Summer in the Country

bluebells

I am doing my best to stop dreaming of foreign climes and instead appreciate the beautiful surroundings I am lucky enough to live amidst. My little Kentish village is filled with gorgeous cottages and lupin and wisteria filled gardens, and from my bedroom window I can see fields of swaying yellow rape, undulating gently off to the tree studded horizon. In the lanes the long bare branches and hedgerows have suddenly sprung to life, forming canopies of green overhead while the verges are carpeted with late bluebells and frothy Queen Anne’s Lace. The best part about this rural idyll is that it is only half an hour from London on the train; I walk to the station past the ridiculously pretty village green, surrounded with two terraces of lovely Victorian houses, two large Georgian mansions, a pub and a church and through a wood filled with bluebells, and then I am whisked through the countryside and the straggle of South East London suburbs into the heart of the city before I’ve barely had time to open my book. It’s not a bad life.

chartwellwisteria

Last week was half term; a much needed break and one that coincided with a reasonably consistent week of warm weather. Being able to spend time outside, feeling the sun on my face after so many months of unseasonably cold and wet weather was absolutely blissful. I went for several outings over the course of the week, and my favourite was to Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home, which is ten minutes away from my house. Much of Chartwell was built and designed to Churchill’s specifications, and it commands impressive views across the Kent countryside. The gardens are glorious, as is the house, and it’s a lovely place to spend a leisurely afternoon lazing around, especially when you pay a visit to the tea shop for a legendary National Trust cream tea!

chartwell1

Chartwell itself is a 1920s brick built house, designed very much as a comfortable family home rather than a status symbol, and it is configured to make the most of the views across the landscape. The surrounding gardens are its best asset; the sweeping lawns roll gently down to a lake before climbing back up again on the other side to join meadows and trees as far as the eye can see. To the sides of the house are a wide array of areas to explore; walled vegetable, flower and rose gardens, a small orchard and Churchill’s favourite spot, a glorious fish pond surrounded with luxuriously beautiful plants.

chartwellpond

There is so much of Churchill to see at the house he loved so dearly; everything here is infused with his personality. He learned how to lay bricks so that he could build the walled garden, he built his daughter Mary a gorgeous little wendy house, called the ‘Marycot’, he designed much of the layout of the gardens, and his large studio is still filled from floor to ceiling with his paintings, many of which depict the view of his gardens from the studio window. He was certainly a man of many talents, and despite his career as one of history’s most famous statesmen, his heart and mind were most certainly at Chartwell more than anywhere else.

chartwell studio

Every time I visit, I am left jealously wondering at the romantic life Churchill and his family must have lived here. Picnics on the lawn, evening strolls amidst the heady scents of the flower gardens, tea on the sunny balcony overlooking the lawns, and perhaps even dancing under the stars to the tune of the gramophone on the glorious grassy terrace. This is just the sort of place where nobody could possibly be unhappy. It would be the perfect setting for a novel, if only I had the time to write one!

chartwell countryside

22 comments

  1. It must have been autumn last time I was there because I remember pinching some windfall apples for a Chartwell apple pie!

  2. Lovely isn’t it. Did yo visit Westerham where he sits on the tiny village green. We lived not far from Westerham in Oxted back in the late 80’s – I loved it, it made you feel good just to browse in the shops and lunch at the little pubs or coffee shops.

  3. You whisked me away with this post, dear Rachel, and now I’m full of wanderlust and dreams. Only 10 minutes from you house? Isn’t that grand to just know Chartwell is there for you. You have painted a lovely picture with your words and your photos – enough to keep me in daydreams for a bit. I know I’ll be puttering about my own garden later, thinking of those bluebells and lupines that surround you. What a happy post, Rachel. Thank you for it.

  4. Have you visited Batemans home of Rudyard Kipling in East Sussex. It is wonderful and has the best gardens. We loved Chartwell and Batemans last time we were in England. I am so pleased with your happy post. Do you still long for NY ?

    1. No I haven’t – I need to go there! I will make a trip next time we have a reliably sunny weekend. I do, but I am happy in the knowledge that my flights are booked!

  5. You are so fortunate to have loads of gorgeous destinations a short train ride away. Now, if I lived in such peaceful surroundings as Chartwell I would most likely be quite happy to drag a lounge chair to a grove of trees and read my book all day! The only bit of Churchill I’ve had the pleasure to experience is a bit of his denture plate at the Hunterian – your day out tops it, hands down.

  6. Seriously, would would you dream of a better place? The pictures are gorgeous and I bet the whole experience gets even better with some sun warming your skin!

  7. Twenty years ago I lived in a Kentish (Charing) village for two years while teaching at a local high school (I was on leave-without-pay from Australia) and went to visit Chartwell – it’s a small world. Charing is a bit further away from London than you are but I took the train regularly at weekends and have wonderful memories of my time in Kent.

    1. My nan used to live there! It’s a lovely place. You were lucky to be able to live there. I’m so glad you have so many wonderful memories!

  8. Chartwell has been on my “must see” list for well…too long. In fact, it is one of the last of several castles and stately homes I had grouped together. I’ve seen Hever, Knole, and Bateman’s. Next time I’m in London, Chartwell will be at the top of the list. Thanks for the lovely pictures. Ightham Mote is another place I want to visit. Have you been there? You are soooo lucky to live in Kent. OMG, 10 minutes away…I’m pea green with envy.

    1. Oh you must go – it’s so worth the trip. And Ightam Mote is do-able on the same day – it’s about 20 minutes away. I love Ightam Mote – I’ve been loads of times. It’s one of my favourite places actually! Scotney Castle is also fairly local and gorgeous…as is Sissinghurst! Kent has so much to see and do! I am lucky indeed!

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