Emily Dickinson Museum : The Homestead and The Evergreens

The Emily Dickinson Home

This year we made our third visit to Brattleboro, Vermont and on each visit I have wanted to make the trip an hour south to Amherst where the former home of the poet Emily Dickinson is open to the public as a museum. Amherst is an attractive College town – five in all in the area – with some interesting shops and plenty of eateries.

Emily Dickinson Homestead

On the Friday of our stay I drove myself back down into Massachusetts. The museum was easy to find and I was able to book onto the second tour of the day : Emily Dickinson’s World a 90-minute guided tour of both the Homestead (Emily Dickinson’s house) and The Evergreens (Austin and Susan Dickinson’s home). This constitutes an in-depth focus on Emily Dickinson’s life and family and the major influences on her writing. Includes the parlors, library, and the poet’s bedroom at the Homestead; the library, parlor, dining room, kitchen, maid’s room, water closet, nursery, and “Emily Room” at The Evergreens.

Emily Dickinson room

The Poet’s Bedroom is currently under renovation

As I had just missed the first tour by a few minutes I decided to buy the tour of the grounds which is an audio and self-guided.

“Grounds of Memory: a guide to the Dickinson landscape” The audio tour of the outdoor Dickinson grounds (duration of full-length tour is 60 minutes; visitors may tailor the tour to fit their needs) Explores Emily Dickinson’s fascination with the natural world and her family’s deep interest in the land and  includes eighteen stops outside the Homestead and The Evergreens. Stops may be visited in any order. Each stop offers a 2- or 3-minute narration and at least one Dickinson poem appropriate to that stop.

Narrated by poet laureate Richard Wilbur
Voice of Emily Dickinson provided by poet Mary Jo Salter

The Flower Garden

 First three stops are at the Flower Garden

Flower Garden and Home

The Ornamental Flower Garden and the Homestead

Main St and Amherst

Main Street looking towards Amherst


The West Bedroom (1st floor, RHS) was Emily’s

The Evergreens

The Evergreens – built by Edward Dickinson as a wedding gift to his son and daughter-in-law on their marriage

The grassy path

The grassy path between the two homes – “Just wide enough for two who love” (ED)

Here is a brief biography of the poet but the tour really brought to life her life and the lives of her family in particular her sister, Lavinia, her mother and father and her brother, Austen and his family.

EMILY DICKINSON was born in Amherst at the Homestead on December 10, 1830. Her quiet life was infused with a creative energy that produced almost 1800 poems and a profusion of vibrant letters.

Her lively childhood and youth were filled with schooling, reading, explorations of nature, religious activities, significant friendships, and several key encounters with poetry. [She was not always the recluse that many choose to characterise her - at one  time she called herself The Belle of Amherst.] Her most intense writing years consumed the decade of her late 20s and early 30s; during that time she composed almost 1100 poems. She made few attempts to publish her work, choosing instead to share them privately with family and friends. In her later years Dickinson increasingly withdrew from public life. Her garden, her family (especially her brother’s family at The Evergreens) and close friends, and health concerns occupied her.

With a few exceptions, her poetry remained virtually unpublished until after she died on May 15, 1886. After her death, her poems and life story were brought to the attention of the wider world through the competing efforts of family members and intimates.” [source]

This was a house visit par excellence. The 90 minute houses tour was filled with interest and insight into the lives. The Dickinson Landscape self-guided audio tour complete with poetry readings added to almost complete immersion into ED’s life and thoughts. Our house guide was entertainment herself and added poetry quotations and a quick ‘class’ in the importance of word choice in a ‘schoolroom’ – in which we all participated. No photography was allowed in the house but the tour was such fun and so informative that I will forgive them for that. Having visited the home of a poet I had barely heard of I came away feeling as if I met her myself. Well done, Emily Dickinson House Museum!

On leaving the Museum I couldn’t resist a quick visit to another nearby museum – almost from the sublime to the ridiculous – The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. A purpose-built centre devoted to the art of contemporary children’s book illustrator Eric Carle. We still have a very dog-eared copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar at home.

Picture Book Art


Carle Museum

 The Eric Carle Museum

The very hungry caterpillar

This is what a Very Hungry Caterpillar looks like!

And finally, the next day we both made the journey back down to Amherst, enjoyed a decent lunch and I tracked down the Dickinson graves in West Cemetery where there is also a Community History Mural featuring characters from the Amherst story from all fields of experience (farming, literature, domestic life, education, military, industry and economic life) and including, of course, Emily Dickinson herself.

Dickinson family graves

The Dickinson Graves in West Cemetery, Amherst

Emily Dickinson grave stone

Wording on Emily’s Gravestone

History Mural West Cemetery Amherst

The Amherst Community Mural, West Cemetery

Emily Dickinson on History Mural

Emily Dickinson (Lavinia behind) on the Community Mural

It is easily overlooked that what is now called vintage was once brand new!

NB This report was prepared back in July during the Port Eliot Festival


And that includes me! I spent yesterday afternoon at Port Eliot. I went straight there on the train from Par Station. Alight St Germans for Port Eliot. From the station it’s a mere few steps to Never Never Land the Festival. For many months now I have been wondering whether I am going to “fit in” at a festival and whether I will really be any help as I neither knit nor crochet nor sew nor flower arrange. After one afternoon I still felt as if I was an observer and not a participant. Even though I had a wristband that said “Port Eliot Festival Crew”.

DGR Tent

I think I will be quite safe from full festival conversion in the Dovegreyreader Tent. I already knew a couple of people and have now met four new ones including the very welcoming and hospitable Dave, the Dovegreyreader’s husband, who makes the tea and hands out food and generally turns his hand to anything that is required of him.

Rear dove grey tent

The decorations were just finished when I turned up and it was time for a cuppa and sandwich – most welcome but I felt I had done nothing to deserve them.

There’s a big programme of events (in both meanings of the word); the festival bookshop is right next door to us; there is food everywhere; there are stalls selling vintage stuff and there will be events all over the place.


Vintage deckchairs

Get it here


Love Lane Caravans


More vintage stuff


More vintage


Old buttons and stuff


Old maps

Somewhere near the heart of Port Eliot House is the Big Kitchen – just as somewhere near the heart of the festival is a passion for food. Over the weekend, local chefs and foodie legends give talks and demonstrations, celebrating all aspects of food from planting and growing to prepping and eating.”

Vintage Airstream


Lemon Jelli

My first taste was a delicious Gumbo from Strawbridge & Son BBQ Smokehouse which I took back with me to the B&B.

BBQ Smokehouse

Also there are many many campers. From in front of the house you see a sea of tents of all shapes and sizes and colours … but I’m glad that’s not me. I will take the train back to my B&B each evening. Being vintage myself I am past that sort of thing!

Sunny PE

Port Eliot Festival

It is all great fun and I couldn’t wait to get back today and to get started …


As I made my way to the station I noticed you can even stay in a vintage railway carriage at St Germans station.

Great for Rail fans




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 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 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]


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]


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.


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


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

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



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.


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, 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. 


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.


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