In a quiet crease of the South Downs lies Charleston Manor. It is somewhere I have long wanted to visit and so, when I heard that the gardens were open, I almost fell over with excitement.
After a pub lunch in nearby Litlington, we trundled up the yew-lined drive, to the house.
The house itself wasn’t open but I pressed my face up against the gates anyhow and peered in longingly (rather like I used to stare at the Priory – before I worked there). Then I nipped around the corner …
… stood on tip toe and got an altogether better view. Parts of the house date from 1170-80, should you wonder.
On the lawn, alongside the Great Barn, we sat down for tea and cake. First things first. I have photos of friends and I feeding – but I shan’t post them; no one deserves that.
Against the south wall of the barn is a simple but effective planting of agapanthus and white valerian. A nice idea to nick.
The Great Barn is big. Well, enormous actually. And easily accommodated several stalls, including …
… second-hand books. Result!
Wondering about the grounds, I was thwarted by another iron gate. Don’t you just hate that? But again …
… a quick charge around to one side, gave me a view into a pretty, private garden.
I was whimpering to get in there and have a good root about.
At the western end of the grounds is a large lake, graced with water lilies.
And I did try to be happy for the owners as (unlike at the Priory) they have no duckweed. I did try. But I failed. Jealously is a strict master.
Part of Charleston Manor is covered with winter jasmine. We have a great deal more of it at the Priory and I can’t decide whether it works. It looks better here and I’m not sure why. Growing against flint rather than brick, perhaps?
Nearby, the Clock House has climbing roses with …
… cosmos out front; a reminder for me to grow the latter again next year. I didn’t this year and I miss it.
Jealously again took a hold of me when I saw this laburnum tunnel.
I carefully made a note of how it was laid out - just in case I ever get the chance to plant one. I should love to see it in flower.
From the slope above the laburnum tunnel and a wildflower meadow, I was able to gaze down into the Manor gardens …
… while off to my left, I had a view out across the Cuckmere valley to the Litlington White Horse. This isn’t an ancient chalk figure – obviously; it dates either from the 1830′s or the 1920′s. (More information here).
As if the afternoon wasn’t quintessentially English enough, they had laid on a brass band. Would it be churlish to note that a few notes were off-key? Probably but I don’t think anyone cared. I certainly didn’t. It all added to the charm, as the music tootled out over the sunlit valley.
I tell you what. I should like to work at Charleston Manor. The gardens are not pristine nor are they exquisitely manicured; that would need a very large gardening team indeed. No, instead there is a gentle rough and tumble-ness to Charleston. Large areas certainly do need attention, including a huge walled kitchen garden (not open to the public but I managed a sneaky look). The potential is huge and it would be fine to have it looking again as it must have done in its prime.
I wonder whether they have any vacancies?