Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Saturday afternoon



On Saturday afternoon we decided to visit Monks House the country home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf in the beautiful village of Rodmell nestled in the Sussex Downs. We are lucky as this is such a short drive from us and have been able to visit this beautiful property many times. As it is a National Trust property photographs are not allowed in the house but if you look here you will find some of the rooms.



Just a few miles away from Charleston, the home of Woolf's sister, Vanessa Bell, this lovely house was owned by the Woolfs until Leonard's death in 1969.



It provided a refuge for Virginia when the stresses of strains of London life became too much and they did move down here properly when their London property was bombed during the war.



Here is the entrance to her bedroom. It is separate from the house and to enter it you would leave the main building and walk a few steps across the garden - not so appealing in the cold winter months, It was apparently intended to be her writing room but she did not want to write in there, she loved the bright sunniness of the room and the views that opened out across the garden. It is a lovely room, quite self contained with beautiful tiles around the fireplace that were painted for her by her sister Vanessa Bell.



Virginia Woolf was able to walk across the Downs to visit her sister, across the water meadows that flanked the property and over the fields to Charleston.



Because Leonard continued to live on at Rodmell long after Virginia's death the house has been beautifully preserved and many villagers are still alive who have memories of the couple.



On Saturday we were fortunate to meet one of the stewards at the property who was the daughter of the Woolfs' gardener.



She told me that Leonard was very interested in her family and would often ask her as a little girl how she was getting on at school. He would always ask what she was reading and on one occasion, on hearing that she had nothing to read, he took her into the house and asked Virginia to help him find something for the little 9 year old to read.



As they had just moved down from London there were piles of books everywhere and eventually Virginia pulled out a book for her to read. On hearing that this little girl had done well in her exams Leonard gave her five shillings and would go on to be a referee for her when she applied to train as a teacher.



Apparently he would bring crates of apples from his orchard to the village school (maybe in the vain hope of stopping the boys scrumping them!).



She found Virginia to be quite formidable, I think I would have too.



There is a large vegetable plot which is now tended by the tenants and villagers.



When we were there we got talking (again!) to a villager who was digging up some veg and he asked the girls if they knew what the big tree was in front of them. They didn't know and he told them that it was a walnut tree planted by Leonard Woolf in 1930s.



He asked us if we liked pickled walnuts and then gave us a huge bagful to pickle. So we shall think of Monks House at Christmas when we eat our walnuts - does anyone have a good recipe for pickled walnuts - we need to do them justice!



In the garden stands Virginia's writing room, A modest little building with the village church behind it, their orchard to one side and the beautiful garden in front.



It is just a short walk from the house and must have provided her with the calm and solitude for her writing.



Although this house is far smaller than Charleston it does retain an atmosphere of a home. it was as Virginia said "an unpretending house" that had many writers visit and stay.



A home that seemed quiet and calm, a home where much reading and writing and entertaining was done and a garden that Leonard enjoyed for many years.



It is from this house that Virginia walked in 1941 leaving behind a suicide note to her husband and amongst the words were these : " I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been." Her ashes are scattered in the garden along with those of her husband.

48 comments:

Debbies-English-Treasures said...

Wow, what a wonderful post, so informative and interesting to read!
Thanks for sharing!
Kisses Kisses
Debbie
xxx

Country Bliss said...

What a lovely place to visit, beautiful gardens. I love to go around National Trust properties. Good luck pickling walnuts I've never tried to do them before.
Yvonne

thriftymrs said...

Looks like a lovely day.
Thanks for sharing.

Liz said...

We have been there a couple of times too. Its lovely isn't it. I think Caroline Zoob is the tennant now.

Julia said...

Thank you. That was really interesting. I find other people's lives intriguing.

Lavender hearts said...

Isn't it funny how the pretty little village of Rodmell is in such close proximity to Newhaven, which is horrible! I'm allowed to say that as I had the misfortune of living in Newhaven as a child!

JuicyFig said...

what a lovely post, got quite emotional at the quote from the suicide note.

Kath
x

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

Pickled Walnuts? I have never heard of such a thing......interesting!

Looks like a beautiful place......

Ali said...

What a magical place. And your post truly does it justice.

I've never pickled a walnut, but I know that those green outer cases stain like mad! Wear gloves or your hands will be purple..

Cowboys and Custard said...

This is the most sublime story and yet heartbreaking... Virginia's words are achingly poignant..
It all looks such a perfect idyll and my idea of heaven...
The view of the downs is one that is indelibly printed on my memory of my special trip to Brighton this year..
DXX

Linen and Roses said...

It looks so beautiful. I've been wanting to go there for ages. Especially since seeing pictures of the upper floors of the house where Caroline Zoob lives. Must definitely get organised to find time to get down there.

Connie said...

That's just lovely, my little chickadee. I love reading about and seeing pictures of England and its countryside.
Smoochie,
Connie

She'sSewPretty said...

What a wonderful tour! Thanks so much for sharing it with us!!

Janice said...

What a beautiful post and a beautiful place to visit. You don't know how lucky you are having such 'history' on your doorstep. We don't have very much of that here.

Heidi Ann said...

Hi Kim, Oh! I am so happy to hear that sunshine & warmer weather has decided to come your way!!!....The temperatures here are much more tolerable now...mostly in the mid-high 80's, which is warm, but nice. Thank you for your lovely comments about my sewing area!! I feel super lucky to have such a spot to work!!...I have visions of dozens of wonderful projects coming forth from this room!...They will have to wait though, since today I am taking my organizing & cleaning talents outside to the garden...it has become exactly like the sewing room!...completely overgrown & messy!!???...Tomotoes have gotten so big that even with supports they have completely fallen over!..."Birdhouse gourds" have completely taken over another corner, along with sunflowers & zucchini!...& weeds everywhere!...I am attacking that area today!...Anyway, I am thinking of you & your sweet girls, reading & enjoying summer at last!...& I LOVED your post about Virginia Wolff & her husband! What a wonderful home!...Here's to a great week!...heidi XO

Thimbleanna said...

Wow. That was awesome! If I ever manage to get my mom back to England, we're definitely going there. And YOU are like my own private horizon-widening little tutor! WHAT is a pickeled walnut? I LOVE walnuts -- but pickled???

julia said...

That's been on my list of places we must see for ages, now it's become a definite! It's a lovely story, and how sad the ending!
Julia x

Curlew Country said...

Monk's House looks like a very special, atmospheric place - I'd love to visit on day.

I'm a big Caroline Zoob fan and read a wonderful article a couple of years ago about her and her husband's time as custodians of Monk's House. CZ's husband is a great gardener and they did a lot to restre the gardens to how Lenard Woolf planned them apparently (lots of tulips I think). Their flat upstairs was beautiful too.

Thanks for sharing such a lovely visit Kim.
Stephx

Heidi said...

I know absolutely nothing about Virginia Woolf. I have never read any of her books. This house looks so beautiful and I can imagine a writer finding solitude and inspiration there to write. You really live in an amazing area Kim where you are able to go to many beautiful places all not far from you.

Hugs ~
Heidi

Sal said...

What a fabulous post..I did so enjoy reading it, Kim!
You do have the most lovely places to visit.
Sal ;-)

Heidijayhawk said...

with every post you make me want to visit your part of this world. the pics are stunning as always.

Simone said...

Beautiful photos. Wonderful informative post that made a very interesting read. So sad that Virginia decided to take her own life.

silverpebble said...

Wow what a fantastic post - I've learnt so much and the photos are great. Many thanks. Sorry I haven't visited for a while - rather an unsettled little one at this end. I think Celia at Purplepoddedpeas might have a bit of pickled walnut information - if not yet, then soon as her hubby is about to do a bit of pickling.

Shirl said...

What a beautiful place, thanks for all the info and piccies ... :0)

MarmaladeRose said...

thoroughly enjoyed that post, lovely pics, thank you. fi x

Elizabethd said...

I would love to have been with you. Such a sad life and yet so full of talent.
Beautiful photos of a lovely visit.

French Knots said...

I love it when you take us on a tour, you write so evocatively.As for pickling - I don't like pickled anything so have no ideas to share....well apart from my liver after a few glasses of homemade plum whisky!

dottycookie said...

Oh what a lovely place - your words and photos have encouraged me to add this to our list of places to visit!

Greedy Nan said...

Strangely, I carry a copy of Virginia Woolf's last note to Leonard with me at all times. How wonderful to be able to achieve everything they managed to and have such a circle of acquaintances.

Tracy said...

Oh, how heavenly a place! I have long wanted to see this special property of V & L Woolf's...hopefully next time we're in England! Thanks so much for sharing of your lovely outing. ((HUGS))

Flo said...

I visited Monks House and Charleston last year and fell in love with both of them. Wonderful houses and gardens, if only the walls could talk!

Flo

Elizabeth said...

What a wonderful visit to Rodmell.
You write so beautifully and took such super photos.
I lived in Telscombe quite near here in 1971-2 when I was at Sussex University. We used to go and look over the wall at the Woolfs' house but it wasn't open to the public in those days.
Greetings from New York

Cassie said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful visit! It is so great that you have such a lovely and historical place so close to your home.

Be Inspired Always said...

Beautiful gardens.

pickling walnuts? I want the recipe for that.




Jillian

ShabbyInTheCity said...

Great post! Chill bumps with history being brought to life!
I have walnut trees all over the place but have never heard of pickled ones. After the shelling I hope?

mountainear said...

I need to tag some interesting people...

Can you come up with 6 random things about yourself?

sweetmyrtle said...

Oh Kim,
You have such a way of bringing these histories alive. How lucky to have discovered all these personal experiences.
This is one places on my list to visit one day.
Hope you and the girls are having a lovely Summer.
Warm wishes
Ginny x

LOUISE said...

I've loved the tour around this property and would love to visit in person. I can take so much inspiration from the snippets you have taken from the garden. Lovely photos Kim. I especially love the echinacea with the crocosmia and the pathway is a picture. If only back then mental illness was a little more understood, like it is today, just maybe Virginia wouldn't have had to choose the path to take her own life and to have to make that terrible decision to leave the husband who she loved very much, and her lovely home, behind. So sad. No recipe for pickled walnuts I am afraid, I much prefer them cracked out of their shells. x

Miss Hope said...

I would like to have married Vanessa Bell we would have spent many hours painting cupboards together and drinking pink lemonade.

meggie said...

What a very interesting post. Loved seeing those photos, & reading the stories. I feel those little details flesh out a person, so much. You are very lucky to have access to such wonderful history.

Clover Yard said...

What a lovely place to visit AND an education for me as I have to confess I know very little of Virginia Woolf. You've also inspired me to find out more about the Bloomsbury artists. Thanks for sharing it all.
Carolx

Alison Boon said...

A brilliant post. What a beautiful place she had to write in, a shame that she didn't find the peace of mind that she needed.

Amanda said...

How wonderful!! My aunty has a Walnut tree in her garden and always struggles to use them all - I never heard/thought of pickling them before! I made the mistake once of peeling an unripe walnut casing apart and the juice dyed my fingernails browny-green for weeks LOL

Janice said...

I have an award for you over at my blog.
Janice

Sea Angels said...

Hi Kim, what a wonderful post, I am sure the Woolfs would have loved it. I have just finished Leonards biography, oh it was boring in places but BRILLIANT and unforgetable for the main. It is so good to look at Monks house it has been too long since I was there.Thankyou
Hugs Lynn xx

twiggypeasticks said...

How lovely, thanks for sharing your visit with us. It is a place I would love to go to.
Twiggy

summerfete said...

Wow thanks so much for the lovely photos of Monks house, I've been reading about Virginia and the Bloomsbury group.

serenitymeadow said...

This was totally fascinating to read. Thank you for sharing your visit with us.