Friday, 30 May 2008
Looking out of the window this past week you could be fooled into thinking that we have fast forwarded to Winter half term, grey skies, rain, rain and more rain. Not that this is the view from my window - mine offers views of half munched plants left over from the National Snails' Convention that seems to take place daily in my garden. But I'm rambling already - what we wanted was to go in search of views like this. No car, proper walking, picnic lunch and rain macs.
So the other day we took a train to here. A little village nestling in the Downs that we have driven to many times before but this time decided to meander around on foot and walk on to another village across country.
I really love this part of the country even when it's grey the greenness of the softy rolling Downs and the beauty of the plants never fails to move me. One of my favourite, gentle books is "A Postillion Struck by Lightning" by Dirk Bogarde. It is the first part of his autobiography and he writes of a seemingly idyllic childhood where he spent long periods in his family's house in this part of the South Downs. It is a beautiful book.
We had no plan really other than to visit our favourite church. So we walked past our favourite country pub (not without some wavering) and soon arrived here:
St Michael and All Angels Church in Berwick Village. It is such a beautiful church dating from mid 12th century. Nestled amongst the Downs, in a quiet pretty village, on passing you would have no idea of the other treasures that it holds. Inside it is tranquill and still, the views from the windows reflecting its beauty. The stained glass of the windows had been destroyed by bombs during the war and were replaced by plain glass making the church lighter and brighter. What makes it so special for me are its wonderful murals and paintings. Just a few miles from the church lived the artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell (their beuatiful home is perhaps our favourite place to visit) and they were asked to paint the church. It was a bold and brilliant idea. (it might be worth clicking on the following photos to enlarge them).
The Nativity by Vanessa Bell. It is set firmly in local countryside - a Sussex barn, the Downs in the background and local shepherds used as models. It's lovely soft muted colours work so beautifully in its setting.
This wonderful painting is by Duncan Grant, he has incorporated kneeling figures of local serviceman and churchmen.
Below it on the Chancel Screen are The Four Seasons, Dawn and Sunset. These illustrate typical Sussex rural scenes of the time.
My favourite is the pulpit. Originally painted by Vanessa Bell but later destroyed by vandals, it was replaced by work from Duncan Grant using designs from, their daughter, Angelica Garnett.
Each panel is a wonderful painting of fruit and flowers and the colours and detail are just so typical of their nearby home at Charleston.
I have always loved the soft dove, almost lilacy grey that they used.
Inside the Chancel there are wonderful frescoes by Vanessa Bell's son, Quentin Bell.
This is one is so beautiful and its delicate tones and lines remind me of the many illustrations and designs of the Bloomsbury group.
If you're ever passing by, it really is worth a visit. It is a church firmly set in the countryside and a church that has let the countryside in.
So we walked on and on.
Passing beautiful cottages,
seeing lots of cows, rabbits and a heron.
With our arms held high to avoid the nettles and our legs flagging we finally got to Alfriston for our picnic.
Another gorgeous house to admire (of which there are many here). This being one of our kind of rambles we of course come on the day when everything is closed and the next bus to the station is 3 hours later!
But it didn't really matter, we stopped for ice creams and the walk back didn't really seem that long. It was the next day when I tried to move my legs that I noticed!
Fingers crossed for a sunny weekend - have a good one