Friday, September 30, 2016

There was a reason I went to Lewes, and that was to visit Charleston Farmhouse.

"Home to the Bloomsbury Group" announces the website, and "The Bloomsbury Home of Art and Ideas".

Let it be said that my idea of a home is a rambling house and garden somewhere in the countryside filled with art and ideas. The Telegraph suggests the Bloomsbury set were a bunch of middlebrow, sex-mad snobs, but says of Charleston that it "promotes a gloriously ramshackle aesthetic which can still be found on a domestic scale right across Britain." So maybe that's what appeals to me. Ramshackle could easily be my style.

"The rooms on show [at Charleston] 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 Renoir, Picasso, Derain, Matthew Smith, Sickert, Tomlin and Delacroix."

It was a bit of a challenge to get to by bike, but it was worth every bit of effort and made for a lovely day out. I took the train to Berwick first, to visit the Berwick Church which has murals and paintings by Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell.

They decorated the tiny simple church during the Second World War, with rural scenes depicting the seasons, religious scenes and floral designs.

Then I followed a little map from the Tourist Office that described a route along lanes, bridle paths and part of the South Downs Way. The chalky paths, rolling downs, and neatly mown hay fields reminded me of that beloved childrens' book, The Giant Jam Sandwich, featuring Itching Down, which was not a waspish sort of town, and indeed, the town of Ditchling Beacon is not far away, and there are a few wasps about.
"One hot summer in Itching Down, Four million wasps flew into town..."

The route was rough riding and more than a bit of just pushing when the gravel was too thick and/or the slope too steep.

But in such glorious weather and across such a lovely landscape I wasn't complaining. I got to Charleston in time for lunch in the garden cafe and even though I hadn't booked ahead, I got into a guided tour of the house without having to wait too long.

Artfund is supporting the restoration of the house and garden and the accumulation of relevant art works. The property was rented by Vanessa and Clive Bell. John Maynard Keynes lived at Charleston for a time, while the Woolfs, EM Forster and Lytton Strachey were all frequent visitors. 

The route back to Lewes took me along an A-road for the last bit of the ride and that was the scariest and most difficult part of the trip. Next time I come to England I'll have both a vehicle AND the bike, so I can get to all those places that are off the cycle paths. British roads are just not wide enough for cyclists. 
Photos are not allowed inside the Farmhouse, so this is
copied from a book. The stencilling on the wall has
been redone following the techniques Vanessa used originally.

No comments:

Post a Comment