Charleston Manor

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.

Charleston Manor

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!

Wandering 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.  Honest, 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 …

… whilst off to my left, I had a view across the Cuckmere valley to the Litlington White Horse.  This isn’t an ancient chalk figure – it dates either from the 1830’s or the 1920’s.  (More information here).

As if the afternoon wasn’t quintessentially English enough, they 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 great and it would be fine to have it looking as it must have done in its prime.

I wonder whether they have any vacancies?

28 thoughts on “Charleston Manor

  1. I love those gates, even if they did keep you out. Lots of money invested in those! Was the laburnum pleached or just fastened to the frame? I’ve always wanted to do a pleached alley.
    I’d bet that if you told the owners what you have told us here, you’d find yourself with another job.


  2. Hi Dave! The place is beautiful and seems very quiet too. The Barn is huge, what did they use to store in there, except for some dinosaurs I can see by your pictures? I found the architecture a little weird too, all those curved timber beam and the shape of the roof remind me something biological…
    I wonder why closed gates and forbidden things are always so alluring… I should place some closed gates in my garden too, just to increase interest…


    • The barn would’ve been used to store hay and corn from the estate that would have seen the occupants and their animals through the winter. The barn does have a beautiful organic shape to it, I agree. No need for absolutely straight lines and the oak would have twisted and changed shape over the years too. D


  3. How lovely. I so wish we Americans would serve tea and cake – and have bands playing – at our garden tours! I am jealous, too, of the laburnum tunnel! I hope you picked up some juicy books!


    • What? No tea? No cake? (Brass bands are of another order). You’re missing a trick there, Holley. Could be a huge business opening. I mean … the whole open-gardens thing in the UK would collapse without tea and cake. Dave


  4. What a grand looking place David, and with a planting scheme not far off from what you’ve created already at the Priory 😉 Those gates are so enticing aren’t they? Mind you I also liked the gates too!


    • I like gates as well, Boys. You will never know what sense of power I get from entering the gate-code at the Priory whilst mere-mortals stand-by code-less. (Hmm. Might need to address that particular issue and see a professional).
      Charleston was just what England is all about. And what we do so very well. What’s not to like, eh? Dave


  5. if they have any vacancies they should hire you right away! … I loved your posting, not only for the beautiful pictures but great dialogue too which left me wanting to read some more….I want to know what you did with the huge walled garden….perhaps you’ll update in a later posting:-)…you never know what could be until you ASK….Thank you for sharing x


    • Hi White Rose, well I just looked at the walled garden and salivated. And then hurriedly shut the door that we shouldn’t have opened in the first place. I did wonder about shooting off a letter of application … but that might be a little odd now; if they read this!?! Glad you liked the post and thanks for commenting. Dave


  6. Gorgeous looking place, can see why you’d like to work there. Wouldn’t mind it myself, especially when you mentioned the words ‘walled garden’. Sounds like a perfect day, sun shining, second hand books, gorgeous plants, tea and cake and, to top it all off, a brass band. We had a brass band play at our wedding so I do love the sound.

    I saw that white horse when we drove to the visitor centre at Cuckmere. Definitely plan to return to the area it was so beautiful, will have to put Charleston on my list.


    • You’ll need to plan carefully, WW. They don’t open very often. As for the walled garden, well I’ve got a bit of a thing about them too. Go a little weak-kneed to be honest. This one was enormous!!! (You can just about see it in the 3rd photo from the bottom). We pulled open the gate (totally illegal – probably get arrested) and I just wanted to get stuck in.

      The brass band was just so ridiculously perfect, I did wonder whether Danny Boyle wasn’t there somewhere, behind the scenes. Orchestrating. Dave


      • I dream of walled gardens. Brick walls covered in trained fruit, a cutting patch and vegetables untouched by slugs. Well I can dream. There would be a gorgeous greenhouse so I could garden even when the weather was miserable and a little shady corner to retreat to with a cup of tea. And it would all be sheltered, unlike my plot where it’s windy even on a warm summer’s day. (sighs)


  7. Is that the same Charleston where those naughty artists lived or am I getting mixed up with somewhere else. The house and setting are beautiful. Glad you enjoyed it.


    • Hi Elaine, no it isn’t. I did think about mentioning that Charleston Manor and C. Farmhouse aren’t one and the same but didn’t want to get into explaining the difference when this (originally) was going to be a very, very short post. Charleston farmhouse is, confusingly, close by! Dave


  8. You could bring them some duckweed… I do like the gray and green of the flint and jasmine combination. Brick/terra cotta colors are all but inescapable here, and I’ve come to prefer them with paler greens and sages. For what it’s worth. That and 2 bucks’ll buy you a cup of coffee. What a gorgeous day for an outing! With all the wild grasses in seed it looks like midsummer has finally come to England?


    • Now THAT really did make me Laugh Out Loud. Because a little voice did tell me exactly that, Stacy. Was it you? “Just a small handful! A teeny-weeny amount of duckweed. That’ll show ’em. Them and their perfectly duckweed-free lake. Bah. And they’ll never know it was you! Hahahaha Hahahaha Hahahaha.” Thank goodness I’m such a very nice person, eh? Otherwise ….
      Midsummer is kinda (that’s an Americanism y’know?) is sort of here but rapidly shooting through to Autumn. Weird, crazy year. Makes my head spin. Still, tea and cake makes up for an awful lot.
      LOL again – you know me too well! Dave


  9. It looks a really lovely place, but I don’t understand, if the gardens were open, why were there so many shut gates. Garden visiting is great for getting the juices flowing, plans to be made, ideas coming from all angles, I envy you!


    • Hi Pauline, Charleston seems to be a small community; the Manor gardens were (mainly) open but there was a garden (belonging to another cottage?) that wasn’t. And the walled kitchen garden is being renovated, I think, so out of bounds. I took a few ‘plant’ shots to remind me of stuff to buy. Beautiful place. Dave


  10. Looks like my kind of place – there’s something perfect about imperfection and I love to wander around beautiful places imagining how they could be enhanced. I’ll put Charleston on my list for sure!


    • Do, PJ Girl. Do visit it. Though I don’t think it is open very often. Very true re perfect/imperfection – sometimes gardens can be too tidy and neat and groomed. I wasn’t being critical re Charleston being a little unkempt. It worked perfectly and I liked it very much. Dave


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