No money for Rodin, no problem, just make them yourselves. That's the way of Charleston farmhouse where a group of Bohemians lived, Vanessa Bell, her gay lover, Duncan Grant and her children. Later her estranged husband, Clive Bell moved in. They went apart even though they never divorced. John Maynard Keynes took up residence here for a while and their friends who came over to their flat in the Bloomsbury area of London also visited. These group of artists and intellectuals formed a group in the London flat in the Bloomsbury area and they were given the name 'the Bloomsbury group.' These are the work of one of Vanessa's sons, Quentin Bell. He wrote and dabbled in pottery.
This was where I made the trip to Lewes. Until 6 months ago I've never even heard of Charleston farmhouse or the Bloomsbury group. Virginia Woolf, I've heard of but never read anything written by her. But here I was visiting Charleston farmhouse and reading everything I can get my hands on about the Bloomsbury group. Susan Branch, an American author visited Charleston farmhouse in her new book spoke of such a charming place that I had to visit for myself. Everything was how she described it. The grounds was so beautiful and the interiors was nothing like you've ever seen in your life.
The alley leading to Anne of Cleves' house. She was given a house here by King Henry VIII but she never lived in it. I didn't have time to see it though it was just a few houses down this lane.
Lewes, though quite small, has cute and interesting shops. This is one of the closest train station to Charleston farmhouse and therefore sees a lot of visitors, those who come to visit Charleston. An easy train ride from London Victoria station puts you right in Lewes.
I arrived in Lewes to find the whole town or almost the whole town in period costumes. Up in the castle ground all the actors gathered to reenact the battle of Lewes which happened on May 14, 1264. So every year on May 14 except this year it was on May 16 which was a Saturday. It was a battle between King Henry III and Simon de Monfort. I didn't stay to watch as the shuttle from Lewes to Charleston farmhouse was about to leave.
They say, to stop and smell the roses. I've reached that time in my life when I need to do that. As the train raced towards Dresden, Germany, I saw to my delight the masses of wild roses along the tracks. I can't help feeling excited. To those living there the scene might seem boring but to one like me from Southern California where we only plant succulents it was a great delight. In Dresden I found a rose garden and as I sat on this bench I collared a passerby to take my picture. He obliged. I sat for a few moments longer savoring the sweet smell of the roses. It was a moment of heaven.
The closest town to Charleston is Lewes or at least the closest trim station is Lewes. I caught the train from Victoria station in London. They were reenacting the battle of Lewes that Saturday morning and I only got to see some of them in costume. There was a shuttle between Lewes train station and Charleston farmhouse and I waited with a bunch of older ladies. It seems they come from all over the area and come to visit a few times each year. They meet friends there or families. There was supposed to be a reading by an author there that day and Charleston was teeming with visitors.
Bring the wheel barrow and make yourself useful....
Enter this way, through the walled garden. This was the original wall of the early days of the farmhouse.
The shuttle dropped us off at around 12 noon, we had another hour before the first tour of the days starts. So we wandered around the grounds till our tour of the house starts. Its enough just being outside in that glorious sunlight and being among such beauty. There was another English lady that I sat next to on the bus. While we were in the house we were mouthing and repeating everything that the guide said, it felt like we've there before, after reading all about the house. She asked who my favorite Bloomsbury person was. I hadn't thought about it but she told me hers was Dora Carrington, the painter.
I had my picture taken by the official photographer of Charleston trust. He said they display pictures of visitors and being the only non white person he picked me. I asked him to use my camera to take my picture.
I just landed home. What a glorious day that was the day I went to Charleston farmhouse. The weather was so perfect, unseasonably warm. Everyone was in a good mood. I met a lot of retired English ladies who make the trek to Charleston a few times a year from wherever they lived. Every year the Charleston trust puts up the Charleston festival where an author would come and give a talk. The ladies would meet friends and families there or they'll rekindle old friendship. What a marvelous idea. But more abut Charleston in later postings.