A day in Sussex

May 31, 2006

Miles Berry

A lovely day out yesterday down to a corner of Sussex we’d not visited before.

Bodiam Castle

We took in Bodiam Castle, a highly picturesque, proper castle, with moat, portcullis and all the trimmings, dating back to the late 14th century and now owned by the National Tust. There were a good number of other folk around but it didn’t detract from the atmosphere of the place, and it’s well enough preserved to convey much of how it would have been used back in medieval times. They’d laid out a collection of armour and other costumes for children to try on, which gave things a somewhat surreal feel, but none the worse for that.

Great Dixter

The highlight of the day though was our visit to Great Dixter, home of the late Christopher Lloyd who had pioneered the notion of meadow planting. The house itself was delight enough, with a lovely cottage feel to it and sympathetic additions by Lutyens. The gardens though were quite overwhelming – the meadow planting idea was captivating – it looked so natural, and yet so much more vibrant and colourful than a proper meadow ever would be. The more formal parts of the garden were certainly not tooformal, and still felt organic and within reach of the keen amateur, despite, or because of, the love and professional pride which Lloyd and his team had lavished on them. We were particularly taken aback by the way he’d planted contrasting colours so close together – normally it perhaps wouldn’t work, and was such a contrast to nearby Sissinghurst, but in this garden, it really did. Lots and lots of alliums too; a personal favourite.

Alium, Great Dixter

And then, to round the day off, supper at the Hotel du Vin in Tunbridge Wells. This is what half terms are for!