Yesterday afternoon, a Wednesday at the beginning of August,  was spent at Charleston Farmhouse, near Lewes  with American visitors who have a particular interest in Bloomsbury, the famous and exceptionally talented group of artists, writers and thinkers who gathered here in Sussex during the first half of the twentieth century to share their art, friendships, love and laughter.  After a couple of days visiting very busy, well-known gardens we were immediately struck by how peaceful it was.  As a bonus, the sun had come out, a keen breeze having whipped up and blown the morning’s grey clouds away – and suddenly it was summer again!  The tour of the house never disappoints  (limited to just 8 people) – and for an hour the guides enthusiastically share their in-depth knowledge of the lives of the Bloomsbury set: the Bells – Vanessa and Clive, Duncan Grant, Maynard Keynes, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, the Garnetts and so many friends, with plenty of opportunity for questions.  As we moved from one amazing,  colour-filled room to another we caught glimpses of the equally colourful, flower-filled garden beyond.  When we left the beautiful studio with it’s high windows and clear, north light it was by way of a door straight into the walled garden beyond.  We wandered between flower-filled borders of echinops, dahlias, nicotiana, cosmos, japanese anenomes – all spilling over onto the gravelled paths with relaxed informality.  Passing a delightful statue, we  came to a beautiful brick and mosaic paved sitting area created by Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and their children.  We sat for a while – on a white-painted garden seat basking in the unexpected late-afternoon sunshine looking up towards the north face of the house partially covered by a Hydrangea petiolaris, still dotted with creamy white flowerlets.  My guests found the visit ‘relaxing’, ‘uplifting’ and ‘inspirational’.  What more could you want?  Oh yes – and the selection of teas could not have been bettered.    This visit can very easily be combined with a shorter visit to Monks House at Rodmell, former home of Vanessa Bell’s sister, Virginia Woolf and her husband, Leonard. It has a small but utterly delightful garden and you can visit the inside of the house and Virginia’s garden writing room.

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