Seven Days in Sussex and Kent plus One and a Half Books

The Cottage in the Garden (E Sussex)I’d booked the lovely Cottage in the Garden back in January, calculating that summer self-catering was a safe bet whatever happened with Covid. It’s a delightful rustic cottage full of generous, thoughtful touches: fresh flowers from the garden and the table laid with a welcoming cream tea. It also comes complete with its own Figgy the Italian Spinonewildflower meadow and visits from the lovely Figgy who is an Italian Spinone and gorgeous.

We’d decided to break our journey at Chichester as H had had Pallant House Gallery in his sights for some time. The plan was to visit the gallery have lunch in its cafe then 1933 (Piquet) by Ben Nicolsonexplore the town but such was the splendour of its permanent collection plus an excellent Ben Nicholson exhibition charting his artistic development that we didn’t have time. One of the most interesting permanent exhibits is a set of ‘houses’ showcasing artists’ work in miniature ranging from Barbara Hepworth to Grayson Perry in the latest addition commissioned last year. It’s a gem of a gallery and the cafe is spot on, too.

The nearest sizable town to the cottage is Tunbridge Wells, an elegant, leafy Regency spa town which got us thinking about all the lovely spas we’d visited over the years concluding that they were an excellent bet for a holiday, bound to have pleasure gardens and aesthetically pleasing architecture not to mention excellent places to eat. You’d have thought we’d have caught on to that by now given that we live in one. So delightful was the town, with its many smartly restored shop fronts, we visited it twice, incorporating a raid on Waterstones the second time around, plus another on Gail’s Bakery which rivals even our own Bertinet’s.

Rye laneOur most successful day out was the last of the holiday which included a trip to the lovely Cinq Port town of Rye, full of cobbled streets and picturesque buildings. From Rye we headed off to Dungeness to see Derek Jarman‘s garden which surrounds the tiny clapboard Prospect Cottage he made his home. We both loved it – explosions of bright flowers, hardy enough to withstand the wind and salt air, and weathered pieces of industrial sculpture. It’s set in a starkly beautiful coastal landscape, full of birds and plants, reminding me a little of North Norfolk. I’d been wanting to see the garden for years after reading Modern Nature which charted its planting. Delighted to find that Art Fund had raised enough to buy it in 2020.

It was a mixed week for weather as any sensible person would expect from a British summer holiday. All those fantasies of breakfasting outside looking out over our cottage’s lovely garden evaporated but the area is pretty enough for that not to matter too much and I was also In Sussex to see much missed family which more than made up for the rain that bucketed down now and again, not to mention the storm that raged through Monday night. We rounded the week off with another lunch in Chichester followed by a wander around the beautiful Bishop Palace’s gardens.

And the books? Surprisingly little reading was done, much more in the way of catching up and chat. I finally got around to Theresa Enzenberger’s Bauhaus novel, Blueprint (translated by Lucy Jones), which follows Luise through her early Cover image for The Three of Us by Julia Blackburnstudent years in the movement’s Weimar home where she becomes involved with the ascetic Mazdaznan group, then in Dessau, wild partying against a backdrop of rising Nazism, where she smacks up against a brick wall of male prejudice. An enjoyable novel despite its irritating 2020s vernacular but no match for Naomi Wood’s The Hiding Game.

My second book was Julia Blackburn’s jaw-dropping account of her family, The Three of Us, so dysfunctional that, as a teenager, Blackburn arranged to see a psychiatrist off her own bat, leaving him appalled by what she told him.

Time to catch up with the chores and bribe Mischief with yet more Dreamies after dosing her with eyedrops. Back to books on Wednesday.

40 thoughts on “Seven Days in Sussex and Kent plus One and a Half Books”

  1. How lovely, so pleased you were able to get such a relaxing break. I have always wanted to visit Derek Jarman’s garden – not an easy trip from bonnie Scotland, but perhaps we will get there one day.

  2. What a lovely trip. Fun fact: I did my A Level Geography field trip partly at Dungeness, measuring stuff about the strangely warm water, while standing in it …

  3. What a lovely holiday, everything sounds and looks gorgeous! I haven’t been to the Pallant House Gallery and definitely must go

    1. We were so lucky with the cottage and even the great British weather didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. The visit to Pallant House was a brilliant way to start. Highly recommend it!

    1. You’re welcome! All credit to H for the pictures. Rye is lovely, less touristy than I was expecting although it’s not high season yet. We’ve been revisiting the area by watching Foyle’s War.

  4. Sounds like a lovely break! As a big fan of most kinds of weather other than heat and sun, the rain and storms actually make it sound even more appealing to me. And although I love reading, I always think the sign of a successful holiday is not having time to get through too many books… 😀

  5. What a beautiful place to vacation! Amazing. I loved this comment: “despite its irritating 2020s vernacular” that is a real pet peeve of mine in historical books. The Three of Us–I think I read a review somewhere librarianish because it’s ringing a lot of bells in my tired brain tonight. I’ll figure out where tomorrow. Nice post. Enjoy your vacation.

    1. Thank you. I’m not sure whether it was the translation or Blueprint’s original text but some of that vernacular jarred which detracted from what is otherwise a good novel. Shame!

  6. What a gorgeous trip! I really enjoyed reading about this, Susan; thank you for posting about it. I think the whole pandemic experience has made many of appreciate the beauty of holidaying in the UK, perhaps more so than we have in the past. Derek Jarman’s garden looks beautiful – very natural and organic, if that makes sense? There are some essays about Jarmen (and the garden) in Olivia Laing’s Funny Weather, which I read fairly recently and would very much recommend.

    1. So glad you liked it, Jacqui, and you’re right about appreciating the beauty of the UK. Jarman’s garden is a delight, unorthodox but lovely. It’s amazing what will grow in an apparently barren landscape. I didn’t have room to post H’s shots of the plants growing on the beach, including a vivid dark pink sweet pea that had found its way there. Thanks so much for the Laing tip. I’ll search it out.

  7. I had a friend who used to live in Tunbridge Wells, and we went to visit her. While in the area, we realized that we really needed to explore it more. Sadly, we never got around to it. Maybe I’ll do it on my own some day!

    1. Well, I live in this country but most of it was fresh to me! It’s a lovely area, surprisingly unspoilt given it’s not that far from London. I hope you manage to come back fdr that exploration.

      1. Well, I need to get back to the UK soon. I’m thinking September, maybe (depending on the what happens with the Delta variant). I’ve got some heavy book buying to do (not to mention a bit of Primark and Boots needs).

  8. That rental place sounds fabulous though I think I might find it difficult to come home again. this is an area of the country I’ve never visited – it always seems so far away to get to.

  9. Wonderful! And on a superficial note, I love how your images nest so nicely with your text. It feels delightfully scrapbooky. I don’t recognize either of your books but they sound like good holiday reading. Well, good reading in general, really. Good luck with the readjustments back in the home front.

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