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.
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!
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.
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.
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!