Even though it's a bit of a drive, a great day trip out of London is Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex, the country home of the Bloomsbury Group. If you go to lunch at a charming pub along the way, the drive doesn't seem so bad.
That is exactly what we did a couple of weeks ago when we stopped at The Rose Cottage Inn on our way to Charleston. This is a wonderful spot for lunch, with traditional pub food such as Ploughman's Lunch and fish and chips.
The ambiance is cozy, casual, and old English
We arrived at Charleston and were grateful we had made the drive. The house looked beautiful with climbing roses and vines all in bloom covering the front facade. I could only imagine what the garden must look like. That would be later; first we would be having a tour of the house.
We were scheduled for a 2:00 pm tour and had arrived a bit early which gave us some time to explore the fabulous gift store. Years ago I purchased some fabric and made two Bloomsbury pillows for my library at home. They always remind me of Charleston. This time I was tempted by the lampshades. Isn't this one gorgeous? The gift store at Charleston has to be one of the best gift stores around.
We had a fabulous tour of the house and heard some new stories. (Photos of the inside are not allowed.) I loved picturing the members of the group gathered together in this cozy place for country weekends filled with work in the mornings, relaxation in the afternoons, and dinners and long conversations into the nights. My favorite new story was learning that Quentin Bell wrote his landmark biography of his aunt Virginia Woolf in his father's (Clive Bell) bedroom. I kept imagining what that must have been like. Surrounded by his father's things as well as the ghosts of the other members of the Bloomsbury Group, he must have found plenty of inspiration.
As you exit Duncan Grant's studio you arrive at the garden. This time we spent a lot of time there. Lush, loose, and beautiful, this is truly an English country garden. It was easy to picture the garden parties that were held out here. As well as the plein-air paintings that were done by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. You can imagine them setting up their canvases in this lovely environment and painting to their hearts' content.
We wandered through, walking along paths and admiring the flowers
The borders were beautiful
I loved the old stone wall with its climbing plants
And its sturdy garden gate
This is a great view of the back of the house through the garden; Duncan Grant's studio is on the right with all the windows.
More paths bordered by country flowers
This is a great walking garden; evening strolls in the summer would be lovely.
After completing our walk through the garden we got on the road back to London. It was a wonderful visit and a great day trip out of the city into the Sussex countryside.
Another fun day trip to take out of London is Richmond, about 30 minutes away, where you can visit Kew Gardens and Petersham Nurseries. Because of the rain we had to skip Kew that day, but we had a wonderful time at Petersham.You would be surprised at how much there is to do at this multi-faceted garden center!
Welcome to Petersham Nurseries
If you dream of having garden parties, everything you could possibly need is at Petersham. And unlike any other nursery I've been to, they have an award-winning restaurant with gourmet food and the prettiest ambiance I've ever seen. Not quite sure what I like best about Petersham -- their vast selection of plants, their indoor spaces with beautiful garden-themed decor for sale, or their glorious restaurant. Here is a look at all three.
There are many outdoor and indoor areas with plant material for sale --
I love these rustic wooden flower supports; you see them in gardens all over England and this is a great place to buy them!
It's fun to see what's available at Petersham's
This place is a treasure trove for gardeners
Roses on another wooden frame
So much inspiration here
The beautiful seed room
Then there are the indoor spaces with everything you could want for garden decor --
Dream of hosting a garden party? You'll find everything you need here to create a magical outdoor setting.
And after a little shopping, you can have lunch at the glorious restaurant--
Dining under a canopy of flowers, trees and vines
The perfect setting for a summer meal
Surrounded by nature
With one beautiful vignette after another to gaze upon
If you are a garden-lover, don't miss Petersham Nurseries next time you are in London. It is filled with beauty and inspiration. Make a reservation for lunch and you will have the perfect afternoon out of the city.