Ever since I left my childhood home at 17 to make it in The Big Smoke, I've dreamt of returning to a rural idyll. I never truly appreciated how wonderful the region I spent my formative years in (pictured above) actually was until I moved away. Now that I live in one of the most crowded, polluted and expensive cities in the world, the fantasy of a rural escape seems ever more potent.
Of course England - that green and pleasant land - is packed with rural idylls. Beautiful countryside piles owned by the landed gentry surround quaint villages, oozing with intoxicating summertime charm. Luckily for the common volk many of these places are accessible, like Charleston in Sussex - country retreat of artists Vanessa Bell & Duncan Grant and their Bloomsbury Group friends. Apart from the succulent, overflowing gardens (below) and delicious ripe scent of the summertime air, Charleston's exotic between-the-wars interiors reflected the unconventional, bohemian lifestyles of its inhabitants. The estate includes the cosy little Room of One's Own where Vanessa's sister Virginia Woolf would write when visiting from Monk's House - her own impressive Sussex pile. On pilgrimage here, my sister and I did the decent thing and strolled out to the banks of the nearby River Ouse, downing a bottle of wine on the very spot the tortured Miss Woolf filled her pockets with stones and walked to her watery grave.
Endless Inspiration blog.
One of the most impressive rural idylls I have visited is Great Dixter - family estate of renowned gardener Christopher Lloyd and 'the epitome of English planstmanship'.
The imposing medieval hall dating from the 15th century is one of the largest surviving timber-framed structures in England. This comprises the grand centrepiece of Great Dixter's habitable rooms and maintains a warm, cosy atmosphere in spite of its formidable scale (see below). Furnished with all the creaky antique trappings befitting a grand manor house, the hall eminates centuries of muddy rural history and activity.
Great Dixter's gardens surround the entire house, affording divine views from almost any angle. Featuring explosions of vibrant colour and great masses of overflowing foliage, Christopher Lloyd's work was in the Arts and Crafts horticultural style, emphasising practicality rather than extensive design. Lloyd regularly opened the gardens to the public before his death in 2006 and this exuberant rural idyll is a testament to the man's lifelong green fingered passion and his dedication to nurturing his own living garden.
Image 4 courtesy of Google