the fact that a second Italian public holiday was to fall during our week’s visit. The 1st of May is a public holiday in Italy. So, after dropping our bags at our hotel room, we made our way at about 1.30pm to the Campo Cestio a 10 minute walk away only to find that it had closed that day at 1pm.

Pyramid

Very near to the Cemetery is the famous Caius Cestius Pyramid built during the 1st century BC when Roman funerary architecture was influenced by the ancient Egyptians.

Pyramid cats

The Cats in the Area even have their own website!

Quiet Corners Rome

Disappointed, we turned to other entries in my ‘Quiet Corners of Rome’ book by David Downie.

I was first told about The Magic Keyhole by a former work colleague who had lived for some time in Rome. But it is also mentioned in the Quiet Corners of Rome book so we made it our next stop : “Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta and Piranesi Monument”. There was about a half hour queue and yes, indeed, when you reach the front there is the dome of St Peter’s framed by the keyhole in Piranesi’s door.

IMG_6617-e1337419469157-682x1024

This is the view that you get [source]

Needless to say my own photo turned out rubbish but with a long queue of people waiting behind you it is all a bit of a rush when you finally get to the front.

Piranesi Square

The Piranesi or Knights of Malta Square

Keyhole queue

The Keyhole Queue

The doors seal off the grounds of the Knights’ [of Malta] headquarters and are opened only to the pious and powerful … The piazza is egalitarian. Flame cypresses and palms rise behind the extravagantly long, L-shaped wall, erected in 1765 and conveniently lined with benches.”

Clivo di Rocca Savella, Parco Savello, Giardino degli Aranci”

Vatican View

Vatican View

orange tree

Orange Tree

Drinking fountain 1

Drinking Fountain

Fountain 2

Parco Savello Fountain

Next to the Knights of Malta HQ are several churches and two parks. One of the parks is the Parco Savello but both of them more or less fitted the book’s description: view of the Vatican, orange trees, drinking fountains.

Clivo sign

The Clivo di Rocca Savello is a narrow car-free lane that slopes down to the Tiber “mossy and picturesquely weed-grown, the clivo is as atmospheric as it is empty”. Well one or two people were walking up and down and also as the book says “stray cats own it”.

Clivo 1

Clivo 2

The Clivo di Rocca Savello

With it being a public holiday none of the places were particularly people-free and the final venue least of all. It seemed that all of Rome wished to visit the Roseto Comunale (Rose Garden) on that sunny May 1st afternoon. 1,100 varieties of rose grow on the northern slope of the Aventine Hill. All types of rose and from all corners of the earth grow here and the park is only open for about one month a year. So this time we struck it lucky !

Rose garden

The Rose Garden with the Forum behind

Charles Darwin rose

Charles Darwin rose still in bud (UK)

We were very happy with our choice of hotel in a Quiet Corner of Rome.

Balcony view

The Villa San Pio

Pio

Padre Pio bids us Farewell as we make our way to the Airport